The Colorado Rockies have done a fine job developing pitchers such as Jon Gray and Kyle Freeland. Ryan Rolison might be the next piece to the neverending puzzle that is pitching at Coors Field. He hasn’t been in the system for very long but is already a possible call-up in 2020 if he performs in the minor leagues.
Ryan Rolison Prospect Report
The San Diego Padres originally picked Rolison out of high school in the 37th round in 2016 but he opted to honor his commitment to the University of Mississippi. Rolison would have an excellent college career with over 150 innings pitched across two seasons of work. 2018 was where Rolison shined with 91 innings, a 3.70 ERA and 120 strikeouts as a sophomore. His overall body of work gave Colorado a reason to select him 22nd overall in the 2018 Draft. He was the ninth pitcher taken and received a signing bonus of $2.91 million.
Rolison also participated in the prestigious Cape Cod League after his freshman year and was outstanding. The league is one of the top summer leagues in the nation with talent from all over the nation. It didn’t phase Rolison one bit as he still posted a 1.93 ERA with 35 strikeouts compared to just 10 walks in 28 innings of work. His WHIP was .893 which crushed the league average of 1.37. Rolison did almost everything well as an amateur before joining the Rockies organization.
Minor League Performance
Rolison has moved quickly through the Rockies’ system. He is still only 22-years-old but went from rookie-level Grand Junction in 2018 through single-A Asheville into High-A Lancaster last year. The High-A California League is notoriously difficult on pitchers but Rolison handled it just fine. He pitched 131 innings with 118 strikeouts, 38 walks, and a 4.87 ERA. His earned runs took a hit from a 15.5 percent home run to fly ball rate but the league is one known for high offense. Keeping the ball in the park is something Rolison can work on as he moves up the organizational ladder.
Even with some tough home run totals, Rolison still had encouraging numbers. He struck out over nine batters per nine innings and had a walk per nine of just 2.94. Rolison was better than the league average for both categories. Colorado could start Rolison again at High-A but it is more likely he moves up to AA-Hartford in the Eastern League.
Rolison also pitched this spring but it was only just over two innings with four hits, four runs (none earned), two strikeouts and one walk. His exposure to more experienced hitters was cut short when baseball ceased operations in March.
What Makes Rolison a Top Prospect
Rolison mixes several pitches that all grade average or better. His fastball is the most developed right now and typically sits between 89 mph and 94 according to Baseball America. He mixes in a good curveball and changeup as well. His multiple offerings worked better against left-handed batters in 2019; Rolison allowed an OPS of just .646 against LHB but righties combined for a .851 OPS.
Rolison will need to work on some of his platoon issues to keep improving. Right-handed batters hit 19 of the 22 home runs he allowed in 2019. Almost five percent of batters with the platoon advantage hit one out of the park against Rolison. An on-base percentage of .334 isn’t great either so Rolison will have to adjust and do better at keeping pitches away from opposite-handed batters moving forward.
Despite some issues at High-A Lancaster, Rolison is still the best pitching arm in the system thanks to the current quality of his offerings and improving command. Growing pains are natural. He was younger than the average pitcher in the California League but put up above-average numbers. More seasoning will help if he also avoids an injury; the Rockies’ farm system has had several prospects lose development time with elbow or shoulder issues.
What to Expect from Rolison in 2020
Rolison is probably ready for Double-A ball in Hartford. Scoring isn’t quite as inflated in the Eastern League so Rolison will have a chance to work on his command even more without fly balls turning into random homers. He will join a Yard Goats team that worked with several Rockies prospects in recent seasons including Ben Bowden and Ashton Goudeau.
Rolison will take a spot in the rotation and could get a promotion to Triple-A Albuquerque. The Pacific Coast league boosts offense but it gives pitchers a final challenge before they face the daunting Coors Field. Rolison could even be a late-season promotion if he excels in the high minors in 2020. He could even be in the starting rotation as soon as 2021 depending on this season’s results.
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