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Colorado Rockies prospect rankings, mid-season 2023: numbers 2 and 1

Who made it out on top?

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In the process of Purple Row Prospects (PuRPs) voting, there were two names that stood above the rest: Colorado’s 2020 first rounder, outfielder Zac Veen, and the breakout player of the minor league system this year, Dominican shortstop Adael Amador. Ultimately, Amador took 12 of the 22 first place votes to earn the number one PuRP designation. So who are these top two prospects? Read on!

2. Zac Veen (620 points, 22 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: 2 — High Ballot 1 (7), Mode Ballot 1, 2

How did he enter the organization?

2020 1st Round, Spruce Creek HS (FL)

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

If Veen can get healthy, manage the swing-and-miss in his profile, and convert more of his raw power into game power, he’s going to be both a fantasy and real-life star when (not if) he makes it to the Show. The 21-year-old lefty-swinging, righty-throwing corner outfielder was the ninth-overall pick in the 2020 draft and was widely thought of as the top high school player in the draft. Scouts are particularly excited about Veen’s projectable frame and advanced hitting approach. The 6’4” Floridian signed for a slightly above-slot value $5 million and has been a mainstay on top 100 lists since.

After a 2022 season that saw Veen go from High-A to Double-A with a trip to the Futures Game in the middle and an Arizona Fall League appearance to end the season, Veen had fewer trips to make in 2023. He was assigned to repeat at Double-A Hartford, where Veen was 2.8 years younger than league average. Though Veen may have harbored ambitions of forcing his way onto the big league team with a big 2023, his health (and upper minors pitching) had other ideas.

Veen had been playing through the second half of 2022 with a left wrist injury (specifically, an issue with his ECU tendon), which no doubt had a deleterious effect on his 2022 stat-line in Hartford (.496 OPS, 42 wRC+). It likely didn’t help Veen in a repeat campaign in Hartford this year, as he hit .209/.304/.308 with just two homers in 201 PA (71 wRC+). In late June, Veen had surgery to repair the wrist injury, which effectively ended his 2023 campaign as Veen won’t resume baseball activities until December.

In the article discussing the surgery linked above, Veen’s agent Jason Romano said the injury caused Veen to lose “all kind of ability to stay through the ball, because the top hand just gives out and gets weak.” The doctor who performed the surgery told Romano that Veen had “severe fraying in tendons, and there’s potential he could rupture it any day if he keeps swinging. It was bad, one of the worst she’s seen.” While that’s not great to hear, it sounds like the surgery may allow Veen to once again tap into the raw power that was a foundational piece of him as a player.

I could write all about Veen’s splits this year and how he struggled, but frankly I think the wrist injury really colors every hitting number. In the other parts of his game, Veen could still move well on the base paths (22/24) and spent most of his time defensively in right field (but some time at left and center too), committing one error with three outfield assists in 45 games.

Here are some of Veen’s 2022 highlights, and below is some video of him at the Futures Game and the AFL, including slo-mo of the swing at the end:

What do the scouts say?

Veen was dropped to 98th overall by as a 55 Future Value player, fifth in the system:

Though he’s reached the upper levels, there’s still a lot of projection in the tall, lanky left-handed hitter. He’s shown the ability to hit the ball hard to all fields, and when he’s on time, there’s plenty of juice. There should be more over-the-fence power as he adds strength to his 6-foot-4 frame. He’s shown a solid approach, with an ability to draw walks, and his strikeout rate actually went down a tick in 2022 despite the fact he got out of his approach in Double-A, struggling especially against breaking stuff.

Veen generally is thought to have above-average speed, though he did record some plus sprint times in the AFL. Combine that with excellent instincts and a passion for baserunning and he’s become a legitimate threat to steal. He’s improved his defense and looks very much like the prototypical athletic right fielder, one who will grow into the power and run production teams like to see from the outfield corner.

In that evaluation, Veen receives plus grades on his speed and arm with a 55 on hitting and fielding and 50 on power.

FanGraphs is considerably less bullish, ranking Veen 10th in the system as a 40+ FV player, dropping him from a 50 FV player pre-season:

I wrote on the offseason Top 100 that things were still in a holding pattern with Veen because while he has huge tools and has performed in the low minors, the length of his swing makes it very difficult for him to turn on fastballs. Veen rotates with rare ferocity, and his broad-shouldered, 6-foot-4 frame leaves room for immense strength as he matures, projection he’s already begun to actualize. As explosive as most of his body is, Veen’s hands are not, and he tends to be long into the hitting zone, which is where his fastball vulnerability stems from. Pitchers work him in on the hands, then get him to swing over the top of back-foot breaking balls once Veen starts to cheat on heaters in that spot. Per Synergy, Veen saw just shy of 100 fastballs thrown 94 mph and above at Double-A this season and hit .125 against them with a .347 OPS. Indeed, almost all of Veen’s pull-side contact into the outfield after being promoted to Double-A came against secondary pitches, which big league pitchers will have little incentive to offer him.

Veen is going to wreak havoc on the bases. He plays with an elite motor, moves from base to base with just a few gigantic strides, and commits to the next base with abandon in borderline situations. He added meaningful muscle and strength during the 2022-23 offseason, and came to spring training with a noticeably stronger physique. His current swing is sexier than it is functional, so it’s tough to project Veen as the five-tool superstar that it felt like he could become when he was drafted, and right now he looks more like a reserve outfielder with one elite tool. He’ll remain in this FV tier unless a relevant adjustment is made to his swing. Veen had surgery to repair ligaments in his hand days before list publication and will be on the shelf for the rest of 2023.

Baseball Prospectus ranked Veen second in the system in November 2022 and had him 34th overall:

On the surface, Veen’s performance in 2022 looks confirmatory of his top prospect status. He got out of the gates in Spokane a touch slow, but heated up over the summer, earning a late-season promotion to Hartford. There, he scuffled, but not in an overly concerning way for a 20-year-old getting his first taste of the upper minors. The staff report on him described a player without a real weakness in his game, showing an all-fields approach with potential plus power. Veen is a plus runner who’s a canny base thief, and he has about the sweetest lefty swing you will see.

However that swing has produced fairly pedestrian underlying metrics. Veen’s all-fields approach means he’s in the big part of the ballpark too often. For a future corner bat—he’s played almost exclusively right field despite the foot speed—he hits the ball on the ground an awful lot. And while he may have plus raw power, his in-game outputs are fairly average. So what exactly is the carrying tool here? This is of course all fixable, and many future plus bats have to go through these kinds of adjustments in the minors. But Veen hasn’t yet, and that’s worth keeping an eye on.

There’s a disconnect between what Veen looks like from behind home plate and what he’s produced on the field. And he hasn’t produced in the upper minors.

Kiley McDaniel of ranked Veen 49th overall as a 50 FV player in February, second in the system:

Type: Lanky right fielder who is above average at everything.

In high school, Veen was a 6-4 athlete with plus speed, above-average arm strength and above-average power, but was expected to add significant bulk and move to right field (if not first base) while growing into what scouts projected would be plus-plus in power. That hasn’t happened, as he still has a lanky build and runs well, but is exclusively playing a corner outfield spot.

Expectations have come down a bit as Veen looks more like he might give you 55-grade tools across the board as a right fielder, which is a good-not-great player — though there’s still some chance he could still develop into a middle-of-the-order terror.

Veen was ranked 54th overall and first in the system by Keith Law of the Athletic in February (and is on the “just missed” list for his top 60 mid-season re-rank):

Veen was the Rockies’ first-round pick in 2020 out of a Florida high school, where his main selling points were his projectable body and big power. So far in pro ball, he’s only shown flashes of that power, but instead has been an incredible base stealer and strong defensive right fielder who runs deep counts, with solid walk rates but some swing and miss as well. Veen moved up from Low-A Fresno, a very good hitting environment, in 2021 to High-A Spokane to start 2022, cutting his strikeout rate in the process but, unsurprisingly, failing to sustain the .396 BABIP he had the year before.


The Rockies bumped Veen to Double A, where he struggled to make contact against all kinds of offspeed stuff, as his swing got long, even giving him trouble on pitches in the zone. That would be fine if we were seeing more game power from Veen, who can show it in BP but hasn’t had the hard contact in games you’d like to see even given his age — he had just 38 extra-base hits in 2022, and his exit velocities are just fair. The upside is still there, but at some point we’ll need to see more of the power potential become reality.

When’s he going to get to the Rockies and how good will he be once he’s there?

A consistent theme in the above scouting reports on Veen was the desire for him to actualize the power potential inherent in his projectable frame. Maybe recovery from the wrist injury, plus his 25-pound muscle gain this off-season will do the trick, though the latter could instead slow him down on the base paths. Veen remains a lock to receive a 40-man roster spot this off-season, but he’ll enter 2024 with plenty of unanswered questions as he likely heads back to Hartford for the third year in a row. If he shows well there, a 2024 MLB debut is well within reach. I’m still a believer in Veen’s star potential, though I’d like to see him healthy and mashing in the upper minors, so I ranked him second as a 55 FV player.

★ ★ ★

1. Adael Amador (647 points, 22 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: 3 — High Ballot 1 (12), Mode Ballot 1

How did he enter the organization?

2019 International Free Agent, Dominican Republic

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

Amador’s breakout in 2022 might not have been quite as celebrated Ezequiel Tovar’s, but the step forward the switch-hitting shortstop took in 2022 in the eyes of national prospect watchers might have been even larger than Tovar. The 6’0”, 160-pound Amador was hanging around the top ten of the Rockies system entering 2022, but jumped onto national top 100 lists. In 2023, the 20-year-old took another leap forward and jumped into the top 25 of those lists.

Writing for the Rockies’ blog last September, Jack Etkin wrote up a nice profile on Amador worth reading in its entirety about his journey as a Rockies prospect, especially the 2022 season, and more in depth detail on Amador’s offensive approach and defense.

Amador was the highest-rated international signing for the Rockies in 2019, representing the 15th-highest ranked player in that class by MLB Pipeline. He signed with Colorado for $1.5 million — giving him the equivalent of an early-second-round draft bonus — but only got into professional games in late June 2021 for the Arizona Complex Level team due largely to the lost 2020 season. Amador had a strong campaign as a teenager in Low-A in 2022 and was advanced to High-A Spokane, where he is 2.5 years younger than league average, after an unspecified injury sent him to extended spring training for the season’s first couple weeks.

Once in Spokane, Amador sparkled, growing his OPS each month from .753 in April to .926 in May and .982 in June. Amador’s excellent approach at the plate remained evident, as he walked (31 times, 12 % of PA) more than he struck out (26, 10%), though he hit much better from the left side of the plate (.999 OPS) than the right (.693 OPS). He was hitting .302/.392/.514 with nine homers among his 26 extra-base hits and 12 steals in 259 PA (143 wRC+) before injuring his hamate bone in late July.

Amador missed about seven weeks with the injury and is currently on a rehab assignment with the complex team. He’s hitting .389/.500/.778 (201 wRC+) with two homers in 22 PA with that squad, so his power appears to be intact. We’ll see how much time the Rockies give Amador back in High-A, but it’s clear he’s very comfortable at the level. Amador has played about three times as many games at shortstop as he has at second base this year, committing eight errors in 59 games.

Here’s some video on Amador hitting from both sides of the plate at 2021 fall instructs courtesy of Fangraphs:

Also, here are some of Amador’s 2023 highlights.

What do the scouts say?

Amador is ranked seventh overall in the updated FanGraphs top 100, jumping up from a 50 FV to a 60 FV. That was first in the system and the evaluation is highlighted by a 70 future hit grade:

Amador has special hand-eye coordination and bat-to-ball skills as well as a tremendous idea of the strike zone, and those attributes, combined with the mechanical simplicity of his swing, give him one of the most exciting and stable hit tools in the minors. Amador is one of those short-levered switch-hitters who is so short to the ball that he gets an extra beat to diagnose pitches before he has to commit to swinging, and he takes advantage of this. He’s walked more than he’s struck out every year of his pro career, and he’s running a microscopic, sub-5% swinging strike rate thus far in 2023.

Over the last year or so, Amador has thickened like a roux and become stronger, and he’s capable of doing more damage than my previous, tepid projection expected. Increasingly, Amador’s choppers and grounders are peppered with feel for pull-side loft when appropriate. On paper, Amador is still generating flat, groundball and line drive contact a lot of the time, but his feel for the barrel and for the zone together will enable him to hit for average power at maturity, more so as a left-handed hitter. He isn’t physically projectable so much as his feel for doing extra-base damage is because his feel for contact is so good.

As he’s gotten stronger, he’s also gotten bigger and slower, and Amador’s defensive projections have shifted to second base. Some scouts are concerned about how thick he is for a 20-year-old and worry the sun may set on his athleticism sooner than the average big leaguer. I also have some long-term concerns about that, but Amador is such a precocious hitter that he’ll likely be in the big leagues relatively soon and start his career long before that’s an issue. A plus-plus hit tool on a middle infielder is a big deal, and Amador gets a boost into the 60 FV tier, projecting as an All-Star second baseman. ranks Amador 21st overall as a 55 FV player (including a 60 hit grade), first in the system:

A teenager for all of last season, Amador stands out for his very advanced approach from both sides of the plate. He walked more than he struck out in his first year-plus of pro ball, with just a 12.7 percent strikeout rate compared to a 15.1 percent walk rate. He has a very good feel for the barrel and has shown the propensity to make good swing decisions. There were some questions about what kind of impact he would have, but he’s added strength and there’s reason to believe the extra-base authority on display with Fresno in 2022 is real.

Amador has played a lot of shortstop since he’s joined the Rockies and has decent hands, footwork and a solid arm. A lack of quickness, especially as he physically matures, might limit his range enough to necessitate a move to second, where he has seen some time. He could be an outstanding defender at the keystone, with the progress he’s shown at the plate contributing to an everyday middle infielder profile.

McDaniel of ranked Amador 13th overall as a 60 FV player in his mid-season update:

Amador, a switch-hitter who projects to be a solid defensive shortstop, has taken a big step forward this season, maintaining more walks than strikeouts while ticking up all of his power metrics. While he doesn’t have the name recognition of prospects in this area, he’s earned this ranking with a loud 2023.

Law ranks Amador 44th overall in his mid-season re-rank, after putting him fifth in the organization pre-season:

Amador is a switch-hitting shortstop with one of the best batting eyes in the minors — well, two of them, technically — with more walks than strikeouts for the second year in a row. He remains an extreme groundball hitter, with a slightly higher rate this year (56 percent) than in 2022, although he has average raw power and has hit 9 homers this year, so there’s some reason to hope that the Rockies can keep working with him on looking for pitches where he can let it rip. He’s probably 60/40 to end up at second base, although he should get every opportunity to stick at short.

Baseball Prospectus put Amador 44th overall pre-season and he was third in the system as a 60 OFP player in November:

Amador shined all year in Low-A, getting glowing reports on his hit tool from our whole Cal League contingent. The switch-hitter starts wide open with a fair bit of hand movement pre-swing, but once he gets going, there’s plus-plus bat speed and he spits out hard line drives on anything close to the plate. Amador knows the zone well, too, walking more than he struck out in 2022. His swing is geared to go back through the origin—although he does have some pop from the left side—so this is a hit-over-power profile, but there might be a lot of hit.

Amador is an above-average runner who is an aggressive, if inefficient base stealer. The speed plays on the dirt though, and he has the arm and range for short, although the rest of the defensive tool set needs further refinement. He might end up at second base long-term, but wherever he winds up in the field, he’ll look good as a classic number two hitter. The hardest thing to project is the hit tool, but Amador passes both the eye and metrics test so far.

When’s he going to get to the Rockies and how good will he be once he’s there?

The combined package Amador presents of strong plate discipline and offensive potential shown by a switch-hitting up-the-middle defender as one of the younger players in High-A is outstanding. Amador has already shown more power than was forecasted and he’s got the chops to stick at shortstop if the Rockies need him there. He’s a lock to receive a 40-man roster slot this off-season and will probably start in Double-A next year with a chance to get all the way to the Show.

Amador’s floor is strong and his ceiling continues to rise with his power development. The production, tools, and defensive were enough for me to raise Amador to a 60 FV grade and rank him first on my ballot.

★ ★ ★

Thanks to everyone who has read along with me through this PuRPs series! Check back soon for a complete list with full voting results for the mid-season 2023 Purple Row Prospect list as well as my view on the state of the system.