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Welcome to the BSN Denver Colorado Rockies Top 25 Under 25 where we will rank the organization’s best players who will be 25 years-old or younger on Opening Day 2017.

Our parameters for this list may be different than others it resembles so let us be clear about them:

  1. The list was created entirely by the BSN Rockies staff and had no other input from any outside sources.
  2. While giving credit for overall (or trade) value, we prioritized an ability to help the MLB club win immediately.
  3. In accordance with this, we also prioritized players with fewer question marks but potentially lower ceilings.
  4. Statistics were considered on equal level with scouting reports in addition to our own field reporting.

Our observations come through a combination of spending parts of each of the past four (going on five) seasons on the ground on the backfields at spring training and through our regular reporting from Rookie Level Grand Junction, talking to coaches, scouts, and journalists both on and off the record. Of course, countless hours are spent on MiLB.tv and combing over public reports from other credible sources.

No. 14: Carlos Estevez, 24 (RHP)

Before the 2016 season began, the casual fan would be forgiven for not knowing just who the hell Carlos Estevez was. Now, everyone and their mother has an opinion on the young man. The fireballer who shares a birth name with Charlie Sheen — and therefore elects to enter games to the song, Wild Thing — had become well known in prospect circles for his boisterous personality and his dual language capabilities which often meant he needed to serve as a translator for many of his Latin teammates.

But he finally got to start answering some questions about himself in 2015 with a breakout year over High-A and Double-A that mirrored Jordan Patterson’s rise. That season, he struck out well over 10 hitters per nine innings and was walking just over two, exactly the kind of numbers a team wants to see from a pitching prospect. Still, there usually isn’t a ton of shine on relievers who are often failed starters looking to rediscover themselves.

But Estevez has always been a reliever in the Rockies system and even going back to his days in Grand Junction, pitching coach Ryan Kibler told BSN Denver that Estevez showed the right mentality and work ethic, it was all about refining the overall package.

In many ways, that is where Estevez finds himself today after a 2016 season that couldn’t have been more filled with peaks and valleys. Starting with his own skepticism that he would even see the Majors last year, a string of health concerns in the Rockies MLB pen, and the fact that Estevez was still going strong from 2015 in a very short stint in Triple-A necessitated an early call up.

It was likely a little earlier than the team wanted to call upon him but that would pale in comparison to the next bit of theater that nobody involved could have predicted. Relievers kept dropping like flies and — again, out of necessity, Estevez was asked to close out a ballgame. Then, on June 11, at home against the San Deigo Padres, the then 23-year-old who had been in High-A less than a year prior, recorded the first Save of his MLB career by striking out the side. He recorded saves in the next three games he entered.

At one point, Estevez notched seven consecutive Saves and finished the year with 11. In a vacuum everything that has been laid out here would have been nothing but positives highlighting a player who took advantage of his opportunity and vaulted himself into the upper echelon of Rockies prospects. But, of course, three high profile blown Saves late in the season ended up being very costly.

That was arguably the turning point in the Rockies season from potential dark horse surprise to “here we go again.” It cost the Rockies heavily in the standings and cost Estevez his job, though the return of Adam Ottavino from Tommy John about a month earlier made that likely a matter of time anyway.

It’s difficult to judge Estevez based on this, and a few of his other more nerve-wracking outings. Detractors will say that he relies too much on the fastball regardless of the velocity. They will say he showed too much wildness and nerves in high leverage situations even when he did get the job done. And they will likely point to a lack of consistency with the secondary stuff and not enough separation between the fastball and change-up. We’d like to see him experiment with a “show me” curveball for exactly that reason, but we are also taking the “over” on Estevez.

First, the additions of Greg Holland and Mike Dunn along with a healthy Adam Ottavino and Jake McGee means that Estevez is unlikely to be forced into the highest leverage situations again in 2017. While we still believe he could develop closer mentality to go along with his closer stuff, putting that stuff in the 7th inning, without the game on the line, lessens the pressure and let’s the young man rock and roll while giving the opposition a look at some 100 mph fastballs before we even get to the ninth.

The expanding number of options the Rockies have in the bullpen mean both a lower risk for deploying Estevez and potentially higher rewards if he can continue to develop at a normal rate and fulfill the potential we saw so much of in 2016. He’s unlikely to pitch much at the very end of games, but we still expect Carlos Estevez to be a big part of the Rockies quest for the 2017 post season.

 

Drew Creasman is the Managing Editor of BSN Rockies and a writer at Pop Culture Spin in addition to working as a solo musician in the Denver/Boulder area. A lifelong Coloradan, Drew has always been plugged into the local sports and entertainment scene and has a healthy obsession with fact-based debate.