The 2022 draft has come and gone. The Colorado Rockies announced earlier this week that they have signed all their players from the draft, including an undrafted free agent. However, we all know that there are still plenty of players out there that weren’t drafted who are looking for a new place to play or are looking to continue to play the game with the hope that someone will take notice of them.
Just north of Denver is a team full of players looking for just that kind of opportunity. The Northern Colorado Owlz are currently in their inaugural season in the independent Pioneer League, which became independent in 2021 after the league was victim to Major League Baseball’s contraction of the minors at the end of 2020. When I’m not writing for Purple Row here, I’m currently an employee with the Owlz and have a front-row seat to a number of players who are full of potential and trying to find an affiliated gig. Today, I wanted to take a quick look at a few players that I wouldn’t mind seeing join the Rockies organization.
Alex Jackson- OF
Sure, the Rockies have plenty of outfielders already, but it never hurts to add more if needed and Alex Jackson is an electric player on the field. A product out of Wichita State University, Jackson entered the indy ball circuit in 2021 in the Pecos League with the Colorado Springs Snow Sox where he batted .412/.523/.701 in 41 games and led the team in runs (80), hits (73), doubles (16), triples (4), and walks (41).
The 24-year-old left-handed outfield joined the Owlz in 2022 and has cemented himself as one of the staples at the top of the lineup. In 53 games this season, Jackson is batting .304/.390/.477 with 65 hits, including 10 doubles, three triples, and a team-leading seven home runs. His 33 RBI and 15 stolen bases are both second-most on the team as well. Jackson is a speedy bat that can pack a decent punch, but he truly excels at putting the ball in play. He has 19 multi-hit games on the season, including a five-hit night against the Rocky Mountain Vibes, while drawing 25 walks.
What’s even more exciting is that he plays a solid left field defensively. His instincts with the glove are golden, featuring an incredible ability to read a ball off the bat and chase it down to make a spectacular catch. His arm is also nothing to scoff at if you’re an opposing runner. An organization could definitely help Jackson unlock that power potential in his bat, and his overall tool set would be valuable to any team looking for more outfield depth. For a Rockies comp, he feels a lot like a 2019 David Dahl, minus the injuries.
Brandon Crosby- 2B/SS
Next up on our lists is the Owlz second baseman, Brandon Crosby. He may be a bit older than most prospects at 25, but Crosby still has plenty of talent to spare. Hailing from Virginia, he finished out his college career at Warner Southern down in Flordia where he had a .282 AVG with 21 extra-base hits. It’s that success after some struggles in previous college seasons that have kept him pursuing that professional career.
After joining the Owlz a little bit after the season began, Crosby has also become a staple in the lineup. Originally slated as the shortstop, he as seemed to become better suited as a second baseman. It seems that his arm has been better suited for that position, but his glove work at either middle infield spot has been superb. His speed enables him to range over quite easily and get to balls quickly, thus balancing out the concerns about his arm. Many times I have seen him make a fantastic sliding stop to then pop up and throw a runner out at first.
What’s quite encouraging about Crosby as well is that he has a solid approach at the plate. Through 40 games this season, Crosby is batting .312/.384./487 with 14 doubles, two triples, three home runs, and 27 RBI. He is more prone to strike out than walk, but you’ll take that when he is putting the ball in play more often than not. Plus he brings some speed to the table which played a big part in helping him hit for the first cycle in NoCo Owlz history earlier this week. There is some promise that deserves a look and a player comp I can see with Crosby is something close to a mix between D.J. LeMahieu and Jose Iglesias.
Preston Snavely- RHP
There are plenty of other position players I could highlight, like Kevin Higgins and Tim Bouchard, but I wanted to show some love for one of the many Owlz pitchers that have been grinding this season. Pitching in the PBL is difficult and it’s easy to write off any number of hurlers. However, Preston Snavely has been one of the better Owlz pitchers this season whenever he takes the mound.
A local kid from Fort Collins, Snavely spent his college career at Wichita State. He ended up with a 5.52 ERA across 202 1⁄3 innings during his five college seasons, but he showed off his true potential in 2020 when he posted a 2.95 ERA in 21 innings across four starts, while also striking out 28 batters to just eight walks. Snavely has been showing off that workhorse grinder personality on the mound for the Owlz. Through nine starts this season, he has a 4.95 ERA in 43 2⁄3 innings of work with 37 strikeouts and 14 walks.
Snavely fits the Rockies mold of a guy who isn’t necessarily a power pitcher, but more of a finesse pitcher with devastating breaking balls and an ability to pitch to contact. Sure, he is able to get the punchouts when he needs to with a 7.63 K/9, but he also is able to induce weak contact to get the fly balls and grounders to help navigate a lineup. It also doesn’t hurt that he is still only 24 years old and the connection of being a local kid seems to be a helpful aspect the Rockies can look for. For a player comp, he really feels like Chad Kuhl this season when he is on point.
You never know
There is plenty of talent all across the country and you never know where you might strike gold. Independent baseball is full of guys that are eager to prove themselves to any organization. We’ve seen the Rockies dip into that well with guys like Tim Melville and many others. We’ve seen them give a second chance to guys like Daniel Bard. At the end of the day, it may serve the Rockies well to head up north and check out what’s brewing in Northern Colorado.
If you’re interested in keeping up with the Owlz, you can find stats, tickets, info, and links to watch/follow the games on their website.
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In case you missed it, the Rockies announced on Saturday that they have signed Daniel Bard to a two-year extension. Bard was a hot commodity across the league for the trade deadline, but the Rockies made it clear they intended to hold on to their closer and got a deal done. Evan Lang’s got the details about Bard and the deal in the link above.
It’s that time of year when the Denver Broncos are back in action with training camp. An interesting connection for the Rockies however is that former catcher Charles Johnson has a son that is currently with the Broncos as an undrafted free agent. This article catches up with Brandon Johnson and how he thought baseball was boring growing up, but it also focuses on the skills and traits that he learned from his father to help him as a wide receiver.
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On The Farm
Despite having Walter White in attendance and the largest crowd in MiLB this season, the Isotopes (donning their Green Chili Burger identity), were stung for 17 hits during their loss on Saturday. Brandon Gold started on the hill and lasted just three innings, allowing five runs on seven hits, including three home runs. Later on, Nick Kennedy gave up four runs in the sixth, to put the game out of reach ultimately for the offense. Bret Boswell led the charge offensively with four hits, including a home run, while Jimmy Herron also hit a homer and drove in three during his two-hit night.
Needing just two more runs in the bottom of the 10th to take home the victory, Hartford was able to put up four runs after Aaron Schunk launched a three-run dinger, his 10th of the year, to send the Yard Goats faithful home happy. Noah Davis started on the mound for Hartford, allowing two earned runs over six innings while tallying 10 strikeouts. Riley Pint and Stephen Jones combined to throw three scoreless innings in a tie game before Jared Biddy coughed up two runs in the extra frame, but did manage to record the win. Hartford cranked 10 hits on the night, including Michael Toglia’s 20th homer of the year and Kyle Datres’s eighth. Grant Lavigne also recorded a multi-hit night to raise up to a .333 AVG on the season.
Spokane’s four-game winning streak came to an end after mustering just three hits in their shutout against Tri-City. Colin Simpson had two of Spokane’s three hits while Julio Carreras has the only other hit for the team as they struck out nine times and drew just one walk. Mike Ruff tossed just two innings and allowed two runs on two hits while struggling with his command after he issued four walks. Anderson Pilar turned in a stellar relief outing, going 3 1⁄3 scoreless and allowing just four hits. Rounding out the pitching was Boby Johnson who’s only blemish in 2 2⁄3 innings was a single hit that was a solo home run, but he did strikeout out four as well.
The Grizzlies also headed to extra innings tonight but were less successful after giving up two runs in the bottom of the 10th to give the Modesto Nuts a walk-off victory. Despite a three-hit night from Juan Guerrero and a three RBI night for Braxton Fulford, Fresno couldn’t contain Modesto when they needed. McCade Brown started the game and allowed five runs on 10 hits in five innings of work while striking out seven. The bullpen kept things close and Fresno scored the go ahead run in the top of the 10th, but Angel Chivilli was struck for two runs on two hits in just 1⁄3 of an inning to take the loss.
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