When you gun for upside, risk is a clear downside. But the more annoying side-effect is erraticism. A player may have the ability, but it could come and go, leaving everyone flustered. The Rays have several players like that in their organization, from B.J. Upton, Tim Beckham, and even Matt Moore to Chris Archer, Alexander Torres, and Alex Colome. Upton has never panned out as expected, while Moore is making strides and still looks to become the great pitcher he has the potential to be as he gets more big league experience. Beckham has had his moments the past few years, while Archer has been inconsistent but was great in two big league starts. Torres has effectively flamed out. What about Colome? Colome has his struggles, but he may just be the most likely among this group to reach his upside.
Robbie, have you completely lost your mind? Colome has a 4.72 ERA at Double-A this season as a 23 year old!
Colome is a 6’2″, 185 right-hander who the Rays signed out of the Dominican Republic back in 2007. He is the nephew of former Rays reliever Jesus Colome. Since the start of his career, it has been a wild ride. Here’s his ERA and FIP by season.
Look at the green line for FIP: up, down, up, up, down. Fun. That doesn’t exactly paint a picture of consistency. But there are signs that he can be successful moving forward. Let’s start with his 2012 numbers: he has gone 4-3 with yes, a 4.72 ERA in 10 starts and 47.2 IP. But he has posted a 9.4 K/9, a 3.8 BB/9, and a 0.4 HR/9, amounting to a nice 2.91 FIP. Colome’s control has been iffy and he’s not a groundball guy, posting a 41.6% groundball rate (per Minor League Central) compared to the 42.9% league average. But there are worse things than flyball pitchers who strike out a lot of guys.
Colome throws in the low-to-mid 90’s with his fastball, usually working in the 92-95 MPH range with solid control but not much command. Colome often gets late run on it away from right-handed batters, forcing swings-and-misses, although it doesn’t feature much sink, explaining the groundball rate. His secondary pitches are an 11-to-5 curveball and a changeup. His curveball features sharp action and is a big swing-and-miss pitch when he can sell it, which is something he struggles to do at times. It’s more of a spike curveball that a big breaker, leaving it especially vulnerable to hard contact when he can’t locate it down in the zone, but its movement is dynamic enough that hitters have trouble making contact with it- and Colome has trouble controlling it at times. And then there is the changeup, the pitch that Colome has improved most on of late. It looks like his fastball out of his hand before featuring late sink to go along with nice run, making it his best groundball pitch and another pitch that can force swings-and-misses. Colome may control his changeup the best of his three pitches, and it has rapidly gone from a question mark to arguably Colome’s best offering. Colome gets in trouble when he overthrows going for more velocity and movement, but his control stays solid most of the time. He has actually thrown 58.0% of his pitches in the zone compared to the 56.3% Southern League average in 2012. Is he a control artist? Certainly not. But he’s good enough.
Colome might have number two starter upside if he ever harnesses his command and locate his pitches consistently down in the zone, which we can pretty safely assume will never happen in the near future. But he has a legitimate chance to be a third or fourth starter in the big leagues or a dominant late-inning reliever because unlike some of the other pitchers we’ve talked about briefly above, his control is passable and he throws enough strikes. Pair that with the great movement he gets on his pitches and he could be a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter who shows flashes of dominance. Colome scales back his upside with a high enough of a floor that even if everything doesn’t turn out perfectly he still has the ability to contribute at the big league level for a contending team like the Rays. There will always be risk. But it’s always nice to get the slightest bit of certainty.