Ezequiel Tovar is 20 years old.
The average age of a player in the 2021 Arizona Fall League was nearly four years older than he was.
This was not unfamiliar territory for the breakout infielder.
The Colorado Rockies threw Tovar into the fire this fall, well aware that the shoes he was sent to fill were far bigger than the High-A sizing he was coming from. His numbers declined significantly — perhaps as expected — but his 25 games of action for the Salt River Rafters could pay dividends in development.
Ezequiel Tovar - 2021 (Low-A, High-A, Arizona Fall League)
Tovar’s figures were down this fall across the board, which is understandable when the competitive level is considered. Perhaps a more important bit of recognition is how Tovar outlasted other minor leaguers through 2021, at the tender age of 20, playing from an April spring training open through a November 19 final game.
Lest we forget: COVID-19 canceled the 2020 minor league season. He didn’t play a single affiliated inning for well over a year, and followed it up in 2021 with a season ending just days before Thanksgiving.
129 games were tallied by Tovar between May and November. His toughest competition was met with his most fatigued state this fall, and his average in October and November could be a direct reflection.
Ezequiel Tovar - 2021 Arizona Fall League (By Month)
He did, however, find a marginally higher slugging percentage and OPS in November compared to October. Much can be said about leaving the yard twice in the final 12 games of the season, which can surely serve as a motivator as the spring approaches — and as Tovar returns to Arizona more prepared than ever.
In early October, MLB.com’s Thomas Harding reported that Tovar has not been back to his home country of Venezuela since the pandemic first hit in 2020. “He wants to be as prepared as possible,” Harding said. “The Rockies have seen steady growth during a whirlwind beginning to his career.”
That growth included signing with the Rockies when he was 16 and weighted 150 pounds. It included converting from a switch hitter to a right-handed-only bat.
Harding further reports that Tovar has always seemed to find himself on an expedited path through the minors. “Tovar began the 2019 season playing in 55 games at Short-Season Class A Boise. . . rather than at Rookie-level Grand Junction against younger competition, because he was still 17 and the Rockies didn’t want to run afoul of Colorado labor laws.”
In 2019, Tovar was 3.8 years younger than the average player in Boise’s league.
He posted a .617 OPS while playing ‘up’ with Boise in 2019, the lowest figure of any non-AFL affiliate he’s played with. Tovar wasn’t able to respond in 2020, and was instead forced to mull over his Boise-induced struggles while the minor leagues were on an indefinite hold.
Play finally resumed in 2021: Tovar worked his way to the Rockies No. 11 prospect ranking according to MLB Pipeline. He was already familiarized with the rigors of playing at higher competition. He carved his way through Low-A Fresno, helped lead High-A Spokane to their league championship, and a combined .796 OPS was good enough for the Fall League invite to be sealed. Even if he struggled with the Rafters, it could be viewed as a Boise-esque path to expedited growth.
Salt River struggles could very well turn into Hartford-related dominance for Tovar in 2021.
The Arizona Fall League features a melting pot of players from all sorts of developmental levels; throw out the traditional developmental lineage of the minor leagues and replace it with a dugout full of players on mismatching paths to the big leagues. Tovar, one of the youngest players in the Fall League this year, was able to work alongside now-MLB-veteran Jordan Sheffield, a handful of Triple-A players in Reagan Todd and Willie MacIver, and other Double-A arms that have collected a bulk of Colorado’s minor league work.
Simply working alongside those guys is a key developmental progression — and even more advanced than the insights he shaped in Boise.
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