MLB 2020 Farm System Overview: Colorado Rockies

While we wait for the 2020 MLB season to get underway, it’s time to take a closer look at players who could one day be on opening day rosters. For the next month or two, we’ll be examining each team’s farm system, which will contain several prospects that will either one day be contributors for them, or could be used to acquire impact major leaguers. 

Since we’ll be going in alphabetical order by city, our ninth farm system overview will be of the Colorado Rockies. We’ll rank their top ten prospects, discuss some of their other notable minor leaguers, and then analyze the overall state of the farm system.

#1: 1B Michael Toglia

toglia
Photo Cred: MiLB.com

Age: 21

Height: 6’4″ Weight: 205 lbs

Drafted: 23rd Overall- 2019

Hit: 50 Power: 57.5 Field: 60 Arm: 55 Speed: 42.5

Overall Grade: 54.65

The first base position as a whole has been devalued, but nevertheless, if you can be an impact contributor on both sides of the ball, it doesn’t matter what position you play. That’s the case with Michael Toglia, who was one of my favorite sleeper prospects in the 2019 MLB draft, as he wasn’t getting much attention before the draft. Still, Colorado selected the UCLA product him in the first round, and as a result, should have an All-Star caliber player on the roster for several years. Toglia’s not a pure hitter, but his plate discipline will allow him to post high on-base percentages, and if he can continue to tap into his raw power, his offensive upside is enormous; he’ll be an absolute force in Coors Field. Better yet, he’s also one of the best defensive prospects I’ve seen at first base, and given his arm and decent athleticism, can play in the outfield if needed. A clear comparison for him is Brandon Belt, who has been a valuable player for the Giants for several years, though that’s more of a middle-ground for the 21-year-old, who has the upside to be a Mark Texiera-type impact player for the Rockies.

#2: SS Brendan Rodgers

Colorado Rockies v Pittsburgh Pirates
Photo Cred: The Denver Post

Age: 23

Height: 6’0″ Weight: 180 lbs

Drafted: 3rd Overall- 2015

Hit: 55 Power: 55 Field: 52.5 Arm: 57.5 Speed: 45

Overall Grade: 54.125

Thought of as potentially the favorite to be selected with the first overall pick in the 2015 MLB draft, Brendan Rodgers has been in the spotlight ever since he was selected third overall by the Rockies, who many have seen him as the finishing touch to a very strong infield. To his credit, the 23-year-old mashed his way through the minors en route to making his major-league debut, but that’s where it went south- he posted a putrid -0.6 WAR and 25 weighted-runs-created-plus (wrc+), while also striking out 33.4% of the time. Sure, it was only in 25 games, but that stint did highlight some of Rodgers’ flaws that he’s struggled to fix. At the plate, he has a beautiful swing that is launch-angle-oriented, yet his power fails to show up due to high ground ball rates, and since he doesn’t take many walks, he won’t have high on-base percentages. Therefore, he’s not a sure thing to produce offensively, and since his defense is only slightly above-average at shortstop, second base, or third base, he needs his offense to come around. With a few adjustments, there’s no doubt it can, but he’s also coming off a shoulder injury, and if he’s failed to tweak his swing yet, how can we know for certain he will? The uncertainty around him leads me to believe he’s more of an everyday player than a star, which is fine, but a mild disappointment given the hype centered around him in that draft.

#3: LHP Ryan Rolison

rolison
Photo Cred: The Denver Post

Age: 22

Height: 6’2″ Weight: 195

Drafted: 22nd Overall- 2018

Fastball: 55 Breaking Ball: 60 Third Pitch: 50 Command: 50

Overall: 52.75

The Rockies will always have a need for starting pitching given where they play, so they’ll always be in the market for pitching in the draft, especially polished prep pitchers. When you connected all the dots, their selection of Ole Miss lefty Ryan Rolison with the 22nd overall pick was one of the least surprising selections, as they’ll be looking for him to be a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter. What stands out with the 22-year-old has to be his sharp curveball, as it’s a true strikeout pitch that he’ll be able to throw as much as his fastball, which sits around 92-93 MPH. Plus, as you’d expect from a college lefty, he also has an advanced feel for pitching, and his walk rate (2.94 BB/9) in High-A this season is right where you’d want it to be. Rolison’s ceiling is far from magnificent, but his refined skillset is an excellent fit for Colorado’s desperate need for impact pitching- they can’t afford for their pitching prospects not to pan out. Therefore, the value he’ll bring to the Rockies may be even greater than it would be for any other team, and I believe he’ll be a Derek Holland-type #3 starter in the future.

#4: 3B Aaron Schunk

shunk
Photo Cred: uga.rivals.com

Age: 22

Height: 6’2″ Weight: 205 lbs

Drafted: 2nd Round- 2019

Hit: 50 Power: 50 Field: 55 Arm: 60 Speed: 45

Overall Grade: 52.45

Two-way prospects are always exciting, and after being a reliever and third baseman at the University of Georgia, some thought Aaron Schunk would be the next line. That won’t be the case, as the Rockies drafted him in the second round of the 2019 draft to strictly third base. Due to his soft hands and plus arm strength, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be an above-average defender there, though for the 22-year-old, it’s his offense that will ultimately determine his fate. He has a nice feel for contact and plenty of raw power, but right now, he’s too aggressive of a hitter who also isn’t focused on lifting the ball. Therefore, he’ll completely need to overhaul his approach for him to have the offensive production necessary to be an everyday starter, and that’s not ideal for a college prospect. Schunk has plenty of potential, but at the moment, is a work in progress, to say the least.

#5: SS Ryan Vilade

vilade
Photo Cred: MiLB.com

Age: 20

Height: 6’2″ Weight: 194 lbs

Drafted: 2nd Round- 2017

Hit: 50 Power: 55 Field: 50 Arm: 57.5 Speed: 42.5

Overall Grade: 51.875

The 2017 MLB draft will be a forgetful one for the Rockies, as they forfeited their first-round pick to sign Ian Desmond, who has been worth negative WAR during his time in Colorado. However, it may not all go for naught, as with their first pick in that draft, they were able to draft high-school infielder Ryan Vilade. He’s already reached High-A despite being just 20-years-old, which is a result of his solid plate discipline and overall contact skills. He hasn’t quite tapped into his raw power yet, but his tremendous bat speed and leverage, it’ll come sooner rather than later, and when that happens, he’ll be pretty complete offensively. Now, I don’t expect him to stick at shortstop long term, but should he move to third base, he definitely has the offensive skills to be an everyday player there. Considering his age, it could be Vilade, not Schunk, that ends up playing third base long-term for the Rockies if it indeed isn’t Nolan Arenado.

#6: 3B/1B Colton Welker

welker
Photo Cred: MiLB.com

Age: 22

Height: 6’1″ Weight: 195 lbs

Drafted: 4th Round- 2016

Hit: 52.5 Power: 50 Field: 50 Arm: 57.5 Speed: 35

Overall Grade: 51.425

Once seen as a prospect on the rise after being a fourth-round pick in 2016, Colton Welker’s stock has stagnated over the past year are so, and it’s not hard to figure out why. Although he dominated in the early stages of his minor league career, he needed a batting average on balls in play around .400 to do so, which isn’t sustainable at all. Therefore, the 22-year-old has seen his production regress naturally, and because he was having so much success, is just now making the adjustments to improve his plate discipline- is it too late? I do love Welker’s smooth swing and contact, but with average power and defense at either corner spot, I don’t see much upside, and as we’ve seen, his floor clearly isn’t high enough. Maybe he can be a part-time player that splits times at both corner infield spots, but perhaps Welker can be more than that if his change in approach is legitimate.

#7: SS Julio Carreras

carreras
Photo Cred: youtube.com (Fangraphs)

Age: 20

Height: 6’2″ Weight: 190 lbs

Signed: February 24, 20198

Hit: 47.5 Power: 50 Field: 52.5 Arm: 57.5 Speed: 55

Overall Grade: 50.875

For whatever reason, the Rockies have never had much of a presence on the international market, and have relied on the draft to restock their farm system. That’s not an ideal approach, but at least they’ve made some effort, as they signed infield Julio Carreras as part of a big 2017-2018 international signing class. Out of all of those prospects, the 20-year-old is the headliner, as he’s a good athlete and a fine defender in the infield. Obviously, there’s still a lot of projection required when evaluating him, as he should hit for more power than he currently is, but his plate discipline numbers have been encouraging, though you’d like to see him advance beyond Rookie-Ball. When it’s all said and done, the Dominican infielder is probably a utility player, but if there’s one prospect that will either skyrocket or plummet down these rankings, it’s him.

#8: 2B Terrin Vavra

Terrin Vavra
Photo Cred: MiLB.com

Age: 22

Height: 6’1″ Weight: 185 lbs

Drafted: 3rd Round- 2017

Hit: 55 Power: 45 Field: 52.5 Arm: 50 Speed: 50

Overall Grade: 50.625

After dominating during his junior year at the University of Minnesota, infielder Terrin Vavra was able to improve his stock enough to be a top-100 pick in the 2017 draft, and has continued to produce at a very high level. Right now, it’s hard to find as advanced of a hitter in Colorado’s system as he is; the 22-year-old had the same walk rate and strikeout rate (13.7%) in Single-A, which is spectacular. Plus, he also demonstrates a great feel for contact, and even though he doesn’t project to hit for much power, he’s showing more slugging ability than expected so far. Now, he won’t be a shortstop long-term with his mediocre arm strength and athleticism, but there’s a chance he can seriously be an everyday second baseman, even though my overall ranking wouldn’t reflect that. Needless to say, Vavra is a prospect that I’ll have my eye on this season, especially if the Rockies start to try to aggressively move him through the system.

#9: 1B Grant Lavigne

Lavigne
Photo Cred: MiLB.com

Age: 20

Height: 6’4″ Weight: 220 lbs

Drafted: 42nd Overall- 2018

Hit: 50 Power: 52.5 Field: 50 Arm: 45 Speed: 35

Overall Grade: 50.275

A power-hitting left-handed slugger drafted by the Rockies always leads to plenty of excitement, which was true when Grant Lavigne was drafted with the 42nd overall pick in the 2018 MLB draft. While the 20-year-old has shown the plate discipline necessary to be strong offensively, it’s been very disappointing to see his power not show up, as it’s supposed to be his calling card at the next level- he’s a below-average athlete and a first-base only type. Now, since he’s still very young, there is plenty of time for him to develop; he’s fallen behind Toglia though, which hurts his future with the organization, and even then, he’s probably never going to be star anyways. We’re probably looking at an easy replacable slugging first base-type, similar to Ji-Man Choi. That’s fine, but not quite worth a pick just after the first round.

#10: RHP Riley Pint

Pint
Photo Cred: MiLB.com

Age: 22

Height: 6’5″ Weight: 225 lbs

Drafted: 4th Overall- 2016

Fastball: 72.5 Breaking Ball: 60 Third Pitch: 55 Command: 35

Overall Grade: 50.125

As mentioned with Rolison, the Rockies tend to target polished pitching prospects, since they can’t afford for them not to pan out at the big-league level. However, the upside of Riley Pint bucked them from that trend, as they selected the high-school fireballer with the 4th overall pick in the 2016 MLB draft, who certainly had ace potential at the time. Even now, he still has a fastball that reaches 100 MPH, two strong breaking balls, and a great changeup. Still, that may not even matter. Pint missed all of 2018 due to an oblique injury, and open returning in 2019, posted a miserable 7.47 xFIP and 15.79 BB/9. In other words, the 22-year-old simply never knows where his pitches are going to end up, and since he’s already dealing with injury problems, he’ll likely be forced to be a reliever in the future. That’s quite a shame given his upside and draft pedigree, but it’d be better than continuing to fail to develop him as a starting pitcher.

Best of the Rest

  • Ryan Castellani may have a solid fastball-slider combination, but was awful last season, and I’m not sure he’ll ever be in the major leagues in any capacity.
  • Sam Hilliard was excellent in his major league debut last season, but I’ll need to see him sustain that production before I’m a true believer in his abilities.
  • Ben Bowden was the team’s lone participator in the 2019 Futures Game, and could be a high-impact lefty reliever in the future.

Farm System Overview

General manager Jeff Bridich has done a questionable job with free agency signings and trades, but it’s his handling of the farm system that is really worrisome. The team’s draft picks aren’t developing properly, and they’re essentially a non-factor in the international market. Now, their last two draft picks (Rolison and Toglia) have a very low bust rate, which should help them, but nevertheless, this is one of the thinnest farm systems in the MLB; that doesn’t compliment well with their lack of big-league talent. Heck, given his contract, a trade of Nolan Arenado may add one impact prospect, but not much more than that. I hate to be so pessimistic, but I’m very concerned about this team’s future.

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