There will be plenty of story lines in the 2022 baseball season. The biggest remains the lockout and just how much major league baseball we’ll get this year. While we wait for more to come on that front, the start of the minor league season will continue to get more attention.
Following a year off because of the pandemic, there were plenty of questions stacked up in the Colorado Rockies’ farm system that we found answers to in 2021. What can we expect of Riley Pint moving forward? Well, nothing now because he retired. How good is this Zac Veen cat? Finishing just a hair short of .300/.400/.500 line in his first pro season tells us his pretty darn good. Can Ryan Castellani right the ship? Not so much, unfortunately, and now he’ll try his luck with Oakland next season. Will anyone acquired in the Arenado trade be substantial? Elehuris Montero certainly thinks so.
Heading into 2022, we gained some clarity on the state of the Rockies’ system. But there are still plenty of stories to keep an eye on. With that in mind, let’s dig into what we’ll be watching for this year from three Rockies’ prospects:
How successful will his bat be in pro ball?
Like Veen, Benny Montgomery will have plenty of attention paid to him in a Rockies’ system desperate for high-end talent. Taken with the eighth pick in the 2021 draft, Montgomery’s profile beams with elite athleticism but his swing mechanics left many evaluators with concerns on how successful he can be against advanced pitching. Here’s Joe Doyle’s take in his scouting report for Montgomery last season at Lookout Landing:
The hit tool is the sole reason most prognosticators aren’t throwing Montgomery higher on their boards.
As it stands today, from what we’ve seen at showcases across the entire summer, there are concerns as to whether Montgomery will hit enough to reach his lofty ceiling. The swing mechanics put on display this summer were handsy and ‘hitchy’. There was too much drift in his hands as he gets into a loading position.
That mechanism struggled to impact the baseball against premier arms this summer.
The .340/.404/.383 line and 116 wRC+ he posted in 52 plate appearances in the ACL at the end of last season is a good start. The power didn’t show up in game action, but the contact skill was solid and his 9.6% walk-rate against a 17.3% strikeout-rate indicate a healthy approach. But 52 PA is just a glimpse. How he shows over his first full-season in Low-A Fresno will tell us what track Montgomery is on.
Will he make a major improvement in control?
Helcris Olivarez is still firmly planted in the Rockies’ future pitching plans. The stuff is just too good and ace-caliber prospects don’t grow on trees. But after four years in the system, we still have the same questions about him and time is running out to find an answer.
With 68 walks and 10 hit batters, Oliveraz allowed 78 free passes in 99 ⅔ innings in 2021, ballooning his minor league career FIP to 6.44. While his final three appearances were an improvement, the fact remains there has not been enough progress in the control department to this point.
While he is still young at 21-years-old, he will have just one more option year left after the 2022 season. Until the damage he inflicts on his own outings gets reigned in, his spot on the 40-man roster will only become harder to justify.
Can he improve against higher competition?
Brenton Doyle is a favorite for many followers of the Rockies system. Like Montgomery, Doyle displays high-end athleticism which equates to a higher-ceiling than many other players in the system.
After bursting onto the scene with an impressive 51 games in the Pioneer League in 2019, the organization elected to skip Low-A and assigned Doyle to High-A Spokane in 2021. Overall, it was a productive season for him - posting a .279/.336/.454 line with 16 homers and winning a minor league gold glove.
But there were some red flags. Doyle’s .388 BABIP was the second highest mark in all of the Northwest League and his ground-ball rate of 50% and 21.6% infield-fly-ball rate makes it hard to conclude consistent hard-hit contact was the main culprit for the high BABIP. But the biggest concern was his 31.6% strikeout-rate. This figure was a 10% jump from his 2019 figures and his .224 BB/K was the second lowest mark in the league.
A 40-man roster decision will need to be made with Doyle after 2022. How he shows against upper-level pitching this season will be telling on how close Doyle’s ability is to living up to his lofty potential.
These are three players the Rockies have significant investment in. Like any minor leaguer, they are quality ballplayers but still in development. How Montgomery performs in his first full season will certainly shape his outlook as a prospect, but overall does not carry many ramifications over the next few seasons. However, the questions are more pressing for Oliveraz and Doyle. As the 40-man roster spots come into play, the clock starts ticking on converting from prospect to big leaguer. Either way, there are definitely reasons to follow these three closely in 2022.
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Patrick Saunders fields questions from Rockies fans in his weekly mailbag. Saunders tackles the unlikely possibility of Monfort putting the franchise up for sale, the impasses in CBA negotiations and if the short window players have to sign with a club once the lockout is lifted could benefit the Rockies. Lastly, Saunders gives his thoughts on who could fill the team’s DH role if the position is implemented in the National League.
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