By Eriq Gardner //
Biggest Surprise: Jhoulys Chacin
Coming up through the Rockies’ farm system, Chacin always surpassed expectations. Although he consistently posted an elite ERA in the minors, and was named as one of the organization’s top prospects by Baseball America and other scouting services, many figured he’d be a #3 SP at best. After all, even in single-A, Chacin never struck out a batter per inning, usually a mark that often foreshadows success. In 2010, called up to the majors by the team as an injury replacement, Chacin blew away expectations once again. Not only did he post a remarkable 3.28 ERA in his rookie season, he also fanned 138 batters in 137 innings. A pitcher with that kind of K rate who also induces as many groundballs as Chacin does has a very bright future.
Biggest Bust: Huston Street
Street has had a rocky time of late. From 2005-2007, he looked to be one of the game’s elite closers. Then, in 2008, he struggled, lost his closer’s job, and was shipped from Oakland to Colorado in the off-season. In 2009, Street bounced back with 35 saves, a WHIP under 1, and a healthy strikeout rate. Going into this season, there wasn’t much reason to believe he wouldn’t be great again. Then, injuries took their toll, and Street struggled to find his rhythm. He ended the season on a high note with a strong September, but will hardly be forgiven for a lackluster 2010 campaign overall.
2011 Keeper Alert: Ubaldo Jimenez
Jimenez was a very good pitcher before the 2010 season. This year, he became elite. Overall, he posted 19 wins, a 2.88 ERA, a 1.15 WHIP, and 214 strikeouts. Jimenez gave up only 10 HR all season, a remarkable feat for a pitcher who plays half his games at Coors Field. Some might point to a slightly low BABIP and HR/FB rates as evidence he might regress. However, what’s particularly encouraging about Jimenez is his durability. He’s a freak of nature with an easy delivery that yields high-90s heat even into the late innings of a game. Invest.
2011 Regression Alert: Jason Hammel
Hammel was the sleeper’s sleeper heading into the 2010 season. Throughout his career, his peripheral numbers keep getting stronger and stronger, and Hammel seemed on the verge of taking a next step. Instead, he battled injuries and ended the season with a disappointing 4.81 ERA. But look closer: His xFIP (a stat that runs along a similar scale to ERA but strips out defense, park effects and other factors a pitcher can’t control) is exactly the same as it was in 2009, at 3.81. Hammel is getting better at striking out batters and keeps the ball on the ground, similar to the way Chacin and Jimenez do. He’s still a breakout waiting to happen.