Welcome to the 2021 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2021. 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. 25, Tyler Kinley: 0.4 rWAR
In 2021, Tyler Kinley became Bud Black’s go-to in the bullpen. The 30-year-old RHP pitched 70 1⁄3 innings, which was 4 2⁄3 more than Daniel Bard.
Going into the 2021 season, with the hoped return of Scott Obert, Bard coming off a Comeback Player of the Year season, and guys like Mychal Givens and Carlos Estévez supposedly headlining the bullpen, it’s hard to imagine there were a lot of bets on Kinley getting the most work.
Oberg wasn’t ever able to play, Givens was traded at the trade deadline, Bard struggled, and Estévez was more unsteady than a Colorado weather forecast. So, Kinley stepped up and finished season with a 4.73 ERA, 1.209 WHIP, 68 strikeouts, and a 3-2 record.
The righty recorded the third-lowest ERA (4.73) in the Colorado bullpen (behind Jhoulys Chacín and Estévez) and the second-most strikeouts at 68 (behind Bard’s 80). He walked 26 batters while striking out 68 and held opponents to a .223 batting average against. He also gave up 12 homers, which was the same number as Antonio Senzatela, who pitched more than double Kinley’s load (156 2/3 innings). In Kinley’s 70 games, he inherited runners 22 times for a total of 42 runners, 19 of whom ended up scoring (45 percent).
Kinley’s season was a bit of a roller coaster, as documented by Purple Row’s Kenneth Weber in mid-September. His ERA was 6.75 through May 11, but in May through early June, he put together a streak of nine scoreless appearances over 9 1⁄3 innings where he also only gave up two hits while striking out eight. From June 19 to Aug. 7, Kinley struggled, posting a 9.77 ERA. He ended on a high note that just may have secured his spot in a bullpen that had the 26th highest ERA in the MLB at 4.9 and the 28th fewest strikeouts (551).
Kinley shined in the month of September, putting up a 2.03 ERA in 13 1⁄3 innings over 14 appearances when he struck out 12, only gave up three runs on eight hits, and only walked one batter. It was an impressive end, despite ending the season with blowing save opportunity No. 4 when giving up two runs and blowing a 4-2 lead against the Diamondbacks in the eighth inning in the Rockies season finale.
Kinley did prove to be a workhorse, pitching 10 times on zero days rest and he turned out to be a go-to in the seventh inning (31 appearances), but he also pitched 21 times in the eighth inning and 16 in the sixth. His place definitely seems to be in middle relief as he had just four save opportunities throughout the season and he blew all four.
Kinley debuted in the MLB in 2018 for the Twins before being traded to the Marlins and had previously had 49 1⁄3 innings be his career high in his first full season of action in 2019. After that season, the Rockies claimed Kinley off waivers in December. In March of the last two seasons, Kinley has signed a one-year contract for the league minimum with the Rockies. In 2022, in his first year of arbitration eligibility, he’s expected to get $1 million, according to Spotrac.
Anything could happen if the Rockies front office is taking a much-needed bullpen overhaul seriously, but Kinley may have proved he’s good enough to keep around in his first season of heavy use not only for the Rockies but at the major league level. He did finish the season tied for 21st in innings pitched for a reliever in MLB, but he also has the highest ERA in that group.