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. 19, Chad Bettis (0.6 rWAR)
In November 2016, Rockies pitcher Chad Bettis found out he had testicular cancer and would need surgery.
On March 10, 2017, he revealed the cancer had spread and that he would undergo chemotherapy treatment.
On August 14, he threw seven shutout innings against the Braves in a 3-0 Rockies win at Coors Field.
It was a long journey to a big league mound for Bettis in 2017, much more than those three days, it involved the aforementioned chemotherapy, the birth of his daughter, a lengthy stay in the minors that culminated with him pitching one of the biggest games of the Rockies’ season.
As Rockies pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training, everything looked to be in order for Bettis, who made his spring debut on March 5 against the Brewers, allowing a run in two innings of work. However, by the end of that week he announced he would be undergoing chemotherapy to treat the cancer that had spread to his lymph nodes.
While Bettis was going through his nine weeks of chemotherapy, he became a father for the first time. He and his wife Kristian’s daughter Everleigh was born in late March.
Bettis wrapped up his chemo in mid-May and began in earnest his quest to get back onto the mound. He completed that quest on July 13 in Hartford, pitching two scoreless innings for the Double-A Yard Goats against Trenton.
Two days prior to that start, Bettis got a reminder that he was still in the minds of his teammates, as Rockies all-stars Charlie Blackmon and DJ LeMahieu showed support for him during a tribute to Stand Up to Cancer during the All-Star Game.
It was the first of six minor league rehab appearances for Bettis, two at Hartford and four at Triple-A Albuquerque. In those rehab appearances, five of which were starts, he posted a 4.24 ERA and 1.37 WHIP in 23 1⁄3 innings, walking seven and striking out 17.
With his month-long rehab finished, Bettis made his return to the Rockies on August 14 against the Braves at Coors Field, and what a return it was. With the Rockies coming off a sweep at the hands of the Marlins, Bettis played stopper, tossing seven shutout innings, allowing six hits and no walks, throwing 63 of his 90 pitches for strikes in a 3-0 Rockies win.
The win over Atlanta was the first of nine starts Bettis made for the Rockies in 2017. There were ups and downs, and he finished with a 5.05 ERA and 1.36 WHIP in 461⁄3 innings, walking 11 and striking out 30. As important as his results on the mound, the 28-year-old served as a leader down the stretch for a Rockies rotation that featured almost exclusively rookies and second-year players.
Bettis’ final start of the season may have been his best, even with his impressive season debut factored in. Facing the NL champion Dodgers on the final weekend of the season at Coors, Bettis allowed just one run on four hits in seven innings, walking one and striking out four. It was Bettis’ third quality start of the season and helped the Rockies to a 9-1 win that cut their magic number to one.
While Bettis was not the Rockies’ best player in 2017, he certainly provided some of the best moments, and it was really just a victory that he was on the mound at all.
Barring an addition from outside the organization, Bettis will once again be one of the more veteran starters for the Rockies in 2018. That said, he may have a battle on his hands for a rotation spot with the amount of talented arms the Rockies have, though I would anticipate him getting the fourth or fifth spot in the starting rotation to begin the season.