The 2021 season saw notable progress in the Colorado Rockies farm system, especially in the lower levels. Elehuris Montero, Zac Veen and Ezequiel Tovar all produced incredible seasons and solidified their places in the organization’s future plans. Others - such as Michael Toglia, Chris McMahon, Ryan Vilade and Sean Bouchard - maintained the upward trajectory on their development. Meanwhile, players like Ryan Feltner, Willie MacIver and Dugan Darnell performed well-above expectations, quickly progressed through the system and put themselves on the radar moving forward.
Whether a prospect carries lofty expectations or not, their performance on the field is the true testament to their progress. After watching numerous successful risers in 2021, who should we be keeping an eye on in 2022?
Here’s one player from each full-season affiliate that I think fits the bill next season:
Triple-A: 2B/SS Coco Montes
Selected out of South Florida University in the 15th round of the 2018 draft, Coco Montes may not have the ceiling prospect watchers tend to gravitate towards, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t found success so far in his career. Montes - who was awarded MVP of the Pioneer league in 2018 - held his own in Double-A Hartford in 2021, posting a .764 OPS in 116 games. He did experience a modest jump in his strikeout rate, however he also increased his walk rate from his 2019 campaign while providing more pop from his previous full-season totals.
Like Alan Trejo last season, Montes’ may not move the needle much as a potential impact big-leaguer. But Colorado’s middle-infield prospect pool is thin in the upper levels and - like Trejo did in 2021 - Montes could stand out if he performs well in Triple-A next season.
Double-A: LHP Nick Bush
Coming out of perennial SEC powerhouse Louisiana State University, Nick Bush was the first Tigers’ player selected when the Rockies called his name in the 8th round of the 2018 draft. Bush has improved each season in the Colorado system and finished 2021 at Double-A Hartford after posting a stellar 2.58 ERA across 52 ⅓ innings at High-A Spokane to begin the year. He took some lumps after the promotion, however he also showed flashes of success in that time, too.
Bush’s pitching arsenal relies more on deception and command than power, but pitchers like Kyle Freeland and Austin Gomber have shown that can be enough to succeed in Colorado. The organization’s starting pitching depth is thin and Bush may rise quickly in that group if he can find success in his first full-season in the upper-minors.
High-A: LHP Joe Rock
For a pitcher that has just eight innings pitched in the Arizona Complex League so far in his professional career, High-A Spokane may be an aggressive assignment for lefty Joe Rock. But those eight innings - along with the draft pedigree that made him the 68th overall pick in 2021 - show that Rock’s plus-fastball and wipeout slider has the ability to reach Spokane by the end of 2022.
Rock will turn 22 in July, which will be on-par for the Low-A ranks. But if the low walk-totals and high strikeout-rates Rock put up between college and pro-ball last season continue and pieces of the current High-A rotation from 2021 graduate as expected, there’s a good chance Rock can earn that aggressive assignment by the Rockies player-development department in 2022.
Low-A: 3B Warming Bernabel
The Fresno Grizzlies may be a very fun team to watch again next season, with numerous CPL and DSL players in line for their first full-season action. However, returning third baseman Warming Bernabel is a name that may become commonplace for Rockies fans in 2022.
Bernabel laid waste to the ACL last season, posting a 1.197 OPS in 22 games before earning an end-of-season promotion to Fresno. Still filling in his 6’0 frame, he is set to turn 20 years-old in June and will once again be younger than his competition. His track record in that department so far is promising, and if he can show well over a full season he may join Ezeqiuel Tovar as a projected big-league starter in the infield for the Rockies.
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Alyson Footer, Manny Randhawa, Bill Ladson and Thomas Harding get together to discuss the candidacy of Todd Helton for Cooperstown. After a lengthy discussion of Helton’s resume and the ever-present Coors Field argument, all four conclude that Helton will be voted into the HOF eventually.
MLB negotiations likely to restart soon, but NBA history shows real movement waits | The Athletic ($)
Evan Drellich continues his stellar coverage of the current lockout with a report on an upcoming core economic proposal from the league that will likely be delivered to the Players Association later this month. While details of the proposal are not yet available, Drellich discusses previous labor negotiations in the NBA with a source to help provide context on the current baseball climate. While baseball is experiencing it’s first work stoppage in 30 years, the NBA has had four in that time-frame - the most recent occurring in 2011.
Both sides currently have a frame-of-reference for what they want to achieve and what concessions can be made along the way. Even with that and the start of spring training rapidly approaching in mind, it does not mean a deal should be expected anytime soon.
“Nothing happens until the very last minute,” said a person involved in NBA labor negotiations. “It’s a very primitive mentality that people feel the other side is not going to give its best offer until they are looking down the barrel of what’s ahead.
“The point of (a lockout) generally is to impose economic pressure. And it’s not going to happen in the beginning, because people aren’t feeling it. They’re not getting paid. The season hasn’t started. So if the point of it is to impose the economic pressure, then yeah, in theory, it’s not going to really be effective until you get to the end.”
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