The Rockies spent the last year throwing out their young talent to see how they could hold up at the major league level. Not all passed the test.
Down on their farm systems, their depleted Double-A and Triple-A teams fell behind. But their prospects in rookie and A-levels were making waves, perhaps signaling better things to come in the future.
The Rockies Dominican team, Arizona Complex League, Low-A and High-A squads all either made it to the postseason or won their divisions. Twenty one of their top 30 prospects played on one of these teams.
Breaking down where the top prospects stand, and who could be next to debut:
Michael Toglia and Ezequiel Tovar both stood out this minor league season. Toglia is much closer, expected to debut as early as next year, while Tovar likely needs another two years to develop.
Tolgia presents a rare skill set. He’s a switch-hitter, with the ability to hit for power on both sides. He had 22 home runs last year, plus a bonus one in the futures game held at Coors Field. He also has gold glove worthy defense at first as well as the athletic ability to play in the outfield. CJ Cron is locked up at the spot for the next two years, but Toglia could inch his way in as a bench player and spot-starter.
As for Tovar, he has the Rockies staff giddy about his potential. He split time between Low-A and High-A this season, and will spend the first part of his offseason playing in the fall league, against prospects who are on the verge of making their debuts. Tovar, once a switch-hitter but now batting right-handed, is seen as the next in line of top Rockies’ shortstops, carrying on the legacy set by Troy Tulowitzki and Trevor Story.
“We like Tovar,” manager Bud Black said. “I want to see this guy play.”
Ryan Rolison, who missed most of the season after getting his appendix out and then a fluke hand injury from shagging balls, picked up steam at the end of the season, allowing just one run in the last nine innings he pitched. He could be used as a depth starter next season for the Rockies, splitting time between Triple-A and the majors or hanging out in the bullpen as a long reliever until he's needed.
On the way, but be patient
The Rockies found success at catcher in Elias Díaz last season. But Willie Maclver and Drew Romo are seen as their future, perhaps not until a few years down the road though. Macliver ended the season in Triple-A, Romo in Low-A. Catchers take the longest time to develop, so with Díaz settled in they can take their time to make sure Maclver and Romo are ready on all fronts.
Top prospect Zac Veen stayed in Low-A all season, leading his team to the playoffs with a .301 batting average. The Rockies rave about his athletic ability and pitch awareness. He played mainly right field this year, and is thought to have a powerful enough arm to survive playing in the Coors Field outfield.
Elehuris Montero, traded to the Rockies as part of the lopsided Nolan Arenado trade, proved his worth this season with his bat, but still needs some work on defense at third base. Chris McMahon out of High-A impressed, pitching 114 innings in his first season of professional baseball.