Another MLB postseason is upon us and for the fifth consecutive year, the Rockies and their fans are on the sidelines. If you are like me, finding another team to cheer for can be hard. And it gets boring to say anyone but the Dodgers.
Rockies fans might find hope in the Diamondbacks and Orioles who lost 110 games apiece just two seasons ago. The further either of them go in the playoffs, the better. Even if Arizona and Baltimore are totally different, if they can right the ship, maybe the Rockies can too.
Another way to go is to pull for former Rockies as they now advance in meaningful games they wouldn’t have been able to in Colorado.
The Braves lead the way with five former Rockies, even if only three are on the active roster, while the Phillies, Rangers, Dodgers, and Diamondbacks each have one ex-Rockie. Here’s a look at those former Rockies that are now in the hunt for a World Series title.
Brad Hand, LHP
The Rockies signed Brad Hand as a free agent prior to 2022 and he was great in a season when pitching was rough in Colorado. Over 40 appearances, he pitched 35 2/3 innings with a 4.54 ERA with a 3-1 record, three holds, 41 strikeouts, and 16 walks. Hand was then traded on Aug. 1 to Atlanta for RHP Alec Barge, who spent the rest of the season at Double-A Hartford and is currently playing with the Salt River Rafters in the Arizona Fall League. Hand, who is now playing in his fourth postseason, hasn’t done as well in his 20 appearances for the Braves. In 18 innings, he’s posted a 7.50 ERA while going 2-2 with one save and two holds with 18 strikeouts and six walks.
Pierce Johnson, RHP
Denver native Pierce Johnson, 32, signed with the Rockies as a free agent in December of 2022. He was then the first player to be traded in one of the most active trade seasons in Rockies history. When Daniel Bard started the season on the IL, Johnson emerged as the closer and was very effective (for a while anyway). He recorded 11 saves through the first two months of the season, but ended up with a 1-5 record with a 6.00 ERA in 39 innings over 43 games as a Rockie. Johnson was traded to Atlanta on July 24 for RHPs Victor Vodnik and Tanner Gordon. Vodnik, 23, made six relief appearances in September and posted an 8.31 ERA. Gordon, 25, made three appearances with the Yard Goats before moving up to Triple-A Albuquerque on Aug. 23 where he posted a 4.31 ERA in 31 1/3 innings of work.
Johnson found his grove in Atlanta, posting a 0.76 ERA in 23 2/3 innings over 24 appearances with a 1-1 record. Expect to see Johnson, who’s making his third postseason appearance, in action in the sixth or seventh inning if the Braves need a reliable righty from the bullpen.
Kevin Pillar, OF
Remember when Kevin Pillar was a Rockie? It was during a weird time and it wasn’t for very long. Pillar played for four teams in a two-year span, including the Rockies in the second half of the shortened 2020 season. That translated to 24 games in one month (September) and Pillar hit .308/.351/.451 — his best tenure with any club. He’s played on three teams since, including the Braves this season. He is batting .228/.248/.416 and usually comes off the bench. This is the third time Pillar has reached the playoffs in his 11-year career.
Sam Hilliard, CF
Hilliard, a 15th-round draft pick by the Rockies in 2015, was traded to the Braves on Nov. 6, 2022 for RHP Dylan Spain. Hilliard had 72 at-bats in 40 games for Atlanta and hit .236/.295/.431 with three homers. He’s struggled to stay healthy this season. He suffered a heel contusion in mid-July and was eventually placed on 60-day IL on Sept. 1.
Tyler Matzek, LHP
The Rockies first-round pick in 2009, Matzek revived his career with the Braves in 2020, but he has missed all of 2023 after having Tommy John surgery in October of 2022.
Jeff Hoffman, RHP
The Rockies acquired Hoffman, a first-round pick by the Blue Jays in 2014, in the Troy Tulowitzki trade in 2015. In five years with the Rockies, he posted a 6.40 ERA in splitting his time between the bullpen and starting rotation. The Rockies traded him to the Reds after the 2020 season and played in Cincinnati for two years. After electing free agency, he eventually signed a minor league deal with the Phillies in April. He’s done well in relief for the Phillies this season, going 5-2 with a 2.41 ERA in 54 appearances (52 1/3 innings) with one save, 69 strikeouts and 19 walks. This is Hoffman’s first postseason appearance and he saw his first action on Oct. 3 when he entered the series-opening game vs. Miami in the eighth inning with a runner on first and two outs. Hoffman got Jorge Soler to ground into a force out and escaped the jam.
Miguel Castro, RHP
Along with Hoffmann and two other players (José Reyes and Jesus Tinoco), Miguel Castro came to Colorado from Toronto as part of the Tulo deal. In his two years with the Rockies, Castro put up a 7.20 ERA in 20 innings over 24 appearances with an 0-1 record. In 2015 and 2016, Castro went back and forth from Albuquerque to Colorado before being designated for assignment in April of 2017. He was then picked up by the Orioles, traded to the Mets, traded to the Yankees, and then he signed with the Diamondbacks after becoming a free agent at the end of 2022. This season, the 28-year-old has pitched in a career-high 75 games, recording a 4.31 ERA and a 6-6 record with seven saves and 13 holds. This season marks Castro’s second in the playoffs in his nine-year career. He pitched 2⁄3 scoreless innings with one walk and no hits in Arizona’s 6-3 win on Oct. 3.
Jon Gray, RHP
Jon Gray, who signed a four-year, $56 million deal with the Rangers before the 2022 season, is now on his fourth stint on the IL, this time with lower forearm tightness on his right arm. The Rockies first-round draft pick in 2013 was placed on the IL on Sept. 28. The soonest he could play is Oct. 12, which means he could potentially be available for a Game 5 against Baltimore and then maybe the AL Championship Series if the Rangers can advance. This season, Gray is 9-8 with a 4.12 ERA in 29 starts with 142 strikeouts. If he’s able to pitch, this will be Gray’s second postseason run as he pitched 1 1/3 rough innings vs. the Diamondbacks when he gave up four runs on seven hits in Colorado’s 11-8 loss in the NL Wild Card game.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Yency Almonte, RHP
Yency Almonte hurt his right knee and has been on the IL since Aug. 11. On Oct. 2, Almonte was moved from the IL to the 40-man roster, but he’s not on the active roster. Dodger manager Dave Roberts said Almonte probably won’t be available until the NL Championship Series if L.A. makes it that far. In 49 appearances this season, Almonte is 3-2 with a 5.06 ERA. If he’s able to pitch, this will be his second playoff season in his six-year career.
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Rockies Journal: D-backs turned things around. Can Colorado follow their blueprint? | The Denver Post ($)
Patrick Saunders brings up some good points on how the Rockies and Diamondbacks are similar in terms of having a good core of young players and both teams needing similar conditions to succeed in the MLB postseason: “the stars must align and the windows of opportunity must open just right.” At the same time, the differences are aplenty. The Rockies spend more money and sell more tickets, but the Diamondbacks have made better moves of late and have better pitching. After Arizona lost 110 games in 2019, they are headed to the NLCS to face the Dodgers after upsetting the Brewers in the Wild Card. Can the Rockies turn a 103-loss season into playoffs in 2025? That is the question.
In true Jack Etkin style, this 14-minute read is an in-depth feature on Seth Halvorsen, who the Rockies drafted in the seventh round of the First-Year Player Draft in July from the University of Tennessee. Tommy John survey in 2019 and a fractured elbow in 2022 had the Rockies slowly easing him through the farm system. He only made 13 total appearances, but it was enough to go from Low-A Spokane, to High-A Fresno, and then to Double-A Hartford. He could be an exciting prospect with a very good fastball and a very good slider.
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Arizona Fall League
Batting first and second for the Rafters, Rockies prospects Benny Montgomery and Drew Romo started what turned out to be a six-run frame on Salt River’s way to a victory on Thursday night. Montgomery singled and Romo drew a walk and both came around to score. Romo walked and scored again in the second inning. The Rafters drew a total of eight walks and recorded seven hits in the win. Juan Mejia was the only other Rockie in action on the night and he made it interesting. Entering the game in the seventh inning, Mejia hit one batter, walked another, and had a wild pitch that allowed the runners to advance to second and third. Before, during, and after that, he struck out three Saguaros to avoid any damage. Salt River improved to 2-2 with the win and will next take on the Mesa Solar Sox on Friday.
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