When it comes to evaluating Colton Welker’s scorching hot spring training so far, I find myself continuously trying to contain my excitement. The sample size is small, he seldom faces an opponent’s best pitchers, and spring training success doesn’t often translate to the regular season. But after an offseason full of disappointment, frustration, and projections at the bottom of the standings, the bar is low for Rockies enthusiasm. Welker spending the early part of spring training tearing the cover off the ball has cleared that threshold and it hasn’t been particularly close.
To this point, Welker is hitting .438 (7-for-16) with a 1.283 OPS, 8 RBI, and hits in seven of his nine games. Perhaps the most enjoyable moment to watch was this three-run shot against the Padres yesterday:
Reservation under @ColtonWelker24 , party of 3!— AT&T SportsNet™ | RM (@ATTSportsNetRM) March 10, 2021
Welker's 3-run HR gives the @Rockies the lead as we head to the 7th. See if the Rox can hold on NOW on AT&T SportsNet!#Rockies pic.twitter.com/kYYMSGFovl
One month ago during our prospect ranking series, Welker rounded out the top five coming in two spots lower than his number three ranking from before the 2020 season. Even though the Rockies’ farm system tends to land towards the bottom of league-wide rankings, the fact that Welker has spent the last two years in the team’s top five means his performance this spring isn’t entirely out of nowhere. Regardless, a prospect of Welker’s level isn’t usually putting up numbers like this, spring training or not, and he’s done enough to warrant some consideration for making the big league roster on Opening Day.
Even with the departure of Nolan Arenado, there always appears to be a logjam in the Rockies infield and it’s tough to see exactly where Colton Welker could find his way into the lineup. The 23-year-old spent his high school career playing shortstop but was quickly converted to a third baseman after the Rockies drafted him in 2016. Trevor Story won’t be giving up his spot in the lineup anytime soon — assuming he stays healthy and a member of the Rockies — and third base appears to belong to Ryan McMahon for the time being. On the right side of the infield, Brendan Rodgers should finally get a chance to play every day while covering second base, and the laundry list of options at first doesn’t include Welker’s name.
Unfortunately, it looks like there aren’t enough slots on the field to find a place for Welker and the organization is likely going to put him in the minors to further his development. But, if he continues to put up numbers that would make Mike Trout jealous, the Rockies are going to have to find a way to squeeze him in. Whether or not he begins the season with the big league club, I’m buying Colton Welker’s performance this spring and look forward to seeing him more in the future.
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There may have been some uncertainty about whether or not Austin Gomber would make his way into the Rockies rotation after coming over from St. Louis in the Arenado trade, but three appearances into spring training and that doubt is all but gone. Gomber built on an already solid spring by throwing three shutout innings to go along with five strikeouts as the Rockies took down the Padres 7-5 on Wednesday.
While Gomber was a sensation, Phillip Diehl and Carlos Estévez found themselves on the opposite end of the spectrum. Diehl gave up three hits and three runs in one inning of work, while Estévez gave up two hits and two runs in an inning of his own. Neither pitcher has been particularly strong in their previous outings, bringing back frightful memories of last year’s bullpen struggles.
Fortunately, a big four-run sixth inning for the Rockies powered by a Colton Welker three-run jack (see above) was the difference.
Colton Welker isn’t the only Rockie thriving at the plate this spring. Look no further than the guy “blocking” Welker from securing a spot in the Rockies starting nine, Ryan McMahon. The 2013 second-round pick struggled last season, batting .215 with 66 strikeouts while mostly playing second base. Now, as the team’s third baseman, McMahon is showing off the power and patience that has alluded him in the past.
After launching a 439-foot home run to center field on Tuesday against the Diamondbacks, McMahon tacked on another home run on Wednesday that travelled... 439 feet as well. While filling Arenado’s shoes is all but impossible, McMahon living up to his potential once the regular season gets going could go a long way towards healing some of the wounds left by Nolan’s departure.
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