It’s no secret that the Colorado Rockies are not having a particularly fun season so far in 2023. Despite taking two of three from the Cleveland Guardians, the Rockies only just won their first series of the season... in their eighth set of the year. Germán Márquez left his first start back from the IL with another potential injury, and the team’s record sits at 8-18. We all knew that this season was unlikely to be a winning, or even competitive one, but I don’t think any of us expected things to be this bad this early.
The salve that soothes the sting of a lost season is often a team getting younger and giving their prospects and rookies a chance to play. You let the fans see the young guns and know there is hope for the future. the Rockies have not been doing that. The Rockies are the fourth oldest team on average in Major League Baseball. While Ezequiel Tovar has been the every day shortstop and Brian Serven gets the occasional start behind the dish so that Elias Díaz can rest, the Rockies have mostly gotten older. They signed multiple veteran free agents this offseason to middling results and José Ureña was retained on a one year deal. Rookie third baseman Elehuris Montero was benched for poor defense and demoted to Triple-A Albuquerque. The Nolan Jones call-up debacle happened. What else could we do but beg for the team to let the kids play?
Could it be possible the Rockies heard our pleading cries? It’s not perfect, but the youth movement in the Mile High City has more momentum now than it did at the beginning of the year.
Now first I must assign credit where it’s due. The Rockies have legitimately done a good job sticking to their promise of giving top prospect Ezequiel Tovar playing time. Tovar—just 21 years old—has started 23 of the 26 games played by the Rockies this season. He’s playing defensively sound baseball at shortstop, but his bat has yet to catch up. In 84 plate appearances he is hitting just .192/.250/.256 and has struck out 27 times. It took him 12 games to draw his first walk. However, the potential is clearly there. Tovar already has 7 RsBI this season and has five doubles. The team has continued to stick with Tovar and has commented that they have no intention of sending him down to Triple-A Albuquerque.
“It takes a while to get your legs under you at the top level,” said director of player development Chris Forbes. “There is an adjustment level and there is no way to mimic what goes on up here, even at Triple-A.”
Another addition to the rookies club in the Rockies clubhouse was right-handed pitcher Noah Davis. Davis was recalled from Triple-A to start with Germán Márquez on the 15-day IL. He pitched five scoreless innings while striking out five batters in his first career start against the Seattle Mariners. Davis made a second gutsy start against the Philadelphia Phillies and was dialed in for the first three innings. Unfortunately an extremely questionable call from home plate umpire Alex Tosi helped guide the fourth inning off the rails and inflated Davis’ pitch count. He finished his day with two runs, one earned over 4 2⁄3 innings.
When it was announced that Germán Márquez was prepared to return from the IL, the concern was that the Rockies would option the rookie Davis back down to Triple-A. Surprisingly the Rockies made the right decision: Davis would stay on the big league roster and they would instead designate the struggling José Ureña for assignment. Letting the high-upside rookie keep getting starts reflects back to what Chris Forbes said about Ezequiel Tovar, and designating Ureña for assignment despite him being on a $3.5 million major contract shows some willingness to move on from a mistake.
At last this brings us to Brenton Doyle, the 24-year old center field prospect who came in at no. 17 for our 2023 PuRPs ranking. When Yonathan Daza took a pitch to the hand during the Phillies series the Rockies made the surprising move of calling up Doyle from Triple-A Albuquerque. I was immediately concerned we’d have a repeat of Nolan Jones on our hands, where Doyle would ride the pine for a few days before being sent back down. Much to my surprise, the Rockies immediately had Doyle penciled in as the starter in center field for the Cleveland series opener. Even better, Doyle started all three games of the series in The Land wearing number nine on his jersey.
Doyle was hitless game one, but drew a walk and played strong center field defense. Then in game two he made his mark. He went 3-for-4, tallied his first major league hit and his first double, drove in a run, and immediately became the Rockies’ stolen base leader with two.
The Rockies have the day off today, so we won’t know if Doyle will continue to start in center field until tomorrow. Yonathan Daza never hit the IL and will return at some point, and Randal Grichuk will likely be ready to be reinstated from the IL fairly soon. When that happens, the Rockies will have a choice on their hands and I hope they make the right one. The youth movement in Colorado is something that will give the fans a reason to tune in and watch losing baseball in 2023 and this team needs to start getting even younger. The days of placeholder veterans needs to end, and the age of the rookie must be ushered in.
★ ★ ★
When Germán Márquez “despairingly” left the mound during the fifth inning in his first game back from the IL, there was immediate alarm. Thankfully, there might be some hope for the beleaguered Rockies ace. MLB.com Rockies beat writer Thomas Harding reports that the injury appears to be in his right tricep instead of his right forearm, and that the team is encouraged by preliminary exams. However, Márquez isn’t out of the woods yet. His body language suggested he was upset and in pain when he left the game yesterday. He will receive an MRI at some point today.
““I was sad, because I want to pitch,” Márquez said. “But it’s hard to pitch, because of the pain.”
Sam Dykstra at MLB.com reports in on the best-hitting prospects for each MLB team right now, and for the Rockies that’s 3B/OF Sterlin Thompson (no. 14 PuRP). Selected out of Florida with the 31st overall pick last year, Thompson is off to a blistering start in High-A Spokane. Through 60 plate appearances he’s hitting .451/.500/.686 with five walks, six doubles, two home runs, 10 RsBI, and four stolen bases. He’s struck out only five times and is riding an 11-game hitting streak. Dykstra believes he will be promoted to Double-A Hartford soon.
★ ★ ★
On the Farm
The Isotopes fell to Round Rock in a tough game that included their second consecutive rain delay. Peter Lambert pitched three innings in his start, giving up three runs (one earned) on three hits and two walks. He struck out four batters. The rest of the damage came from the bullpen with Josh Rogers and Will Gaddis giving up two and three earned runs respectively on four hits each. The Isotopes’ two runs came off the bat of Aaron Schunk via a two-run home run in the seventh inning.
Case Williams somehow pitched five shutout frames despite walking seven batters and striking out only two in his start for the Yard Goats, and Adam McKillican recorded all six of his outs over two innings of relief via the punch-out. Bladimir Restituyo and Hunter Goodman continued their strong 2023 campaigns with 2-for-4 days at the plate, and Grant Lavigne went 1-for-3 with a home run.
Another tough start for the Jaden Hill/Cullen Kafka tandem had the Indians use five additional bullpen arms in their loss to the AquaSox. Hill fanned five but allowed four earned runs in three innings while Kafka gave up three earned runs in two innings. Joel Condreay walked four batters in an inning of work to give up another run in the sixth while Juan Mejia got dinged for an unearned run thanks to a walk, an error, and a wild pitch. Tyler Ahearn, Evan Justice, and Angel Chivilli all had scoreless appearances, with Justice striking out the side in the seventh inning. At the plate, Sterlin Thompson, Zach Kokoska, and Braiden Ward all had multi-hit games, with Thompson going 2-for-4 with a home run and extending his hitting streak to 11 games.
In another excellent start, Blake Adams pitched six scoreless innings while striking out six batters. The lone giants run was given up by Brady Hill in the seventh inning while the rest of the bullpen pitched shutout frames. Braxton Hyde made his fifth straight scoreless appearance while closer Zach Agnos tallied his fifth save as the Grizzlies closer. The bulk of the offense came from shortstop Ryan Ritter, who went 2-for-4 with a double, a home run, and two RsBI.
★ ★ ★
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