Welcome to the 2017 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at the in-season contributions of every player to don the purple this past season. The goal wasn’t and isn’t to quibble with order. Instead, it’s to get a snapshot of a player along with a look forward. For that reason, we simply sorted by Baseball-Reference’s Wins Above Replacement (rWAR) and will start at the bottom and end up at the top.
No. 29, Carlos Estévez (0.0 rWAR)
The man known as the Wild Thing showed a lot of the same promise and a lot of the same frustration for the Colorado Rockies in 2017. Carlos Estévez’s most frequent work with the big league club book-ended the season, with the chunk of his appearances happening in either April or September.
Even if the Rockies didn’t learn anything new about Estévez, he still gained some valuable experience with his work in a playoff race down the stretch. The story was familiar: when the 24-year-old commands his electric fastball, he’s as good as anybody. Lacking command does not necessarily mean walks, however, as his 14 walks for the season don’t tell the story of when he had his command or didn’t have it this season.
Not having command also results in getting hit hard, and that’s what happened to Estévez in April as he allowed 10 earned runs on 12 hits in 10 1⁄3 innings pitched. That was good for an 8.71 ERA. His September was much better, as he managed a 3.86 ERA with 12 strikeouts in 112⁄3 innings of work.
What was most promising was the way Estévez finished strong. He didn’t allow a run after September 13, and increasingly Bud Black trusted him in semi-high leverage situations. He handled the 8th inning three times in the final week of the season, inching closer to the late inning work that he saw as the once closer in 2016.
We know the talent is there. Estévez was tied with Scott Oberg for the team lead in average fastball velocity and was the solo leader in times wowing the home announcer’s booth with 100+ mph radar readings. We also know that the ability to handle high-leverage work is there, whether you’re looking at his work as the closer in 2016 or his strong finish in 2017.
What we still don’t know about is the consistency. Estévez needs to be more steady and avoid the meltdowns that have been his undoing. The Wild Thing can be an endearing nickname, but it can also be a scary lingering issue for a potential setup man or closer. He’s still young, but there’s going to be no excuse for Estévez not to stick at the big league level next season with his talent and experience at this point.
The Rockies presumably won’t forget the strong note that Estévez went out on in 2017. With a number of moving pieces in the back of the bullpen and the free agency of Greg Holland and Jake McGee, Estévez might find himself in a back of the bullpen role—even vying for save opportunities.
It is worth saying again that Estévez is just 24 years old. Even if he didn’t show us a ton in an unsteady season where he mostly worked in the minors, he still showed enough flashes in big spots that it’s easy to see him playing a big role for the Rockies as soon as next season.