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Rehabbing most of 2023, Kinley still struggled in his short season

He only pitched 16 1⁄3 innings and posted his highest ERA as a Rockie

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.

★ ★ ★

No. 34, Tyler Kinley: -0.1 rWAR

The 2023 season was a rough one, mostly marked by battling back from an injury, for Tyler Kinley.

Kinley spent 13 months rehabbing from a right elbow surgery to return to the Rockies on Aug. 1. In the final two months of the season, Kinley pitched in 18 games, posting a 6.06 ERA in 16 1/3 innings. He spent a quarter of those two months on the 15-day IL with right elbow inflammation and just wasn’t the Tyler Kinley Rockies fans saw in 2022.

In 2022, Kinley posted career bests in ERA, xERA, FIP, xFIP, bWAR, fWAR, and walk percentage. When Kinley was placed on the IL on June 12, 2022, he had a 0.75 ERA in 24 innings. He struck out 27% of the batters he faced. He was on his way to being an All-Star before his season was cut short. Luckily, he avoided his second Tommy John surgery, but he still needed season-ending surgery.

While he was rehabbing, the Rockies showed their commitment to the now 32-year-old reliever, who was the team’s most-used reliever in 2021 with 70 1/3 innings of work. In November of 2022, the Rockies and Kinley agreed to a three-year, $6.25 million deal with a $3 million bonus should he become the closer.

That didn’t happen in 2023. Instead, he worked hard to get back to action, but then struggled with giving up lots of hits in his return to the mound.

After off-the-field work, Kinley started a rehab stint with the Arizona Complex League Rockies in early July. In two games in 1 1/3 innings, he gave up six runs on five hits with one walk and one strikeout. By July 18, he was sent to High-A Spokane Indians where he made three appearances, giving up two runs on three hits with zero walks and four strikeouts.

One week later, Kinley moved up to Triple-A Albuquerque and advanced to the MLB roster by the next week.

With the Rockies, Kinley appeared in 5 2/3 innings over seven games. Even though he recorded eight strikeouts, he surrendered six runs on 10 hits (two homers) with two walks to total an uncharacteristic 9.53 ERA and 0-1 record.

Something wasn’t right and it turns out it was Kinley’s elbow again. On Aug. 17, he landed back on the IL. After recovering, he made one more rehab appearance with the Isotopes and was back on the Rockies roster on Sept. 1.

His final 11 appearances in September and October went much better as he posted a 4.22 ERA, less than half of what it was in August. He gave up 10 hits, including another homer, with nine strikeouts and four walks. Despite the progress, it still wasn’t near his 2022 numbers. In 24 innings in 2022, Kinley gave up 21 hits, including no homers, and struck out 27. In 2023, in 16 1/3 innings, he gave up 21 hits, including three homers, and struck out 17.

The best news is that Kinley ended the season healthy. A healthy Kinley is key to a better Rockies team. Even if he can’t match the incredible numbers he put up in 2022, Kinley still figures to be a key cog in the Rockies bullpen moving forward.