Last month, Daren Gonzalez wrote an article about how some players the Rockies moved on from in the recent offseason were faring with their new teams. The fun thing about baseball is that there are plenty of other players throughout the league that have played with the Rockies in the past, and it felt right to follow up that article with this sequel.
Besides, reminiscing and catching up with old friends seems timely with graduation season in full swing and HBO Max airing the highly anticipated Friends reunion special.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at how some of the Rockies’ “old friends” are faring in 2021.
The ‘Super Bullpen’
Bryan Shaw, Jake McGee and Wade Davis will live in infamy in Rockies history. The so-called “super bullpen” ultimately ended up as a disaster for the team and not a single one finished out the length of their contract. Each player found a new home for the 2021 season and it’s a mixed bag of results.
Shaw returned to Cleveland on a minor league deal where he seems to have rediscovered what made him desirable to the Rockies in the first place. Across 20 innings, Shaw has a 1.35 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and career-high strikeout percentage of 28.7 %. I don’t know what Cleveland was able to figure out for him, but I’m glad he has found some success again after getting banged up in the last couple years.
McGee found a home with the Dodgers in 2020 and instantly became a solid bullpen piece. His performance was rewarded with a two-year deal with the Giants starting in 2021. McGee quickly became an early favorite for save opportunities and has remained a reliable presence in their bullpen. So far this season, McGee sports a 4.15 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and a 30.3% strikeout rate.
Finally, there’s Wade Davis. Like Shaw, Davis also returned to an old team to try and regain his mojo. After signing a minor league deal with the Royals, Davis has continued to struggle at the big league level. In 16 innings this season, Davis has an unsightly 6.61 ERA, although his strikeout and walk rates have improved. It appears opposing hitters are squaring him up and he just can’t handle any sort of high-leverage situations.
Included in the trade with Baltimore for Mychal Givens last season, Tyler Nevin never got a chance to put on a purple jersey and take the field for the Rockies. In Triple-A Norfolk, Nevin led the team with five homers but had a .212 AVG at the plate. However, an ability to stay healthy opened the door to get called up by the Orioles for his big league debut this weekend against the White Sox in a doubleheader on Saturday. In his debut, Nevin went 1-2 with a walk and a strikeout, and also committed a fielding error.
Unfortunately for Dexter Fowler, 2021 will be a year to forget. After being traded to the Angels prior to Spring Training, Fowler only appeared in seven regular-season games before suffering a torn ACL that has sidelined him for the entire season. Fowler was set to be a veteran contributor for the Angels to give their prospects time to develop in the minors. In those seven games, Fowler was batting .250 with all five of his hits being singles. The former Rockie is set to become a free agent following this season, but retirement is a looming possibility as well.
After rebounding with the Giants in 2020, Tyler Anderson found a home in Pittsburgh as a veteran pitcher presence for a team in rebuild mode. He got off to a hot start at the beginning of the season but has settled in as a reliable piece in their rotation. In 10 starts this season he has a 4.63 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and a strong 38.4% ground ball rate. Looking toward the future, Anderson will most likely be a back-end starter for any number of teams that need a reliable innings-eater if he stays healthy, just like he is in 2021.
“Patty Barrels” had a solid 2020 with the Orioles, but his production has dropped off in 2021. So far, Valaika is hitting .176/.215/.243 and has struggled to make the most of his opportunities this season. Like the rest of baseball, Valaika has been a victim of strikeouts and shown an inability to draw walks, but he counteracts that by making a lot of contact. Over 60% of his plate appearances result in putting the ball in play; the only problem is that he is not making quality contact with lots of easy fly balls.
One of the only Rockies players to have someone dedicate a Twitter account to one of his pitches, Adam Ottavino (and his slider) headed to New York after the 2018 season. Following a disappointing 2020 campaign, he was part of one of the rare trades between the Yankees and Red Sox. The move turned out to be good for Otto as he has flourished in the Boston bullpen.
Serving as the primary setup man for Matt Barnes, Ottavino has a 3.05 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, and a 1.73 strikeout to walk ratio. He is struggling with walks a bit more this season, but something that stands out for him is that through 20 innings, he has yet to give up a home run with 50% of batted balls staying on the ground. At the age of 35, Ottavino is set to become a free agent after this season.
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Baseball writer Jack Etkin shares a short personal story about the time he asked Rockies reliever Scott Oberg for an autograph back in 2016. Etkin’s daughter shared a medical bond with Oberg as she was experiencing adversity from an arthritic condition similar to something Oberg had dealt with. Oberg wrote several passages on the ball that had helped him through adversity. It’s a sweet story and reminds us of the humanity behind the players on the field.
Record-wise, the Rockies are at the same place the 2019 World Series-winning Washington Nationals were. By some sort of miracle, the Nationals managed to turn their season around and become one of the best teams in baseball. Noah Yingling analyzes the possibility of whether the Rockies can pull off a similar turnaround in 2021, but for all intents and purposes, it doesn’t look good for the Rockies.
On the farm
The struggles for the Rockies’ Triple-A team continued as they only managed three singles in a shutout loss to Sugar Land. José Mujica put in a solid outing allowing only one run on three hits in five innings of work. Ben Bowden, working back from an injury, made his first relief appearance. In a scoreless inning of work, he struck out two and allowed one hit.
The Yard Goats offense was missing in action on Saturday as they managed only two hits on the day, a pair of doubles. Will Gaddis started on the mound for Hartford, and despite giving up a two-run homer in the first inning, managed to scatter seven hits over six innings of work. Portland tallied two more runs in the seventh thanks to two Hartford throwing errors. Hartwood would tally a pair of runs in the eighth and a run in the ninth thanks to a pair of sacrifice flies.
High-A Spokane put together a quality performance as a pitching staff as they allowed two runs on four hits while striking out 11 Eugene batters. Spokane pushed across four runs on six hits, with Kyle Datres and Willie MacIver both hitting solo shots.
Finally, Fresno dropped their game against the Angels’ Low-A team. Inland Empire jumped out to an early lead with a six-run first inning against Fresno starter Mitchell Kilkenny, thanks in part to a fielding error by Mateo Gil that prolonged the inning. Kilkenny labored through four innings giving up eight hits and striking out four. Grant Lavigne and Drew Romo both had multi-hit nights for Fresno, while Zac Veen hit his first triple of the season.
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