As the offseason rolls on and players across the major and minor leagues begin looking for their 2022 homes, so too do members of the Colorado Rockies organization. On Tuesday, a slew of Rockies minor leaguers mostly from Triple-A Albuquerque (and Yency Almonte) elected free agency in order to see if there might be greener pastures elsewhere.
LHP Zac Rosscup— MiLB-Transactions (@tombaseball29) November 9, 2021
LHP Jack Wynkoop
LHP Ian Clarkin
LHP Breiling Eusebio
C Chris Rabago
C Max George
C Javier Guevara
1B Greg Bird
2B Jose Gomez
3B Scott Burcham
3B Joshua Fuentes
OF Nick Longhi
OF Wynton Bernard
OF Manuel Melendez
The nature of the minors leagues is fluidity. Large parts of the roster may turn over every year as men like Greg Bird might depart seek a spot on a big league roster in 2022, or other organizations make changes and replenish depth. We wish the players departing the Rockies organization nothing but luck in their future endeavors. However, as these players pack their bags and head for the airport, there are two the Rockies may wish to stop at the door and ask to stay.
3B/1B Joshua Fuentes
Joshua Fuentes had a bumpy 2021 campaign that ended with him recently being outrighted off the roster. With his more famous cousin already setting down roots in a different city, Fuentes could now do the same by electing free agency.
Fuentes had an excellent May that included being named NL Player of the week, but struggles at the plate for most of his big league playing time slowly began to reduce his opportunities and eventually led to him being optioned to Triple-A. He would bounce back and forth between the Rockies and Isotopes throughout the second half of the season.
Fuentes slashed .269/.324/.492 with 12 doubles, two triples and nine home runs in 49 games with the Albuquerque Isotopes in 2021. However, his main draw is his glove, which is what helped him usurp the starting first baseman role from Daniel Murphy in 2020. In both the major and minor leagues, Fuentes is mostly a third baseman, but has also seen plenty of time at first base and in left field. With the Isotopes he began to add another position to his arsenal: second base. Fuentes had never played middle infield before, but made ten appearances there with the Isotopes. The reason the Rockies should bring him back is that he provides excellent depth with a high amount of positional versatility. He can fill a lot of shoes should his services be called upon, and if his bat can catch up to his glove he could still show the Rockies he could be an everyday player at age 28.
RHP Ryan Castellani
One of the more fun stories of 2020, hopes were high for Ryan Castellani coming into this season. Unfortunately, it was a difficult year for the former second round pick. Castellani’s spring training was horrendous, posting an ERA of 31.50 despite giving up only two hits in just two innings and two appearances. During that short span of time he walked five batters and hit three more. His control and pitch placement were completely non-existent, and whispers of the dreaded yips were heard.
Castellani made just one appearance in the big leagues in 2021: a May 4th spot start against the Giants. That didn’t go so well either. He lasted just 3 1⁄3 innings, gave up two runs on five hits (including a home run), and walked four batters. He was later designated for assignment and outrighted to Triple-A Albuquerque, where he would spend the remainder of the season.
Castellani... didn’t do great with the Isotopes either. Especially at the beginning of the minor league season, where he frequently got lit up in addition to the multitude of walks. Castellani struggled with walks and control all year, with a season high of seven on June 7th.
So why keep him around if he struggled so much this year? Castellani is only 25 years old, and still has plenty of time left on the clock to see if he can turn a corner. He even started to turn things around late in the season. In September, Castellani’s starts may have all been short, but he began limiting the runs he gave up. If he can continue to work on his control and begin to limit his walks, the young righty could prove to be a crucial depth piece for a Rockies team that almost always struggles with depth for the rotation and long relief. Plus I definitely believe he’s still far too young to give up on.
OF Wynton Bernard
Admittedly this one is more of a personal pick. Wynton Bernard is a speedy outfielder that’s bounced around the minor leagues throughout his career. He’s 31 years old and has yet to make his major league debut... which is exactly the kind of fun story fans can enjoy as the Rockies work on rebuilding. If the Rockies brought him back for 2022, it’s doubtful he’d make the roster out of spring training, but if his depth were needed for an injury fill-in or late season call-up, it would be easy to get on board.
Bernard was a fan favorite with Triple-A Albuquerque this season with an infectious smile, solid performance in the outfield, and blazing speed. He had the fourth most triples with six and stolen bases with 23 in his Triple-A West division. He also hit an unimpressive but respectable .254/.319/.395 with 12 doubles, seven home runs, and 30 RBI. He’s also a relatively patient hitter, drawing 26 walks to his 76 strikeouts in 100 games played.
★ ★ ★
Rockies (free agent) Shortstop Trevor Story was named a nominee for the 2021 All-MLB team on Wednesday night. Fan voting has started and will run through November 19th, making up half of the votes. The other half of votes will be done by an expert panel. Story’s competition at shortstop includes Toronto’s Bo Bichette, San Diego’s Fernando Tatis Jr, and San Francisco’s Brandon Crawford.
After opting out of his contract with the Cincinnati Reds, slugging outfielder Nick Castellanos is going to be a hot commodity on the free agent and an excellent acquisition should the Rockies manage to lock him down. Rox Pile’s Kevin Henry explores the kind of contract the Scott Boras client could command, and the major dilemma that would arise from signing him: he plays the same position as Charlie Blackmon.
★ ★ ★
On the Farm: Arizona Fall League Edition
Michael Tolgia, Ezequiel Tovar, and Willie MacIver all started in the Rafters’ loss to the Scorpions on Wednesday. Both MacIver and Tovar were 1-for-4 on the day, with MacIver’s lone hit being a double in the seventh inning. Toglia was hitless in four at-bats while striking out twice.
The Rafters will host the Mesa Solar Sox this evening, with the first pitch coming at 6:35 PM MST.
★ ★ ★
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