When it comes to prospects and draft picks, I’ve never been one to put much stock into them. The journey from draft pick to big league debut is an unpredictable path you just may never know exactly what you are getting from the get-go. Yet, over the past few years, I’ve begun to follow one particular prospect that I believe may have a bright future in Colorado, and that player of course is Zac Veen.
Drafted ninth overall in 2020 out of high school, Veen finished up just his second professional season of baseball in 2022 and is currently participating in the Arizona Fall League with the Salt River Rafters. Veen finished up the minor league season with Double-A Hartford and at this pace, it may be possible we see him patrolling the Coors Field at some point in 2023. What is Veen doing that makes him so exciting?
Speed is something that is waning in MLB. Long gone are the days of 60 stolen base seasons, but with the new rules changes coming in 2023, and bigger bases, there may be a bit of remedy to that situation. Veen has shown an incredible ability to swipe bases in the lower levels. In 2021 with the Fresno Grizzlies, he swiped 36 bags, which is no small feat, but in 2022 he kicked things up a notch with the Spokane Indians. In 92 games in High-A, Veen swiped an astonishing 50 bags and added five more during his 34 games in Double-A Hartford.
Stolen bases are not something the Rockies utilize much. The roster has not had much speed over the past several years aside from a player or two and it was a glaring statistic in 2022 when the team had 45 stolen bases as a group. It’s a small thing in the grand scheme of things, but Veen having an ability to swipe bases and generate RBI opportunities for the team is a valuable trait that I can’t wait to witness at the big-league level.
Obviously, as a position player, Veen’s ability to hit and get on base is at the forefront of all analysis. The speed mentioned above is only possible because he has displayed a promising approach at the plate that is well-balanced.
In 2021, Veen batted .301/.399/.501 and swatted 46 extra-base hits, including 15 home runs, and also drove in 75 RBI. That season he also had a 26.3 K% in contrast to a 13.4 BB% and a wRC+ of 135 in 106 games. Not to mention, he did all of that at the age of 19. Fast forward to 2022 and over the course of two levels of minor league ball, he produced fairly similar stats where he had 38 extra-base hits, 12 home runs, 67 RBI, 26.2 K%, and an 11.2 BB%.
His slash line dipped a bit down to a .245/.340/.384, but those numbers were skewed because he did scuffle after the transition to Double-A. In Spokane, he had a .269 AVG and a .806 OPS with the vast majority of his production occurring in High-A. I’ll give the benefit of the doubt to Veen because Hartford is a difficult place to hit, even more so during the end of the season when the competition is at its best and Veen is still younger than a lot of the other players he is facing.
His struggles at Double-A were rooted in the fact he wasn’t hitting the ball in the air. His groundball rate skyrocketed from 45.7% in High-A to 56.1% in Double-A. His line drives also sunk to 15%, down from 23% in High-A. While he still needs to elevate his grounders and continue to lower his strikeouts numbers, he has continued to display a plate approach beyond his years that is well-rounded and consistent. Something the Rockies desperately need.
A bright future
Down in the AFL, entering Saturday Veen continues to shine with a .500/.588/.833 slash line and in the small sample size has four walks to just one strikeout. The hype is real surrounding MLB’s 24th-ranked prospect, and Rockies fans could end up seeing him earlier than we expect.
Unless Veen has an absolutely unreal spring training audition and the Rockies make some openings in the outfield, I expect him to start the 2023 season in Double-A to try and get some consistency there before moving up to Triple-A Albuquerque early in the season. If all goes well there (barring any catastrophic injuries and changes to the big league roster) Veen could see himself donning the purple next summer, likely in August or September.
I haven’t been this excited about a Rockies prospect since Nolan Arenado back in 2013. His skill set, his defensive capabilities, and the overall praise he has received from scouts and MLB Pipeline shows me that he can be a star with the Rockies. Only time will tell how he continues to develop, but the Rockies have a precious gem in their system and will need to do what is necessary so that he can hit the ground running and find success at the big league level.
Until he arrives in Colorado, hair flowing and mustache growing, I’ll continue watching his growth with sweet anticipation and excitement.
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9News features a nice little spotlight on Colorado Rockies usher Pete Sabell, who has been working for the team since 2002. He remarks that he wants to work until he’s 101 in order to break a record as one of the oldest employees to ever work for an MLB team.
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Arizona Fall League
The Salt River Rafters struggled once again as they closed out the first week of the AFL with an 0-6 record. Grant Lavigne was the lone Rockies prospect in the lineup starting at first base. He ended up going 1-for-4 with a strikeout, a couple of ground outs, and a single, bringing his batting average to a cool .462 in the first week. They’ll have an off day tomorrow and get back in action on Monday.
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