During the MLB Winter Meetings, a wide range of MLB personnel speak with the media to answer questions about the season that has ended as well as the one that will begin in February.
Yesterday, Colorado Rockies general manager Bill Schmidt had two availabilities, the first with the MLB Network and the second with Denver sports media. Highlights from these conversations give a sense of the Rockies’ planning as they head into the 2024 season.
Takeaways from the MLB Network interview
The video clip below provides a sense of Schmidt’s current focus.
The Rockies were able to give their younger rookies significant playing time — That’s how the Rockies hoped it would work. “That was the plan, the second half of the year was to give our young kids an opportunity, and we did that in the outfield,” Schmidt said.
He also praised Doyle’s defense. “We’ve never had a center fielder that can do what he does defensively,” Schmidt said, “and if the bat takes the step we think he’s capable of, we think we’ve got a very good player.”
He was equally complimentary of Nolan Jones. “You know how tough left field is in our ballpark, and he showed tremendous athleticism. You’ve got to be very athletic to play in the outfield,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt sees the young Rockies as creating a base for the future — “I like to say our minor league systems are way better than it was a year ago this time,” Schmidt said. “We’re laying the foundation. We’ve got some good, young players coming.”
He is encouraged by the position players coming through the system. “I like our position player group coming. I think there’s a lot of upside, and we’re in the process of building something good,” Schmidt said. For examples, he cited Yanquiel Fernandez, Jordan Beck, Sterlin Thompson, Benny Montgomery, and Adael Amador. As Schmidt put it, “We’ve got some big, physical kids.”
Plus, the Rockies were aggressive in pursuing pitching. Schmidt explained, “We acquired 37 pitchers here in the last 18 months through the draft, through the trades at the trade deadline. You’d like to think some of those numbers, you’re going to hit on a couple of those guys.” He added, “You’re looking for guys who can throw strikes, attack zones, are mentally tough. [Coors Field] is a tough place.”
They’ll continue to build through trades and player development — “We’re never going to be the first choice in the free agent market unless we way overpay, and we’ve been down the free agent market before,” he said, adding, “That didn’t work out real good.”
Still, the Rockies like the young pitchers they’ve acquired. “We feel good about some of the younger arms,” he said, citing the Rockies’ drafting of Chase Dollander as an example.
“We’re going to have to develop, and we’re going to have to acquire through trades,” Schmidt said. “Somebody’s going to have to surprise us.”
The Rockies have become more athletic — “I think we’ve made some major strides with our young players,” Schmidt said. “We had more players playing Winter Ball this year than we’ve had in a long time. Zac Veen, Fernandez, those kids are down in Puerto Rico, Amador, a young middle infielder. Mike Toglia went down and played in Mexico. We’ve got kids in the Dominican playing, so they’re getting better.”
He added, “We like to believe there’s some good things are about to happen for us.”
Kris Bryant will play first — This would be the least-surprising announcement ever. In speaking with Rockies media, Schmidt elaborated a bit:
Though the plan is for Kris Bryant to be the Rockies first baseman in 2024, GM Bill Schmidt and Bud Black feels like Bryant can still play some right field.— Patrick Lyons (@PatrickDLyons) December 4, 2023
"He can run out to the outfield occasionally," Schmidt said.
Schmidt is forward-looking — “We’re trying to build a foundation, and from that, we’ll let the young players dictate what goes on,” he said.
Takeaways from the availability with Denver sports media
Later in the afternoon, Schmidt and manager Bud Black took questions from local Denver sports writers. Some of the highlights follow:
Injury update — In terms of injuries, Schmidt hopes to see Germán Márquez back after the All-Star Break; however, they are less certain whether Antonio Senzatela will be ready to go in September. Both Ryan Feltner and Kris Bryant are “training fine,” and Lucas Gilbreath is expected to return for Spring Training. In addition, Daniel Bard is conditioning and “feels good.” Ryan Rolison continues to rehab his shoulder.
Acquiring pitching — The Rockies have taken a wait-and-see approach with starting pitching given the demands on the current market. “Time will tell because there’s a lot of people looking for pitching,” Schmidt said. The Rockies also look to add bullpen depth, whether through trades, free-agent signings, or waiver claims. Schmidt was clear about one thing: If the Rockies find a pitcher who is a good fit, they are willing to make a trade, using either prospects or veteran players.
Adding more bench players — The Rockies will add a backup catcher. The hope is to improve the team’s bench and to get more offense from the catcher position. As Schmidt explained,
When asked about the offseason focus for improving the roster, GM Bill Schmidt said the Rockies need to find a backup catcher behind Elias Díaz as the young options aren't quite ready.— Patrick Lyons (@PatrickDLyons) December 4, 2023
Also, "We're gonna look to try to help Buddy out here and put together a better bench."
They will probably look to a veteran for this. “Where you’re not playing every day as a young kid, that’s tough,” Schmidt said. “It’s usually more of a veteran guy that knows how to handle that role.”
International scouting — Schmidt said that the Rockies have focused their scouting on Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico rather than on Asia. “We’re aware of those [players in Asia]. We have access to all the information, but most of our resources have been more in Latin America,” Schmidt said.
Improving Doyle’s offense — The Rockies clearly are looking for Doyle to improve offensively and take that next step. “We want him to be a little bit more athletic and use his hands . . . find a rhythm,” Schmidt said, adding, “That’s what he’s working on this offseason.”
Stealing more bases — Schmidt and Black see the Rockies team that finished the 2023 season as “younger and more athletic,” and they anticipate the Rockies doing more on the base paths next season.
Contract extensions — The Rockies have not spoken with Nolan Jones or Ezequiel Tovar about possible contract extensions. “We’re not at that point,” Schmidt said.
Like we’ve been saying, let the kids play!
MLB Draft Lottery
Today at 3:30, MLB will hold its draft lottery, which will determine the first six selections in the 2024 MLB Draft. The Colorado Rockies, Kansas City Royals, and Oakland Athletics each have an 18.3% chance of receiving the #1 draft pick. The MLB Network will air the lottery and provide analysis.
Sometimes, losing 103 games has a consolation prize.
Zac Veen sighting
It’s good to see Zac Veen healthy and getting some work in Puerto Rico.
According to Baseball Reference, Veen has had 15 at-bats in four games. He’s had seven hits, three of them doubles, two stolen bases (no caught-stealings), and struck out three times. Small sample size, sure, but it’s good to see Veen picking up where he left off.
Hey, good vibes only!
As the Rockies continue to prepare for the 2024 season, especially given injuries to their starting rotation, could Peter Lambert be a key? Patrick Saunders explores this question. “Peter is now ready to take on the challenge of being an integral part of our rotation,” manager Bud Black said. “He pitches with grit and heart and has the stuff to be a successful major league pitcher. He now knows what he needs to do.”
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