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Chad Smith had a rough introduction to the majors

The rookie right-hander made 15 appearances... and the Rockies lost all of them

Welcome to the 2022 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2022. 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 37, Chad Smith: -0.4 rWAR

Chad Smith was brought to the Rockies in August 2020 for Jesús Tinoco (you know, the guy who served up Aaron Judge’s 62nd homer). He was immediately assigned to the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes and also spent time at the Rockies Alternate Training Site. He was invited to spring training in both 2021 and 2022, but didn’t make his MLB debut until May 29 against the Washington Nationals. In that debut, he pitched a scoreless seventh inning while striking out one, and it was the highlight of his season (obviously):

“Just to finally get here and see everything pay off,” he said in September. “Things haven’t been exactly how I hoped they would, but it’s a building block for next year.”

Smith’s next outing, though, was not as good. He pitched one inning against his former team and allowed six runs on five hits and walked two Marlins (also hit one). Those free bases would be a narrative that would follow Smith through the rest of the season (he reflected on that here).

After that, Smith had a bit of an up-and-down season — both literally flying to and from Albuquerque and also with his statistics. He made 15 appearances (18.0 IP) and the Rockies did not win a single game when he was on the mound. And the ups and downs took their toll on Smith as the season drug on.

“I think I struggled mentally more than anything because I’ve never been through what I went through this year — from the options standpoint and going up and down,” he said. “I was always trying to get into a routine. In Albuquerque, I’m filling a different role than I am here so I tried to be ready for anything, but I struggled mentally a lot for a month or two.”

But he’s seeing those struggles as an opportunity to improve for next season.

“I needed to be challenged like that,” Smith said. “I feel like I’ve made a lot of good strides physically and mentally up here in the big leagues, and I’ve successfully gotten over those mental barriers and it’s been good for me.”

In the offseason, he’s planning to clean up some things in his delivery and get into the weight room to work on mobility, flexibility and lower-body strength. But the big goal, of course, is “to break with the team out of spring training, and then from there, come in here next year and do everything I can to win a job pitching in leverage situations.”

Finally, if he had to summarize his season in one word, Smith chose “unknown.”

“For me, just not knowing where I’m going to be, when I’m going to throw... and that’s part of it, that’s why we do this,” he said. “And while it’s been difficult with my wife and my family, it’s been awesome. This is what we’ve dreamed of and now that we’re here, we’ve very much enjoyed it. It’s been a dream come true.”

The Rockies have a lot of bullpen decisions to make in 2023 and while Chad Smith showed some promise down the stretch, he still might end up on the outside looking in.