At 23-years-old, Carlos Estévez recorded 11 saves for the 2016 Colorado Rockies. His 100 mph heater was a revelation for a reeling Rockies bullpen in much need of relief.
From the time he was called up until he lost his job as the Rockies prime reliever he recorded a 3.76 ERA across 38.1 innings while striking out 43. He was nasty, his stuff was eye-popping and the ever-present Colorado slogan of 'closer of the future' rung true for him.
But, it his final 16.2 innings of 2016, Estevez, dubbed The Wild Thing, was just that. Allowing 16 earned runs on 11 walks and 23 hits. His strikeout rate dropped as well and Estevez looked flat, worst than that, he looked predictable.
At the time rumors began to circulate that Estevez was tipping his pitches, which led to a call down to Triple-A Albuquerque (although he got called up before he could even make an appearance for the Isotopes). In a recent interview with BSN Denver, Estevez talked about the issues he faced last summer in deceiving hitters along with the already known issues with his once high leg kick.
"I know this started last year with Steve (Foster) and Darren (Holmes) really breaking him down," Bud Black said. "They felt like he was doing some things that he needed to fix mechanically, not having the bigger leg kick or the long unraveling of his upper body, it's more about getting to the fundamentals, simplifying the leg kick and how he takes the ball out of his glove to get it into throwing position. I think it's putting him in a good spot to make his pitches."
Estevez backed Black in the importance of Rockies pitching coaches Foster and Holmes.
"By the end of last season I got rid of my leg kick and this offseason we focused a lot on that," Estevez recalled. "Just not doing the leg kick but making sure I still had some power and timing so I could throw at a high velocity."
"It (the mechanical changes) hasn't affected his stuff at all," Black described. "The velocity is still there and the slider is really good."
This isn't totally true.
The early numbers say his fastball is on average one mph slower, but what it has lost in velocity its made up for in two-and-a-half more inches of run. He has yet to hit 100 mph yet which he did last year on several occasions.
His slider has too small of sample size but the super early number say that too has lost a bit of speed.
The nitty gritty numbers don't tell the whole truth, which is what Black and Estevez are saying; he's a better pitcher. Part of this is due to his more deceptive delivery despite what it may cost him in speed.
"We pitchers just have to do the same thing with everything pitch so we don't tip our pitches," Estevez said. "Right now I'm not doing that, it's good to have the same timing and glove precision and everything."
"I think it's helped him mentally in attacking too," Black mentioned. "Those two guys really identified something and you have to credit Carlos to for buying in. You can see the growing confidence in Carlos."
Estevez said his new mechanics already feel natural to him and it's helped him a lot on his slider, which was a major concern last year. Weaponizing the young righty to be a more consistent pitcher is key for Colorado. Having his pedigree in the middle innings is a luxury most clubs wish to have late into the fall. With Estevez, Mike Dunn, Jake McGee, Adam Ottavino and Greg Holland the Rockies have a plethora of backend options.
"It's great, I have never been in a bullpen like this, it's great to know every guy van pitch in any situation. I was closing, and all these guys can too," Estevez said.