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. 19, Nick Mears: 0.4 rWAR
The Rockies bullpen is always going to need help over the course of the season. Last offseason, the team claimed Nick Mears off waivers with the hopes that he could provide depth and even support in the arm barn.
Mears managed just 19 1⁄3 innings in his first season with Colorado after suffering multiple oblique strains that sidelined him for a good portion of the year and led the Rockies to keep him in Triple-A Albuquerque. While with the big league club, Mears recorded a 3.72 ERA (4.08 FIP) and a 137 ERA+. While outings weren’t always the cleanest, he was effective in his brief 16 games in 2023. The majority of his work in 2023 came down in Triple-A where he posted a 6.08 ERA in 23 2⁄3 innings over 24 games.
There is a lot to like about Mears, mainly the fact that he has a fastball that averages in the mid to upper 90s to go along with a good curveball and slider. Heading into 2023 he sported a career 9.5 SO/9 in 30 1⁄3 innings over his three years with the Pittsburgh Pirates and with those kinds of numbers, there is some untapped potential that would be attractive to any team.
The main drawback for Mears has been his struggles with command. Mears has a lively arsenal, but he has struggled to wrangle things in to achieve that full potential. Between the minors and the majors this season, Mears had 63 strikeouts and the inverse of that in walks with 36. That struggle with command has led to bad pitches and missed locations which have contributed to the 1.448 WHIP he experienced in the big leagues this season.
Mears is working on a fine line that is the baseball equivalent of a hire-wire tightrope act. He has shown an ability to dominate hitters with strikeout numbers the bullpen could use, but sooner or later, the excess of walks and hits will catch up to him. If the Rockies can help him find his command, or at least refine it a bit, he is a candidate to be a key piece in the bullpen for 2024 and even beyond. Mears is a perfect opportunity for the Rockies to show they can help a pitcher develop and overcome their hurdles, but only if they are willing to try. Mears won’t be arbitration-eligible until 2025, so time is on their side for the moment.
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