With 10 appearances, 10 innings and one earned run allowed this August, Carlos Estévez is working his way toward a solid paycheck in 2023.
His WHIP this month is 0.60. The MLB reliever average this year is 1.27.
Estévez has thrown 44 2⁄3 innings in 2022. His 3.83 ERA is just 0.06 points higher than his career-best in 2019, and his better-than-average 1.25 WHIP has been largely productive against Colorado elevation and the outfield expanse of Coors Field.
As for now, he’s riding one of the hottest scoreless appearance streaks of his career. If the Rockies remain intent on keeping the proverbial Range Rovers around, Estévez could become even more of an expensive model in a matter of appearances.
The 2022 Adventure: How far has Estévez come?
We’ve seen a rebranded version of Estévez in recent weeks, one that has put to rest a lack of momentum in May where seven runs were allowed in 7 2⁄3 innings. His 8.22 ERA in May was one of the tougher months of his career, and it all came during a span where bullpen competition threatened a good amount of job security.
Set the stage for the spring of 2022: Daniel Bard was paving the way for an effort that eventually earned him an eight-figure extension. Alex Colomé was also fighting to prove his multi-million-dollar worth in the infancy stages of his Rockies tenure.
“Three potential closers” entered spring camp, but it was a fourth — Tyler Kinley — posting the best ERA in the early months of the season (0.75).
Kinley was placed on the injured list in early June (elbow) and remains unlikely to return in 2022. Unless the Rockies were to enter the reliever sweepstakes before the trade deadline, a Kinley-sized hole would persist.
A relief opportunity opened by necessity, and Estévez has delivered on many occasions.
Rockies Relievers (Qualified) Since June 9, 2022
June 9: Tyler Kinley placed on IL, has not returned since
ERA is a more telling figure of what a pitcher ‘has’ done, as opposed to what they ‘will’ do (the premise behind FIP and xFIP). By looking at the above table as an indicator of past performance, we can see Bard and Estévez have led the way as high-leverage options with Kinley unavailable.
It may not stay this way for the rest of 2022, as the fly-ball-normalized xFIP suggests Estévez could regress quicker than other relievers. The body of work he has shown to this point in 2022 can at least suggest he’s earned further stability as a Colorado reliever.
Previous Rockies pitchers, such as Yency Almonte, Chi Chi Gonzalez and José Mujica, have been historically dismissed after just a few months of regressive performance. More tenured arms like Wade Davis and Jake McGee have seemed to have longer leashes; Estévez holds five years of MLB service and can likely fall into that second category.
With impending free agency this winter, Estévez has been busy making that longer leash a little more expensive for 2023.
It can all change in a matter of appearances, as it goes in this volatile land of bullpens, but the job security Estévez has seen since June seems to at least help his performance on the field.
Of the 11 games that Estévez has allowed a run this year, six were games that he allowed two runs or more. He allowed three runs on two separate occasions. These multi-run outings are ones that can take a while to earn back public perception, given how detrimental they can be to a close late-inning lead. (Perhaps the general public has a distorted perspective on Estévez’s full body of work for this very reason.)
In 50 games this year, Estévez has held his opponents scoreless in 39 of them. This earns him a scoreless outing percentage of 78%; the MLB average sits around 70%, so in the business of posting zeros, Estévez is doing his job better than most.
It’s easy to forget this level of productivity if a three-run outing is fresh in the minds of Rockies fans, however.
The Rockies remain a team with few relievers used compared to other clubs. The Triple-A reserve in Albuquerque has proved relatively thin in 2022, forcing Colorado manager Bud Black to throw MLB relievers perhaps a little more frequently than he otherwise would. It isn’t great to view a high-leverage arm as an innings-eater, per se, but these outings could perhaps take on a different result if more arms were available — and if pitching changes could occur at earlier signs of trouble.
Bard signed a two-year extension this summer for just under $20 million. With a 2.27 ERA this season, he set the bar for what a reliever can expect in Denver for such performance, independent of age and tenure.
Bard posted a 5.21 ERA with the Rockies in 2021 and inked a one-year, $4.4 million contract for 2022. Estévez earned himself $3.025 million after posting a 4.38 ERA last year.
It is challenging and perhaps unjust to put a price on relievers through ERA alone, a point that must be addressed when making this comparison. The stat can at least serve as a general framework for how Estévez can expect more money in 2023 if continued performance is assumed.
For now, Estévez is riding a streak of nine consecutive scoreless appearances (9 IP). He has allowed just five hits in that span, allowing zero walks and lowering his ERA from a 4.66 to a 3.83. This has all happened in a 21-day span; with around 40 days to go, perhaps his value can shoot even higher.
★ ★ ★
Colorado has not seen a top 10 farm system (per MLB Pipeline) since the 2017 preseason — until now. Polling at number nine, the Rockies have jumped courtesy of “a combination of several players already in the system breaking out as top-notch prospects,” says the MLB.com crew of Jim Callis, Sam Dykstra and Jonathan Mayo. They cite Zac Veen, Ezequiel Tovar, Adael Amador and Drew Romo as those top-performing prospects.
Full NL West farm system rankings:
Brendan Rodgers currently leads the Rockies in bWAR. Our friend Noah Yingling from Rox Pile highlights Rodgers’ torrid streak of offense since the All-Star Break and how the infielder has done plenty to overcome his cold start to the season back in April.
★ ★ ★
On the Farm
Monday, August 8: League-wide off day for all minor league affiliates
New series starting today:
Triple-A: Round Rock Express (TEX) at Albuquerque Isotopes (COL)
Double-A: Hartford Yard Goats (COL) at Portland Sea Dogs (BOS)
High-A: Spokane Indians (COL) at Everett Aquasox (SEA)
Low-A: Stockton Ports (OAK) at Fresno Grizzlies (COL)
★ ★ ★
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