Earlier this week, Justin Wick took a look at what the Colorado Rockies have in reserve for bullpen arms if a call-up is to be made. The bullpen has been an atrocity, especially lately, so seeking an answer to the question of “What else we got? ‘Cause this ain’t working” is pertinent.
That got me thinking about the other side of the ball. We’ve already seen Alan Trejo, Connor Joe and Matt Adams receive the call to the big leagues this season, so what other reinforcements do we have laying around in the minors? In any season, injuries and underperformance are bound to occur throughout the campaign and this season the Rockies are more of a clear “seller” than ever, so spots could open in the not too distant future because of departure as well.
Brendan Rodgers just got called up, so let’s take him out of the equation. Colton Welker also misses the cut following his recent suspension. Outside of those two, there are not many clear performers waiting in the wings.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at what options the Rockies do have down on the farm when the time comes for a call-up:
The Rockies only have two catchers on the 40-man roster. Considering that catcher is the most physically demanding position with a high risk of injury occurring in any given game, the question of either Dom Nuñez or Elias Diaz going down is not a matter of “if” but rather “when”.
The options behind the current duo are scarce. Until the annual Drew Butera acquisition, Brian Severn seems to be the only choice. His hitting is not great but, relative to José Briceño and Chris Rabago, Severn is the best option for a third catcher. In a pinch as a backup catcher with low expectations for the bat and competent defense behind the plate he’s...fine.
Now that C.J. Cron, Connor Joe and Matt Adams have all received big league time, all that is missing from making the orchestra complete is Bird.
He has received full playing time at first base so far for the Isotopes but hasn’t posted the gaudy number needed to force the issue for a call-up. In a dozen games, he’s walking at a 10% clip and has peripheral power numbers in line with Eric Stamets. That’s a bad thing.
Maybe Adams continues to do nothing in a pinch hitting role off the bench and the organization gives Bird a chance regardless of his Triple-A output. He’s part of the “throw it at the wall and see what sticks” strategy with Adams, Cron and Joe so that is working in his favor. But if the pop in his bat doesn’t show up, his time in the Colorado organization could be unproductive and brief.
Ryan Vilade’s time is coming, and given the circumstances surrounding his situation it may be sooner than we thought.
Vilade has performed well at every stop so far in his minor league career, but has not been so impressive that he is gaining top 100 prospect traction. So far in Albuquerque, his contact skill has shown well as he is tied for the team lead in hits and, with a nearly proportionate BB/K ratio of .778% his approach has been solid as well. But the power has been slow to develop, as represented by just three extra-base hits and a .063 ISO so far.
He has only played in the corner outfield so far this season, so it’s clear that the Rockies are showing his path to the big leagues. That’s not a bad position for him to be in, considering his competition for a call-up. However, Vilade is skipping Double-A entirely this season, is still only 22 years-old (almost five years younger than the average Triple-A position player age) and has still yet to translate his raw power tools into in-game production consistently at the minor league level.
Oh boy, 2021 has not been a good year so far for Sam Hilliard.
After a rough 20 game stretch at the big leagues to start the season, Hilliard was sent down to Triple-A to get back on track. Unfortunately, so far it’s been much of the same for Hilliard in Albuquerque.
The real concern with Hilliard is the lack of contact. Of his six knocks on the season, four have been good for extra-bases. But over 41 at-bats, Hilliard has a 26% strikeout rate and a ground-ball to fly-ball ratio of 1.00. For a power threat, whiffing over a quarter of the time while putting the ball on the ground as much as in the air when you do hit it between the white lines is not exactly a recipe for success.
Following his 2019 debut, there were high hopes for Sam Hilliard. Since then he has just not been the same player. At this point, it may be best for Hilliard to spend the rest of the season in Triple-A trying to rediscover his old form.
Montero, already a member of the 40-man roster, is making an interesting case with his strong start to the season. After being acquired from St. Louis in the offseason, Montero was viewed as a bit of a lottery ticket. His bat has always been a strength, however the plate discipline and defense were big question marks.
His first taste of Double-A ball in 2019 did not go well. However, his time in Hartford so far this season has been much more successful. His .875 OPS and .226 ISO show his propensity for punishing Double-A pitching thus far. But what’s more impressive is his walk rate of 17% on the season, a hefty jump from his career numbers prior to this season and a good indicator at Montero’s progression as a hitter and potential impact major league player.
Montero, like Vilade, is just 22-years-old so there is no rush to get him to the big leagues. However, if the power in his bat persists, the plate discipline and approach continue to improve and his defense at the corner infield spots finds stability, he may force the issue for the Rockies.
Bret Boswell 2B/OF
Another member of the 40-man roster. Boswell was assigned to Hartford but has yet to play this season.
Ian Desmond OF
I know. I KNOW. Look, there’s no reason to yell. You’re over it, I’m over it. But, technically he is still a member of the Colorado Rockies and could elect to opt back in.
Eric Stamets SS and Jose Gomez 2B
Neither has hit at all, but after Rodgers and Trejo, this is the remaining middle infield depth. Let’s hope it doesn’t get to this point.
Nick Longhi OF
A minor league free agent, Longhi has been the best Isotopes hitter so far this season. If ever there’s a season to give a minor league vet a shot at the big leagues, this could be it.
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After suffering a left shoulder strain in spring training that collectively scared the heck out of the Rockies organization and fans, Kyle Freeland appears to be ready to return. Thomas Harding interviews the Rockies hurler to discuss his second rehab outing in Albuquerque and how prepared Freeland is, mentally and physically, to return. Harding also touches on injury updates regarding Carlos Estévez, Brendan Rodgers and Alan Trejo.
Kyle Newman of The Denver Post sits down to discuss the Rockies ace right-hander. Although Márquez has struggled this season, Black and the rest of the team still have confidence when he takes the ball.
“For us, we still feel good every time he takes the mound, thinking that he’s going to throw a good game,” Black said.
On the farm:
The Albuquerque Isotopes fell to the Oklahoma City Dodgers 13-3 at home. Ryan Castellani struggled again in his third start of the season, giving up five runs and five walks in four innings pitched. Castellani now has 12 walks in 14 innings pithed this season. Sam Hilliard’s lone hit was his third home run of the season.
In Hartford, Karl Kauffman’s Double-A did not go well. The Yard Goats lost 14-3 to the Somerset Patriots. The team committed three errors which led to four unearned runs on the day. Kauffman was touched for seven runs, five earned, on nine hits in five innings pitched.
The Spokane Indians lost a close matchup to the Everett Aqua Sox 8-6. Michael Toglia hit his sixth home run of the season while Brenton Doyle collected a hit as well. Doyle has now recorded at least one hit in nine of his last eleven games. On the mound, Helcris Oliveras walked five in four innings and allowed two unearned runs. Riley Pint also threw an inning, surrendering his first runs of the season on a Jack Larsen two-run home run.
The Fresno Grizzlies notched their 11th win of the season, clobbering the San Jose Giants 10-0. The Grizzlies knocked Giants pitching around for 14 hits. Ezequiel Tovar continued his outstanding play, coming a home run short of the cycle while Drew Romo popped his first professional home run. Breiling Eusebio threw six strong shutout innings in the start and Dugan Darnell once again outclassed the competition, striking out three in two perfect innings in relief. Dugan now has 12 strikeouts, four hits, zero walks and zero runs allowed in nine innings over five games.
★ ★ ★
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