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Harrison Musgrave improved down the stretch out of the bullpen

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He provided at least some answers when the Rockies needed them.

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. 16, Harrison Musgrave (0.5 rWAR)

As Harrison Musgrave worked his way through the Rockies minor league system, he seemed to have his future role carved out as a back-end starter or a long reliever. Innings eater, or so he would be called, and maybe he would be the one to make that a cool nickname and not simply damning with faint praise.

Here’s what Jeff Aberle wrote about Musgrave in the PuRPs rankings at the beginning of 2017:

In a crowded Rockies system with a number of higher upside arms, Musgrave just made it onto my personal list at 29. I’d give him a Future Value of 40 as a nod to his polish and the fact that he’s near-ready MLB rotation depth—depth that doubtless will be needed in the next few seasons.

In that sense you would never have pegged Musgrave for 11 relief appearances in September of a playoff race. Yes, some of that was mop-up work with the Rockies on either side of lopsided games. But other appearances came in key moments, with Musgrave sometimes called on for only a batter or two. For example, Bud Black turned to Musgrave to retire Bryce Harper in game 160 against the Washington Nationals when the Rockies won 5-2 and clinched a playoff spot.

Much of the season was ugly at the big league level for Musgrave, especially the summer months. Those struggles led to some underwhelming overall numbers, like his 4.63 ERA. And it mostly resulted in him handling mop-up work as he appeared in 35 games and started zero of them.

Yet here Musgrave is in the top half of the team’s rWAR list for the season and only behind the obvious bullpen names. He bounced back to a 102 ERA+ and found himself on the playoff roster with his well-paid peers sitting behind him.

Being an innings eater can also mean being a guy who can bounce between roles and show some adaptability. The Rockies needed help out of the bullpen, especially from the left side, and Musgrave provided at least some help. There was value in that, even if it might seem weird if he eventually ends up providing value differently in the future as the long relief or rotation depth guy we envisioned.