Rockies in AFL: Freeland grateful for extra work
Pitcher making up for lost innings, developing changeup, facing quality competition
After signing for $2.3 million as the eighth overall pick in the 2014 Draft, Kyle Freeland enjoyed a strong pro debut. The Rockies left-hander posted a 1.15 ERA and a 33/6 K/BB ratio in 39 innings while reaching low Class A, seemingly setting the stage to move quickly through the Minors.
Freeland got derailed from the fast track, however, in 2015. He came down with a tired shoulder and had an operation to remove bone chips from his elbow. He didn't make his first start until July 24 and totaled just 46 2/3 innings, mostly in Class A Advanced.
"It was definitely a struggle, and it took its toll a little bit," Freeland said. "No one wants to come in their first full season and start experiencing a little shoulder fatigue and then getting told they need minor surgery on their elbow. So I made the best of it. I knew I was going to come back healthy and stronger than I was, and that was my main focus."
Freeland said he welcomed the opportunity to come to the Arizona Fall League, not only to make up for some of his lost innings but also to face quality competition. He got shelled in his first start for the Salt River Rafters, surrendering two homers and six runs while recording only two outs, but bounced back with three scoreless innings a week later.
Besides adding experience, Freeland also has some development goals this fall.
"We definitely want to get my inning count up as high as it can go for this year," he said. "Also for me, it's changeup development. I got to get that four-pitch mix in to pitch at this level and also at the big league level. You got to have that changeup."
A more consistent changeup would give the 22-year-old Freeland a well-rounded repertoire. He has the total fastball package: throwing it in the low 90s and reaching 96 mph with life, deception and excellent command. His low-80s-mph slider can be an out pitch at times, and he also turns it into a mid-80s cutter on occasion.
Rockies hitters in the Fall League
• Jordan Patterson, OF/1B -- A fourth-round pick from South Alabama in 2013, he has among the best bat speed in Colorado's system and has delivered consistent production as a pro. He's coming off his best season, hitting .297/.364/.543 between Class A Advanced and Double-A and leading the Minors with 45 doubles and 74 extra-base hits.
• Chris Rabago, C -- He was a right-handed-hitting infielder at UC Irvine when the Rockies drafted him in the 13th round last year, then converted him to a switch-hitting catcher in 2015. The strong-armed Rabago threw out 32 percent of basestealers and hit .306/.353/.441 at Rookie-level Grand Junction this summer.
• Raimel Tapia, OF -- A pure hitter who's starting to grow into some power, he batted.305/.333/.467 with 12 homers and 26 steals in the offensive-minded Class A Advanced California League this year. Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2010, he also has solid speed, plus arm strength and a chance to stick in center field.
Rockies pitchers in the Fall League
• Matt Carasiti, RHP -- A sixth-round pick out of St. John's in 2012, he spent his first two years in pro ball as a starter before moving to the bullpen. Armed with a low-90s fastball and a cutter, he had 22 saves, a 3.02 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 56 2/3 innings this year in Class A Advanced.
• Carlos Estevez, RHP -- The Dominican product is all about velocity, pitching mainly off a fastball that can reach the upper 90s. He split 2015 between Class A Advanced and Double-A, recording 18 saves, a 3.40 ERA and a 68/14 K/BB ratio in 55 2/3 innings.
• Sam Moll, LHP -- What he lacks in size at 5-foot-10, he makes up for in arm strength, with a 92-96 mph fastball and a slider that misses bats. He posted a 2.63 ERA and a 74/16 K/BB ratio in 68 1/3 innings between Class A Advanced and Double-A this season.