On Wednesday morning the Colorado Rockies released right-handed pitcher Connor “Socks” Seabold to clear a spot on their previously full 40-man roster. The message was clear: the Rockies would be participating in this year’s Rule 5 draft.
The gem of the Winter Meetings, the Major League phase of the Rule 5 draft allows organizations with space on their 40-man roster to take unprotected players from another club for a relatively small fee. The tradeoff is that said player must be placed on the Opening Day 26-man roster and cannot be removed without being subjected to waivers.
There is also a minor league phase, in which unprotected players below Triple-A can be selected without the caveat of the Major League phase.
Prior to this year’s Rule 5 draft, the Rockies chose to protect four players: Adael Amador, Yanquiel Fernandez, Juan Mejia, and Angel Chivilli. Everyone else was free game for the rest of the league.
The Rockies had five players—all pitchers—claimed from them during the minor league phase with four going in the first round and one in the second. The biggest name taken was right-handed reliever Fineas Del Bonta Smith to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Del Bonta Smith was a 22nd round pick by the Rockies in 2019 and holds a career ERA of 3.88 after four seasons and 188 innings while striking out 219 batters. He definitely struggled with the jump to Double-A Hartford in 2023 with a 5.40 ERA in 35 outings, but still has potential to be a big league reliever.
The Rockies also lost Dominican Summer League RHP Nelvis Ochoa to the Baltimore Orioles, High-A RHP Gabriel Barbosa to the New York Yankees, and Double-A RHP Nick Garcia to the San Francisco Giants. Garcia is notable for being the return in the trade that sent Connor Joe to the Pirates last season.
In the second round, the Rockies had Arizona Complex League right-handed pitcher Alan Perdomo to the New York Mets.
The Rockies made two selections in the minor league phase of the draft. In the first round they selected right-handed pitcher Brendan Hardy from the New York Mets. Hardy is a strikeout-first reliever that made it all the way to Double-A last season and has drawn mechanical comparisons to Freddy Peralta and former Rockies arm Adam Ottavino. In the second round they selected right-handed reliever Thomas Ponticelli from the Cleveland Guardians. Ponticelli is 26-years-old and was playing in Triple-A last season. He’s shown an ability to eat innings out of the bullpen and has solid strikeout stuff, but also has a penchant to issue walks.
The highlight of the Rule 5 draft for the Rockies was their selection in the Major League phase. One of just ten teams that made a selection during that phase, the Rockies picked right-handed pitcher Anthony Molina from the Tampa Bay Rays.
Unranked in the Rays system, Anthony Molina is now the Rockies no. 22 organizational prospect. The 21-year-old from San Joaquin, Venezuela was originally signed by the Rays for $240,000 in the 2018 international draft class and has climbed his way to Triple-A in four minor league seasons while working as both a starter and reliever.
Rockies director of scouting Sterling Monfort explained the decision to Thomas Harding:
“They [the Rays] have always been very highly regarded with pitching and getting the right arms,” said Monfort. “It’s something to definitely look at because of their track history. [Rockies scout] Jack Gillis kind of comped this guy to Germán Márquez at the same age. [Molina] was actually two levels higher than when we traded for Márquez. The numbers were about the same as Márquez — he was not a huge strikeout guy until he got to us and developed the offspeed and fastball. Not saying they’re going to be the same guy, but we’re hoping.”
While Molina did slightly outpace Márquez in terms of development time in the minors, he only played one fewer full minor league season than the Rockies ace. It’s also worth noting that Márquez came up in a very different minor league landscape before contraction after 2020.
The two are also very different pitchers right now. When Márquez was in Triple-A he had a plus fastball with improving velocity to pair with his plus curveball, as well as a solid changeup and other developing breaking pitches.
Molina has a good changeup. It’s probably his best pitch with solid bite that can be deployed at any time and works especially well against left-handed batters. His fastball is just okay but he’s added velocity to it over the years, averaging 94 MPH and topping out at around 97 MPH. His developing slider hasn’t really taken shape yet and he doesn’t really have other breaking pitches established at this time.
A more accurate comparison might be to Rockies starting pitcher Antonio Senzatela. He pounds the zone with good control and an easily repeatable delivery. He has experience starting and has the potential to be a mid-to-back end starter in the rotation. He’s also young enough that he can still continue to develop his slider or other breaking pitches. Monfort also noted an appealing lack of an injury history.
Molina will likely start his Rockies career out of the bullpen, but the team hopes he can continue to develop his slider and eventually become a contributing member of the rotation.
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In this excerpt from Thomas Harding’s newsletter, Rockies legend Todd Helton praises the young hitting talent developing in the organization’s farm system. Helton has been working with the team as a special assistant to the general manager.
“When I tell you they’ve got good players coming, they do. I’m not just saying that to appease anybody. The Double-A team — I don’t know if they’re going to win or not because of pitching and I don’t deal with pitchers — they’ve got some guys that are special. There’s a different sound in [their bats].”
Despite protecting just four players from the Rule 5 draft, the Rockies were lucky in that they did not lose a single unprotected, ranked prospect. Other teams weren’t so lucky, such as the Miami Marlins losing no. 16 prospect Nasim Nuñez.
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