10:38 am: Hoffman will work out of the Rockies’ bullpen instead of replacing Senzatela in the rotation, tweets Nick Groke of the Athletic. The club’s fifth starter, who is scheduled to start Thursday, remains up in the air.
9:32 am: The Rockies announced they have designated first baseman Mark Reynolds for assignment, clearing space on the 40-man roster for left-handed pitcher Sam Howard. Additionally, the club has optioned right-hander Antonio Senzatela to Triple-A Albuquerque, recalling fellow righty Jeff Hoffman in his place.
The move brings to an end Reynolds’ second stint in Colorado. Soon to turn 36, the longtime power hitter simply hasn’t performed at the plate in 2019. Through 162 plate appearances, Reynolds sports a woeful .170/.290/.311 slash despite calling the most hitter-friendly park in baseball home. While he has continued to sport a keen eye at the plate, evidenced by a 13.6% walk rate, his 35.2% strikeout rate simply became unpalatable. Reynolds is only one year removed from solid offensive production with the Nationals and has a long track record of hitting for power, but as a right-handed hitter who can only play first base, he’s a difficult roster fit. He’ll almost certainly be released in the coming days, before he can explore interest on a minor-league deal from suitors searching for a power-hitting depth piece who’s respected in the clubhouse.
Howard will get his first base of big-league action in 2019 after throwing four innings for Colorado last season. A soft-tosser, Howard converted to relief full-time this season and has seen his production take off in Albuquerque. His strikeout rate in Triple-A is up ten points from where it was last season, perhaps reflecting an uptick in stuff in shorter stints, although his 11.9% walk rate this year is also a career-high. There’s little to lose in giving Howard a look, as the Rockies’ bullpen has a pedestrian 4.93 ERA on the season.
The club’s rotation has fared even worse than the relief corps, with Senzatela partly to blame. Through 17 starts, he’s posted a woeful 6.29 ERA. The 24 year-old does have an above-average 52.8% ground-ball rate, but his 12.3% strikeout rate and 10.8% walk rate give him the worst K%-BB% of any starter in baseball in 2019 (minimum 80 innings).
In his stead, the Rockies will turn to Hoffman, a former top prospect who, like most of the team’s arms, has struggled in the majors this year. Through seven starts, Hoffman has a 6.75 ERA, having been undone by the home run ball (1.89 HR/9). He’s been even worse in Albuquerque, but unlike Senzatela, he at least has flashed some strikeout stuff and a mid-90’s fastball. That Hoffman is in the majors at all following his abysmal performance this season, though, sums up the freefalling club’s surprising inability to find competent arms to trot out, just a year after boasting one of the best pitching staffs in franchise history.