Add one more name to the list of pitchers looking to crack the Rockies starting rotation in 2020.
“After talking amongst ourselves organizationally and with Wes, I think this is the way to go now to try and stretch him out as a starter,” manager Bud Black shared. “He’s motivated to start. Wants to start. His desire is to start.”
Wes Parsons, claimed on waivers by Colorado on August 19, may have tossed 19.1 innings in purple last season out of the bullpen, but a majority of his career prior had existed as a pitcher that started the game rather than one more suited to finish it.
The undrafted right-handed hurler originally signed with Atlanta out of a Tennessee junior college in 2013. Though he may have been skipped over 1,216 times during that year’s draft in favor or hundreds of players who will never sniff the majors, Parsons made an immediate impression on his road to the majors and pitched to a 2.63 ERA over 19 starts in the Low-A South Atlantic League.
Over the course of his five year journey in the minors, Parsons made over 70% of his appearances as a starting pitcher. In 2018, he was promoted after dominating Double-A (1.23 ERA) with Atlanta’s Southern League affiliate, making 14 starts in Triple-A with a 3.27 ERA.
Black feels confident the 27-year-old can make the successful transition from the role of reliever, which he spent doing all of 2019, back into a starting pitcher.
“Three pitch mix of the fastball, breaking ball and change. He’s got durability. I think he can hold his stuff. A proven minor league starter. A lot of innings as a starter in (Atlanta’s) system. He’s built to start,” the fourth-year skipper said.
On Tuesday, Parsons looked sharp in his spring debut against the Cubs, going two innings and not giving up a single run. He allowed a single to Kyle Schwarber in the first and a walk to Jason Heyward before getting out of the self-imposed jam. He later walked a second hitter and recorded a strikeout to get the ball rolling on a positive note.
As for the rest of the purple-clad pitchers, only two men appear to be locks for the starting rotation entering the season: Jon Gray and German Márquez.
While Kyle Freeland seems destined for another, the potential for any combination of Chi Chi González, Antonio Senzatela and Jeff Hoffman is likely to round out the remaining two spots in the rotation, especially since each man in the trio is without any options to the minors. In other words, they’ll need find a spot on the 26-man roster or else there’s strong potential for another team to claim the odd man out.
Even still, Parsons finds himself behind a few more names that have been bandied about, such as young Peter Lambert. The soon-to-be 23-year-old made 19 starts with Colorado, highlighted by two consecutive impressive starts against the Cubs to begin his big league career.
There’s also the matter of a few more starting pitchers on the 40-man roster with potential to toe the slab at Coors Field this season: Ryan Castellani, Ashton Goudeau and Antonio Santos.
Castellani is a familiar name who’s been featured atop the organizations top prospects dating back to his selection in the second round of the 2014 draft. Injuries sidelined the 23-year-old for much of last season, limiting him to 43.1 innings in Albuquerque before being completely shut down by surgery on his right elbow to remove loose bone fragments. He bounced back in September to throw 16.2 innings in the Arizona Fall League, striking 10.8 per nine with a 2.16 ERA.
Goudeau came out of nowhere in 2019 to put together an incredibly impressive season. Signed after failed stints in the upper levels of the minors with Kansas City and Seattle, the 27-year-old was fantastic with Hartford before missing two months due to a freak injury to his pitching hand. He returned to similar form to make five starts before a chance to shine in the AzFL. In 16 innings, the Missouri native did not surrender a single run to earn his valued place on the 40-man roster.
Santos should receive further seasoning where he left off in 2019, with the Double-A Hartford Yard Goats. The 23-year-old from the Dominican Republic was effective with High-A Lancaster before a call-up to the Eastern League for his final eight starts of the year. Santos also received an invitation to the prestigious Arizona Fall League alongside Castellani, holding his own once again with a 2.77 ERA against some of the game’s brightest rising stars.
A week before pitchers and catchers reported to Rockies’ Spring Training at the immaculate confines of Salt River Fields, a surprise reunion between Colorado and Ubaldo Jiménez. The owner of the only no-hitter in franchise history, Jiménez stepped away from the game in 2017 after completing his four-year, $50 million deal with Baltimore, but is ready to compete for a role with the Rockies
Tim Melville, still with the organization on a minor league deal, will be sidelined for two months with a cracked rib. José Mujica, another waiver claim, is full member of the 40-man and will be slowly worked into innings after missing the entire 2019 season with Tommy John Surgey.
Once Melville and Mujica return, the starting rotation of the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes will be its deepest in recent memory.
Not to be outdone, Double-A Hartford will have sufficient depth in its rotation with Santos, and top pitching prospect Ryan Rolison, who is also enjoying his first big league camp.