One thing you'll learn about me is that I love underdogs. Superstars are fun -- who doesn't want to see Nolan Arenado and Carlos Gonzalez drop bombs all summer, right? But I take special interest in players on the margins (think Yohan Flande, Brooks Brown, Rafael Ynoa, etc.), the circuitous ways they reach the Major Leagues, and the success (however big or small) they have upon reaching the game's highest level.
So when I saw last week that nobody on Purple Row's staff had signed up to write Aaron Laffey's 2015 player review, I was pretty stoked. (That's weird, I know, but I'm weird, so there's that). Laffey's story -- a 16th round draft pick way back in 2003, more than two full seasons out of the big leagues before his Rockies debut this summer, six separate times being granted free agency -- is one of a player on the margins.
But this summer, we got to celebrate success from the margins when Laffey appeared in three games in the Major Leagues. One of those even ended up being his first big league win in three years!
If you've already forgotten:
July 10 - W, 5-3 vs Atlanta: Laffey combined with Gonzalez Germen to outduel Shelby Miller. No, really. For his efforts (2.1 innings pitched, 4 hits, 3 runs) and his good timing (he threw the fourth, fifth, and part of the sixth inning), Laffey earned his first Major League win since September 25, 2012. The very next day, the Rockies designated him for assignment, and two days later, he was outrighted back to Triple-A Albuquerque.
July 29 - L, 3-2 @ Chicago: The Rockies once again purchased Laffey's contract from Albuquerque on July 28. One day later, in a game where Jon Lester and Hector Rondon held the Rockies' offense to two runs on just five hits -- and 16 strikeouts -- Laffey threw two innings of shutout relief. He induced groundouts from old friends Jonathan Herrera and Dexter Fowler.
July 31 - L, 7-0 @ St. Louis: After Kyle Kendrick threw one inning and left the game with shoulder discomfort (he'd be placed on the disabled list that night), Laffey came on and threw three scoreless innings, allowing three hits and a walk while striking out two. For his strong 72 hours with the Rockies (five scoreless innings over two games), Laffey was once again designated for assignment August 1, and eventually outrighted back to the minor leagues August 4.
Then, last week, he declared free agency (again) after refusing the Rockies' winter assignment to the minor leagues.
What the future holds for Aaron Laffey
Laffey didn't only survive in a small sample in the big leagues this year; he threw well in an environment difficult for pitchers in Triple-A Albuquerque (stats here). With that solid season split between the upper minors and the big leagues, and the fact that Laffey won't turn 31 until the start of next season, he will certainly have a few options to decide between come 2016.
While Laffey threw just 7.1 innings in Denver this summer, he did it in the toughest way; two of his three outings were "emergency" fill-ins for disappearing pitching depth, and all three involved difficult circumstances surrounding overnight roster moves and the inevitable shuttle back and forth to the minor leagues. It's not easy to find success in that itinerant lifestyle, but Laffey did it well enough that he ought to earn a look from a big league club next year.
For at least another season, Aaron Laffey's underdog story will continue.