When the Rockies pulled top prospect Jhoulys Chacin from his start at Double-A last night "as a precaution for possible, future organizational moves" there was speculation that a major trade was coming, but instead they're promoting him to the big leagues to work out of the bullpen following news that Manny Corpas is headed for elbow surgery.
Last year was Chacin's first full season as a pro and he went 18-3 with a 2.03 ERA in 28 starts between two levels of Single-A as a 20-year-old, earning Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year honors from MLB.com and ranking as the Rockies' second-best prospect behind Dexter Fowler according to Baseball America.
Chacin hasn't been quite as dominant while moving up to Double-A this season, but his 3.14 ERA and 86/35 K/BB ratio in 103.1 innings there is extremely impressive for someone who won't be 22 years old for another six months. Unlike many top pitching prospects his strikeout numbers haven't been off the charts, with only 323 in 390 career innings.
However, to some extent Chacin pitches to contact with a hard sinker that has induced 60 percent ground balls. Toss in solid control for someone so young and the 6-foot-3 right-hander projects as a possible No. 2 starter with some ace potential, but the Rockies are definitely taking a risk by having him skip Triple-A to join their bullpen as a 21-year-old with 18 total starts above Single-A.
Colorado has a 1.5-game lead in the Wild Card race and the Rockies' bullpen has been a relative weakness, so they no doubt think that the possibility of Chacin having a big impact as a setup man makes it worthwhile to risk some of his long-term development for a short-term gain. We'll see, but I'd certainly spend the next week trying to swing a deal for a veteran reliever before rushing my top prospect to the majors.