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Who will be the Rockies’ Opening Day right fielder?

Colorado Rockies news and links for Thursday, February 1st, 2024

Today marks the first day of February, which means we are less than a month away from the start of spring training. Pitchers and catchers report soon with their first workout on February 15th with the rest of the team following soon after.

As the Colorado Rockies count down the days until their first game of the spring on February 23rd, most of their “position battles” are already settled. Rockies fans can easily infer who will be starting at each position with one exception: the Opening Day right fielder job has not yet been claimed.

A hopefully healthy Kris Bryant will be moving to first base for the 2024 season, and the last ride of Chuck Nazty will mostly be as the designated hitter. While both are expected to occasionally trot out to the cavernous outfield of Coors Field, the everyday job is still up for grabs.

Currently the Rockies have three players on their 40-man roster that could be gunning for the Opening Day spot in right field. The front runner of which is probably Sean Bouchard. The soon-to-be 28-year-old Bouchard now has parts of two seasons under his belt after an electric cup of coffee in 2022 and an injury comeback in 2023. Bouchard was potentially in the running for an outfield spot last season a ruptured bicep put him on the shelf until September.

Bouchard is a solid defender in the outfield and can also play corner infield, but so far he’s proven his bread and butter is getting on base—something the Rockies desperately need more of. In 112 career at-bats Bouchard has an on-base percentage of .429 with 25 walks to 39 strikeouts. He also has the ability to hit for both average with .304 and power with a .563 slugging percentage and 18 home runs.

Behind Bouchard in the running for right field is likely Hunter Goodman. Rockies fans were clamoring for the 24-year old former catcher to get called up when he was tearing his way through the minors last year. Across Double-A Hartford and Triple-A Albuquerque Goodman hit 34 home runs, 30 doubles, and drove in 115 runs.

Goodman was called up in late August but saw fairly limited playing time. He appeared in 23 games throughout the end of the season and logged 77 plate appearances. During that time he hit .200/.247/.386 with four doubles, three triples, and just one home run. He also struck out at a 31.2% clip while drawing only five walks.

Like multiple others on this list, Goodman has positional versatility. He can play both corner outfield positions—though left belongs solely to Nolan Jones—and first base, as well as functioning as an emergency third catcher on your roster. He also has solid baserunning speed that may give him an advantage when it comes to earning a roster spot.

Rounding out the players currently on the roster—and perhaps the one with the most to prove—is Michael Toglia. Originally the heir apparent for first base, that plan seems to be off the table with Kris Bryant’s relocation to the position. In 2023 Toglia only played nine more games at first base (26) than he did in right field (17).

The former first round pick struggled mightily at the big league level in 2023. He hit just .163/.224/.284 in 141 at bats. Although he did hit four home runs and a handful of doubles, he also struck out at a five-to-one rate compared to walks and was worth -1.5 wins above replacement by the end of the season.

Although the Rockies have three options currently on the 40-man roster, there is one wild card: Zac Veen. Veen tumbled out of the MLB Top 100 prospects list after being ranked the no. 27 overall prospect in baseball in 2023 due to a difficult season that ended with surgery. In 172 at-bats he hit just .209/.304/.308 with two home runs, though he did draw 23 walks and stole 22 bases.

It was revealed that Veen had been dealing with a severely damaged ligament in his left hand and wrist since the 2022 All-Star break. He had attempted to push through the pain in an effort to make his big league debut.

Despite his struggles in 2023, Veen still clocked in at no. 2 overall in our midseason PuRPs rankings and has resumed baseball activities. A healthy Veen looked resurgent in limited playing action while playing winter ball in Puerto Rico with the Leones de Ponce. He went 9-for-21 with four doubles, three stolen bases, and two walks to five strikeouts.

Veen was pushing for his major league debut last year before getting shut down. If the 22-year-old top prospect puts together a strong showing in spring training this year he should absolutely be considered for the Opening Day roster.

The first baseball of the spring draws ever closer. With a good enough showing in the Cactus League any one of these four players could walk away with the starting job in the Rockies’ only real position battle of 2024. In just under two month’s time we’ll find out who it will be.

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Rockies announce coaching staffs for minor league affiliates | MLB.com

Although the big league coaching staff has yet to be finalized, the Rockies announced their organizational and minor league coaching staffs for the 2024 season on Wednesday afternoon. Double-A Hartford has the most change with former manager Chris Denofria moving up to be the Rockies’ baserunning and outfield coordinator. Bobby Meacham will take his place after previously serving as the bench coach for Triple-A Albuquerque. Tony Wolters has also officially been named the bench coach for the ACL Rockies.

Fully recovered Feltner sets sights on breakout season | MLB.com

Ryan Feltner was looking to have his breakout season in 2023 before a frightening line drive to the head fractured his skull, ruptured his eardrum, and sidelined him for most of the season. Now fully recovered, Feltner is looking to truly breakout in 2024. With Germán Márquez and Antonio Senzatela out for most—if not all—of the season, Feltner has a chance to establish himself as one of the team’s top pitchers.

“Last year was supposed to be my breakout year, you know, and I felt like I was starting to do that for the string of three starts,” Feltner said. “But everything happens for a reason. Maybe I wasn’t ready for it. I’m trying to look at the positive side of it. I’m more ready than I’ve ever been. It’s just about going out there and doing it.”

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