Following an MLB-wide trend over the past decade, the Rockies are stealing fewer and fewer bases year after year. Due to home run rates being up (among other things) the stolen base is not the offensive contribution it once was. Which, from a solely entertainment based perspective, is too bad. The steal is one of the most exciting and highlight-worthy plays in baseball.
In 2021, the baseball powers that be, recognizing that they had a potential way to bring more excitement back into the game, experimented with some theft-encouraging rules in the lower minors.
The affected Rockies affiliates took advantage. With Low-A pitchers limited to two pickoff attempts per at-bat, Eddy Diaz, Zac Veen, and Bladimir Restituyo ran wild on the basepaths. They finished in the top-10 for steals across all Low-A leagues, with 48 (fourth), 36 (seventh), and 31 (eighth) steals, respectively. The Grizzlies led the California League in steals with 221. Here’s Veen stealing home for Fresno. While watching this, it seems a good time to remind everyone that Veen’s supposed 50-grade speed is his only grade below 55.
Bottom of the 3rd - @veen_zac steals HOME to put the Grizzlies up 2-0 pic.twitter.com/dc45eBfWSl— Fresno Grizzlies (@FresnoGrizzlies) May 17, 2021
In High-A, a similar story. Pitchers had to fully step off the rubber before making a pickoff, for at least part of the year. Jack Blomgren (30 steals, 4th in High-A), Niko Decolati (26, 12th), and Hunter Stovall (25, 13th) led the team, and the supporting cast chipped in to put Spokane second in steals in the Northwest League.
The pickoff limit has now spread to all full season minor leagues. And the Rockies farm is still taking advantage.
Rockies Affiliate Stolen Bases, 2022
|Team||Level||SB||League Rank/Total (League)||CS||SB%|
|Team||Level||SB||League Rank/Total (League)||CS||SB%|
|Fresno Grizzlies||A||100||2/8 (CAL)||24||80.65%|
|Spokane Indians||A+||89||1/6 (NWL)||27||76.72%|
|Hartford Yard Goats||AA||99||2/12 (EAS)||15||86.84%|
|Albequerque Isotopes||AAA||49||8/10 (PCL)||10||83.05%|
|Colorado Rockies||MLB||13||15/15 (NL)||12||52.00%|
Low-A has been a team effort. Warming Bernabel is the only Grizzly in the top-30 for steals in all of Low-A, but the Grizzlies are still second in the California League.
For High-A in Spokane, Zac Veen and Eddy Diaz have picked up where they left off last year. Veen has 24 steals (against just one caught stealing), while Diaz has 20 steals (eight caught stealings), putting both in the top-10 across High-A leagues. It’s worth noting that Veen’s 96% success rate is incredible, but it’s actually quite close to the norm. Of that top-30, 12 players have success rates above 90%, with five players (including the two league leaders) having yet to be caught.
Hartford has also seen last year’s success in Spokane move up the pipeline. Isaac Collins (18 SB, 11th), Ezequiel Tovar (16 SB, 19th), and Brenton Doyle (13 SB, 30th) are all top-30 across AA leagues.
Albuquerque and Denver? A completely different story. The Rockies are currently last in the NL in steals, with second to last (the Padres) still having almost double their count. And unfortunately, it’s not for lack of trying - the team is tied for fourth in the league in caught stealings, and it doesn’t take a math major to figure out that their success rate of 52% is by far the worst in the NL. With Garrett Hampson not getting significant playing time, the Rockies do not have a traditional speedster, and it shows - Connor Joe currently leads the team with three steals, putting him tied for 94th league wide.
It remains to be seen whether this a change in organizational approach, teams taking advantage of the new rules, or simply the lower levels happening to have multiple quick players at the same time. Whichever it is, when these players do make it to the bigs, fans better not blink.
★ ★ ★
Baseball phenom Jackson Holliday honors his father, Matt, on and off the diamond | The Denver Post ($)
Fernando Tatís Jr., Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette…. Jackson Holliday? Recently the game has been dominated by young stars with notable bloodlines, and Matt Holliday’s son looks to be the next in line. The high school senior is projected to go top 5 in the upcoming draft, and is just one of many prospects with family ties to the game. The younger Holliday will have big shoes to fill, but has shown the pedigree thus far, recently breaking the high school national record for base hits in a season. The Rockies are not shy about liking players that have previous ties to the organization, and with them holding the 10th pick, a reunion may be in order.
★ ★ ★
On the Farm
Triple-A: Albuquerque Isotopes 11, Salt Lake Bees 5
This game was called in the seventh inning due to weather, with the Isotopes well ahead and on their wat to their seventh straight win and series sweep of the Bees (LAA). Sam Hilliard had a two RBI double and Ryan Vilade (no. 8 PuRP) scored three runs. This week, the Isotopes will go back on the road, kicking off a series against the Las Vegas Aviators (OAK) on Tuesday.
Double-A: Akron RubberDucks 4, Hartford Yard Goats 3
The Yard Goats dropped the finale to the RubberDucks (CLE) yesterday, losing a rare series. Akron jumped all over starter Nick Bush over the first three innings, scoring all four of their eventual runs. The Yard Goats chipped away at the deficit but were ultimately unable to close the gab. Aforementioned speedsters Niko Decolati and Isaac Collins each scored a run, with the latter also picking up his 19th swipe of the year. Michael Toglia (no. 7 PuRP) had three walks on the day and Ezequiel Tovar (no. 6 PuRP) had a pinch-hit single. Next up for the Yard Goats is a matchup with the Somerset Patriots (NYY).
High-A: Spokane Indians 3, Hillsboro Hops 2
Drew Romo (no. 3 PuRP) was the hero Sunday night for Spokane, as he hit a go-ahead homer in the eighth to put the Indians ahead for good. Eddy Diaz (no. 30 PuRP) and Zac Veen (no. 1 PuRP) each had hits of their own, with the former also contributing a run, walk, and stolen base and the latter an RBI. Spokane now travels north of the border for an international road trip starting Tuesday against the Vancouver Canadians (TOR).
Single-A: San Jose Giants 9, Fresno Grizzlies 6
The Grizzlies pitching couldn’t contain the Giants Sunday, allowing nine runs on 11 hits and six walks. Their offense was true to form, stealing three bases on the day as a team, including this double steal by Warming Bernabel (no. 18 PuRP) and Adael Amador (no. 17 PuRP).
T1 | Grizzlies claw ahead 1-0 after a double steal (Bernabel, 2nd and Amador, home)!— Fresno Grizzlies (@FresnoGrizzlies) June 19, 2022
How can you tell when @TheRealParkerB is new to town?
He asks for directions so he can get his bearings! ⚾️ #RaisetheBear pic.twitter.com/lrtXqXmeOi
Hunter Goodman (no. 27 PuRP) also added his 18th home run of the year. Tuesday, the Grizzlies will play against the Modesto Nuts (SEA).
★ ★ ★
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