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Strikeouts continue to plague Michael Toglia at the big league level

Despite favorable success in the minors, Toglia has yet to translate it to the Major League level

Welcome to the 2023 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2023. The purpose of this list is to provide a snapshot of the player in context. The “Ranking” is an organizing principle that’s drawn from Baseball Reference’s WAR (rWAR). It’s not something the staff debated. We’ll begin with the player with the lowest rWAR and end up with the player with the highest.

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No. 56, Michael Toglia: -1.5 rWAR

The Colorado Rockies have to figure out where Michael Toglia fits on the team going forward. After an incredible rise through the system in 2022, Toglia spent the majority of the 2023 season in Triple-A with the Albuquerque Isotopes and playing just 45 games with the big league club. Despite the potential that Toglia possesses to be a stalwart contributor to the Rockies lineup, his struggles are limiting his ability to progress.

Toglia had two stints with the Rockies this season. After beginning the season in Triple-A, Toglia earned a call-up in the middle of May for 10 days. He started seven of the games during that stretch but struggled to a .174/.240/.217 slash with nine strikeouts. He was sent down after May 25 and wouldn’t return to the majors until July 15.

From July 15 to August 30, Toglia started 31 of the 35 games played and batted .161/.221/.297 with 19 hits in 118 at-bats including four home runs and four doubles. He also struck out a total of 41 times while drawing just eight walks. In his 45 total games played this season, Toglia batted .163/.224/.284 with four home runs, nine RBI, 50 strikeouts and 10 walks, resulting in the Rockies sending him back to Triple-A at the end of August to finish out the season with Albuquerque.

Toglia’s time in Albuquerque tells a much more promising story of what he can accomplish. He played 78 games with the Isotopes, batting .256/.368/.474 with 16 home runs, 64 RBI, 82 strikeouts, and 53 walks. Those numbers would be exactly what the doctor ordered for the Rockies, but Toglia was unable to translate that season success over to the big league club.

Clearly, strikeouts continue to be a problem for Toglia against Major League pitching. In his brief 76-game career, Toglia has a 34.6% strikeout rate, which is 12 points higher than the MLB average. He has 94 career strikeouts to just 19 walks, and in 2023 he saw his Whiff rate rise to 38.8%. The main culprit at the big league level for Toglia has been breaking balls and offspeed pitches. Against breaking pitches, Toglia has a .089 AVG and a 54.4% Whiff rate, while offspeed pitches aren’t far behind. Toglia has proven better at hitting fastballs, but when other teams know this, he isn’t getting anything to hit which leads to a higher chase rate.

When Toglia did manage to make contact, he continued to show off his strength with a hard-hit rate of over 40%. Unfortunately, it still resulted in a 39.6% ground ball rate, .218 BABIP, .121 ISO, and a 21 wRC+.

On the defensive end of things, Toglia expanded himself to playing both corner outfield positions in addition to first base. In 2023, Toglia posted a -2 DRS between nearly 200 innings at first and 138 in the outfield. That positional versatility helps his case going forward, especially with the transition of Kris Bryant to first base. Toglia’s defense is one of his best traits, but he’s waiting on the bat to catch up.

It’s tough to say where Toglia fits in with the Rockies going forward. As a homegrown first-round pick, the Rockies are likely to put more consideration into his development, but will he be in contention for the starting job in right field next season, or is he destined for a bench role entering his age-25 season?

The point that remains constant is that Toglia has to bring the plate approach he has had in the minors to the majors if he hopes to draw more walks and take advantage of the power that he has in his bat. He’ll have an offseason to make adjustments — perhaps he could even consider abandoning switch-hitting. If he can’t conquer his struggles, then he may find himself pushed off the roster in favor of other prospects.

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