Grand Junction, Colorado, is a gem of a baseball town. Home of the Junior College World Series, Colorado Mesa University baseball and the Grand Junction Rockies. As the only remaining Rockies’ minor league affiliate in the state, the Rookie-ball Grand Junction Rockies are hoping to draw the attention -- and attendance -- of Colorado Rockies fans, and it couldn’t be happening at a better time.
In this past week’s First-Year Player Draft, the Rockies had a total of 14 selections coming out of high school. Lacking any college baseball experience, it’s a likely possibility many to most of those recent draftees -- if signed -- will play their first season of professional ball on the Western Slope.
Included in this group of prep standouts are the Rockies' top five draft picks: Brendan Rodgers, Mike Nikorak, Tyler Nevin, Peter Lambert and Javier Medina.
It looks as though Brendan Rodgers -- the first Rockies selection, third overall in the draft -- may bypass the Rookie level and open his career at short-season Class A, in a juggle with last year’s GJ shortstop, Max George. George is a welcomed return to the team after hitting a cool .301 there last season, but will look to cut down on strikeouts this time around.
The organization does have some options as far as Rodgers goes. At only 18 years old, and without any immediate need to accelerate him through the system, there is no real reason to rush his development. Rodgers has the potential for big league success when his foundation is set.
Right-handed pitcher Mike Nikorak, a huge get at the 27th overall pick, could also land with the Hawks. Again, his age and inexperience make the case for Grand Junction, but Nikorak’s build and arsenal may put him shoulders above competition.
That still leaves third baseman Tyler Nevin and right-handed pitchers Peter Lambert and Javier Medina as likely candidates to watch out for with the GJ Rockies.
In his first year as general manager, Jeff Bridich and company put together one of the better drafts of any organization, by calling heavily on very young talent. With a winning mindset already in place in Grand Junction, a selection of 2015 signees is shaping up to make for another great season for the GJ Rockies.
Rosters won’t be complete until contracts are finalized and assignments agreed upon, but there are already some notable prospects en route to Grand Junction.
Kyle Freeland, the Rockies’ first-round pick a year ago, has landed on the roster -- a rehabilitation assignment after a minor operation on his shoulder to remove bone chips. Freeland was stellar for the GJ Rockies in his time there last season, allowing just four runs and two walks over his five starts. With the injury limiting his playing time a year ago, anticipation is building to see what a healthy Freeland brings to a ball club.
Hunter Brothers -- the right-handed mirror image of older brother, Rex -- will start his second season in Grand Junction, after throwing 19 innings from the bullpen with the rookie Rockies in 2014.
Hamlet Marte and Randy Reyes both appear to be headed for Grand Junction after putting a dent in the Pioneer League last year, batting .329 and .321, respectively.
Aside from a quality on-field product, the Grand Junction Rockies aim to provide excellence in fan experience again this year for locals and destination attendees alike. Sam Suplizio Field recently underwent an $8.3 million update on the stadium that first opened its gates in 1949. It was a nice reward for both the team and the avid supporters of baseball in that part of the state. With no other in-state affiliates for the first time in both Rockies’ history, Grand Junction is primed to take over as the hub of Colorado minor league baseball.
Find the Grand Junction Rockies’ complete season schedule here, and a list of promotions set to take place below. The Grand Junction Rockies will host the Orem Owlz in their home opener Monday, July 22nd.