The deadline to protect 2017 draftees or 2016 international signees/high school draft picks was last Friday. The Rockies had some decisions to make, and to protect against the Rule 5 Draft in December, they added four young players to the 40-man roster.
Some of the additions were expected and some were more surprising. Let’s look at where each player is in their development and explore when they might be making their MLB debuts:
3B/1B – Colton Welker (Rockies No. 7 Prospect)
Colton Welker was a fourth-round pick out of Stoneman Douglas High School (FL) in the 2016 draft. Welker began his professional career hitting .329 in rookie ball, .350 in Low-A, and .333 in High-A. He finally hit a bump in the road in 2019 while in Double-A, hitting only .252/.313/.408 and missing two months with a shoulder issue. Welker spent the 2020 season at the Rockies’ alternate training site where few notable updates were given.
Now that Welker has been added to the club’s 40-man roster, he’ll have a shot to compete for a 26-man roster spot beginning in spring training. If the Rockies were to move Nolan Arenado, Welker’s path to the majors would be clearer as a candidate to help fill a spot at third base. Otherwise if called up, he could see a similar role to Ryan McMahon and Josh Fuentes at first base and backing up Nolan.
LHP – Helcris Olivarez (Rockies No. 15 Prospect)
Helcris Olivarez has arguably the highest ceiling of all Rockies pitching prospects. The left-handed starter only made his professional debut in 2019 but impressed enough to be in the player pool at the Rockies’ alternate training site in 2020. At the alternate site, the 20-year-old continued to open eyes against much older players and was one of the standouts mentioned in the October prospect report.
Rockies farm director Zach Wilson noted that at times it looked like Olivarez could get big league hitters out. Therefore, it wouldn’t be ludicrous to assume there is a possibility he could make the jump to the majors sometime in 2021. He’s still very young, however, so it’s more likely the Rockies will want to see him in the upper minors for at least a full year before they make that call.
2B/3B/CF – Bret Boswell
One of the Rockies’ more surprising decisions was to protect second baseman/utility man Bret Boswell. When you go back and look at Boswell’s hitting numbers in the lower minors, you can see the upside the Rockies might see in him. He hit for a .288/.331/.496 line in Low-A Asheville, then went up to High-A Lancaster and improved the line to .322/.388/.636 in 118 at-bats. However, Lancaster is considered a hitters’ park and he struggled mightily at Double-A Hartford (.219/.290/.397), so the jury is still out on what to make of Boswell as a hitter.
Considering his unproven ability at the higher minor league levels, he shouldn’t be expected to make an appearance with the big league club this upcoming year.
LHP – Lucas Gilbreath
Protecting Lucas Gilbreath was by far the most surprising decision. A Colorado local kid, Gilbreath attended Legacy High School in Westminster. After playing at the University of Minnesota, he was drafted in the seventh round by the Rockies in 2017.
Gilbreath has seemingly come out of nowhere and nabbed a 40-man roster spot. He’s not on any top prospect lists and wasn’t at the Rockies’ alternate training site during the year. He doesn’t have the most astonishing minor league stats (4.60 ERA in rookie ball, 5.04 in Low-A, 5.81 in High-A), and he has yet to reach Double-A.
It can be hard to see how another team would take him over more promising arms in the Rule 5 Draft. It’s even harder to see him jumping to the majors anytime soon.
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Luke Mullins highlights the very under-the-radar spectacular season that Antonio Senzatela had in 2020. He notes that Senzatela is only 25 and could just be getting started. However, with Rockies pitching, no one can be too sure—especially after we saw Kyle Freeland regress so much in 2019.
This link takes a close look at what a healthy David Dahl could do for the Rockies’ offense in 2021. Patrick Saunders also reviews Dahl‘s recovery from recent oblique and shoulder injuries.
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