The end of April turns to the beginning of May with a trip to Coors field. The Rockies will try to narrow their already staggering 5.5 game deficit in the NL West by throwing Juan Nicasio, Jhoulys Chacin and Drew Pomeranz. Most interesting about these three pitchers is how they were all a product of the Rockies international scouting department. Even Drew Pomeranz was only acquired from the Indians by giving up Dominican Republic amateur signee Ubaldo Jimenez. Information provided by Fangraphs, Baseball-Reference and www.minorleaguecentral.comMonday, April 30: Juan Nicasio (R)
Signed out of the Dominican Republic as an amateur free agent by the Rockies in 2006, Juan Nicasio is what you would call "average". He doesn't strike out very many hitters, but he doesn't walk too many either. He's given up his share of home runs in his short career, and is an interesting fly ball pitcher playing in a stadium known for it's home runs. He'll mostly come after hitters with his 93mph four-seam fastball (63% of the time), while mixing in an 83mph slider (25%) and an 84mph changeup (11%). His fastball and changeup both have good downward movement, but not too much lateral movement. Interestingly, he throws his slider a lot more than his changeup, but pitch f/x shows it has very little movement, only 3.4 inches across and 2.3 inches downward on average. I'd love to just call it a cutter and move on, but he throws it too slow for it to be a fastball variation.
What to Watch For: Watch for guys to try to get healthy off Nicasio. He's going to give them pitches to hit, with fastballs topping out in the mid- to high-90's. He's essentially Nathan Eovaldi at this point. Throws hard, slider spins, but Nicasio at least seems to have a decent changeup that he doesn't use enough. I can only assume he throws it too hard for it to be effective, or he has trouble locating the pitch. Further digging shows he only throws the changeup to lefties, but he has a tendency to elevate it.
He's a pitcher who makes it known he will throw sinking fastballs in the heart of the strike zone and relies on his velocity and defense for his success. Expect fast (not hard) sinkers to both right and left-handed hitters, with the slider being the primary out pitch to righties, but a total unwillingness to throw it to lefties.
Tuesday, May 1: Jhoulys Chacin (R)
The Venezuelan native is now in his third full major league season, and so far it has been a disaster. Chacin has had no good starts out of four, having faced the juggernaut offenses of San Francisco, Arizona, Milwaukee and Pittsburgh. He;s always had control issues (he's never walked fewer than 4 batters per nine innings), but this year he's a full BB/9 above his career average. His strikeouts have remained constant, but the control issues aren't allowing to have the success the Rockies organization think he's capable of. Not a hard-thrower, he'll throw a four-seam fastball (90mph), two-seam fastball (89) and cut fastball (89) a combined 49% of the time. That's an incredibly low percentage of fastballs. His other pitches are an 81mph slider (17%), 85mph changeup (21%) and 78mph curveball (13%).
Chacin's overuse of his offspeed pitches is certainly a major contributor to his underwhelming results. When a pitcher doesn't give a hitter a fastball to think about (or one of three fastballs in Chacin's case), the hitter is allowed to get comfortable and never gets the feeling of anxiety that comes with thinking the next pitch might get blown by him if he isn't watching out for it. I certainly think his control issues will persist against the NL's 5th ranked team in Walks.
What to Watch For: I expect the Dodgers hitters to be patient and work the counts. As he falls behind in counts, Chacin is going to have to go into the strike zone and the Dodgers hitters should be able to take advantage. Lacking an overpowering pitch, he's going to try to establish that he can throw any of his six pitches in any count to keep hitters off balance. He does like to throw his cutter off the plate inside to lefties and have it move back into the corner, so he might be able to generate some called strikeouts there.
Pick to Click: I think this may be the last good chance for Dee Gordon to make an impression. This pitcher is right up his alley.
Wednesday, May 2: Drew Pomeranz (L)
Before the season, Baseball America ranked Drew Pomeranz the 30th best prospect in Major League Baseball, and rated his curveball as the best in the Indians system before last season. Their primary concern was his walk rate, but that had decreased every year from college, to the minor leagues and into his first major league season last year. So far this year, it's been a huge issue for Pomeranz as he's already allowed 8 walks in 13 innings. As such, he's also allowed 2 home runs in three starts, and has innings totals of 4.1, 5.0 and 4.0.
Pomeranz has a three pitch mix. He throws his fastball 70% of the time like the book says, his curveball 24%, and his changeup 7%.His curveball's velocity is 11mph slower than his fastball, and his changeup has solid depth and slide. The problem is, his fastball is only 89-90mph, so he's not able to get hitters to back off his offspeed stuff. His fastball tends to get a lot of the plate, which could be the cause of his problems.
What to Watch For: At some point, pitchers get tired of walking guys. I'm hoping Tuesday is that game because I also don't think he has the stuff to be successful against the Dodgers lineup. It's difficult to tell any real sort of trend with Pomeranz since Tuesday will be the 8th major league start of his career, but it is worth noting that none of his pitches have horizontal movement at all, so I don't think we're going to see too much of a traditional lefty-lefty advantage for the young pitcher.
Pick to Click: If he plays, it's James Loney. If he doesn't, Mark Ellis is my pick to click.