The Colorado Rockies signed Holland this offseason after he sat out the entire 2016 season getting himself healthy when the Royals chose not to offer him arbitration in his last season of eligibility.
The Rockies will be gambling that Holland can return to throwing his impressive four-pitch mix from the mound with a fastball that could once touch triple digits, a tremendous slider, a wicked cutter and a split-change that left knees buckled.
That sort of repertoire from the bullpen was a deadly combination, and it allowed Holland to quickly establish himself as one of the truly elite relievers in all of baseball.
He first got a taste of the majors in 2010, but his first full (mostly) season was in 2011, when he pitched in 46 games, throwing 60 innings with a 1.80 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 8.2 percent walk rate and 31.8 percent strikeout rate.
Over the course of the next three seasons, Holland claimed the closer job for the Royals in mid-2012, made two All-Star teams and put up video game-esque stats with 200 games thrown, pitching 196 1/3 innings and saving 109 games with a 1.88 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 9.18 percent walk rate and 36.22 percent strikeout rate.
He was also a star in the Royals’ 2014 playoff run, throwing a total of 11 innings, allowing just a single run and posting a 5/15 BB/K rate.
The Rockies are trusting that they are getting that version of Holland, not the version that showed up in 2015 as he battled elbow discomfort throughout the season, posting a 3.83 ERA and 1.46 WHIP over 44 2/3 innings with a 13.27 percent walk rate a good indication something was up.
However, if Holland needs to be eased back into his role, the Rockies have taken one of their team weaknesses in 2016 and made it a strength. Let’s take a look at who will be backing up Holland a mile high…
While the Rockies weren’t the ridiculously bad Cincinnati Reds 2016 bullpen, they did have the worst overall bullpen ERA in all of baseball in 2016, and the team made intentional moves to correct that in the offseason.
The primary set up man behind Holland will be a fellow injury returnee, Adam Ottavino, who returned from Tommy John over July 4 weekend to post a 2.67 ERA and 0.93 WHIP over 34 appearances with a 7/35 BB/K ratio in 2016.
Lefty Jake McGee will serve as the primary left-hander out of the bullpen after the Rockies traded for him before the 2016 season. His first season was by far his worst, but he really struggled in the closer role and once Ottavino was back, he moved into a more comfortable setup role and had half the ERA in the second half as he posted in the first half.
Jason Motte also fought injuries throughout 2016 and was not his normal self when healthy in the Rockies pen. He’s hoping for a bounce-back in 2017.
Outside of Holland, the Rockies also brought in lefty Mike Dunn to add depth to their bullpen as an outside addition on the season. Dunn will be the LOOGY, and he’s a good one at that, but gets miscast when expected to work against both sides of the plate.
38-year-old veteran Chad Qualls returns for his 14th major league season, and he’ll work as a ROOGY, which he’s shown a proclivity for in his last few seasons.