2. Zac Veen (380 points, 13 ballots)
Entering PuRPs polling, I was certain that Colorado’s 2020 first-rounder Zac Veen would be the top player on the pre-2021 list. He was the only Rockies prospect on top 100 lists and was never ranked anywhere but number one in the system elsewhere. Heck, even the majority of the electorate agreed, with eight of 13 voters (myself included) sticking Veen in the top spot of their ballot. Unlike most elections though, PuRPs voting is ranked choice, meaning that top PuRP this year (spoiler alert!) Ryan Rolison’s combination of four first place and nine second place votes outstripped Veen, who got a fourth and fifth place vote, by a single point. But enough about ordinal ranking, let’s talk about what is in my opinion the most exciting prospect in the system.
Entering the 2020 draft discussion, Veen was usually ranked as the top high school talent available among national draft watchers, somewhere in the back half of the draft’s top 10. As you’ll see in the scouting reports below, scouts were particularly excited about Veen’s projectable frame and advanced hitting approach. Though fellow high school outfielder Robert Hassell ended up going one pick earlier to the Padres, Rockies fans were happy to end up with Veen at the ninth pick overall. The lefty-hitting, righty-throwing 6’4” Floridian signed for a slightly above slot value $5 million and immediately got top 100 hype.
Due to the canceled minor league season, Veen’s first formal action with the Rockies came in fall instructs. It’s unclear whether the Rockies will start the 19-year-old in full season ball this year or whether he’ll begin at the new complex level team in Arizona. I certainly hope it’s the former, but it would be understandable if it were the latter as, with the contraction of the Rookie and Short Season A levels, the Low-A level will be much more loaded than normal with prospects.
Here’s some video of Veen from a national showcase game last year courtesy of Baseball America that shows off his power, swing, and outfield arm:
The smooth-swinging lefty has an advanced approach for his age, knowing when to be aggressive and when to be patient, and can do significant damage when ahead in the count. He’s also more athletic than he’s given credit for; his long limbs and long strides are surprisingly quick, allowing for plus speed on the basepaths and gap-to-gap coverage in the outfield. The so-so arm and likelihood he eventually loses a step probably paints him into a corner outfield spot in the future.
There is room for growth on his frame, although keeping him light on his feet to maintain his athleticism would be ideal over bulky muscle. The bat looked as advertised at instructs, but his defense will need some work. With patience, one day he could terrorize opposing pitchers at Coors Field.
Veen is higher on the top 100 of ESPN.com’s Kiley McDaniel, who slots him in at 46 as a 50 FV prospect:
Veen showed above-average speed, plus plate discipline, and plus power potential. As scouts saw more of him, eventually the consensus formed that Veen would continue filling out his 6-foot-4 frame and move to right field, with some even projecting first base eventually.
His swing and general profile remind some of Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger, but Veen may eventually settle as a 5 hit, plus pitch selection, 7 raw power type right fielder. Like [Robert] Hassell, Veen hasn’t played a pro game yet, so if either performs as their tools suggest in full-season ball, they’ll shoot up this list.
Long and lean, Veen has already shown off plus hitting ability and plus raw power, with much more to come as he fills out his projectable 6-foot-4 frame. The left-handed hitter has a pretty swing with plus bat speed and can create leverage and loft when he stands more upright, drawing some Cody Bellinger comps along the way.
A good athlete who is a solid average runner, Veen has played center field in the past and the Rockies certainly could let him play up the middle until he shows he can’t. He has the arm, and the future offensive profile, to look very good in right field should he slow down enough to necessitate the move.
The above evaluation give Veen a 60 (plus) hit tool with 55s everywhere else except a 50 run grade.
In their pre-draft rankings, Fangraphs ranked Veen 5th overall and slotted him 80th overall in their 2020 updated rankings:
Prototype outfield prospect with a build like Yelich/Maybin and the power projection to match, plus he has relatively stable bat-to-ball skills
Of the high school hitters in this draft with big, projectable, athletic frames, Veen has the best present feel to hit. His in-the-box actions are quiet and smooth up until the moment he decides to unleash hell on the baseball. He can clear his hips and crush balls in and he can also extends his arms and crush pitches away from him to the opposite field gap.
It’s a little less bite-sized, but Bernie Pleskoff’s write-up of Veen at Forbes is also worth a read.
I’m seeing multiple Yelich and Bellinger comparisons — so we’re talking about a future MVP, right? Rockies fans can dream, though the reality is that Veen was largely unknown before enjoying a meteoric rise up draft boards and has yet to play a professional game. With that said, fans who see the Rockies organization in a state of disarray can cling to that MVP-type potential that the outfielder represents as a beacon of hope down the road. Veen was a clear number one for me on my ballot as a 55 FV player and I look forward to him spraying home runs to all fields at Coors.