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.
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No. 41, Pat Valaika: -0.6 rWAR
It was an All-Star season for Pat Valaika. That’s right! After absolutely mashing the ball to the tune of a .320 average with 22 home runs in only 383 plate appearances, Valaika was selected as one of three players to represent the Colorado Rockies organization in the midsummer classic—the Triple-A All-Star Game.
Valaika absolutely mashed at Triple-A in 2019 and was well deserving of the nod for the Pacific Coast League. Unfortunately, because he was up with the major league squad at the time, Valaika was not able to play alongside the brightest stars of Triple-A on that July 10 evening.
No, Valaika’s talents were needed in the big leagues. At the game’s highest level, Valaika played in 40 games in 2019 and produced a batting line of .190/.256/.316, good for a 60 DRC+.
This might be what we’re gonna get from Valaika, folks. Despite a career-high walk rate of over eight percent, Valaika also struck out 40% of the time.
He’s a far cry from 2017’s Patty Barrels: Pinch-Hitter Extraordinaire. And even then, there were plenty of signs that any success he had wasn’t sustainable.
Unlike 2018, Valaika was not given priority to play over Ryan McMahon, Garrett Hampson or even Josh Fuentes in 2019. This proved to be vital for the development of McMahon and Hampson, who both got better as the year went on and they received more plate appearances.
That leads us to the question: Is this it for Valaika’s Rockies’ tenure? He’s 27 now. He does still have two minor league options remaining. But could there be another player worthy of his spot on the 40-man roster?
Well, we can’t close the book on Patty Barrels quite yet. As Thomas Harding of MLB.com reports, while Valaika could be a candidate to be outrighted off the 40-man, the Rockies could also keep him “in the organization to try to revive his career” in 2020.
Listen—Valaika is by all accounts a great clubhouse presence. I like seeing him in the dugout laughing it up and having a good time with his teammates.
But can the Rockies afford to keep running him out there if they want to contend in 2020? For some reason, the Rockies thought they saw enough of Tom Murphy and Mike Tauchman to move on from them, but they still think Valaika has something in him to “revive his career.”
I don’t see Valaika making the roster out of spring training in 2020, but I don’t see him getting outrighted either. I expect we’ll see Valaika accrue some major league service time for the Rockies in 2020.