Kyle Freeland, the Colorado Rockies' 2014 first-round draft pick (No. 8 overall), is perhaps best known right now for being from Colorado. Or maybe his medical history with the Rockies MLB staff, or maybe even still for being a lefty more suited for the bullpen than the starting rotation.
After my conversation with him, though, two thing were absolutely clear: he is determined to be a starter, and his best attribute is his mind.
I asked him about the notion that he could, or should, end up in the bullpen.
"I think that comes because my delivery can be so explosive. But if you know how to pitch to low and weak contact you can keep your pitch count low and preserve your arm. Striking out eight or nine guys can be good but I try to analyze each hitter and get them out (whatever way makes most sense as an approach) and work on my knowledge of what they have done against me in the past."
"I've got plenty of stamina though."
We also talked about his squad of battery mates. "I've spent some time with Troy (Stein), Hamlet (Marte), and Dom (Nunez) talking strategy, how I like to work, and getting comfortable with them. I've only thrown one BP session here and it was with Marte. They all know the game."
I remarked that Dom Nunez felt very much like a captain to me. "Absolutely," Freeland replied. "He knows when to be the vocal leader and when to just have a commanding presence."
When asked about his medical history Kyle just smiles, "I've felt nothing but 100 percent since recovering from that surgery three years ago." He certainly looked healthy in the bullpen session I watched him throw. Strong and consistent delivery, with excellent body awareness and control.
We started and finished our conversation around his repertoire. He clarified to me that he doesn't really have two sliders so much as he has a typical slider and a pitch that is harder that works effectively as a cutter. These pitches are in addition to his fastball, change-up, and curve.
"Sometimes I like to set guys up (especially righties) with the change or curve out away from them and then surprise them with that cutter in on the hands or the slider to the back foot." His curve is a sweeping one (as opposed to a 12-6) and so works as a nice change of pace and eye level for the hitters.
With such a wide array of pitches and such an advanced mind for approach and the need to constantly be evolving as pitcher, if Freeland can harness the control that made him such a highly rated prospect so early in the draft (I saw him as high as third on many mock boards) he may well carve out a quick path to the major leagues.
Kyle Freeland is scheduled to make his first start for Grand Junction on July 9.