What a strange, wild ride 2020 was for Colorado Rockies reliever Jesus Tinoco. It was also seemingly a step forward, albeit in a very small sample size, in his maturation.
Jesus Tinoco will look back on the 2020 Major League Baseball campaign someday with quite the story to tell. He’ll explain how he spent parts of a shortened season playing for both the Colorado Rockies and Miami Marlins, and doing well in both locations.
After the Rockies traded the 25-year-old right-hander to Miami on August 14, it seemed that his time as a pitching prospect for Colorado had to come to an end. After appearances in 24 games during the 2019 campaign where he posted a 4.75 ERA (ERA+ of 109) and struck out 28 while walking 22 in 36 innings of work (helping boost his WHIP to 1.61), Colorado sent him to south Florida in exchange for fellow right-handed reliever Chad Smith.
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With Miami in need of pitching depth after suffering through a COVID-19 outbreak, Tinoco quickly jumped into game action for the Marlins, throwing two scoreless innings for Miami on August 22 against Washington.
That would be part of a five-inning total for Tinoco during his time with the Marlins where he allowed no hits and no runs, striking out three and walking three.
With Miami’s depth rebuilt after pitchers cleared COVID-19 protocols, the Marlins designated Tinoco for assignment, where he was claimed off waivers by the Rockies on September 3.
Tinoco would also appear in three games for the Rockies after that, giving up one run and three hits in 3.2 innings of work. His four walks were certainly a concern (boosting his WHIP to 1.909) but there was also plenty for Colorado manager Bud Black to like in very limited MLB exposure in 2020.
"“I think with each appearance he makes, he feels more comfortable and confident as a big league pitcher,” Black said shortly after Tinoco put up consecutive scoreless outings against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Coors Field on September 17 and 18. “I think he’s in a group of guys we’re continuing to keep our eye on as potential fits in our bullpen moving forward in the years to come.”"
Black said the key for Tinoco to keep his improvement moving forward will be to stay within his mechanics.
"“You know, for him, it’s going to be just fine-tune his game and get his pitches in good spots,” Black said. “But his stuff plays in the big leagues. If he throws within his mechanics, and he throw strikes, he has the weapons that can get hitters out.”"
Tinoco relied mostly on his sinker in 2020, throwing it 63.2 percent of the time. It was effective as opponents hit just .214 against it (compared to .316 against it in 2019). Tinoco also didn’t allow a barrel on any pitch this season on the 19 batted balls he gave up.
Overall, Tinoco saw steady drops in wOBA (.393 in 2019 versus .233 in 2020) and xwOBA as well (.309 versus .398) and other categories as well this season. Granted, it’s a much smaller sample size (throwing 144 pitches in 2020 versus 616 in 2019), but there are positives to take away, even in a shorter season.
This offseason, look for Tinoco to work on a changeup he is trying to add to his arsenal against left-handed batters, Black said.
Sure, it’s a small sample size, but Tinoco still had flashes of solid pitching for two teams in 2020. It gives the Rockies something to strongly consider when thinking about the construction of their 2021 bullpen.