For three-plus years, Rafael Betancourt has been a rock in the Rockies bullpen. Acquired midseason in 2009 for essentially peanuts (apologies to Connor Graham), Betancourt has done nothing but produce. A typical year for Betancourt meant striking out more than a batter per inning, walking about one batter per nine innings, and maintaining a sub-3 ERA (except for 2010 when he got a little homer-prone). He was a fly ball pitcher who nevertheless found a way to succeed at Coors Field, thanks to his excellent command of his fastball.
But for basically the first time in his career, injuries plagued Rafael, including the big one: a fully torn ulnar collateral ligament, necessitating Tommy John surgery. The elbow popped on August 22 in Philadelphia, during his 32nd appearance. The 38 year old pitcher was in the midst of something of an off year; his strikeout to walk ratio was the worst he's had as a Rockie, and his ERA was at 4.08. He saved 16 games and blew three.
Overall, Betancourt looked more hittable in 2013 than he has in year's past, though his batting average on balls in play was at his career average. He's never been a pitcher with upper-90s velocity, but his fastball was slower this year than it ever has been before, averaging 90.1 MPH. These were all signs that age might have been catching up to the reliever, and would have made the question of picking up his $4.25 million option tricky; of course, it's moot now, since he'll be spending all of 2014 rehabbing his surgery.
2013 Grade With the Rockies: C
He almost certainly will not throw a pitch in the Major Leagues in 2014; indeed, it's possible that Betancourt won't throw another pitch again. He has stated that he wants to return with the Rockies, but it seems like long odds for an almost 40 year old pitcher to return from Tommy John surgery. If that's the case, it's a shame, since Rafael was one of the best relievers in team history and his last two appearances were blown saves.