Welcome to the 2023 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2023. 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. 43, Pierce Johnson: -0.3 rWAR
The Rockies signed Pierce Johnson to a one-year, $5 million deal during the offseason to help their bullpen going into the season. The Arvada, Colorado native joined free agency after three solid seasons with the San Diego Padres, where he had a solid 3.39 ERA over 96 innings since 2019. Johnson started the season primarily as the club’s closer with Daniel Bard starting the season on the Injured List, earning 13 saves in 39 innings for the Rockies. Johnson was removed as the closer after a 7.75 ERA implosion during the month of June.
Despite a 1-5 record and an ERA of 6.00, the Rockies were able to trade Johnson to a contender before the trade deadline. In exchange for the right hander, the Rockies received two pitching prospects, Victor Vodnik and Tanner Gordon. Vodnik, only 23 years old, was ranked as the Braves’ 10th-best prospect, while Gordon, 25, touted as the 25th-ranked prospect for Atlanta at the time.
Johnson pitched well for the 104-win Braves, pitching an impressive 0.76 ERA in 23 2⁄3 innings since the trade. His efforts even earned Johnson the club’s “Pitcher of the Month” award for September for his performance in nine appearances down the stretch of the season.
Overall, Johnson’s season was successful for the Rockies. Signing a veteran reliever to a one-year deal and receiving two prospects in return is exactly what a team rebuilding should be doing. Gordon was able to work his way to Triple-A Albuquerque for six appearances in September and Vodnik was even called up to the Rockies for his MLB debut. While it remains to be seen if either of these prospects contribute to the MLB club, the Rockies making smart moves to bolster their rebuild made the Pierce Johnson signing last offseason worth it.