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Ezequiel Tovar was everything and more in 2023

To say the 22-year-old shortstop was outstanding is an understatement

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.

★ ★ ★

No. 3, Ezequiel Tovar: 2.5 rWAR

Ezequiel Tovar skyrocketed through the Colorado Rockies’ minor league system and made his long-awaited MLB debut on September 23, 2022 at just 21-years-old. In only nine games in 2022, the Venezuelan shortstop slashed .212/.257/.333 with one double, one home run, two RBI, two walks and nine strikeouts.

The homer came in the final game of the 2022 season off infamous Los Angeles Dodgers’ lefty Clayton Kershaw — not too shabby for a first bomb!

The overall line wasn’t the absolute best, but it was a serviceable snapshot that showed Tovar was capable of holding his own in the big leagues.

Fast forward to 2023, and Tovar became the youngest Opening Day starter for the Rockies at any position in franchise history at 21 years and 240 days old.

He was a year younger than Troy Tulowitzki was when making the Opening Day roster in 2007, the previous-youngest Opening Day shortstop for the Rockies. Tovar started the season being compared to Tulo, and the comparisons would not stop there. He also spent much of the season drawing comparisons to soon-to-be Hall-of-Famer Todd Helton.

For example, Tovar played 153 games this season, which are second-most behind Tulowitzki (155 games in 2007). Wildly, he did not even come off the bench until September 12 — his 145th game. That more-than-doubled Trevor Story’s previous record of 69 games.

As far as on-field stats go, Tovar’s 37 doubles were tied with Helton (1998) for the most by a rookie in franchise history. His 56 extra-base hits are the third-most behind, you guessed it, Helton (63) and Tulowitzki (62) and his 73 RBI were the fourth-most by a rookie in franchise history, trailing Tulowitzki (99, 2007), Helton (97, 1998) and Garrett Atkins (98, 2005).

Tovar also posted a .988 fielding percentage at shortstop, which broke Tulo’s record of .987 set in 2007. That was good enough to be named a Rawlings Gold Glove finalist in his rookie year alongside Dansby Swanson (the eventual winner) and Francisco Lindor.

I mean, check out this incredible play:

And this one:

And this one:

In 153 games, Tovar posted a triple slash of .253/.287/.408 with 37 doubles, four triples, 15 homers, 73 RBI, 25 walks, 166 strikeouts, and 11 stolen bases in 16 attempts. He had a 15-game hitting streak from June 13-July 2, which is tied for the fourth-longest streak by a Rockies rookie (Juan Pierre, Sept. 6-21, 2000) and the longest of any Rockie in 2023.

He also posted some interesting home run stats. On August 7 against the Milwaukee Brewers, he became the first shortstop in the modern era to hit a home run as his team’s on time reaching base during a game via a hit, walk or hit-by-pitch:

Five days later at Dodger Stadium, Tovar his a home run on the first pitch, joining Connor Joe (April 25, 2022 at Philadelphia), Dexter Fowler (April 8, 2009 at Arizona) and Eric Young Sr. (April 30, 1996 at LA Dodgers) as the only players in franchise history to hit a homer on the first pitch of a game:

With his 15 homers and 11 stolen bases, he became the second Venezuelan-born rookie in MLB history to log 15+ homers and 10+ stolen bases in his rookie season, joining 2023 MVP Ronald Acuña Jr. (26/16). He also joined Acuña on his 5-for-8 day during the September 16 doubleheader against the San Francisco Giants. He recorded one double, one triple, five RBI and one stolen base across both games, becoming the second Rockie to have at least five hits and five RBI across a doubleheader (EY Sr., July 23, 1996) and the first rookie since Acuña in 2018. At this rate, he really is in the company of greatness both amongst Rockies and across MLB as a whole.

And the best part is that Tovar got better and better throughout the year. At the beginning of the season, he was chasing breaking balls like nobody’s business. By the end of it, he was much more disciplined at the plate. If he keeps up this trajectory, it’s great news for the Rockies.

Oh, and to top everything off, Tovar became a father on June 19. There was definitely some Big Dad Energy happening this season!

That said, the Rockies have a knack for drafting and developing shortstops between Tulowitzki, Story and now Tovar. He showed what he could do last year, and now the youngster has the opportunity to join the succession of shortstops and anchor this team for the foreseeable future.