Rockies fans should expect a breakout 2024 from this starting pitcher

On the heels of a solid 2023 that was cut short, this young righty is poised for a breakout 2024 season

2024 Colorado Rockies Spring Training
2024 Colorado Rockies Spring Training / Kyle Cooper/Colorado Rockies/GettyImages
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It's not secret that finding good pitching in Colorado is tough. The Rockies have been able to develop a few solid starting pitchers (Jon Gray, Kyle Freeland and German Marquez of late), but they are too far and few between for any fans liking. They have tried to get guys that have high ground ball rates that look to induce weak contact, but with the thin Colorado air, it just hasn't worked. The Rockies need a flame throwing pitcher than can run a strikeout rate of more than one per inning, someone that can limit damage in the best way possible, simply not allowing it.

Ryan Feltner will have a breakout 2024 and become one of the Rockies best pitchers

Feltner was on pace to have a very solid year in 2023, but a freak injury (a line drive off the head that resulted in a fractured skill), cut out a significant chunk of his season. Feltner was off to a really good start in April over five starts. He threw 25 innings with a 4.68 ERA and a solid 9.72 K/9, though his walk rate was just over five per nine innings pitched. Before his injury on May13th, Feltner was having a tough month over 10.1 innings; he struck out just six batters and walked 11 over three appearances.

He was on the IL until the middle of September when he came back and had an impressive start against the Padres, going five innings with five strikeouts and just two walks. His next outing was against the Dodgers, where he managed just three innings, didn't strike out a batter, but walked just one.

Why do I think Feltner is poised for a breakout year?

It's pretty simple, really, in just 10 starts, Feltner was worth .9 wins according to FanGraphs, and there are still a number of ways that Feltner should improve. The first being his walk rate; his walk rate on the year was nearly six, at 5.82 BB/9, but when you look at his minor league appearances, he never had an issue with walks. In 51.2 innings in Triple-A in 2022, his walk rate was just 3.1 BB/9 and an impressive 10.5 K/9. Across three levels in 2021, his walk rate was just 3.4 BB/9 with another impressive strikeout rate of 10.1 K/9. Walks have never been an issue for Feltner and this year, I look for him to cut that walk rate down from the high-5's down into the low-4's.

Check out this solid performance from Feltner (6 shutout innings with 6 strikeouts) courtesy of The Hub for Baseball Highlights 2

The other reason that a breakout 2024 season seems inevitable is from recent comments made by the power right-handed pitcher to Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post. Feltner will be battling it out for one of two available spots this spring (I am confident he will get one of them.

"I used to think my sinker was better than my four-seamer. Now, I know I'm a power pitcher. The changeup has come a long way for me, and I'm getting more comfortable with it in bullpen sessions. It's a pitch that I grew up throwing. I was a fastball-changeup guy, then I went to the minor leagues, and I discovered how to spin the ball better and I relied on those pitches more. I lost my changeup for a few years but now it's back."

Ryan Feltner via The Denver Post

We turn to Feltner's Baseball Savant page to look at his repertoire to see how things can improve in 2024. In 2023, Feltner through his slider 31.3% of the time, and he got some pretty good numbers off it as opponents hit just .178 and slugged .331. His sinker was relied on 17.3% of the time, but he did not have the same success with it, as opponents hit .475 with a .675 slugging percentage against it. T

he pitches that Feltner intends to utilize more in 2024 found a ton of success. In 2023, Feltners changeup (a pitch he threw just 14.7% of the time, saw opponents hit just .080 with a .080 slugging percentage against and an elite 42.1% whiff rate. His four-seamer also saw a lot of success compared to the sinker (though he used it just 12% more than the sinker at 27.8%). Opponents hit just .250 with a .295 slugging percentage against the traditional four-seamer. I think this year we will see Feltner rely on the fastball on the upper 30% range, with the changeup getting the biggest jump from 14.7% to the upper 20% mark. The slider should still sit in the 20-25% range with the sinker being nearly eliminated.

With the changes in Feltner's repetoire, we could see some pretty dramatic changes. With him relying more on the fastball we should see his walk rate decrease to the low-to-mid-four range. With his strikeout pitches (the slider and changeup) more evenly distributed, paired with the elite whiff rate on the changeup, I would expect his strikeout rate to jump into the eight-to-nine K/9 range. If Feltner can stay healthy enough to make 25-30 starts, we could see a year similar to German Marquez's 2021 season, with maybe a little more walks. I am all abord the Ryan Feltner hype train and am predicting a three-win season by FanGraphs standards! By the years end, Feltner will be the best pitcher in a pitching staff that wasn't expected to do much.

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