Even without minor league games or time at the alternate training site, 25-year-old lefthanded reliever Lucas Gilbreath took a remarkable step forward and was added to the Rockies’ 40-man roster.
When the Rockies drafted Gilbreath as a 2017 seventh-rounder from Minnesota, they envisioned him ultimately being a reliever. But they had him start in order to develop his stuff, particularly his slider.
In 2019 at high Class A Lancaster, an unforgiving pitching venue, Gilbreath went 5-10, 5.81 in 28 starts, throwing a fastball that averaged 91 mph and an inconsistent slider.
This summer, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Gilbreath worked virtually with Rockies pitching coordinator Steve Merriman to apply certain analytical data. He implemented the information in throwing sessions with Double-A Hartford pitching coach Frank Gonzales, who like Gilbreath lives in the Denver area.
Based on Gilbreath’s significant advancement, Rockies farm director Zach Wilson invited him to instructional league.
“Everything he was doing over the summer paid off immediately,” Wilson said. “It was all of a sudden 95-97 (mph), sitting 96.”
And Wilson said Merriman’s and Gonzales’ input allowed Gilbreath’s slider to “become consistently plus.” It’s 80-84 mph, has short, late action and Gilbreath commands it well.
His ability to locate his fastball and slider down at the knees resulted in instructs hitters mostly beating balls on the ground when they made contact.
Developmental strides such as Gilbreath’s typically occur during a season and result from a regimen of game experience and side sessions. The Rockies knew Gilbreath needed to take another developmental step. But in a summer like this?
“To have him take a huge step with no games, and a lot of it done remotely, is pretty impressive,” Wilson said. “And the complete package showed up in instructional league. Did we think that was in there at some point? Yes.
“I’d be lying if I told you I thought it could happen in this type of environment so quickly.”
— Lefthander Helcris Olivarez, corner infielder Colton Welker and outfielder/second baseman Bret Boswell also were added to the 40-man roster. Unlike Gilbreath, they spent the summer at the Rockies’ alternate training site in Denver.
— Lefthanded reliever Ever Moya had Tommy John surgery in mid November. The 21-year-old Panamanian, who came off the mound after throwing a pitch in instructional league, went 1-1, 3.99 in 23 games with 43 strikeouts and 17 walks in 29.1 innings for Rookie-level Grand Junction in 2019.
—The Rockies signed shortstop Jose Gomez, 23, to a minor league contract with the intent of him playing at Double-A Hartford. They previously traded Gomez and pitchers J.D. Hammer and Alejandro Requena to the Phillies for reliever Pat Neshek in July 2017. In 91 games at Double-A Reading in 2019, Gomez hit .253/.308/.339 with three homers and 30 RBIs.
— Due to the spread of Covid-19, the Rockies canceled their instructional league program in the Dominican Republic that was due to begin in early November.