We’re on day three of our countdown for the top 10 prospects in the Colorado Rockies farm system. Today, we’ll take a look at a Colorado native who appears to be on the verge of joining the team he rooted for growing up.
#8: Kyle Freeland
Age: 23 (May 14th, 1993)
Height/Weight: 6’3″, 170 lbs
Highest Level Reached: Triple-A Albuquerque
Estimated Big League Arrival: 2017
One Sentence Summary: He may not have the stuff to be a future ace, but his command of the strike zone will likely get him a call up to Denver sooner rather than later.
In recent years, the MLB draft has become more of a spectacle in an attempt to match other professional sports. The draft used to be just one long conference call, but now it’s televised on MLB Network, with cameras capturing the reactions of the top prospects as they hear their name called.
Unless you’re a hardcore baseball fan, you’re probably not going to sit through the entire thing. Occasionally though, there are some moments worth watching. For the Rockies and their fans, one of those moments came in 2014.
Colorado had the 8th overall pick in the draft, and used it to select Freeland out of University of Evansville. Cameras cut to the Freeland household and the nation saw Freeland, a graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School in Denver (he still holds the state’s single-season strikeout record), sharing an emotional embrace with his dad.
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Freeland had a strong debut in 2014, but his 2015 season was mostly a wash. He developed shoulder fatigue and bone chips in his elbow which pushed his season debut into late July. And when he finally got back on the mound, Freeland’s pitches lacked the command and sharp movement that had made him so effective in high school and college.
Freeland had a bounce back season in 2016 though. Colorado challenged him by assigning him to Double-A Hartford, and he responded with a 3.87 ERA in 88.1 innings. When the Rockies rewarded him with another promotion to Triple-A, Freeland continued to throw the ball well, going 6-3 in 12 starts.
Freeland will likely start the 2017 season in Triple-A, but it doesn’t seem like there’s much left for him to learn there. His minor league track record, particularly the way he pitched last season, shows a guy who attacks the strike zone while also managing to keep the ball in the park. That’s an effective combination for a guy looking to make Coors Field his home stadium.
Of course, nearly every prospect has some flaws, and Freeland is no exception. One of the largest concerns is longevity; some scouts are less than enamored of Freeland’s mechanics, and the fact that he’s already experienced discomfort in both his elbow and his shoulder (maybe the two worst spots possible for a pitcher) is something the Rockies will have to monitor closely.
Freeland also doesn’t exactly have the explosive repertoire of a future MLB ace. Freeland is a four pitch guy (fastball, slider, curveball, change-up), and while they’re all decent offerings, none of them really stand out either.
But as previously stated, command is where Freeland really shines. Fangraphs wrote the following in their Rockies Prospect round-up
"“Freeland’s command is his finest attribute, garnering some future plus-plus grades from scouts. It allows him to get the most out of what is a deep but relatively pedestrian repertoire.”"
Freeland probably doesn’t have ace potential, but he can still be a helpful piece of a starting rotation, and it’ll likely happen sooner rather than later. He seems like a long-shot to beat out Jeff Hoffman and German Marquez for the last spot in the rotation to start this season, but if there’s an injury, or if the Rockies just decide they want another southpaw in the mix, Freeland could be one of the first names to get the call in 2017.