In the first installment of the series, we dug into three prominent storylines for Colorado Rockies prospects in the upcoming season. The health and production of Peter Lambert and Ryan Rolison, the durability of Jaden Hill and progression of Brenton Doyle and Benny Montgomery in center field are prominent narratives this season, but not the only ones.
The next three questions we asked pertained to how feasible it may be for top prospect Zac Veen to reach the major league level this season and if catcher Drew Romo and recent first round selection Gabriel Hughes can put themselves on the fast-track this season. In part three, we dove into Karl Kauffmann’s control, Grant Lavigne tapping into his power and the health of Helcris Olivarez.
But those aren’t the only storylines worth following in the Colorado Rockies’ farm system. With that in mind, let’s jump into three more questions pertaining to Colorado’s farm system we’re asking this season:
How well can Jordy Vargas handle his first full season?
It’s still too early to tell, but Jordy Vargas has passed every initial test of a top-of-the-rotation prospect. Signed for out of the Dominican Republic for $500k in 2021, Vargas tossed an impressive 34 ⅔ innings in his debut in the Dominican Summer League. That performance earned him a stateside debut in 2022, starting with the Arizona Complex League where he blew away the competition over seven outings with a 40% strikeout-rate against just a 4% walk-rate.
This convinced the front office to give him a shot against Low-A competition at the end of the season, pitching for the Fresno Grizzlies at the tender age of 18 — nearly four years younger than the average competition. The numbers were again promising as Vargas tallied nearly a strikeout-per-inning and posted a sturdy 3.65 ERA in the hitter-friendly CAL League.
All told, Vargas eclipsed 50 innings in 2022 and is set to take on a bigger workload in Fresno as a 19-year-old in 2023. His introduction to the full-season ranks showed there is some control work that needs to be done, but the most crucial aspect of his development is showing he can hold-up over a full season. If he is able to continue his performance to this point and reach approximately 100 innings, he will likely start gaining serious consideration as a top-100 prospect in national publications.
Can Ryan Ritter carry over his offensive performance from the ACL?
Another Complex League standout from last season was SS Ryan Ritter. Selected in the fourth round of the 2022 draft out of the University of Kentucky, Ritter’s calling-card was his glove with little expectations placed on his offensive tools. Per MLB.com:
Capable of playing anywhere on the diamond, Ritter is a smooth defender with nice actions at shortstop. His quickness gives him plenty of range, and he has soft hands and a good internal clock. He features plus arm strength and makes consistently accurate throws from a variety of angles.
The question is how much Ritter will hit, because he has done little damage with the Wildcats and initially struggled with wood bats in the Cape Cod League. Scouts don’t love his right-handed swing, and he doesn’t make consistent contact against non-fastballs, though he did make adjustments and rallied at the end of his stint on the Cape. Built along the lines of Marcus Semien, he has some strength that could produce at least 15-homer power if he figures things out at the plate, and he’s also a solid runner out of the batter’s box
His defense played as expected over 44 innings in his debut, but what caught most off-guard was prowess at the plate. Over eight games Ritter put together a .320/.414/.680 slash line, resulting in an eye-catching 185 wRC+.
It was a spectacular start for the young SS from Illinois…but still just eight games. Sometimes a short-season performance can be a mirage, leading to over-valuing a prospect. But sometimes it can be a sign of outperforming draft expectations. If Ritter can carry over his performance to the A-Ball ranks this season, it should qualify him as the latter in 2023.
Will Riley Pint fulfill his character arc?
Rockies fans know the name Riley Pint all too well. Selected out of high school with the fourth overall pick in the 2016 draft, Pint was immediately tabbed as a future ace for the Colorado franchise. But injuries and under-performance defined his career over the next five seasons, leading him to actually retire in 2021 before graduating from the A-Ball ranks.
Pint returned in 2022, however, and held down a bullpen role with the Double-A Hartford Yard Goats from the outset, showing the same high-caliber stuff that once made him a renowned prospect. His performance earned him a promotion to Triple-A Albuquerque in August where he threw well in three games and seemed destined to make his major league debut as a September call-up.
A mild, late season injury held Pint back from finally cracking the big leagues, ending his comeback season a step too soon. But the franchise showed faith in his progress, selecting him to the 40-man roster in the offseason, keeping the door open for him to finally make it to the game’s highest level with his original franchise.
That opportunity is enhanced by the state of Colorado’s bullpen. After losing Carlos Estévez to the Los Angeles Angels in free agency, letting Alex Colomé also depart and being without Tyler Kinley to start the season, Colorado’s bullpen has numerous roles to fill. Pint will certainly be in contention for one of those spots through Spring Training. If he can claim a big league role – after all the endeavors he’s endured in his career – will certainly be worth watching in 2023.
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Rockies’ Ezequiel Tovar, mature beyond his years, poised to be Colorado’s next star shortstop | Denver Post
Patrick Saunders provides an excellent background to Colorado’s budding shortstop prospect Ezequiel Tovar. Going back to his roots as a 12-years-old in Venezuela, Saunders provides quotes from manager Bud Black, general manager Bill Schmidt and VP of international Rolando Fernandez on Tovar’s maturation over the years and the lofty potential he possesses.
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