The Rockies have optioned down struggling lefty Kyle Freeland, per a team announcement. Also headed to Triple-A is outfielder Yonathan Daza, with the team bringing hurlers Chris Rusin and Jesus Tinoco up to the active roster.
It’s a rather stunning move as regards Freeland, who finished fourth in the National League Cy Young voting last year. While it is no doubt hard to drop such a player down, the club could no longer look past his more recent issues.
Through a dozen starts this year, Freeland has managed only a 7.13 ERA in 59 1/3 innings. Though he’s still generating similar numbers of strikeouts (7.4 K/9) and walks (3.8 BB/9) to his 2018 showing, opposing hitters have teed up a league-high 16 long balls against him.
Freeland never seemed particularly likely to repeat his surprising sophomore campaign, as ERA estimators took a much dimmer view of his effort than his 2.85 ERA suggested. But the 26-year-old seemed likely to be a quality rotation piece for years to come.
There’s no glaringly obvious explanation for the downturn. While he has bumped up his swinging-strike rate a bit (9.0% to 10.6%), Freeland has given up much better contact when it has been made. Batters have doubled their barrel rate (to 10.7%) and jumped to 35.5% hard contact. Freeland has been abused in particular at Coors Field (9.31 ERA), the complete opposite from 2018 (2.40 ERA). He’s sitting at a .287 BABIP-against, right where he was last year (.285). There has been a change in sequencing fortunes, as Freeland has dropped to a 62.0% strand rate after sitting at 82.8% in 2018.
Freeland, the former eighth-overall draft pick, had accrued two full seasons of MLB service entering the present campaign. He’ll need to make it back to the majors in 2019 in order to reach arbitration as a Super Two or 3+ service-class player next fall. The team had indicated some pre-season interest in a long-term deal, though talks never seemed to get going in earnest and surely won’t now unless and until Freeland gets back on track.