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.
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No. 16, Austin Gomber: 0.7 rWAR
It’s hard to imagine a tougher hill to the climb than the one Austin Gomber was met with in 2021.
Gomber was the only MLB-ready player received in the Nolan Arenado deal with the Cardinals, and was thus seen as the immediate face of the return. If being associated with the trade that sent away Arenado wasn’t enough, he now had to pitch in Coors Field also - a place not known for its ability to forgive. Finally, after spending most of his Cardinals career up and down between the minors, Gomber was being asked to carry the full load of a starter for a Rockies rotation looking for reliable members.
He was thrust into the fire and made his Rockies debut at Coors against the defending World Champion Dodgers. It was not a great first impression - he walked seven over three innings, and ended up with the loss despite allowing just one run. However, he quickly rebounded and got over his early season jitters to become one of the Rockies more consistent starters of the first half. From April 9th to June 14th, Gomber made 13 starts. Eight were quality starts, and he walked one or fewer batters in every start in May and June. He entered his June 19th start against the Brewers with a 6-5 record and 3.54 ERA.
Unfortunately, he would leave his June 19th start after just two innings and was later placed on the IL with forearm tightness. It was a tale of two seasons from there. He returned from the IL on July 21st and made eight starts for the remainder of the year. Of those starts, he pitched past the fifth inning only twice.
His season ultimately ended in early September after the discovery of a stress fracture in his lower back, landing him on the 60-day IL. He finished the year with a 9-9 record to go with a 4.61 ERA over 115 1⁄3 innings of work - his highest big league season total to date, even with the time he missed due to injury. He was hurt by the occasional bad game even during healthy stretches, likely helped on by a career high HR/9 allowed. While it comes with an obligatory small sample size warning, his previous career high rate was 0.8 HR/9 allowed.
Austin Gomber, 2021 Pitching
Gomber showed plenty of promise this year but his season was ultimately derailed by a lack of consistency due to injuries. He’ll look to rebound next year and provide a reliable starting arm for the Rockies. His continued development will be key for the Rockies over the next few seasons. 2022 is his last pre-arb year and he’ll be under team control until at least 2026, so any and all value he provides will come with a relatively low price tag. While he’ll never shake the continued association with his former team’s third baseman, he possesses the tools to become a Rockies fan favorite for these upcoming years.