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Player Profile: Alex Colome, starter or reliever?

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How well do you know Alex Colome? The 26-year old pitcher from the Dominican Republic will try to secure a spot in the Rays rotation in 2015, but does he have what it takes? Probably.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Who is Alexander Colome? After his 50-game suspension due to Boldenone use in 2014, the 26-year old prospect from Santo Domingo enters the 2015 season with a rather big question mark above him.

There is still a spot in the rotation to fill, but Tampa Bay's bullpen could also use some reinforcement. Meanwhile, Colome's performances in the majors, although very limited, did not show much. Or at least, not as much as what his potential could be. If you add his suspension to his history of elbow problems, you might very well be worried or even pessimistic regarding his upcoming season. But should you really?

Alex Colome, the pitching prospect

Since he was signed by the Rays in 2007 at the age of 18, Colome has always been on prospect media radars. He made the 2010 Baseball America top 100 at the 68th spot, when he also was the 7th best prospect in Tampa Bay's organization according to BA. Since then, he has been consistently well-ranked among major prospect rankings (Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, Fangraphs), as you can see on the table presented hereafter.

2012 2013 2014 2015
Baseball America 5 6 5 2
Baseball Prospectus N/A 10 3 3
Fangraphs 6 5 2 3

According to these rankings, Colome appears to be a great asset in the Rays organization, especially in 2015. Yet there is something that distances him from the other Tampa Bay top prospects such as Willy Adames or Justin O'Conner, the two players in front of him per BP and Fangraphs: Colome already made his major league debut.

Does this make Colome a prospect struggling to break into the big leagues? Is he a "Quad-A" type of player? Did his 2014 suspension just delay a locked future as a starter for the Rays? These type of questions won't be answered until we see a full season of him in the majors, though there are indicators that we can use to determine whether he will start games or be a bullpen asset in 2015.

Not being a prospect and scouting expert, I'll just drop here some notes and quotes from his prospect reports for the season to come.

Barring any type of major setbacks like last season, and the nature of being out of options, Colome is in line to break camp this season as part of the 25-man roster. A crack at holding down the fifth spot in the rotation is likely his to grasp, with the long term pointing to a potential bullpen fixture if performance is uneven.

-Baseball Prospectus

The 6’2/210 righty has been on the Rays prospect list for what seems like 10 years; he turns 26 in a few weeks, is out of options and has a clear shot at the #5 starter job due to Moore’s injury and the Price/Hellickson trades.

If he doesn’t stick in the rotation before Moore returns (or Karns beats him), there’s a fit as a multi-inning reliever that can fill many roles and potentially be an 8th inning guy.

-Fangraphs

And Baseball America, in their top 10 Rays prospects for 2015 stated that Colome was also out of options, but had a "plus fastball" and secondary pitches "with potential."

At 26 years of age, it is clear that Colome will not have many more chances to secure a spot in a major league rotation, especially not after his 2014 incident. Nonetheless, what stands out in all his reports is that he still has the potential to be a starter. Thanks to his stuff, but also to the Rays current situation with the Price and Hellickson trades as Fangraphs noted, but also because former top pitching prospect Matt Moore will not see major league action before June or later.

This implies that, for now, he did not show enough to be a starter, but how did he do in the minors? Well, he spent eight seasons in the Rays organization, seeing Triple-A action since 2012, averaging a 3.49 ERA in 725 innings pitched with a 2.2 strikeouts to walks ratio.

Year ERA IP HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
8 Seasons 3.49 725.2 0.5 4.1 8.9 2.20
FgW (2 seasons) 1.23 29.1 0.0 4.3 8.6 2.00
FRk (1 season) 2.97 39.1 0.2 7.1 11.4 1.61
Rk (1 season) 6.80 46.1 1.0 5.1 10.1 2.00
A- (1 season) 1.66 76.0 0.0 3.8 11.1 2.94
A (1 season) 3.95 114.0 1.1 3.6 9.3 2.62
A+ (3 seasons) 3.43 120.2 0.6 3.7 8.2 2.24
AA (2 seasons) 3.76 127.0 0.5 4.4 7.5 1.71
AAA (3 seasons) 3.43 173.0 0.4 3.5 8.3 2.35

His statistics aren't certainly bad, but his 4.1 walks per nine innings added to his command issues do not look really good. Such problems can lead you to think that he is definitely more suited for the bullpen rather than a starting spot. Nevertheless, Colome did show improvements in 2014 as he recorded his lowest career BB/9 ratio in AAA at 3.14 and a 3.80 in 23 innings the majors which compares favorably to his 5.06 ratio set in 2013.

Would this mean that Colome managed to improve his command or his delivery? In an article published in May 2013 on Baseball Prospectus, Mark Anderson and Mike Gianella talked about Alex Colome and that "there have been some rumblings in scouting circles of his improved delivery this year." Here are some GIFs showing Colome pitches in 2011 and then in 2013 during his MLB debut.

2011


2013

Obviously his delivery seems a lot less forced and smoother in 2013. Yet this was in the first inning of his first game, meaning that he was "fresh" and with a low pitch total. Let's see how he did in 2014 in a september game against Cleveland.

2014 - 2nd Inning

2014 - 7th inning

As I said earlier, I am not a scouting expert, although I can't help myself thinking that the more he gets into a game, the more his delivery/command issues will surface again. It is normal to show fatigue and less balance as a pitcher goes deep into a game, even though against Cleveland he only had 78 pitches into the 7th. However, with a pitcher such as Colome who likes to throw hard pitches and had previous/current command and control troubles, this might turn into a bigger problem for him than for anyone else.

If he is able to maintain low pitch totals, he could very well succeed as a starter, but he might also lose control over himself the more innings he pitches. Spring Training will probably tell us if the Rays want to start him or not, but as it stands, I think that he might a better asset as a setup reliever than a starting pitcher. Yet, I'd love to see him prove me wrong since he definitively have some very nice stuff.

All statistics used come from Fangraphs, Baseball-Reference and Baseball Prospectus. GIFs were made from youtube videos using the gfycat website.