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 17, Pat Neshek (0.7 rWAR)
On July 26th, mere days before the 2017 trading deadline, the Colorado Rockies were four and a half games above the Chicago Cubs for the second Wild Card spot. But they had muddled through a mediocre July, going 12-13 at that point and had just been swept on the road by a St. Louis Cardinals team fighting for a playoff spot. After leading the National League West at the end of June, the Rockies had fallen 13.5 games behind the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers. They were, however, still just a game behind the Arizona Diamondbacks for home field advantage in the Wild Card game.
With the division seemingly out of reach, Rockies General Manager Jeff Bridich made a few acquisitions intended to help the Rockies not just for the rest of the season, but could make the difference in a one game playoff game. The Rockies were buyers and acquired right handed reliever Pat Neshek and catcher Jonathan Lucroy.
Neither acquisition was a blockbuster deal for a starter. Sometimes no matter what Yu do, it doesn’t always work out. However, both players immediately made the Rockies a better team and at minimal cost in terms of prospect talent traded away.
Neshek, who turned 37 on September 4th, was brought in to be a reliable right handed bullpen arm after inconsistent performances from Adam Ottavino, Scott Oberg and Carlos Estévez. He was the Phillies lone All-Star representative in 2017, earning the honor for posting a 1.12 ERA with 45 strikeouts and just five walks in 43 relief appearances. To grab him, the Rockies gave up Single-A players José Gomez, J.D. Hammer, and Alejandro Requena, each of whom had varying value but not likely to leapfrog the Rockies stocked farm system. For the midseason rental of Neshek, who is eligible for free agency after the 2017 season, it seemed like a good price. He also brought additional veteran experience to a bullpen in addition to an active Twitter account and a robust card collection.
So how did he do? After the All-Star break, he was practically lights out as a Rockies pitcher. He threw 22 innings and striking out 24 batters while logging a 2.45 ERA. In two months of work, he only allowed one walk and one strike out. He actually was a bit hit unlucky in the early part of his Rockies tenure, and finished the year allowing 22 hits, the 8.2 hits allowed per nine innings well above his career average of 6.6 hits per nine. Further underscoring his success with factors he could control—walks, strikeouts and home runs—his FIP as a Rockies player was 1.70 and his overall 2017 FIP of 1.86 was the best year of his career. As Greg Holland struggled through August, he remained effective.
Well, he was effective except for that Wild Card game, where it seemed neither team could get efficient outs. As the Rockies struggled to come back from an early six run deficit, cutting the Diamondbacks advantage to a single run, Neshek came to the mound. He allowed a hit to Jake Lamb. He then walked Daniel Descalso, which was only the second walk Neshek had allowed as a Rockies pitcher. That brought up Diamondbacks pitcher Archie Bradley. But anything can happen in a baseball game. In just Bradley’s fifth plate appearance of the year, with two outs and down to his last strike, he somehow made contact off of Neshek, smacking a triple into left center to drive in two runs and give the Diamondbacks a 8-5 lead. If such a thing as momentum exists, it no longer did for the Rockies.
Other than that though, Neshek was good.
Neshek is eligible for free agency this offseason. Still, there are some reasons to think that the Rockies may want to bring him back and might actually have a chance of doing so. The Rockies have multiple pending bullpen free agents, so signing someone like Neshek could provide them some certainty without the extravagant cost that a closer might command. At 37 years of age, he’s at the later stages of his career. He’s also pitched for seven teams. If he values a little late career stability and security for a Rockies team that will be competitive in the near future, a 2 year/$20 million or 3 year/$24 million contract might get it done. Nonetheless, it’s also possible that he gets a lot of bids on the open market so whether he remains with the Rockies or not might just depend on where he thinks he’ll get the most autographs to add to his collection.