In the sunny desert of Arizona, weeks after the minor league regular season is over, prospects are hand picked to get better at the game in the Arizona Fall League.
For the Rockies, those prospects include left-handed pitcher Kyle Freeland, outfielder/first baseman Jordan Patterson and catcher Chris Rabago, among others.
Freeland missed a lot of the season because of a shoulder injury and going under the knife to remove bone spurs in his elbow. Rehabbing and getting back to form has been "grueling," he said.
"I stayed focus on getting back healthy, coming back stronger," Freeland indicated. "I've definitely been able to prove that and I'm happy where I'm at."
One of the goals in the AFL for Freeland is to work on his change-up, something he said he and the Rockies are focusing on. The key is getting command of the change-up and being comfortable with it, Freeland suggested, along with throwing the pitch to both lefties and righties.
After a rough outing his first time around, Freeland bounced back with a three-inning outing during which he struck out three, walked two and gave up five hits but didn't allow a run.
"It's a great experience so far with this group of guys and being in this league," Freeland stated. "It's an honor."
Jordan Patterson, who played at both High-A Modesto and Double-A New Britain in 2015, said that he’s been working on the whole game and getting better every day. So far, Patterson is hitting .100 in 20 at-bats with two hits. He's also been familiarizing himself with more defensive positions.
"I've been playing some first, so working on outfield and first," Patterson told Purple Row. "Also my approach at the plate — clean it up a bit. Always progressing and cleaning up your approach and set up and everything."
The move from Modesto to New Britain was a challenge for Patterson, but it was all about not trying to be anyone he’s not and maintaining his approach.
"I had to stick to what I was doing," Patterson said. "Not try to impress anybody, just knowing that I belong there and deserve to be there and sticking to what I do best."
Competition was a little better in Double-A, according to Patterson, but pitchers always throw from 60 feet, six inches away from the plate regardless.
"Older guys, they pitch — the sequences are a little better; if they see something, they're gonna exploit it," Patterson claimed. "It gets a little better every level we go up."
Rabago said he was looking to improve everything: from hitting and catching to working on his receiving and throwing down to bases.
The atmosphere has been more relaxed, Rabago stated, and everyone is out there trying to show what they’ve got.
"Stuff is really good out here, hitting-wise, catching-wise," Rabago said. "Everyone has some tools out here, and it's awesome to see."
Rabago said his experience in the Arizona Fall League has been a lot of fun.
"I'm very blessed to come out here and compete with all these other talented baseball players," Rabago said. "Great team, great coaches—we get treated really well out here."
Patterson echoed Rabago's sentiment.
"The experience, how they treat you, being around these guys, seeing some of the top arms in Minor League Baseball ... it's just really cool to see and be a part of."