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James Pazos rendered Jake McGee expendable in 2019

Pazos just had a cameo for the Rockies, but looked good in it

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. 16, James Pazos: 0.5 rWAR

Believe it or not, James Pazos is the last left-handed pitcher you’re going to see on this list, despite the fact that he made his Rockies debut on September 1.

Pazos had just a month with the Rockies, but it was quite the productive one. He made 12 appearances, allowing just two runs on seven hits in 10 13 innings with four walks and 10 strikeouts. The only home run he allowed was a two-out solo shot to Corey Seager on September 22.

The Rockies acquired Pazos in a trade with the Phillies on April 26, sending minor league outfielder Hunter Stovall back to Philly.

Pazos did not make a big league appearance with the Phillies, but posted a 3.39 ERA with the Mariners in 2017 and 2018, striking out 110 in 103 23 innings, so he had a proven track record in the majors. Despite this, the Rockies acquired him and sent him to Triple-A Albuquerque for four months.

That decision seems even more odd when you consider that the Rockies carried just one southpaw in their bullpen for a large part of 2019, and that was Jake McGee, who clearly did not have the trust of manager Bud Black. The average Leverage Index of McGee’s 45 appearances this season was just 0.63, the third-lowest on the roster, ahead of Yency Almonte and Jesus Tinoco. By contrast, Pazos’ average Leverage Index was 0.84.

What likely led the Rockies to not call up Pazos was his performance, or lack thereof, in Albuqueque. He made 39 appearances with the Isotopes, posting an 8.80 ERA and 2.09 WHIP in 44 innings, walking 23 and striking out 42. Yes, the walks would be concerning but I would but a pair of caveats on the overall numbers:

  1. It’s Albuquerque, and using that juiced Triple-A baseball at 7,000 feet is not conducive to putting up good pitching stats. As a team this year, the Isotopes posted an ERA of 6.38, so numbers for any of their pitchers should be taken with a grain of salt.
  2. The luck dragons were not exactly on Pazos’ side during his time with the ‘Topes. Opposing hitters had a BABIP of .424 against him, and he managed to strand just 59.2% of baserunners in Triple-A in 2019. Those numbers regressed in a big way with the Rockies, to .250 and 93.8%.

A solid, proven lefty out of the bullpen is something the Rockies seemed to be lacking all season, especially during their downward spiral in July and August, during which McGee had a 6.75 ERA and 1.75 WHIP.

Why the Rockies didn’t give Pazos a chance before rosters expanded in 2019 may remain a mystery, but they would be wise to learn from that mistake and give him a real shot at the Opening Day roster in 2020.