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Noel Cuevas is a right-handed outfielder, and so he played in 2018

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The Rockies needed a bat from that side, which gave Cuevas his first taste of the big leagues.

You’re reading the 2018 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at the season had by every player to play for the Rockies in 2018. The purpose of this list is to provide a snapshot of the player in context. The “Ranking” is an organizing principle that’s drawn from Baseball Reference’s WAR (rWAR). It’s not something the staff debated. We’ll begin with the player with the least amount of rWAR and end up with the player with the most.

★ ★ ★

No. 41, Noel Cuevas (-1.5 rWAR)

The Colorado Rockies had a lot of left-handed outfielders in 2018. That was going to be true anyway before the season started. It became even more drastic when the team brought back Carlos Gonzalez on a one-year deal. There would still be times they would need right-handed bats, of course, and that created an opportunity for Noel Cuevas.

Cuevas is an easy guy to cheer for. He had been grinding in the minor leagues since 2010 before the Rockies gave him his first big league chance in 2018 at age 26. On the one hand, he earned that promotion with outstanding production in Triple-A. On the other hand, you can’t help but wonder if he would have ever been promoted, save for maybe a September call-up, if he didn’t bat right-handed.

Cuevas struggled in his 75 games with the Rockies, slashing .233/.268/.315 for a 48 OPS+. He wasn’t any better against left-handed pitching, slashing .231/.271/.308 in those appearances.

Those are objectively terrible numbers, and they earned Cuevas the unfortunate distinction as the least valuable position player on the 2018 Rockies. That’s no small feat considering the struggles of some of the players yet to come in this Ranking the Rockies series.

And yet the Rockies were still starting Cuevas as late as their end-of-September road series against the San Francisco Giants. That seems like nothing short of an official admission that they were too left-handed, especially for the National League West.

Noel Cuevas making his big league debut in 2018 was a great story. I’ll cheer for him again if he’s on the Rockies in the future, but the preferred scenario would be that his overmatched 2018 would be one of the catalysts for the Rockies to work towards building a more balanced offense in 2019. If they do, it’s hard to imagine Cuevas having much of a role with that team.