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.
The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.
Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).
A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.
The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:
A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.
The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.
Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.