- The Rockies announced the signings of several picks, including second-round infielder Aaron Schunk. The 62nd pick, Schunk received the full slot value of $1.1MM, Callis reports. Callis and Mayo, who had Schunk 92nd in his class, write that the Georgia Bulldog could develop into a .270/20-HR hitter and a quality third baseman in the pros.
Taking the active roster spot is lefty Phillip Diehl. His contract was selected to the 40-man roster.
Oh has not pitched since May 30th, making for quite a lengthy stretch of inactivity for a player on the active roster. He has struggled quite a bit to open the season, working to a 9.33 ERA in 18 1/3 innings with 7.9 K/9 and 2.9 K/9. Opposing hitters haven’t struggled to make good contact, with 29 total hits and six long balls.
Diehl, 24, came to the Rox in a pre-season swap with the Yankees. He has compiled 29 strikeouts against eight walks in 27 1/3 upper-minors frames this year. Diehl owns a 2.30 cumulative ERA, though that mark has risen a fair bit since he was promoted to Triple-A following 13 1/3 scoreless frames at Double-A.
The Rockies have activated outfielder Charlie Blackmon and closer Wade Davis from the injured list, the club announced. Lefty Chris Rusin was designated for assignment to create one roster opening, with utilityman Garrett Hampson optioned for another.
The Colorado club will obviously be glad to welcome back two of its most-established veteran players. Neither required a lengthy absence, but any time away is more than the Rockies can afford. A recent run has the team three games over .500, but it’s still staring at a yawning ten-game chasm with the division-leading Dodgers on the other side.
Rusin only just returned to the majors after opening the year on the IL with back issues. He has not looked great. He was bombed in his first two outings, surrendering four earned runs on five hits while recording only three outs. And he’s already coming off of a messy 2018 effort in which he was torched for a 6.09 ERA.
Still, the peripherals suggested better last year. And Rusin was a strong performer in 2017, when he threw 85 innings of 2.65 ERA ball. Of course, he not only managed a typically strong 58.5% groundball rate that year but also produced a career-best 12.7% swinging-strike rate. He hasn’t come close before or since. Thus far in 2019, Rusin’s velocity is down and he hasn’t generated grounders (in the majors and during his rehab assignment).
The timing may feel a bit rushed at first glance, particularly for a player who is earning $1,687,500 (with one more year of arbitration control remaining). It makes more sense when you tabulate Rusin’s service time. He entered the season with 4.092 years on the ticker; with 71 more accrued to this point, he’s sitting just nine days shy of reaching five full years of service. At that point, he’d be able to reject an outright assignment without sacrificing the remainder of his salary. By making the move now, the Rockies can either shed the remaining obligation (if he’s claimed or rejects an assignment) or stash Rusin at Triple-A and try to work out the kinks.
The Rockies will activate outfielder Charlie Blackmon from the 10-day injured list Friday, Kyle Newman of the Denver Post suggests. Meanwhile, the Rockies lost left-handed reliever Mike Dunn to the 10-day IL on Thursday (retroactive to June 3) because of left AC joint inflammation and transferred fellow southpaw Harrison Musgrave to the 60-day IL, per a team announcement. Musgrave’s 40-man spot went to righty Peter Lambert, who shut down the Cubs in a 3-1 win in his major league debut.
Although Blackmon’s one of their most valuable players, the Rockies (32-29) ripped off 10 wins in 15 games as he sat out with a right calf strain. Colorado’s just half a game behind a wild-card spot thanks to that impressive run, and Blackmon’s return should help the team’s cause as it pushes for a third straight playoff berth. The 32-year-old Blackmon slashed .300/.356/.565 (126 wRC+) with 10 home runs in 219 plate appearances before landing on the shelf.
The IL placement for Dunn, 34, is the latest negative development in a long line of them since he joined the Rockies on an ill-fated contract going into the 2017 campaign. The injury’s all the more troubling given that Dunn missed most of last season with an AC joint issue that required surgery in September.
Now in the last season of his three-year, $19MM deal, Dunn has pitched to a 5.19 ERA/4.83 FIP in 17 1/3 innings. Overall as a Rockie, Dunn has thrown 84 2/3 frames and logged a 5.53 ERA/4.88 FIP with 8.82 K/9, 5.53 BB/9 and a 35 percent groundball rate.
The Rockies will promote Peter Lambert from Triple-A in time for the 22-year-old right-hander to start tomorrow’s game against the Cubs, according to several reports. The Athletic’s Nick Groke tweets that Lambert is already at Wrigley Field today in preparation for his upcoming Major League debut.
A second-round pick for the Rockies (44th overall) in the 2015 draft, Lambert has a 3.92 ERA, 7.5 K/9, and 3.61 K/BB over 508 professional innings. Those numbers include a troubling 5.07 ERA in 60 1/3 Triple-A frames this season, though an inflated 1.5 HR/9 in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League could be an explanation.
Prior to the season, ESPN.com’s Keith Law (subscription required) ranked Lambert as the 92nd-best prospect in baseball, describing the righty as owning a repeatable delivery and a quality four-pitch mix, even if nothing in Lambert’s arsenal is considered a true plus pitch. Lambert’s fastball is in the 94-95mph range, while he has generated consistently good ground-ball rates of close to 50% throughout his minor league career.
Lambert will get his chance in a Rockies rotation that has struggled to match its strong results from last season, as German Marquez and Jon Gray have been Colorado’s only consistently good starters. As of sign how quickly things have changed from 2018 to 2019 for the Rockies’ staff, Lambert will take the place of Kyle Freeland, a fourth-place finisher in NL Cy Young voting last season who was sent down to Triple-A last week after scuffling badly in his first 12 outings this year.
- Charlie Blackmon is eligible to come off the IL on Tuesday, though Rockies manager Bud Black told reporters (including Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post) that Blackmon will remain out of action longer than the 10-day minimum. Blackmon took batting practice and shagged some fly balls on Sunday, though he might still need a rehab stint in the minors. Blackmon was hitting .300/.356/.565 at the time of his injury, though the Rockies have surprisingly not missed his bat — Colorado has a 9-1 record in Blackmon’s absence. “Now that they’ve got me out of there, we’re taking off,” the outfielder joked.
- In other Rockies injury news, Black said closer Wade Davis could also pitch in a minor league rehab game or a simulated game before returning to the active roster. Davis threw a bullpen session today, so the right-hander looks to on pace for a relatively quick recovery from a left oblique strain that IL’ed him on May 22.
The Rockies have optioned down struggling lefty Kyle Freeland, per a team announcement. Also headed to Triple-A is outfielder Yonathan Daza, with the team bringing hurlers Chris Rusin and Jesus Tinoco up to the active roster.
It’s a rather stunning move as regards Freeland, who finished fourth in the National League Cy Young voting last year. While it is no doubt hard to drop such a player down, the club could no longer look past his more recent issues.
Through a dozen starts this year, Freeland has managed only a 7.13 ERA in 59 1/3 innings. Though he’s still generating similar numbers of strikeouts (7.4 K/9) and walks (3.8 BB/9) to his 2018 showing, opposing hitters have teed up a league-high 16 long balls against him.
Freeland never seemed particularly likely to repeat his surprising sophomore campaign, as ERA estimators took a much dimmer view of his effort than his 2.85 ERA suggested. But the 26-year-old seemed likely to be a quality rotation piece for years to come.
There’s no glaringly obvious explanation for the downturn. While he has bumped up his swinging-strike rate a bit (9.0% to 10.6%), Freeland has given up much better contact when it has been made. Batters have doubled their barrel rate (to 10.7%) and jumped to 35.5% hard contact. Freeland has been abused in particular at Coors Field (9.31 ERA), the complete opposite from 2018 (2.40 ERA). He’s sitting at a .287 BABIP-against, right where he was last year (.285). There has been a change in sequencing fortunes, as Freeland has dropped to a 62.0% strand rate after sitting at 82.8% in 2018.
Freeland, the former eighth-overall draft pick, had accrued two full seasons of MLB service entering the present campaign. He’ll need to make it back to the majors in 2019 in order to reach arbitration as a Super Two or 3+ service-class player next fall. The team had indicated some pre-season interest in a long-term deal, though talks never seemed to get going in earnest and surely won’t now unless and until Freeland gets back on track.
The Rockies have placed outfielder Charlie Blackmon on the 10-day injured list, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post reports. Blackmon hasn’t played since May 23 because of a right calf problem. His roster spot is going to outfielder Yonathan Daza, whom the team called up from Triple-A Albuquerque.
After back-to-back playoff seasons, the Rockies have limped to a 24-27 record this year, but Blackmon hasn’t been part of the problem. As usual, Blackmon has teamed with third baseman Nolan Arenado and shortstop Trevor Story to comprise the Rockies’ three best hitters. The 32-year-old Blackmon has slashed .300/.356/.565 (126 wRC+) with 10 home runs and the second-best ISO of his career (.265) through 219 plate appearances.
Blackmon aside, the Rockies’ outfield has gotten encouraging production from David Dahl and Raimel Tapia this year. And while Ian Desmond’s numbers leave something to be desired for the third straight season, he has been on fire of late. That trio will have to continue stepping up for however much time Blackmon misses.
Some notes out of Denver to kick off Thursday morning…
- The Rockies are likely to promote right-hander Jeff Hoffman to start Friday’s game, Thomas Harding of MLB.com reports. It’s been a rough start to the season for the once-premium pitching prospect, as Hoffman will lug a 7.57 ERA with him from Triple-A to the Majors if he does indeed get the call. It’s been a boom or bust year for Hoffman so far, as he’s had two absolutely disastrous starts but also mixed in a series of impressive outings; Hoffman yielded 10 earned runs in four innings on April 16 and another eight earned runs in his most recent start, but he was quite good in the interim (1.96 ERA, 27-to-5 K/BB ratio in 18 1/3 innings of Triple-A ball, plus a respectable outing at the MLB level). This is a make or break year for Hoffman in many regards, as it’s his final option season. Tyler Anderson’s knee injury could create a long-term opening in the rotation for him, but Hoffman will obviously need to earn that spot moving forward rather than have it handed to him.
- Colorado plans to use Scott Oberg as the primary closer while Wade Davis is sidelined by an oblique injury, manager Bud Black told reporters last night (Twitter link via Nick Groke of The Athletic). Oberg’s 1.77 ERA makes him a logical first candidate for ninth-inning gig, but the numbers beyond that point are far more questionable. He’s punched out just 13 hitters against 11 walks in 20 1/3 innings so far this season while benefiting immensely from a .196 average on balls in play and a sky-high 89.6 percent strand rate. Those red flags lead metrics like FIP (4.70), xFIP (4.91) and SIERA (5.31) to forecast some substantial regression for Oberg over the long haul if he can’t rebound to his 2018 form. Last season, Oberg averaged 8.7 K/9 against just 1.8 BB/9 with a 56 percent grounder rate, so there’s certainly hope for improved peripherals moving forward, but it should be noted that his average fastball has dipped from 95.3 mph last year to 94.0 mph in 2019.
- Groke also tweeted yesterday that veteran lefty Jorge De La Rosa could pitch in a minor league game in the near future after being sidelined by an oblique issue early this season. Colorado inked the 38-year-old to a minor league contract last month on the heels of a solid 2018 campaign split between the D-backs and the Cubs. Left-handed relief has been a tough area for the Rockies all season, as Harrison Musgrave has struggled, Jake McGee has been injured and Mike Dunn has pitched to a 5.02 ERA (despite more encouraging K/BB numbers). De La Rosa would likely need at least a few weeks to build up before he’s a viable option, but a return could be a possibility at some point next month if he shows well in the minors.