The major league lockout is still baseball’s never-ending story. Regular season games have officially been canceled and now we’re left wondering how long this stalemate will last. I’m certainly tired of it and I bet you are too. So instead of beating that dead horse some more, let’s pick up where we left off last week (part one here) and look at three more prospect questions we have for the Colorado Rockies in 2022.
Just how good can he be when he’s healthy?
Around this time last year, Jaden Hill was in the same conversation as Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker on initial mock draft boards around the country. A filled-out, 6’4” frame that consistently pumps mid-to-high 90s with a plus change and improving slider left many to believe there was a premium front-of-the-rotation prospect primed to emerge from LSU.
By early April, Hill was done for the season with Tommy John surgery.
This drop in stock allowed HIll to fall to the Rockies in the second round of the 2021 draft. The tools are still there, so the dream of Hill becoming that ace prospect is still very much real. But Hill threw just over 50 innings over three years at LSU and will miss at (very) least the start 2022 season while rehabbing from last year’s UCL surgery.
How long it takes for his debut and how much of that flame-throwing profile shows up when he does finally hit the field will be of particular interest for the Rockies organization in 2022.
Can the ends continue to justify the means?
Drafted in the first round of the 2019 draft, many eye Michael Toglia as the first baseman of the future for the Rockies. He is a staple on top-prospect lists, but his rank from one list to the other is more varied than almost any other prospect in the system. This variance stems from the skill-set that Toglia has established in his minor league career so far: big power, not a lot of contact.
His defense is sound, and there are no major red flags on one side of the plate about his switch-hitting capabilities. Where the real questions exist for Toglia is if he can continue to reach base enough to compensate for his low-contact / high-strikeout game.
In 499 PA between High-A Spokane and Double-A Hartford last season, Toglia struck out 142 times (28.5% K%) while drawing 65 walks (13.0% BB%) and hitting 22 bombs. He finished his Spokane stint with a .234 AVG and posted a .217 AVG in 41 games at Hartford but maintained an OBP over .330 at each level.
So far, the pros have outweighed the cons. But the path Toglia is on is hard to maintain. His K% rose three percent from Spokane to Hartford and the dips in his AVG and SLG reflected the increased strikeouts. But that was also his first taste of Double-A, so the benefit of the doubt applies. In the Arizona Fall League, he posted a .264/.343/.407 line with a 11.4% walk-rate and a strikeout-rate just south of 25%. On the surface, the numbers were sound but scouting reports pointed to the swing-and-miss as still being a major concern.
All of this results in mixed reactions for Toglia as a prospect. There will be some doubters that may just fundamentally disagree with his offensive approach, while others may look at the lack of contact being a downfall at the major league level. But if Toglia can continue to provide big power at the plate in 2022 while finding enough balance to keep his on-base totals afloat, then his numbers will speak louder than the scouting reports.
Can he prove last year was for real?
It’s hard to argue any prospects’ stock soared more last season than Ezequiel Tovar’s. The top signing of Colorado’s 2018 international class, Tovar was well-known for his glove-work but his offensive numbers in 2018 and 2019 didn’t move the needle much. Heading into the 2021 season, Tovar didn’t get mentioned in many preseason prospect rankings and came in just no. 28 on our PuRP list.
To say Tovar broke-out is understatement. In 72 games at Low-A Fresno, Tovar posted a .309/.346/.510 with 11 homers and 21 stolen bases in 25 attempts. The defense remained spectacular, holding down the starting shortstop job from other contenders like Julio Carreras, Mateo Gil and Eddy Diaz. The progress with the bat was the real story, however, and it earned Tovar a promotion to High-A Spokane for the final six weeks of the season.
He took a step back against the higher competition, as indicated by his .266 OBP in his 32 games for the Indians. But 2021 was his age 19 season, where he was two years younger than the competition in Fresno and almost four years younger than the average in the High-A Northwest League. That four year gap also applied to the Arizona Fall League, which Tovar got his first taste of to end his 2021 season.
Rockies management clearly became sold on Tovar as the shortstop of the future in 2021. The leap he made offensively from 2019 to 2021 supports that optimism. But there is still a long way to go in his development, and building off last year’s performance is an important step in that process. How he fares in his second taste of pitching above the Low-A level and if he can improve his patience at the plate - after posting a microscopic 3.6% walk-rate in 2021 - will be something to follow when he gets back into game action in 2022.
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Rockies’ Charlie Blackmon after MLB cancels games following failed negotiations: “The fans are hurt the most” | The Denver Post ($)
Patrick Saunders spoke with multiple Rockies players about the recent CBA negotiations and the decision to cancel regular season games.
“The fans are hurt the most and I feel for them,” said Charlie Blackmon, the Rockies’ popular all-star right fielder. “It’s either our fault or the owner’s fault that there is not going to be baseball on opening day.
Scott Oberg - the Rockies players representative - also shared his opinions after taking part in the tedious 16 1⁄2 hours of negotiation on Monday and Tuesday.
“On a lot of the key issues we were further apart than where we would have liked to have been coming into today,” Oberg said. “We certainly put forth our best effort, but from the union’s standpoint, I thought that we stayed committed to our priorities and we showed a lot of strength, not only to the other side but amongst ourselves. That was important for us.”
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