By David Heck, Special to CBS Local Sports
CBS Local Sports will be profiling one young player from each Major League Baseball team every day for the next 30 days as part of our “30 Players 30 Days” spring training feature.
Jhoulys Chacin, Starting Pitcher, Colorado Rockies
2011 season: 31 G, 194 IP, 11-14, 3.62 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 150 K, 87 BB
A few years ago, Ubaldo Jimenez was a pitcher with superb stuff who couldn’t quite harness it – a guy who just needed to improve his control a bit in order to take a step forward with his game. Chacin doesn’t have the same type of power arsenal that Jimenez has, but his control problems have been similar. It’s clear that he has the talent to be an effective Major League starter; he just needs to command his repertoire a little better.
In his rookie season two years ago, Chacin performed like a young power pitcher. He struck out a batter an inning, and while he walked too many, he was still able to compile a 3.28 ERA. Last year, however, he was more of a finesse hurler. The strikeouts dropped dramatically, the walks stayed about the same and his groundball rate shot up. The reason was that Chacin utilized his two-seam fastball far more in 2011, allowing him to attack batters with the hope of inducing weak contact.
That would have been a good way to keep the ball inside Coors, if only Chacin could command his fastball. But because he missed so much with both his two-seamer and four-seamer, he surrendered home runs at a higher rate in 2011 than in 2010 – even though his fly ball rate dropped overall. That, along with his lower strikeout rate, was largely responsible for the uptick in Chacin’s ERA last season.
This year, Chacin needs to find a happy medium between the last two seasons. One of the keys to that is control. His fastball averages in the low 90s, which isn’t anything spectacular, but it can still be a weapon as long as he can spot it with moderate consistency. Chacin also needs to get his curveball back to what it was two years ago. It was still a strong pitch last season, but not the dominant swing-and-miss offering that helped him generate so many punchouts in 2010.
Overall, it’s clear that the 24-year-old Chacin has potential, but also that he still has some growing to do at the Major League level. He is currently slated as the Rockies’ No. 2 starter, which is likely higher than he would be on most teams, but it’s not absurd to have him there. He’s certainly got the talent to pitch near the top of a rotation – it’s just a question of when, or whether, he can put it all together.
Next up on March 31: Arizona Diamondbacks