The Rockies have had a rough spring training so far, losing Brendan Rodgers, Lucas Gilbreath and Sean Bouchard to injuries. The last one, in particular, throws a wrench into the Rockies’ outfield plans. However, even before that, there wasn’t a clear-cut answer as to who would play in the Rockies’ outfield in 2023. Below is my best guess as to who will play where.
Coming into the season, it looked like it would be Randal Grichuk, Charlie Blackmon and Kris Bryant in the outfield. Yonathan Daza and Sean Bouchard appeared to be on the outside looking in. However, Grichuk had surgery for a sports hernia during the offseason, which will likely delay the start of his season. Bouchard ruptured his left biceps, which could end his season before it even starts, and Charlie Blackmon strained his back during the first inning of Friday’s game. That leaves us with Bryant and Daza as the currently healthy outfield starters.
As I mentioned, Bryant and Daza are the only healthy outfield starters right now. However, with Bouchard likely out for the season, Grichuk out for the start (and who knows how much longer) and an aging Charlie Blackmon (who is also injured for the foreseeable future, and maybe better suited for the DH position), there are some other options that need to be explored for the time being.
The likely first option is Michael Toglia (No. 13 PuRP), who was drafted as a first baseman in the first round of the 2019 draft from UCLA. He made his MLB debut last season and went .216/.275/.378 in 32 games with the Rockies. He played 15 of those games (13 starting) at first base, and 17 in right field. Despite his up-and-down rookie season, Toglia seems better-suited for first base, but the switch-hitter is certainly an option as a fourth or fifth outfielder.
While Toglia is the likely fourth outfielder, there are a few youngsters knocking on the door right behind him.
Brenton Doyle (No. 17 PuRP) seems the likely first option. The 24-year-old from Shepherd University profiles similarly to Sam Hilliard — he’s both gigantic and athletic, but also appears to be a bit of a Three True Outcome player. In 123 games with the Double-A Hartford Yard Goats, Doyle hit .246/.287/.450, and upon his promotion to Triple-A Albuquerque for just nine games, he hit .389/.463/.778 with six extra-base hits. So far in spring training, he has hit .269/.345/.308 in 26 at-bats. He has struck out 11 times and walked three times, but has also stolen three bases.
Nolan Jones is another potential option. The 24-year-old outfielder was acquired from the Cleveland Guardians in the offseason where he played both right field and DH. He also has the advantage of being a left-handed hitter, which the Rockies desperately need. However, as Skyler Timmins noted in his third base profile, Jones is a natural third baseman. He needs to find some rhythm and groove in his bat while cutting down his strikeouts before he is seriously considered for a role on the MLB team.
Finally, perhaps the most enticing option is Zac Veen (No. 2 PuRP). The 21-year-old has broken out over the last year and doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. In spring training, he has hit .300/.344/.467 in 30 at-bats with seven stolen bases. In 2022, Veen split his time between High-A Spokane and Double-A Hartford. He also had a stint in the Arizona Fall League. He tore through High-A, hence the promotion and Futures Game appearance, and did struggle in Double-A a bit. But his .333 average ranked him second on the Salt River Rafters, and he nearly doubled his next competition with 16 stolen bases. (Masyn Winn had 9.) There have been many attempts to describe Veen’s eagerness on the bases, but The Athletic’s Zach Buchanan takes the cake, in my opinion.
Veen will likely start the year repeating Double-A, but if the Rockies are struggling, it’s quite possible that he might make his MLB debut before his 22nd birthday.
On the Farm
The Rockies farm system has a number of outfielders:
- Triple-A: Bret Boswell, Jimmy Herron, Cole Tucker
- Double-A: Niko Decolati, Casey Golden, Jameson Hannah, Daniel Montano, Zac Veen (No. 2 PuRP)
- High-A: Cuba Bess, Robby Martin Jr., Benny Montgomery (No. 5 PuRP), Bladimir Restituyo, Yorvis Torrealba, Braiden Ward
- Low-A: EJ Andrews Jr., Jordan Beck (No. 9 PuRP), Yanquiel Fernandez (No. 12 PuRP), Zach Kokoska, Sterlin Thompson (No. 14 PuRP)
As mentioned, the Rockies do have a number of outfielders. However, many of them are around High-A and Double-A. Brenton Doyle would likely get the call-up before Zac Veen, but perhaps the Rockies would turn to Cole tucker due to his “veteran status” or even Bret Boswell.
The Rockies have a lot of outfield options. One might even say they have too many (and they will likely play the vets). My guess is they’ll play Blackmon, Grichuk and Bryant once they’re all healthy (currently just Bryant). Beyond that — will they go with the “veteran” Yonathan Daza, or will they go with a youth movement of Brenton Doyle and/or Zac Veen?
Tune in to find out!