The Colorado Rockies have one of the NL’s elite young arms

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 30: Starting pitcher Kyle Freeland #21 of the Colorado Rockies delivers the ball against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on April 30, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Rockies 3-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 30: Starting pitcher Kyle Freeland #21 of the Colorado Rockies delivers the ball against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on April 30, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Rockies 3-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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In a year full of surprises, the Colorado Rockies‘ young starters helped them clinch a postseason berth last season. Unfortunately, most of them have fallen victim to the “sophomore jinx” through the first half of a disappointing 2018.  The one exception has been left-hander Kyle Freeland who has taken a big step forward this year to become one of the National League’s best starting pitchers.

Freeland grew up in Colorado and he’s used to the stigma that its impossible to pitch in the Mile High City. Determined to put that narrative to bed, he has pitched to a 3.55 ERA and 1.26 WHIP to go along with his seven wins. For those who would discount Colorado batters’ offensive statistics because of Coors Field, Freeland’s stat line should be eye-popping.

Freeland has allowed two or fewer runs in seven of his 15 starts and he’s only given up more than four runs once. He’s put together 10 quality starts, including nine in his last 11 starts. Those are great numbers for any pitcher … but for someone in their second season, pitching half their games at Coors Field, they are the mark of one of the elite young arms in the game.

Somehow, Freeland has managed to pitch even better at altitude than he has on the road, posting a remarkable 2.95 ERA at Coors Field this season. And despite his youth, Freeland isn’t fazed by traffic either, holding opponents to a .203 batting average and .543 OPS with runners in scoring position.

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This mental fortitude has helped the lefty navigate the rough waters that have sunken many of his teammates.

Freeland ranks fourth in the NL among starting pitchers in WAR at 3.1. Only the Mets’ Jacob deGrom, the Phillies’ Aaron Nola, and the Nationals’ Max Scherzer have posted better WAR numbers this season. Quietly, Freeland has pitched his way to the middle of a list containing the top Cy Young candidates in the NL.

This doesn’t mean Freeland will win the Cy Young award this season, but if he continues to pitch like he has and the Rockies manage to turn things around, he’ll certainly receive votes.

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Freeland also ranks seventh in the NL among all players in WAR, ahead of superstars like Joey Votto and even Nolan Arenado. Freeland’s success might be a Mile High secret for now, but it’s only a matter of time before he starts garnering the attention he deserves for the pitcher he is becoming.

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