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Tovar Time has arrived at long last

Colorado Rockies news and links for Thursday, September 22nd, 2022

For months now fans of the Colorado Rockies have been tantalized with idea of “Tovar Time:” the day in which the organization’s no. 2 prospect and no. 28 MLB-wide prospect Ezequiel Tovar would be called up for his major league debut. There was clamoring for his call-up before the All-Star Break, only to have those hopes denied by a nagging groin injury as fans ticked off the days on the calendar waiting for Tovar Time to come.

Rockies fans don’t have to wait anymore. Ezequiel Tovar (no. 1 PuRP) is getting the call today for this afternoon’s series finale against the San Francisco Giants. Venezuelan baseball writer Daniel Álvarez-Montes of El Extrabase was the first to break the story yesterday, and it was later confirmed by the Rockies and members of the Colorado media such as Patrick Saunders.

Having Ezequiel Tovar finally on the precipice of his major league debut is where most people think the story begins. However, I think it’s important to explore all the minutes that have ticked by before the clock finally struck Tovar Time.

Tovar was just 16 when the Rockies signed him out of Venezuela as part of the 2017 international class, but the Rockies would push him up the ranks with relative quickness. His first three seasons of professional baseball—from the Dominican Summer League up through Short-A—didn’t carry much in terms of elite offensive numbers. He was solid, but Tovar was a very young man growing into his six foot frame. Through his first two years he only had 20 total extra base hits, just two of which were home runs. He only hit over .260 with the DSL Rockies. Where Tovar stood out early was on defense. In 2020 called Tovar the best defensive player in the Rockies’ system.

“Tovar made his United States debut in 2019 and took his glove with him. His hands, range and arm all point to playing a plus shortstop for a very long time.”

“He knows where he’s supposed to be. He reads hops. He does all the things you’re hoping a 24- or a 25-year-old figures out,” said Rockies scout Ty Coslow. “He’s 19 and plays the game like he’s 30. He’s really comfortable out there.”

Much like current Rockies catching prospect Drew Romo when he was drafted, Tovar’s defense was already extremely advanced while his bat had potential but needed work.

Ezequiel Tovar 2018-2021

2018 16 DSL Rockies 35 158 130 29 34 4 4 0 12 16 22 33 .262 .369 .354
2019 17 RK Grand Junction Rockies 18 86 72 12 19 2 2 0 3 4 10 17 .264 .357 .347
2019 17 Short-A Boise Hawks 55 243 217 22 54 4 2 2 13 13 16 52 .249 .304 .313
2020 18 MiLB season cancelled due to COVID-19
2021 19 Low-A Fresno Grizzlies 72 326 298 60 92 21 3 11 54 21 14 38 .309 .346 .510
2021 19 High-A Spokane Indians 32 143 134 19 32 9 0 4 18 3 3 19 .239 .266 .396
2021 19 AFL Salt River Rafters 25 96 87 10 14 2 0 3 10 2 5 20 .161 .219 .287

Tovar joined the Rockies at their complex in Arizona for fall instructs at the end of 2019 and 2020’s minor league spring training only to end up stranded in the United States due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He would be stuck in Arizona for 18 months unable to return home to Venezuela.

“I used that time being away from my family as motivation to get better as a baseball player,” Tovar told Rockies Magazine writer Jack Etkin.

“The maturity is something we always wait on,” said Assistant Director of Player Development Chris Forbes. “You can’t ever speed it up. This is something where he had to tighten his belt and be extremely mature about. It was a circumstance well beyond his control. And, personally, I think he made the best of it.”

Tovar spent his time in Arizona doing strength and conditioning training to add power to his bat while also working on his bat control, in addition to his frame filling out more. He showed up to 2020 fall instructs looking and playing stronger. He took his increased bat skills to the Low-A Fresno Grizzlies, where he began his 2021 season.

Over 72 games in Fresno Tovar became a team leader in most offensive categories, even after he was promoted up to High-A. At the end of the season Tovar still had the Grizzlies’ second best batting average and OPS. He was in the team’s top five for runs, hits, doubles, triples, stolen bases, and RsBI. His 11 home runs were second most on the team and his slugging percentage was the top mark.

Tovar was promoted to the High-A Spokane Indians in August of 2021, where he would struggle to adjust to the higher level of play at the plate. Over 32 games his slash—especially his on-base percentage—took a noticeable dip and he struck out more often. He did, however, hit four home runs. Tovar joined the Arizona Fall League with the Salt River Rafters where he dazzled defensively but continued his struggle at the plate. He hit just .161 with 20 strikeouts over 96 plate appearances but did hit three more home runs.

The key for Tovar’s bat was to adjust to the higher level of play with the goal of being a big league player.

“Obviously a goal is playing in the big leagues,” Tovar told Etkin. “So playing on a big league field and hitting a home run made me feel more comfortable and made me think I can do it.”

The Rockies invited Tovar to their major league spring training for 2022, where he caused jaws to drop. In ten games and 20 at-bats, Tovar slashed an astonishing .550/.550/1.100 against big league caliber pitchers. He drove in seven RsBI, hit three home runs, and only struck out once. His OPS for the spring was an obscene 1.650, leading all spring hitters with more than five at-bats. The Rockies were also missing a shortstop with the departure of Trevor Story... Was it Tovar Time already?

The Rockies, however, decided not to rush things. Tovar was assigned to the Double-A Hartford Yard Goats to start the season with the expectation of being either in Triple-A or on the MLB roster by the end of the season. At just 20 years old he was the youngest player on both the team and in the Eastern League, and he played out of his mind. Slashing ,318/.386/.546 in 66 games, Tovar still leads the team in OPS despite not having played there since June.

Tovar was named to the All-Star Futures Game, but a nagging groin injury kept him from appearing and kept him out of action until just last week. On September 15th Tovar made his debut with the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes after a lenghty rehab. In five games with the Isotopes Tovar has slashed .333/.391/.476 while only striking out twice in 21 at-bats. The Rockies had seen enough. Tovar was healthy, and with their starting shortstop José Iglesias on the IL, another losing season cemented, and many other rookies getting playing time, it was now the perfect opportunity for their top prospect to get major league reps.

After a long and honestly tough to watch season of Rockies baseball, and a minor league career of ups and downs for Ezequiel Tovar, there is now one more thing for Rockies fans to be excited about. At long last, it'sTovar Time.

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Colorado Rockies injury updates: Kris Bryant, José Iglesias | Rox Pile

Noah Yingling at Rox Pile has the latest on injured Rockies players Kris Bryant and José Iglesias. Bryant has been running drills and taking batting practice, but there is no timetable for his return. He has been out since July with plantar fasciitis. Iglesias has been on the IL with a sore hand and has resumed fielding activities. Skipper Bud Black expects him to play again before the end of the season but did not have an expected timeframe.

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On The Farm

Triple-A: Sugar Land Space Cowboys 4, Albuquerque Isotopes 3

The Albuquerque Isotopes are the last Rockies affiliate still playing baseball this season. Starting pitcher Zach Neal had a solid start for the Isotopes yesterday, going five innings while giving up two earned runs on five hits and a walk. He struck out four batters. Neal allowed a two-run home run in the third inning. Matt Dennis was shackled with the loss after giving up two earned runs on three hits—including a home run—over his two relief innings. Will Gaddis pitched a scoreless eighth inning. On offense, Brenton Doyle continues to hit the ball well after his promotion from Double-A. He had a 2-for-4 day at the plate and hit a solo home run in the second inning. DJ Peterson also hit a solo home run that inning. Ezequiel Tovar went 2-for-4 in his final game before being promoted to MLB, while Jimmy Herron went 2-for-4 to continue a strong September. Herron is hitting .357/.429/.690 with three home runs in 14 games this month.

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