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Jesus Tinoco showed signs of promise in 2019

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He also struggled as you would expect from a rookie pitcher.

Welcome to the 2019 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2019. 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 lowest rWAR and end up with the player with the highest.

★ ★ ★

No. 23, Jesus Tinoco (0.2 rWAR)

There is often a forgotten player in a trade, that last prospect name that doesn’t make the headlines. He might be a talented player with a lot of promise, but he’s usually far away from the big leagues and hasn’t earned the level of hype that comes with prospect lists.

Jesus Tinoco was that guy in the Troy Tulowitzki trade, which now feels like it was roughly 100 years ago. As he grew up as a pitcher and worked his way through the Rockies farm system, a clearer picture of his potential role with the team started to take shape. As Jeff Aberle noted in his PuRPs profile back in January, Tinoco looked like he could contribute best out of the bullpen, with a big fastball and big potential in his slider and curveball.

Tinoco made his MLB debut in 2019 and, in 24 appearances, he looked to fit that reliever profile. His fastball played up and he flashed real promise out of the bullpen, particularly in some long relief outings. As is typical for a rookie pitcher, Tinoco also struggled with command and walked too many hitters (5.5 BB/9). He also struggled with home runs, surrendering 12 in 36 innings of work, but as we know, every pitcher struggled with home runs this season. All told, he finished 2019 with a 4.75 ERA (110 ERA+).

Where that leaves Tinoco is where a lot of young pitchers find themselves once they have a taste of the big leagues. His ability to further develop his secondary pitches will be key to his success. Tinoco did work mostly as a starter in the minor leagues, and if he wants to pitch in a big league rotation, he’ll have to develop a third/fourth pitch (a changeup, in his case) to go along with his very good curveball and good slider.

It seems like more of a stretch that Tinoco would break through in the rotation, but it’s not impossible. It seems more likely that he is suited to the middle of the bullpen, something that should not be treated as an insult. Goodness knows the Rockies could use more stability in those spots, and at just 24 years old, Tinoco could help in that area with more consistency.

We probably haven’t seen the last of Tinoco struggling in the big leagues. He might still have extended stints in the minor leagues in his future as he figures things out. But he showed enough signs in 2019 to think that he can be an effective pitcher in the big leagues.

At the time of the Tulo trade, it wouldn’t have added a lot of glamour to say that the guy you had never heard of would develop into a potential middle reliever. But in reality, that would be a win for the Rockies if that’s where Tinoco ends up. He at least showed the ability to fulfill that role in 2019, something the Rockies should also probably call a win.