Fearless. It’s a characteristic people would like to believe they bring to the table, but we as humans have flaws. The key to overcoming those flaws is learning, being confident in what you do and when it all clicks, being fearless in your execution. Professional athletes go through the same struggles with their talents. Spring training is a time where baseball talent can make or break a player.
Zach Wilson is the Senior Director of Player Development for the Colorado Rockies. He has eyes on the major league roster, minor league system and probably even what’s going on at your local little league. With the clock ticking towards the start of the regular season teams have to decide on their 25-man active roster. From veterans to prospects there is plenty of game action and data to sort through. Wilson shared some of his philosophies on this process with us in an interview on Sports Radio 610.
“Development is kind of a very selfish time for a player because he is trying to get to the big leagues at the end of the day,” Wilson said about camp and those set to be on minor league rosters.
It is interesting to think about. Does a player try to fit in with a team or just focus on what he needs to do? Trying to find that balance is a challenge for the specific coaches at each level and one that the Rockies know they have to keep an eye on.
“If players are getting better on an individual basis at the end of the day that makes everybody better because they are playing at the top of their peak performance and they’re able to help their teammates,” Wilson said, simplifying the situation. The better the player you are, the more you should be able to help you team.
Players first learn about major league expectations in the minor league system. A prospect’s baseball fundamentals are sharpened along with their mental approach to the game. For Wilson success and failure is important in their evaluation of a prospect.
Especially when it comes to a top pitching prospect. Jon Gray is the hot name for the Rockies and Wilson knows what he wants out of the power right-hander.
“The key for us is to make sure that Jon’s at a level, whether he breaks with this team here or not, to where if he’s in the minor leagues he is being challenged and he is also finding success,” Wilson said.
Baseball is a game that failing seven out of ten times as a hitter is a good stretch. Learning how to handle slumps with the lumber or on the mound is all part of the big picture. A player’s livelihood is on the line fighting for a major league contract during the spring and once rosters are set at all levels. One can assume that the post game spread in Denver is better than the post game spread in Modesto. Wilson does acknowledge that a few weeks to start the year should not swing a perception of a player dramatically.
“I try not to over evaluate spring training especially from the development side…You got to look at the body of work for these guys and spring training is just a moment of time so we certainly can’t put too much into that,” Wilson explained.
The end goal of all of this is getting the Colorado Rockies to win baseball games. The Rockies hope for better health in 2015, but injuries will always be apart of the game.
“Depth is an important part of winning at the major league level,” Wilson continued, “I think we’ve done a great job of that this year by creating some depth particularly on the pitching side.”
The outfield showcased veteran depth last year with Brandon Barnes and Drew Stubbs performing well along with the breakout of Corey Dickerson. Opening day starter Kyle Kendrick could be that aspect of the Rockies pitching staff this season. Kendrick is not going to wow anyone. The 29 year-old right-hander started 87 games over the last three years for Philadelphia, throwing 540 1/3 innings during that span. Colorado is hoping to tap into the reliability of Kendrick.
Colorado continues to make roster moves with the most recent pitcher released Jhoulys Chacin. The 26 year-old was trying to earn his spot back after a shoulder injury cut short his 2014 season. This is what spring training is all about, baseball decisions that affect real people’s lives. The job Wilson and company have is not easy and that’s why it’s not just the athletes who lose their jobs. The pressure is on everyone inside a professional organization.
Full interview with Zach Wilson from The Opening Drive.
The Curious Case of Jorge De La Rosa
The 33 year-old lefty has done things at Coors Field not many other pitchers have been able to do. He joined the Rockies in 2008 and has a 45-18 record. His career ERA at Coors Field is 3.98 and that is over 445 1/3 innings of work. But the altitude, it melts other pitchers and kills breaking balls. Some of that is true but that is not what Colorado want’s in their pitchers minds.
“It’s part of our reality [altitude]…if you go into it with a right mindset there’s no question that you’re going to find success here,” Wilson said when asked about the environment. “Jorge De La Rosa is the prime example. He doesn’t talk about altitude, he doesn’t think about altitude he just goes out there and does his thing the way he knows he can do it and he’s had a lot of success for us.”
We are back to the mental aspect of professional sports. Colorado wants the pitchers in their system to not fear the mound at Coors Field.
“If you’re fearless and you want a challenge and you have the stuff to compete I think it doesn’t really matter where you pitch,” Wilson continued, “The altitude thing isn’t really that big of a deal to us.”
From the humidor to how things are handled internally, Colorado doesn’t want the altitude as an excuse or crutch to their pitchers. The leader of the Rockies rotation, De La Rosa, sets the best example for anyone in purple and black that wants to toe the rubber at Coors Field.