MLB Top 5: Colorado Rockies Pitchers

This is the fifth and final article in a series that looks at the five best players at each position for the Colorado Rockies. In this installment are the right- and left-handed starters as well as the relief pitchers.

While the atmosphere in Colorado has helped many batters mentioned in previous stories become starts, it has had the opposite effect for those on the mound. Many pitchers have seen their number plummet so much that the Rockies have had trouble attracting free agents to play for them. As a result, several pitchers on these lists are homegrown talent, and their overall stats will be low compared to previous teams.

The Best Pitchers in Colorado Rockies History

Right-Handed Starters

Honorable Mentions – John Thomson failed to reach double-digit wins in any of his five seasons in Colorado (1997-99 and 2001-02) and missed all of 2000 after having surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder. He went 27-43 (including a 1-10 mark in 1999) with a 5.01 ERA, but he had six complete games and two shutouts.

Jamey Wright spent six of his 19 seasons with the Rockies (1996-99 and 2004-05), going 35-52 with a 5.40 ERA. He ranks ninth in team history with 132 games started and tenth with 791 2/3 innings. Jason Hammel played three seasons in Colorado (2009-11), winning 10 games in the first two years. Overall, he went 27-30 with a 4.63 earned run average, which ranks ninth on the franchise list. Hammel took a no-decision against the Phillies during the 2009 NLDS.

Kevin Ritz played with the Tigers for four seasons but missed all of 1993 after having surgery to repair a torn elbow tendon. He spent five seasons with the Rockies, posting a 39-38 record with a 5.20 earned run average in 98 starts. His best season was 1996, when he went 17-11. Ritz was shelled by the Braves in two appearances during the 1995 Division Series.

In five seasons with Colorado (2011-13 and 16), Tyler Chatwood went 34-35 with a 4.18 earned run average, which ranks ninth in team history. After missing most of 2014 and all of 2015 recovering from Tommy John surgery, he returned to post a career-best 12-9 record with a 3.87 ERA. The following year, he lost a league-high 15 games and signed with the Cubs after the season.

Roger Bailey played all three of his Major League seasons, with Colorado (1995-97), going 18-19 with a 4.90 earned run average. In 1997, he went 9-10 with five complete games (which ranks second in team history) and two shutouts (which is tied for the single season record). He was forced to retire after suffering a back injury in a car accident.

After being selected in the expansion draft, Armando Reynoso spent five seasons with the Rockies (1993-97), posting a 12-11 record with an even 4.00 earned run average and four complete games (third in team history). Overall, he went 30-31 with a 4.65 ERA (tenth on the franchise list) in 87 starts. Reynoso came out of the bullpen for one game in the 1995 Division Series against the Braves.

Antonio Senzatela is in his seventh season with Colorado (2017-present), and he as a 39-43 record with a 4.87 earned run average in 145 games. He went 10-5 as a rookie, posted an 11-11 mark in 2019, despite a career-worst 6.71 ERA, then posted a 3.44 mark the following year, which is third-best in team history. Senzatela had a no-decision in his only playoff start against the Brewers in the 2018 Division Series.

Jason Marquis was an All-Star in his only season in Colorado, going 15-13 with a 4.04 ERA in a career-high 216 innings in 2009. He came out of the bullpen for one game against the Phillies in the Division Series. Marques played for nine teams during a 15-year career that ended in 2015 with the Reds.

Jhoulys Chacin started and ended his career in Colorado, totaling eight seasons in the two stints (2009-14 and 21-22). He went 11-14 with 150 strikeouts in 2011 and went 14-10 with a 3.47 earned run average two years later. Overall, Chacin is second in franchise history in ERA (4.05), ninth in strikeouts (598) and tenth in wins (with a 45-52 record). He has not pitched since the Rockies released him in September 2022.

Shawn Chacon began his five-year run with the Rockies (2001-05) as a starter, took a one-year detour to the bullpen (more on that below) and returned to the rotation for one final season. He went 23-26 as a starter, including a career-best 11-8 mark in 2003 when he earned his only All-Star selection. Chacon was traded to the Yankees during the 2005 season.

Jason Jennings played six seasons with Colorado (2001-06), reaching double figures in wins in three straight years, including 2002, when he went 16-8 with a 4.52 earned run average. His three shutouts are tied for the most in team history, and he is also tied for fourth in complete games (six), fifth in wins (58-56), sixth in games started (156) and innings (941) and eighth in strikeouts (622). Jennings spent one season with Houston and two with Texas at the big-league level. He tried out with Oakland in 2010 and played two years in independent leagues before officially retiring in 2012.

Chad Bettis spent his entire seven-year career with the Rockies (2013-19), going 31-31 with a 5.12 earned run average in 164 games. His best season was 2016, when he went 14-8 with a 4.79 ERA and 138 strikeouts. Bettis missed most of the following year while battling testicular cancer. He retired after a tryout with the Yankees in 2020.

After earning two All-Star selections and getting some Cy Young Award consideration during his seven seasons with the Astros, Darryl Kile came to Colorado for two years. Despite striking out 158 batters and leading the league with 35 starts, he also topped the N.L. with 17 losses. After going 21-30 with the Rockies, Kile was traded to the Cardinals and went 20-9 in 2000. He suffered a heart attack at his hotel on June 22, 2002, and died at age 33.

5. Jon Gray – This was a tough decision between him and Jennings for this spot, but Gray gets the nod thanks to his four straight seasons with a double-digit win total and four years with at least 150 strikeouts over his seven seasons with the Rockies (2015-21).

Gray ranks third in franchise history in strikeouts (849), seventh in games started (151), eighth in ERA (4.59) and innings (829 1/3) and tied for eighth in wins (53-49). He lost his only start to the Diamondbacks in the 2017 Wild Card round. Gray has spent the past two seasons with the Rangers.

4. Pedro Astacio – After six seasons with the Dodgers, he was traded for Eric Young Sr. in 1997 and spent five years with the Rockies (1997-2001). Astacio reached double figures in wins each of the next three seasons. His best of those years was 1999, when he posted a career-best 17-11 mark, set team records with 230 innings and seven complete games and struck out 201 batters, the third-best single season total in team history.

However, Astacio’s career began to unravel after the season. He had several domestic-related issues, faced problems with his citizenship (most of them due to the legal ramifications of pleading guilty to spousal abuse) and had several injuries, including an oblique issue that required surgery and a torn labrum, which did not.

Astacio is the all-time franchise leader with 14 complete games and ranks fifth in strikeouts (749), tied for eighth in wins (53-48), ninth in innings (827 1/3) and tenth in games started (129). He played for six teams in six years after leaving the Rockies and retired in 2006.

3. Aaron Cook – He spent 10 of 11 Major League seasons with Colorado (2002-11), reaching double-digit wins twice. His best season was 2008, when he earned his only All-Star selection with a 16-9 record, a 3.96 earned run average and 211 1/3 innings, one of the two times he threw more than 200 innings.

Cook is the all-time franchise leader in games started (206) and innings (1,312 1/3), and he ranks second in wins (72-68) and complete games (11), tied for third in shutouts (two), seventh in ERA (4.53) and tenth in strikeouts (558). He did not pitch in the early rounds of the 2007 playoffs, lost his only World Series start and won a game in the Division Series against the Phillies in 2009.

2. German Marquez – He is in his eighth season with the Rockies (2016-present) and has posted double-digit win totals four times. His problem is with control, as he had led the league in wild pitches twice. Marquez struck out a team record 230 batters in 2018 and earned his only All-Star selection (so far) in 2021 after going 12-11with a 4.40 earned run average, 176 strikeouts in 180 innings and a league-leading three complete games.

Overall, Marquez ranks second in franchise history in strikeouts (983), third in wins (65-56), tied for third in shutouts (two), fourth in innings (1,016), fifth in games started (173), sixth in ERA (4.41) and tenth in complete games (four). He lost his only playoff start against the Brewers in the 2018 Division Series. Marquez made just four starts in 2023 before undergoing Tommy John surgery.

1. Ubaldo Jimenez – Among his six seasons with Colorado (2006-11), were three straight years with at least 12 wins, an earned run average below 4.00 and 170 strikeouts. The best of these campaigns was 2010, when he earned his only All-Star set a franchise record with a 19-8 record, posted a 2.88 ERA and 214 strikeouts (both totals are second-best in team history) and had four complete games.

Jimenez is the all-time franchise leader in ERA (3.66) and is tied for first with three shutouts. He also ranks third in complete games (eight), fourth in strikeouts (773), sixth in wins (56-45), seventh in innings (851) and eighth in games started (137).

Jimenez went 0-2 in five career postseason starts with the Rockies, including a 2-1 loss to the Red Sox in Game 2 of the 2007 World Series. He was traded to Cleveland during the 2011 season and spent three years with the Indians and four with the Orioles before officially retiring in 2020 with 114 career victories.

Left-Handed Starters

Honorable Mentions – Denny Neagle was a two-time All-Star and won a championship with the Yankees in 2000. He joined the Rockies the following year and spent his final three seasons in Colorado (2001-03), going 19-23 with a 5.57 ERA in 65 starts.

Austin Gomber was the main piece that Colorado received in the trade from St. Louis for Nolan Arenado. He has a 23-25 record with a 5.22 earned run average in three seasons (2021-present) with the Rockies. Gomber went 9-9 with a 4.53 ERA and a career-high 113 strikeouts in 2021 and he is also 9-9 so far in 2023.

5. Mike Hampton – He won 22 games with the Astros in 1999 and was named NLCS MVP with the Mets in 2000 before coming to the Rockies for two seasons. Hampton was an All-Star in 2001 after going 14-13 with a 5.41 earned run average. Overall, he went 21-28 with a 5.75 ERA in 62 starts with Colorado.

Hampton was already a good hitting pitcher, but he took advantage of the thin air in Colorado to earn two silver sluggers and smack 10 home runs, including seven in 2001. After leaving the Rockies, he spent four years with the Braves which was interrupted by Tommy John surgery in 2006, plus a torn oblique muscle, another elbow surgery and a pulled hamstring the following year. Hampton returned to the Astros in 2009 and retired after pitching 10 games for the Diamondbacks the following year.

4. Brian Bohanon – Like Neagle, he spent his final three seasons with the Rockies (1999-2001). Bohanon went 12-12 with a career-high 120 strikeouts in his first season with the club and followed that with a 12-10 mark and a 4.68 earned run average in 2000. He went 29-30 with a 5.82 ERA in 78 starts. Bohanon is tied for third in team history with two shutouts and is tied for sixth with five complete games.

3. Kyle Freeland – He is in his seventh season with Colorado (2017-present) and reach double-digit victories twice. Freeland went 11-11 as a rookie than had a season that rivals the one Jimenez had in 2010 for best in franchise history. In 2018, Freeland went 17-7 with a team-record 2.85 earned run average and career highs with 173 strikeouts and 202 1/3 innings.

Freeland ranks fourth in franchise history in games started (177), fifth in ERA (4.39) and innings (975 1/3) and seventh in wins (55-65) and strikeouts (732). He pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings in his Wild Card start against the Cubs in 2018 but got a no-decision. Freeland currently leads the National League with 14 losses in 2023.

2. Jeff Francis – He spent eight seasons in Colorado (2004-08, 10 and 12-13), posting double-digit win totals three times. His best was 2007, when he had a 4.22 earned run average and set career highs with a 17-9 record, 165 strikeouts and 215 1/3 innings.

The following year, Francis started having shoulder issues and he missed all of the 2009 season following surgery to repair a torn labrum. He failed to regain his pre-surgery form in the next four seasons, three spent with the Rockies. Francis went 6-16 in 2011 with Kansas City and played for four teams in four seasons after leaving Colorado a second time. He retired after pitching 14 games with the Blue Jays in 2015.

Francis ranks third in franchise history in games started (185) and innings (1,066), tied for third in shutouts (two), fourth in wins 64-62) and sixth in strikeouts (742) to go along with a 4.96 ERA. He went 2-1 during the 2007 postseason but lost his only start in the World Series.

1. Jorge De La Rosa – He is the elder statesman of the lefties after spending nine seasons with Colorado (2008-16). De La Rosa reached double figures in victories four times, had an ERA under 4.00 twice and registered at least 100 strikeouts seven times. His best season was 2009, when he went 16-9 with a 4.38 earned run average and set career-bests with 193 strikeouts and 185 innings.

De La Rosa is the all-time franchise leader in wins (86-61) and strikeouts (985). He ranks second in games started (200) and innings (1,141 1/3) and fourth in ERA (4.35). De La Rosa played 1½ seasons with the Diamondbacks and ended his career by appearing in 17 games with the Cubs in 2018.

Relief Pitchers

Honorable Mentions – Curtis Leskanic spent seven seasons with Colorado (1993-99) and appeared in at least 50 games five times. He led the National League with 76 games in 1995 and set career highs with 107 strikeouts and 98 innings. Leskanic went 31-20 with a 4.92 ERA, 20 saves, 415 strikeouts, 470 innings and 356 games, which ranks fifth in franchise history. He went 0-1 in three appearances against the Braves in the 1995 Division Series.

Darren Holmes was another member of that early Rockies bullpen, appearing in 263 games in five seasons (1993-97). He pitched in more than 60 games three times and had 25 saves in Colorado’s expansion season. Holmes went 23-13 with a 4.42 ERA, 46 saves and 297 strikeouts in 328 innings. He made three appearances in the 1995 NLDS and earned a win in relief.

Rafael Betancourt was traded from the Indians to the Rockies in 2009 and he played his final six seasons in Colorado (2009-13 and 15). His best season was 2012, when he had 31 saves and a 2.81 earned run average. Betancourt went 15-15 with a 3.53 ERA, 58 saves and 315 strikeouts in 275 2/3 innings. He sat out the 2014 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery and pitched one more year with the Rockies before retiring in 2016.

Bruce Ruffin joined Leskanic and Holmes to form a solid back end of the bullpen in the franchise’s early years. Ruffin went 17-18 with a 3.84 ERA, 60 saves (tied for fifth in team history) and 319 strikeouts in 321 innings. He gave up one run in four playoff games in 1995.

Shawn Chacon’s year as a closer was inconsistent to say the least. In between four seasons as a starter, he went 1-9 with a 7.11 ERA in 2004, but he also appeared in 60 games and had 35 saves. Greg Holland also spent one season in Colorado, leading the league with 41 saves and earning an All-Star selection in 2017. He also had a 3.61 ERA and struck out 70 batters in 57 1/3 innings in the regular season and made one postseason appearance.

Wade Davis had a similar time in Colorado. He made 124 appearances over three seasons (2018-20), going 4-13 with a 6.49 ERA, 60 saves and 123 strikeouts in 112 1/3 innings. His best season by far was 2019, when he led the league and set a franchise record with 43 saves, posted a 4.13 ERA and struck out 78 batters in 65 1/3 innings. Davis also made two appearances with the Rockies in the 2018 playoffs.

5. Steve Reed – Usually these lists are reserved solely for closers, but Reed’s service as a setup man warrants this spot. He spent seven seasons with Colorado (1993-97 and 2003-04), posting a 3.63 earned run average, 15 saves and 352 strikeouts in 499 innings.

Reed has a 33-29 record, with his win total being the most by a reliever in team history. He also is the franchise leader with 461 games, and he made at least 60 appearances in every year with the Rockies. Reed had three scoreless outings in the 1995 Division Series.

4. Daniel Bard – He spent five seasons with the Red Sox before being sent down to the minor leagues after two appearances and released late in the 2013 season. Bard failed to crack a major league roster over the next four years, spending time with the Cubs (twice), Rangers, Pirates, Cardinals and Mets. He retired in 2017 and became a player mentor with the Diamondbacks.

Bard decided to make a comeback with the Rockies in 2020 and he is in his fourth season in Colorado. His best season was 2022, when he had a 1.79 ERA, 34 saves and 69 strikeouts in 60 1/3 innings. Bard has a 21-16 record with a 3.84 ERA, 219 strikeouts in 196 2/3 innings and 61 saves, which ranks fourth in team history. He is in a setup role behind Justin Lawrence in 2023 and is currently on the injured list with forearm fatigue.

3. Huston Street – The 2005 Rookie of the Year with the Athletics came to the Rockies with Carlos Gonzalez in the trade for Matt Holliday. Street spent three seasons with Colorado (2009-11), going 9-9 with a 3.50 earned run average, 271 strikeouts in 269 innings and 84 saves, which ranks third in franchise history.

Street’s best year was 2009, when he went 4-1 with a 3.06 ERA and 35 saves. He went 0-2 in three appearances against the Phillies in the 2009 NLDS. Following his time with the Rockies, Street earned two All-Star selections in 2½ seasons with the Padres and spent 3½ years with the Angels before retiring in 2019.

2. Jose Jimenez – Despite throwing a no-hitter for the Cardinals on June 25, 1999, his run as a starter came to an end when he was sent to Colorado in the trade for Kile after the season. With the Rockies, Jimenez developed into a solid closer over his four-year stint with the team (2000-03). Despite a 2-10 record, his best season was 2002 thanks to a 3.56 earned run average, a league-leading 69 games finished and 41 saves, which is tied for the second-best single-season total in franchise history.

Jimenez went 15-23 with a 4.13 ERA, 173 strikeouts in 300 2/3 innings and 102 saves, which rank second in team history. His 265 games include seven starts in 2003. He played one season with the Indians in 2004 and seemingly disappeared from baseball after getting removed from the Dominican Republic team at the 2007 Pan-American Games due to a positive steroid test.

1. Brian Fuentes – After one year with the Mariners, he spent the next seven with the Rockies (2002-08), becoming the greatest closer in franchise history. Fuentes spent three years in middle relief before going to the back end of the bullpen in 2005. Over the next four years, he collected at least 30 saves three times and was a three-time All-Star, with no other Colorado pitcher being selected more than once.

Fuentes is the all-time franchise leader with 115 saves, and he ranks second with 428 games pitched, including 78 in 2005. He had a 16-26 record with 470 strikeouts in 410 1/3 innings. Fuentes made 10 appearances in the 2007 postseason, getting a win in relief during the Division Series and pitching in three games during the World Series.

After leaving the Rockies, Fuentes went to the Angels, where he led the American League with 48 saves in 2009. He was traded to the Twins the following year and also spent time with the Athletics and Cardinals before retiring in 2012.

The next series will feature the Detroit Tigers

Cleveland Guardians Catchers and Managers
Cleveland Guardians First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Cleveland Guardians Second Basemen and Shortstops
Cleveland Guardians Outfielders
Cleveland Guardians Pitchers

Previous Series

A look back at the Cincinnati Reds

A look back at the Chicago White Sox

Chicago Cubs Catchers and Managers
Chicago Cubs First and Third Basemen
Chicago Cubs Second Basemen and Shortstops
Chicago Cubs Outfielders
Chicago Cubs Pitchers

A look back at the Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox Catchers and Managers
Boston Red Sox First and Third Basemen
Boston Red Sox Second Basemen and Shortstops
Boston Red Sox Outfielders and Designated Hitters
Boston Red Sox Pitchers

A look back at the Baltimore Orioles

Baltimore Orioles Catchers and Managers
Baltimore Orioles First and Third Basemen
Baltimore Orioles Second Basemen and Shortstops
Baltimore Orioles Outfielders and Designated Hitters
Baltimore Orioles Pitchers

A look back at the Atlanta Braves

Atlanta Braves Catchers and Managers
Atlanta Braves First and Third Basemen
Atlanta Braves Second Basemen and Shortstops
Atlanta Braves Outfielders
Atlanta Braves Pitchers

A look back at the Arizona Diamondbacks

Arizona Diamondbacks Catchers and Managers
Arizona Diamondbacks First and Third Basemen
Arizona Diamondbacks Second Basemen and Shortstops
Arizona Diamondbacks Outfielders
Arizona Diamondbacks Pitchers

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