Rockies adding top prospect Chacin to bullpen

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When the Rockies pulled top prospect Jhoulys Chacin from his start at
Double-A last night “as a precaution for possible, future
organizational moves” there was speculation that a major trade was coming, but instead they’re promoting him to the big leagues to work out of the bullpen following news that Manny Corpas is headed for elbow surgery.

Last year was Chacin’s first full season as a pro and he went 18-3 with
a 2.03 ERA in 28 starts between two levels of Single-A as a
20-year-old, earning Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year honors
from MLB.com and ranking as the Rockies’ second-best prospect behind
Dexter Fowler according to Baseball America.

Chacin hasn’t been quite as dominant while moving up to Double-A this
season, but his 3.14 ERA and 86/35 K/BB ratio in 103.1 innings there is
extremely impressive for someone who won’t be 22 years old for another
six months. Unlike many top pitching prospects his strikeout numbers
haven’t been off the charts, with only 323 in 390 career innings.

However, to some extent Chacin pitches to contact with a hard sinker
that has induced 60 percent ground balls. Toss in solid control for
someone so young and the 6-foot-3 right-hander projects as a possible
No. 2 starter with some ace potential, but the Rockies are definitely
taking a risk by having him skip Triple-A to join their bullpen as a
21-year-old with 18 total starts above Single-A.

Colorado has a 1.5-game lead in the Wild Card race and the Rockies’
bullpen has been a relative weakness, so they no doubt think that the
possibility of Chacin having a big impact as a setup man makes it
worthwhile to risk some of his long-term development for a short-term
gain. We’ll see, but I’d certainly spend the next week trying to swing
a deal for a veteran reliever before rushing my top prospect to the
majors.

Starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani will pinch-hit and pinch-run for the Angels in 2018

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The Angels’ bench is looking woefully thin this winter — so thin, in fact, that manager Mike Scioscia says he’s considering utilizing starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani as a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner on the days he’s not scheduled to pitch.

I’ve never had a pitcher pinch-run,” Scioscia told reporters Saturday. “There’s more bad than good that can come out of it. But Shohei is not just a pitcher. He’s a guy that has the ability to do some of the things coming off the bench, whether it’s pinch-hit or pinch-run, and we’re definitely going to tap into that if it’s necessary, because we feel we’re not putting him at risk. It’s something he’s able to do.

Granted, spring training allows for a certain amount of experimentation before managers and players decide what works best for them, so this may not be the strategy the Angels employ for the entire season. In addition to coming off the bench between starts, Ohtani is also expected to see 2-3 days at DH every week, forcing Albert Pujols to shift over to first base to accommodate the new two-way star.

Ohtani’s hitting prowess has already been well-documented — he has a lifetime .286/.358/.500 batting line from NPB and crushed a batting practice home run during his initial workouts with the team this week — but his skills on the basepaths have received less attention so far. MLB Pipeline describes the 23-year-old phenom as a “well-above average runner” whose speed has yet to manifest stolen bases: he’s nabbed just 13 bases in 17 chances over the last five years. That’s a number Scioscia hopes to see increased this season, though he doesn’t want his ace pitcher making any head-first slides on the basepaths to do so.

To be sure, it’s an unorthodox role for any young player to step into, but if anyone can pull it off, Ohtani can.