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. 20, Pat Valaika (0.4 rWAR)
Pat Valaika hit 13 home runs in 195 plate appearances in 2017, which earned him the moniker “Patty Barrels” (although I would contend his massive biceps are also part of the equation). He hit ten of them in the sixth inning or later, hence the less common but still accepted “Pat Valatenight”.
He hit a respectable .258 and slugged an impressive .533, with 24 of his 47 hits going for extra bases. He had 40 runs batted in, 16 of which came as a pinch hitter, which was an all-time rookie record. That’s the good news. The bad news includes an on-base percentage of .284 and just seven walks compared to 53 strikeouts. His OPS of .817 was only good for an OPS+ of 95 (COORS), but he was still worth 0.8 offensive WAR according to Baseball Reference.
Valaika is most well known for his offense, but he was also something of a Swiss army knife on defense—filling in at all four infield positions and the outfield in 2017. Most defensive metrics put him as a below-average fielder. Fangraphs has him at -2 Defensive Runs Saved and Baseball-Referene gave him -0.3 dWAR, but it’s hard to knock a guy who plays so many different positions.
He’s also an extremely good son. He went deep twice on mother’s day and had a huge homer in the legendary father’s day game against the Giants.
Pat had one at-bat in the NL Wild Card game, and it was memorable. In the top of the eighth inning he came within a few feet of hitting a game-tying home run, but the ball went foul. He settled for a double and was left stranded at second base.
From 2016 to 2017, Valaika went from a high-numbered September call-up to a legitimate threat off the bench who appeared in 110 games. It remains to be seen whether he can become an every day player, but he could easily be an important piece on a contending 2018 Rockies team.