Though certainly a disappointment, 2019 offered an opportunity for the Colorado Rockies to catch a glimpse of some of the internal pieces that can help the team improve in 2020.
Whether it was the impressive hitting shown by Garrett Hampson, the booming power of Sam Hilliard, or the shutdown pitching of Jairo Diaz, several Rockies received new opportunities and took advantage of their chances to earn consideration for major roles in 2020. One of the most impressive season-long performances came from reliever Carlos Estevez.
The Rockies’ bullpen was a disaster last season but there were a few arms that weathered the storm and may get a chance to step into major roles as setup men behind probable closer Scott Oberg in 2020. Diaz and Estevez were possibly the two most prominent of those relievers and could end up regularly working the seventh and eighth innings ahead of Oberg, giving the Rockies potentially the strongest reliever trio they’ve had in some time.
Estevez has always shown promise but in 2019 he had easily the best season in his young career. He posted a 3.75 ERA over a career-high 72 innings pitched and recorded a K/9 over 10. His 139 ERA+ was among the best out of NL relievers with over 70 innings pitched.
The most encouraging part of Estevez’s season is that he remained consistently reliable for pretty much the entire season. After a little bit of a rough start, Estevez posted a 3.28 ERA from May 25 through the end of the season. And he got better the longer the season went on, posting a remarkable 2.86 ERA from June 30 on and a terrific 0.84 ERA in September.
If Estevez can build off a career year in 2019, he will likely have a break out campaign in 2020, catching the league off guard with a talent that has been hiding under the surface for years. That would be huge for the Rockies, who are desperate for solid relief pitching. Instead of wasting exuberant amounts of money on aging veteran relievers, perhaps the most important pieces of the team’s new bullpen solution will come from within.