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. 17, Jake McGee (0.4 rWAR)
Next time Jeff Bridich is considering a multi-year deal for a relief pitcher, it should be somebody’s job to smack him in the face with a picture of Jake McGee.
There might be no better pitcher to represent the ups and downs of many talented relievers. The Rockies acquired McGee before the 2016 season and he was kind of a mess that season. Then he was stellar in 2017, with a 140 ERA+ and a jump back up to 9.1 K/9. He looked like the back-end lefty that the Rockies had wanted. So they signed him to a three-year contract.
McGee was back to being bad in the first year of that deal in 2018, which was the worst season of his career. The 2019 season was the second year of that deal, and McGee was certainly better. He missed time at the beginning of the year with a knee injury, then in 45 appearances, McGee had a 4.35 ERA (120 ERA+). He was inconsistent, however, and had largely faded from the picture in terms of high-leverage situations by the time we reached the end of the season.
Beyond the surface improvements in his stats, however, there are some concerning signs for McGee. His fastball velocity continued to decline for the third straight season, down to an average velocity of 93.4. In what might have been an adjustment to that dip, McGee used his slider more than he ever has at 19.1% of the time. He used his slider 5.1% of the time in 2018. He also threw essentially no curveballs this past season, so that might just be a tweak to his spinning pitches, but the point is that he threw fewer fastballs with less velocity and more secondary pitches.
That approach did at least seem to lead McGee to bounce back and get better results against left-handed hitters. If he can at least do that, McGee probably has some trade value if the Rockies want to pursue that route, but probably not a lot of value. He would also be a prime trade deadline candidate depending on his results and how the Rockies are doing, but here’s hoping they won’t be sellers next summer.
It’s likely that McGee will be in the Colorado bullpen once again, at least to start the season. His ability to continue to adjust his approach will determine whether or not he can end this contract on a high note.