Adam Ottavino: Relief Pitcher Points: 58 Highest Rank: 5 Lowest Rank: 14
With any group ranking like this, there are bound to be disagreements. For the most part, our panel actually voted fairly similarly on most players. Ottavino is not of those players.
Ottavino was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the first round of the 2006 draft. St. Louis used Ottavino as a starter, and despite reaching the big leagues for the first time in 2010, he never fully took to the role. In 2012, he was waived by the Cardinals for the second time, and Colorado claimed him with designs of turning him into a reliever.
The move to the bullpen worked wonders for Ottavino and his wipeout slider. From 2012-2014, Ottavino was arguably the best reliever on the Rockies, posting an ERA of 3.60 while striking out over a batter per inning.
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By April of 2015, Ottavino had become the closer in Colorado, and had opened the season with 10 consecutive scoreless appearances. But just as Ottavino appeared to be on the verge on establishing himself as the closer long-term, a partially torn UCL sent him to the operating table. Recovery from Tommy John put Ottavino on the shelf for the rest of the season and into 2016.
The Rockies wanted to ease Ottavino back into the bullpen slowly last season, but the struggles of Carlos Estevez put Ottavino back in the ninth inning role a month after his return. Ottavino had a few blowups (none worse than allowing 5 runs in the 9th inning of a 10-8 home loss to the Dodgers), but for the most part, looked like a solid, if not unspectacular, choice at closer for 2017.
However, that all changed when Colorado signed Greg Holland this off-season. Despite Patrick Saunders assertion that Ottavino is the “clear favorite” for the closer role, it’s hard to believe the Rockies would drop $7M on Holland this off-season and not at least consider using him in the ninth.
The other problem working against Ottavino: his dramatic right-left splits. It’s normal for a right-handed pitcher to be somewhat worse against left-handed hitting, but Ottavino takes it to another level: Right-handers have a career .223/.281/.345 slash line against him, but lefties have torched him to the tune of .311/.389/.457.
It’s hard to trust Ottavino as the last man out of the bullpen when an average left-handed hitter turns into an All-Star facing him. For that reason, I personally believe Holland will take over the closer role, and Ottavino will be relegated to a set-up role.
To be clear: Ottavino is a tremendously useful pitcher, and someone who can play a huge role in the Rockies bullpen. But he’s most effective when deployed as a specialist, which by definition will limit his impact somewhat.