Former top Rockies prospects find the road back

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In 2010, Baseball America rated Rockies left-handers Tyler Matzek and Christian Friedrich the 23rd and 33rd best prospects in the game, respectively. They were eighth and 12th among pitchers. However, the stock of both had plummeted in the two years since, even though neither suffered a major injury. Neither came close to sniffing the top 100 this year. BA ranked them 12th and 14th, respectively, on a Rockies list that placed four players in the top 100.

Fortunately, two two are off to great starts in reviving their prospecthood. Matzek has a 1.72 ERA and a 19/8 K/BB ratio in 15 2/3 innings for high-A Modesto. Friedrich has a 2.33 ERA and an 18/3 K/BB ratio in 19 1/3 innings for Triple-A Colorado Springs.

In both cases it may be too early to get too excited. Still, the Rockies couldn’t have hoped for much more. Matzek had a 9.82 ERA and more walks (46) than strikeouts (37) in his 10 starts for Modesto last year before being demoted to low-A ball. He wasn’t any good there either, finishing with a 4.36 ERA and a 74/50 K/BB ratio in 64 innings. Friedrich ended up with ERAs of 5.05 and 5.00 in his two years at Double-A Tulsa. He went from averaging 12.0 K/9 IP in 2009 to 8.0 in 2010 and 7.0 last year.

Matzek still has a long way to go before he reaches the majors, but Friedrich might help this year if he keeps it up. Having made deals for Drew Pomeranz, Alex White and Tyler Chatwood over the last year, the Rockies may suddenly find themselves with an excess of young pitching to make available in future trade talks.

If the Tigers are sub-.500 at the end of June it’ll be fire sale time

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Jon Morosi reports that that the Detroit Tigers will make all veterans available via trade if they’re still under .500 by the end of June.

This was the position they entered the offseason with — everyone is available! — but they ended up gearing up for one more push with the core of veterans they currently employ. It was not a bad move, I don’t think. With the exception of the Indians, the AL Central is mostly down, or at least appeared to be over the winter, with the Royals in decline and the Twins and White Sox seemingly a few years away from contention. The Twins, however, have been fantastic and the Tigers have mostly underachieved.

So we’re back to this. Which veterans the Tigers can reasonably unload, however, is an open question. J.D. Martinez is in his walk year, so while tradable, he may not bring back a big return. Guys like Justin Upton, Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera either have very large contracts or no-trade protection.

The end of June is still a while from now, of course, and while the Tigers are under .500, they’re only 4.5 games behind the Twins. But they had better turn it around or else it sounds like the front office is going to turn the page.

Must-Click Link: Remembering Eddie Grant the first major leaguer to die in combat

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As you get ready for Memorial Day weekend and whatever it entails for you and yours, take some time to read an excellent article from Mike Bates over at The Hardball Times.

The article is about Eddie Grant. You probably never heard of him. He was a journeyman infielder — often a backup — from 1905 through 1915. If you have heard of him, it was likely not for his baseball exploits, however: it was because he was the first active baseball player to die in combat, killed in the Battle of the Argonne Forest in October 1915.

Michael tells us about more than Grant’s death, however. He provides a great overview of his life and career. And notes that Grant didn’t even have to go to war if he didn’t want to. He was 34, had the chance to coach or manage and had a law degree and the potential to make a lot of money following his baseball career. He volunteered, however, for both patriotic and personal reasons. And it cost him his life.

Must-read stuff indeed. Especially this weekend.