The young flamethrower seems poised for great things

Welcome to the 2017 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at the in-season contributions of every player to don the purple this past season. The goal wasn’t and isn’t to quibble with order. Instead, it’s to get a snapshot of a player along with a look forward. For that reason, we simply sorted by Baseball-Reference’s Wins Above Replacement (rWAR) and will start at the bottom and end up at the top.

No. 5, German Marquez (3.1 rWAR)

Germán Márquez is the real deal. He was acquired from Tampa Bay prior to the 2016 season as part of the Jake McGee trade, but several People Who Know Things have informed me that Márquez was the real target all along. Márquez’ 2017 season has made it pretty clear that the Rockies came out ahead on that trade (pending the career of Kevin Padlo: Don’t count him out!).

By the various versions of WAR, the go-to catch-all stat, Marquez essentially tied with Kyle Freeland for something like the 2nd-best season ever for a Rockies rookie pitcher (Jon Gray’s 2016 being first on the list, as well as Tyler Anderson’s 2016). Let’s take a look at the detailed numbers:

Márquez ends up in or near the top third of the league in most categories, which is no small feat for any pitcher, much less a rookie, and much much less for a 22-year-old. It’s particularly difficult to rack up strikeouts and avoid walks while pitching at Coors Field, yet Márquez posted above-average numbers in both areas, which is the solid foundation to his success. Germán led all NL starting pitchers in Zone%, the percentage of pitches within the rulebook strikezone, yet he still induced a swing-and-miss on 9.1% of his offerings—right at the league average. With his 95 mph fastball, Márquez was able to pitch in the zone with a good measure of confidence.

Despite the blazing fastball, Márquez’ best pitch is his curveball, a true swing-and-miss offering that induced 20% more whiffs than average (per Brooks Baseball). The curve was on full display on May 10th, likely Márquez’ best start of the season (and one of the better starts in Coors Field history). Germán no-hit the Cubs through six innings, and although he would lose the no-hitter in the seventh, he went on to pitch eight shutout innings, allowing just three hits, one walk, and striking out eight. He also added his first career hit, a 2-RBI single in the 7th that put the Rockies up 3-0.

Márquez was at his best during the Rockies’ rough July. Although the team went just 12-12, Germán went 4-0 with a 3.51 ERA/3.10 FIP. He struck out 39 and walked just seven in the 33.1 innings he pitched, keeping the Rockies afloat. His key outing came at the end of the month, when he shut down the potent Nationals offense, leading the Rockies to a 4-2 win to snap a three-game losing streak. He pitched seven sterling innings, allowing two runs on three hits, zero walks, with ten strikeouts.

All, told, Germán Márquez had the kind of season worthy of accolades. Unfortunately, the Rookie-of-the-Year voters may not have done their “Pitching at Coors Field” homework, as Marquez finished just 5th in the voting. While he wasn’t the top candidate by any measure, the park-adjusted truth is that Germán performed better than the credit he received. The good news is this: Who cares what the voters think? Reality is better than an unfair victim narrative.

2018 Outlook

Márquez will barely be 23 years old on Opening Day 2018, having already established himself as an above-average starting pitcher in the majors. While Jon Gray is the ace of the staff, Márquez could be at the head of the pack of number two and three starters that the Rockies have collected in recent years. While it wouldn’t be fair to expect Germán to have an even better 2018 season, it certainly is within reach. Since he figures to be with the Rockies for at least another five seasons, he represents a key part of a strong Rockies’ core that is just barely entering their contention window.

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