By 6 p.m. tonight, the Rockies have some tough choices to make. It’s the deadline for adding Rule 5 Draft eligible players to the 40-man roster. Players who signed professional contracts at age 18 or younger must be added to the 40-man roster within five seasons after signing the contract and those who were 19 years old or older must be added within four seasons. If a player is not added to the 40-man roster, then they are free to be picked up by another organization in the Rule 5 Draft, which is scheduled for Dec. 10.
One interesting curve ball in 2020 is that teams don’t have a regular season to access. With the MLB instructional league under way in Arizona right now, at least there is a little info and scouting to be done, but, like everything else in 2020, much is an unknown frontier. Without any MiLB play this year, 2019 might mean more and organizations are left with a little more guessing and hoping (but, hey, that seems like the Rockies motto!). Some teams might look more within and keep salaries low as opposed to wading into the expensive free agent market. The coming downsizing of the MiLB also casts a lingering shadow on the futures and dreams of a lot of players. It’s a lot of heavy stuff.
But, back to the Rockies roster. With the most recent additions to the Colorado 40-man roster, Scott Oberg, Peter Lambert, and David Dahl, who were all activated from the 45-day injured list, along with Ian Desmond, who was placed back on the roster after opting out of the 2020 season, the Rockies roster currently stands at 38. The Rockies currently have five players in the team’s top 30 prospects who will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft if they are not added to the 40-man roster. Before the deadline, it seems like a good idea to take a closer look at the five prospects the Rockies have to consider adding or risk losing.
Colton Welker, 3B (ranked No. 7 out of 30)
The Rockies drafted Welker in the fourth round (110th overall) of the 2016 draft. In his three seasons, Welker proved he could hit and was working his way up from Grand Junction in 2016 (.329/.366/.490), Single-A Asheville in 2017 (.350/.401/.500), Single-A-Advanced Lancaster in 2018 (.333/.383/.489). In 2019, he continued climbing the ladder to Double-A Hartford and started with a bang, hitting .356 in the month of April. Welker then struggled, missed two months with a shoulder injury, and then also didn’t stand out in the Arizona Fall League.
Entering the 2020 season, Purple Row ranked Welker as the organization’s No. 3 prospect. (behind only Brendan Rodgers and Ryan Rolison and ahead of others who saw big league action in 2020 like Sam Hilliard (5), Josh Fuentes (30), Ryan Castellani (14), Ashton Goudeau (13), Tommy Doyle (16), and Antonio Santos (20). Obviously, the Rockies currently have the best third baseman in the game, so the 23-year-old Welker doesn’t have anywhere to go. However, Welker started playing some first base in for the Yard Goats and in the AFL, so that could give him more value. The Rockies currently are hoping Josh Fuentes can replicate his 2020 success in a full season, or that Ryan McMahon will be the consistent hitter we all want him to be and could take over at first or split time with Fuentes. With those unknowns, as well as Nolan Arenado’s uncertain future with the Rockies, Welker is a good backup player to have for the corners for the Rockies. If 2020 would have been a normal 162-game season, he just might have made his debut or at least gotten a solid year of Triple-A action, but instead he spent the year at the Rockies alternate training site. MLB.com’s Thomas Harding reported that Welker will be protected with a roster spot.
Helcris Olivarez, LHSP (ranked No. 17)
Just after he turned 16 years old in 2016, Olivarez inked a deal with the Rockies, who compared his potential to Ubaldo Jiménez. From 2016-2019, he spent time developing in the Dominican Summer League each year before pitching in Grand Junction in 2019. He spent the first year as a reliever, but has shifted to a starter ever since. His fastball is already 93-95 mph and he’s still growing and building strength that should add speed down the road. His breaking ball and changeup are also showing promise. He still needs to work on command, but faired decently in the Pioneer League, which isn’t pitcher friendly. In 11 starts over 46 2/3 innings, the 20-year-old posted a 4.82 ERA with a 1.52 WHIP, striking out nearly 12 batters per nine innings. Olivarez was also listed No. 17 in the preseason 2020 Purple Row prospects (PuRP), but Purple Row’s Jeff Aberle put him at No. 13 on his personal ballot because “In a system that lacks starting pitcher depth like Colorado’s, Olivarez represents a hope for an impact pitcher (and from the left side to boot).”
Olivarez is currently at the MLB instructional leagues in Arizona for the Rockies. His upside is huge, and the Rockies need lefties. He’s still young and has yet to test his stuff or resolve above the Rookie League level. Then again, he might just be too much promising to risk.
Daniel Montano, OF (ranked No. 19)
Montano was a $2 million signing in 2015 at age 17 and he proved to be a decent hitter with a lot of promise in his three DSL seasons. The left-handed hitting and right-handed throwing Venezuelan has decent speed and plays center field well. In his first season with Grand Junction in 2018, he hit .279/.338/.433 with 15 doubles, five homers, 21 walks, and 57 strikeouts in 62 games. He moved to Single-A Asheville in 2019, but couldn’t capitalize and struck out 119 times in 454 at-bats while also slashing .218/.274/.344. After being ranked No. 21 in 2017, No. 15 in 2018, No. 22 in 2019 on PuRP list, he no longer made the top 30 in 2020. Montano, who is currently on the Triple-A Albuquerque roster, might be more like a backup outfielder at this point and is not a strong candidate for 40-man roster protection.
Riley Pint, PHRP (ranked No. 26)
A first-round draft pick in 2016 (fourth overall), Pint promised to be a power pitcher at 6-foot-5 and hurling 100 mph in high school. Things haven’t quite gone to plan for Pint. Injuries caused him to miss most of 2018 and a big part of 2019, but even when he’s been able to play, he’s struggled with control. Pint posted an 8.66 ERA in Single-A Asheville in 2019 and was demoted to the bullpen where things didn’t get much better for the now 23-year-old. If anyone needed a MiLB 2020 season to get back on track, it was Pint.
Interestingly enough, Pint is still ranked one spot ahead of Antonio Santos, who saw six innings of action over three games for the Rockies in 2020 and left with a 16.50 ERA, 3.00 WHIP, and .483 batting average against. Pint was ranked No. 22 in our PuRP list, with Aberle laying out Pint’s outlook perfectly: Pint’s potent arsenal (which includes a 102 mph, 75 grade fastball and multiple potential plus secondary offerings including a 70 grade curveball), if harnessed and polished, is that of a big league ace. His floor, given his struggles with command and two years mostly lost to injury, is that he never pitches a game above A ball.” Pint, who has a spot on the Isotopes roster at the moment, is also currently in Arizona playing in the instructional leagues. It’s clear Pint hasn’t proved himself ready for the 40-man roster or as a temping steal for other teams.
Ever Moya, LHRP (ranked No. 30)
In the five years since the Rockies signed Moya out of Panama in 2015, the now 21-year-old lefty has put on 60 pounds and grown an inch to fill out his 6-foot-5 frame, while also adding speed to his now 96 mph fastball. He’s still working on secondary pitches and has struggled with command, which caused him to move to the bullpen where he is doing better. For three years in the DSL (2016-18) Moya’s ERA ranged from 3.58 to 5.58 to 5.18 with a WHIP around 1.50. In 2019, he joined the Grand Junction Rockies. In 29 1/3 innings, he posted a 3.99 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, and struck out 43. He also walked 17 batters. If he can continue to develop his arsenal, then he could be a great addition to the bullpen someday — a much needed left-handed arm — but he hasn’t even been to Single-A yet. Like Pint, Moya is a member of the Isotopes currently. Moya also joins Pint and Olivarez in the MLB instructional league in Arizona right now.
In the 2019 Rule 5 Draft, the Rockies weren’t involved in the Major League phase, but did lose five prospects while adding one in the minor league phases. The Rockies lost RHP Erick Julio to the Angels and RHP Eris Filpo to the Rangers in the first round. In the second round, the Rockies added Brewers RHP Michael Petersen (who is currently on the Albuquerque Triple-A roster), but also lost PHP Enrique Saldana to the Cardinals. In the third round, the Rockies lost two more prospects, outfielder Vance Vizcaino (Cubs) and RHP Jacob Bosiokovic (Cardinals).
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If you have a few minutes, then each and every of the over 4,000 words in this feature is worth your time. Daniel Bard’s story is remarkable. He never imagined he’d be able to pitch in a baseball game again. He got second, third, fourth, and more chances. He felt he was broken and lost his joy in the game. But then he did it. He coached, he learned, he rediscovered his form and his joy.
2020 has been a brutal year and the Rockies struggled as well. I think we all delighted in Bard’s comeback and the thrill of him being on the mound again and what that meant for him, for baseball, and for the Rockies, but to truly reflect on it after the season is over in the amount of depth and detail that Nick Groke lays out in retelling the tale is special. Treat yourself to this one. If you don’t subscribe to The Athletic, this might be a reason to.
Disappointment and relief. Those were my first two thoughts when I heard that Robinson Cano had tested positive again for PEDs, resulting in being suspended for the 2021 season. It’s the same stomach punch when this happens to a star, one named after Jackie Robinson and was a very exciting player to watch in years past. Then came the relief because at least the Rockies didn’t sign him or trade for him (not that the Rockies make big moves like that and second base isn’t the most dire position at the moment). It wasn’t a Jose Reyes-like moment. The Rockies front office deserves a lot of criticism for where the Rockies are at, but at least we aren’t in this mess.
But then, after reading Noah Yingling’s take, a new feeling emerged: horror.
This development means the Mets, who Yingling points out is a team looking to spend money, now got $24 million back. On top of that, they are looking for a second baseman. The Mets have already been rumored to be interested in Nolan Arenado (who wouldn’t be?), but this is the most fear-inducing line: “instead of trading for Nolan Arenado or Trevor Story, if [the Mets] wanted to, they could try to trade for Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story.”
This would be soul crushing, regardless of the haul the Rockies would get in return. It seems hard to imagine that Dick Monfort would allow this type of extreme move, which would clearly sound the “rebuilding” alarms for an organization that doesn’t believe in rebuilds. But if Jeff Bridich is calling the shots and seemingly has no consequences, it’s hard to completely dismiss any scenarios. I just can’t let my imagination go down that dark road too much though. Yingling closes with “The chance that both are traded to the Mets is very slim but the chance that the Rockies could try to trade one of them to the Mets have definitely gone up.”
For the Rockies, it’s Antonio Senzatela. While I certainly want him to be a Rockie for a long time, especially after his 2020 performance, this isn’t the most obvious choice. Writer Will Leach says he’s actually third behind Story and Arenado, but since he sees both leaving the team sometime in the next year, he went with Senzatela. Even above Germán Márquez. … Interesting.
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