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Three Rockies position player prospects in make-or-break mode in 2024

Colorado Rockies news and links for Monday, October 30, 2023

The 2023 World Series is looking like it may be a classic, especially since both the Arizona Diamondbacks and Texas Rangers went the distance in their respective Championship Series – each winning in seven games. The end of the season is showing why baseball is great, so enjoy it while it lasts.

The Colorado Rockies are long-gone from the equation, but there’s still plenty to come for the organization once the offseason kicks-off after the Fall Classic. The franchise’s plans still largely rest on the shoulders of their farm system, with management pinning their hopes of returning to competitiveness on the development of their prospects.

There has been progress on that front. However, there are some paths that are not going according to plan. Last week, we looked at three pitching prospects that are in critical need of proving their value in 2024. This week, let’s take a look at three hitters that will have to do the same next season.

Zac Veen

Arguably no Rockies prospect’s stock has fallen more than Veen’s in the last year. After an impressive first-stint in pro ball in 2021 with Low-A Fresno, Veen continued his upward trajectory in 2022 as the Northwest League MVP with an .806 OPS, 33 XBH and 50 SB as a member of High-A Spokane.

This performance earned Zac a promotion to Double-A, but his initial taste with Hartford was a disappointing .177/.262/.234 line in 34 games. He finished the year with a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League, earning Offensive Player of the Year honors and looked primed to break through in 2023.

That did not come to pass, however. Veen struggled against Double-A pitching again with a .612 OPS in 46 games before undergoing season-ending surgery to repair his left wrist.

The lingering injury could certainly explain Veen’s struggles. But the fact remains that the former first round selection still has much to prove at the Double-A level in order to take the next jump in his development. Once viewed as the future centerpiece of the organization, Veen is now facing a critical year in proving not only his health but also his ability with bat in order to keep his moniker as possibly Colorado’s next star player.

Michael Toglia

While Veen is trying to get back on track to reach the majors, Michael Toglia is trying to find how to stay in the big leagues.

Toglia’s development took a big step forward during the second-half of the 2022 season while at Double-A Hartford. Those adjustments led the organization to bump him up to Triple-A, where he mashed to the tune of a 178 wRC+ in 75 plate appearances. This performance earned him his first taste of the majors in 2022 with a 31 game cup of coffee. Presumably, Toglia was in-line to build off that experience and spend more time on the active roster in 2023, but his numbers were more lackluster than the season before.

So far, Toglia owns .187/.246/.325 slash-line in 272 MLB plate appearances with a 34.6% strikeout-rate. He has little left to prove in the minors, but is running out of time to show he can succeed at the next level. On top of that, there is considerable competition on the roster for a limited number of at-bats with Sean Bouchard, Hunter Goodman and Elehuris Montero all filling a similar role. With that in mind, Toglia is going to need to perform well in possibly a limited opportunity to stick on the roster in 2024.

Warming Bernabel

One of the biggest risers of 2022 was 3B Warming Bernabel. With an .869 OPS and 40 extra-base hits between the A-Ball levels, Bernabel was understandably moved up to Double-A Hartford in 2023.

Like Veen, the results were not impressive as he finished with a .225/.270/.338 line and 66 wRC+ in 322 plate appearance while also missing a month of the season due to a back injury. This was an extension of a disappointing performance in the Arizona Fall League to end the year before, where he had a .340 OPS in 58 PA.

While the injury certainly did not help Bernabel, he never seemed to catch fire at any point of the season and still faces major questions regarding his defensive development. He was almost three years younger than the average-age of the Eastern League, so some of this is natural bumps and bruises for a prospect.

However, Bernabel’s situation is a little more unique due to his spot on the 40-man roster. After getting added to the roster last offseason, Colorado has now already burned through one of his option years. His performance between the AZFL and Double-A suggest that Bernabel is further away from the majors than initially expected, and if he turns in another season like last year in 2024 then Colorado may have to make a decision about his spot on the 40-man roster and possibly future in the organization.

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Rockies Journal: Numbers paint ugly picture of state of franchise | The Denver Post

Patrick Saunders dives into the numbers to surmise Colorado’s miserable 103-loss season. Specifically, Saunders highlights the club’s ERA, blown saves, contact percentage, slash-line, total strikeouts and road win-percentage.

How can the Rockies replicate the Rangers’ success? Locked On host Brice Paterick joins the show | DNVR

Suzie Hunter is joined by Lock-On Rockies host Brice Paterick to discuss how the Texas Rangers transformed from a 100-loss franchise to three wins away from their first World Series championship and what the Rockies could learn from their process.

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Pebble Report: Arizona Fall League

The Salt River Rafters went 3-2 last week and sit 12-11 on the season — a half-game out of second place in the AZFL standings. Benny Montgomery had another strong week offensively with a home run, four walks and three stolen bases. He tied Sterlin Thompson with five hits in the week. Thompson had a fine week himself with a .385/.400/.462 slash line in 13 AB. On the mound, Case Williams delivered another three scoreless innings — the third time he has kept the opposition off the board in four starts. Alec Barger and Juan Mejia each tossed multiple scoreless out of the bullpen but Jaden Hill was less fortunate as he was touched for three runs.

2023 AFL Hitters (Season to Date)

Benny Montgomery 26/78 3 14 27 10
Sterlin Thompson 27/80 0 18 24 7
Drew Romo 9/39 0 8 9 1

2023 AFL Pitchers (Season to Date)

Alec Barger 8/0 9.1 2/1 2 13
Jaden Hill 11/0 11.1 6/4 4 13
Chris McMahon 5/1 8.2 10/0 4 8
Juan Mejia 8/0 8.1 3/2 9 16
Case Williams 6/6 17 6/6 9 16

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