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Tinoco's fastball velocity, MLB stock rising

No. 20 prospect impresses Rockies with improvements showcased in AFL
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

DENVER -- A clear uptick in fastball radar readings has helped right-hander Jesus Tinoco increase his standing on the Rockies' radar heading into next season.

Tinoco, who is headed into his second year on the Rockies' 40-man roster and turns 24 on April 30, posted a 1.72 ERA with a .190 batting average against and 14 strikeouts (against six walks) in 15 2/3 Arizona Fall League relief innings for the Salt River Rafters. But the stat line isn't the only impressive figure.

DENVER -- A clear uptick in fastball radar readings has helped right-hander Jesus Tinoco increase his standing on the Rockies' radar heading into next season.

Tinoco, who is headed into his second year on the Rockies' 40-man roster and turns 24 on April 30, posted a 1.72 ERA with a .190 batting average against and 14 strikeouts (against six walks) in 15 2/3 Arizona Fall League relief innings for the Salt River Rafters. But the stat line isn't the only impressive figure.

A starter at Double-A Hartford during the Minor League season (9-12, 4.79 ERA in 26 starts), Tinoco is throwing harder in more limited outings (two innings or less).

Through Tinoco's first 10 outings, his four-seam and two-seam fastballs combined for a 95.3-mph average according to Statcast™, and his four-seamer has an average projected spin rate of 2,566 RPM. For comparison, of the 332 Major Leaguers who threw at least 250 four-seamers, only 12 had higher spin rates, which hints at swing-and-miss stuff high above the swing plane.

A San Antonio de Maturin, Venezuela, native who joined the Rockies from the Blue Jays as part of the 2015 deal that sent away star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, Tinoco flashed his potential during a scoreless seventh inning for Salt River against Glendale on Oct. 31. He is ranked No. 20 on Colorado's prospects list, per MLB Pipeline.

After yielding a one-out bunt for a hit and another single to put runners at first and third, Tinoco fanned Laz Rivera (the White Sox No. 28 prospect) and worked Yu Chang (Indians) into an inning-ending grounder. Tinoco's average pitch was 96.4 mph that inning.

"He had an explosive fastball that was 96-98 -- he was just blowing it by guys," Rockies senior player development director Zach Wilson said. "They really had no shot to hit his fastball because it was coming out of his hand so easy."

Tinoco, who is 6-foot-4 and looks to have filled out beyond his 190-pound listing, was sent to Class A when he joined Colorado. 2018 marked his first Double-A season, as the Rockies worked with him to develop a smoother delivery. Tinoco's numbers at Hartford showed improvement during his final six starts (3-2, 2.84, 31 strikeouts to seven walks).

The Fall League plan for Tinoco resembles what the Rockies did last year with righty Yency Almonte, who had a taste of relief in the fall and broke into the Majors in the bullpen in 2018. The Rockies haven't converted Tinoco and could still bring him to Spring Training as a starter, but bullpen work won't be foreign if that's where his Major League opportunity arises.

Starting remains on the table, however, because his slider and curveball have improved, and Colorado is seeing improvement with his changeup.

"Next year will be big for him," said Mark Wiley, the Rockies' director of pitching operations. "We are very pleased with him in the AFL. If all goes well, he could definitely show up next year. "

Tinoco is using the Fall League experience to learn to attack hitters quickly.

"My fastball location is really good right now, early in the count," Tinoco said. "It's a little different because you don't know what day you're going to pitch, but I feel good."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page. Daniel Kramer and Jake Rill contributed.

Colorado Rockies, Jesus Tinoco