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. 14, Matt Koch: 0.6 rWAR
When the Rockies signed journeyman right-handed reliever Matt Koch to a minor-league deal last offseason, I don’t know if they thought he would become one of their most-turned-to arms out of the barn in 2023.
Originally drafted in the third round by the New York Mets, Koch made his big league debut with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He played for parts of four seasons with the Diamondbacks, eventually shifting from starter to reliever before being designated for assignment in 2019.
Koch spent the 2020 season in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball as a member of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows. He credits his time with the Swallows for furthering his development as a pitcher.
“It’s a different game over there,” he told Purple Row when asked what he learned in Japan. “Their bat-to-ball skills are incredible. So just learning how to execute a little bit better and how to mix your pitches and not be so predictable.”
Koch returned to MLB in 2022 with a short stint as a member of the Seattle Mariners, but was once again a free agent heading into the 2023 season. As a member of the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes, he made 29 appearances—including one start—before being called up by the Rockies in late June.
Even in June, the Rockies bullpen was one of the most overtaxed in baseball. The team had lost both Germán Márquez and Antonio Senzatela to Tommy John surgery and Ryan Feltner to a frightening head injury. Jake Bird, Justin Lawrence, and Brent Suter had all been putting in overtime, and a fresh arm was needed.
Koch was able to help revitalize the Rockies bullpen. He made 10 straight appearances without allowing a run and struck out five batters over 11 2⁄3 innings while holding opposing batters to just .081/.081/.108 during that time.
In his 38 appearances for the Rockies, Koch only gave up multiple runs in six outings. Four of those outings were in September as the heavy workload of a Rockies reliever took its toll. From June 27th to August 29th he held an ERA of 3.58 over 27 2⁄3 innings with 18 strikeouts and only three walks. In September he made 12 appearances and pitched 11 innings, giving up three home runs and walking six batters with an ERA of 9.00 for the month.
Overall, Koch ended up being one of the Rockies’ most-used relievers this season. His 38 appearances were the seventh most among all Rockies relievers, and his 37 2⁄3 innings of work were the sixth most. He ended the season with a 5.12 ERA and 25 strikeouts to nine walks.
Following the end of the season, the Rockies outrighted Matt Koch off the 40-man roster, and he elected free agency. It’s possible he returns to the organization before Spring Training, but if he doesn’t, he was at least a bastion of relief to an exhausted bullpen.