Keeping one's ERA low while pitching in the high altitudes of Colorado is never easy, but Colorado Rockies' 2014 first-round pick (eighth overall) Kyle Freeland has the talent and tools to accomplish the daunting task.
Freeland, who is a homegrown product that set the state's single-season high school strikeout record his senior year, was a very late bloomer at the University of Evansville considering he struggled greatly in the Missouri Valley Conference with a total record of 8-13, a 4.44 ERA, and 154 whiffs in a combined 184 1/3 innings (28 starts) during his freshman and sophomore seasons.
Fortunately for him, his junior season would be one of a whole different story as the 2014 MVC Pitcher of the Year surprised everyone by improving all statistical categories (10-2 record, 1.90 ERA, and 128 strikeouts in 99 2/3 innings pitched) from the prior campaign.
"But how did Freeland improve so quickly? Where was 'this pitcher' his first two collegiate seasons?"
When asked what spurred success after two woeful years, the southpaw pinpointed his play in the Cape Cod League because it significantly raised his confidence. If he ever again lacks faith in himself, the top-10 selection in the 2014 MLB Draft just needs to look at the stats from his first professional season.
As a pro, Freeland never missed a beat. He started out his career with one earned run in nine innings (three starts) of action with Grand Junction (Rookie League). The former Louisville Slugger Third Team NCAA Division I All-American would finish the 2014 season in Asheville (Single-A) with six stellar starts (3-0, 1.35 ERA, and 20 SO), including one in the South Atlantic League playoffs, that gave many the impression that the prospect would start in Single-A Advanced Modesto or even Double-A New Britain in 2015.
Unfortunately, that would not be the case as MLB.com's 47th-ranked prospect had his start to the season pushed back due to shoulder fatigue and his recovery from a minor surgery to remove bone chips in his arm. Despite the duo of ailments consuming almost four months of what was supposed to be his first full season of Minor League Baseball, Kyle Freeland was back on the mound Friday night in the same place his pro career began: Grand Junction, Colorado.
The Ogden Raptors (affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers) were the unfortunate ones from the Pioneer League on Friday night as Colorado's third prospect mowed down his opponent and allowed no hits in three innings of work (42 pitches/32 strikes) while collecting three strikeouts. Freeland even escaped a first-inning jam of a runner on second with one out by inducing ground outs of Nick Sell and Willie Calhoun to end the threat. Besides the one runner in scoring position, the night could not have gone any more smoothly for the future ace.
Even though the Rockies' management has yet to make any indication of its plan for the 22-year-old southpaw, Freeland said, "I'm hopeful of getting as many starts as I can in what's left of the season" earlier this week.