The Colorado Rockies have not been overly impressive through 11 games in spring training. Manager Bud Black and company have a 4-7 record and sit three and a half games out of first place. While games in March may not mean much in the long run, they are particularly valuable to managers and front office executives. For the Rockies and third-year pitcher Kyle Freeland, spring training is invaluable. Freeland will attempt to build upon a stellar 2018 when he won 17 games and had an impressive 2.85 ERA. Through 61 career starts, the Colorado-native has been perhaps the Rockies’ most consistent starting pitcher. In a young starting rotation, he has made leaps and bounds honing his craft. It is plausible that Freeland will become the most successful pitcher in franchise history when his career is over. Together with German Marquez and the remaining starters, the Rockies have an opportunity to be even better on the mound than they were in 2018.
From his days pitching for Thomas Jefferson High School in Denver, Colorado to his time at the University of Evansville in Indiana, it was clear that Freeland would succeed in the majors. While he posted modest numbers during his freshman and sophomore seasons, he emerged as a top prospect during his playing days in the Cape Cod League. In one season as a member of the Hyannis Harbor Hawks, Freeland posted a 2.25 ERA coupled with 48 strikeouts. Following his successful season with the Hawks, he returned to the University of Evansville for his junior year and enjoyed his most successful season with the Purple Aces. He went 10-2 with a 1.90 ERA in 14 starts. When the 2014 season wrapped, Freeland decided to forego his senior season at Evansville and declare for the 2014 MLB Draft. Projected to be one of the top prospects in 2014, the Rockies selected him eighth overall. Three years prior, the Philadelphia Phillies drafted him in the 35th round, but he chose to attend college instead of signing with the Phils.
Following the draft, Freeland spent 2014 as a member of the Grand Junction Rockies and Asheville Tourists. Bewteen the two teams, he posted a combined record of 3-0 and an ERA of 1.15. From there, he began his ascent to the Majors. In 2015, he started the season with the Grand Junction Rockies and was promoted to the Class A Modesto Nuts midway through the season. During his time in Modesto, he posted a 4.76 ERA and quickly made his way to Double-A in Hartford, Connecticut. While with the Yard Goats, Freeland went 5-7 with a 3.87 ERA in 14 appearances. In June 2014, Freeland was promoted to the Rockies’ Triple-A affiliate Albuquerque Isotopes of the PCL. In 12 games with the Isotopes, he pitched to the tune of a 3.91 ERA. With his recent success in the Minors, Freeland’s MLB debut appeared to be right around the corner.
On April 7, 2017, Kyle Freeland’s opportunity came. On Opening Day against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Freeland not only became the first starting pitcher to make his Major League debut in his team’s opener in the state in which he was born, but he also pitched a gem. Through six innings, he struck out six and allowed only one run. If his debut wasn’t enough, he came within two outs of pitching a no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox roughly three months later. With each impressive performance on the hill, Freeland was looking more like a seasoned veteran than a 23-year-old rookie. He finished his first season in Colorado with an 11-11 overall record and an ERA of 4.10. He was gearing up for an even greater showing on the mound last season. Freeland helped the Rox reach the playoffs for the second consecutive season in 2018 as he went 17-7 in 33 starts.
2018 was not only Freeland’s best year on the mound, but was one of the best statistical seasons for a pitcher in franchise history. If last season was any indication, he is poised to have another dominant season on the bump in 2019. The Rockies may be hard-pressed for a return to the postseason once again. However, if Freeland and the starting rotation have anything to say about it, Colorado will be in the thick of things come September. Embarking on his third year of service with the Rockies, both the fans and Freeland himself expect another solid year from the starters. Even though the Rockies lost some important cogs over the offseason, there is still a reason to visit 20th and Blake in 2019. When all is said and done, fans of the purple and black may have spent the season rooting on the 2019 Cy Young winner in the National League.