After a strong audition in spring training, the Colorado Rockies’ top prospect Zac Veen has gotten off to a rough, and frankly outright weird, start to the 2023 season down in Double-A Hartford. Expectations are high as both the Rockies and fans eagerly wait for his arrival at the big league as soon as this season. So, let’s take a quick look at Veen and how his season is going, and how May is showing some early positives.
The Veen Theory
Double-A has proven to be Veen’s Mount Everest of sorts. In a small sample size of 34 games in 2022, Veen struggled to a .177/.262/.234 batting line. He struggled with strikeouts and drawing walks which seemed to be the first real stumbling block for the young outfielder. He received a confidence boost in the Arizona Fall League and during the offseason, managed to bulk up by at least 20 pounds in the hopes that the skinny bean pole could continue to grow into his frame and bring some power.
Personally, I have the suspicion that the influx of mass altered the mindset approach by Veen heading into the 2023 season in Hartford. Veen has high expectations for himself and I theorize that in an effort to rapidly progress his own promotions, he put his offensive approach and numbers in a strange funk.
In April, Veen batted .160/.276/.260, going 8-for-50 with two extra-base hits in 13 games. The bottom line is that is not good at all and what’s odd is the stats surrounding that slash line. When someone has a slash line that low, you’d naturally think they are probably striking out a lot and taking non-competitive at-bats. That’s actually quite the opposite for Veen. Last month, Veen drew eight walks compared to 13 strikeouts which for all intents and purposes isn’t a bad ratio. He also stole six bases when he did get aboard. Sure, he could stand to draw some more walks, but Veen is an aggressive hitter, ergo, therein lies the culprit to his first-month woes.
Veen makes contact, that much is for certain, but his types of contact have been in question. Thus far this season, he is hitting ground balls at a 44.9% clip which falls in line with his career averages. As for fly balls, he is hitting them at a 35% clip, the highest it has been since 2021. The smoking gun, however, is the fact that Veen is popping the ball up on the infield 29.4% of the time. Nearing the end of April, that number was as high as 33%.
That’s where my theory of Veen’s approach comes from. With the added muscle with the hopes of hitting for more power, he became over-aggressive, dropping the bat plane and getting underneath the ball. He was also likely chasing after bad first pitches, resulting in weak contact that resulted in a BABIP under .200 in April. Veen has the energy of an excited border collie and opposing pitchers are exploiting the holes and weaknesses in his swing.
Around April 22, Veen was placed on a restricted list and ultimately placed on the injured list with a wrist injury. A wrist injury could also have been nagging him and resulting in the results we saw in April, but luckily, the rest has seemed to do the young man some good.
It’s Gonna Be May
Since returning from the injured list on May 4, Veen has come out of the gate strong. In five games this month, Veen is batting .474/.524/.789 with five extra-base hits (four doubles, one triple), and 10 RBI including a six RBI game on May 6.
In that span, Veen has now raised his BABIP to a solid .292 while lowering the infield popups and increasing his line drives. While his isolated power was below average in April, he has raised that to a .169 ISO on the season which is considered above average according to FanGraphs showing improvement with his extra-base abilities. Stolen bases are still going strong, while walks and strikeouts continue to be stable.
So, it feels that after a rough April, Zac Veen could be turning a new leaf and finally working towards conquering Double-A. The main thing for him is to not try and rush his own development and try to become something he’s not. The power will eventually come, but Veen must focus on simply making solid contact, finding the gaps, and utilizing his speed to its full extent.
There is still an expectation that Veen could make his debut in Colorado this season, but he must first prove he can solve the riddle of being a Yard Goat and show that he can be a consistent producer from game to game. Though it’s a small sample size, May could be the month that Veen turns a corner for the best.
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Speaking of young players with a rough April. Ezequiel Tovar had a rough start to the season, but might also be turning a new leaf in May. A culprit for those struggles was pressing at the plate, and not letting himself have the freedom to move defensively, but since the start of the month, he has been making huge strides and improving each game.
Bud Black was teammates with Vida Blue back in the day and took a moment to remember him earlier this week following Blue’s passing on Sunday.
“He was great, I loved ‘True,’ Black continued. “I called him Vida, but a lot of guys on the Royals called him ‘True,’ as is ‘True Blue.’ ”
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On the Farm
Phillips Valdez turned in his longest outing of the year, giving up one run in 6 2⁄3 innings. Brian Serven bashed two home runs in his first game back in Albuquerque, Jimmy Herron hit his fourth, and Nolan Jones hit his 10th of the season.
Thanks to an incredible six-run top of the ninth, the Yard Goats were able to take down the Rumble Ponies. Zac Veen went 2-for-4 while Hunter Goodman drove in five and went 2-for-5 with a home run and a double.
Gabriel Hughes dominated with six shutout innings, allowing just one hit and striking out eight. Jordan Beck hit his eighth home run while Zach Kokoska hit his fourth, and in total Spokane tallied nine hits.
Caleb Franzen started on the mound and turned in a solid outing, allowing three runs on six hits in six innings of work. Luis Mendez led the way offensively, driving in three runs as part of his three-hit night.
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