Colorado Rockies: A Diamond’s Worth Of Prospects

Ryan Vilade, Lancaster JetJawks. Photo credit Gail Verderico, @1baseballchick on Twitter

The Colorado Rockies’ minor league system is not one of the best in baseball, but there are prospects aplenty. The strongest positions are corner infield but there are ample players moving up the ranks to fill every position on the diamond at Coors Field. For fun, we project a future 9 and a couple more besides.

We start with catcher, where Willie MacIver  has the best chance to be a future mainstay behind the plate. MacIver, a ninth-round draft pick in 2018 from the University of Washington, performed well offensively and defensively at Low-A Asheville in 2019. He hit 13 homers and stole 12 bases. Age 23, he could move up the ranks quickly after baseball resumes.

Others to watch: Dom Nunez, Colin Simpson

First base is perhaps the most crowded position given all the former third basemen who have been forced across the infield by the presence of icon Nolan Arenado, who is still a Rockie. The choice here is Colton Welker, 22, who had 10 HR and a .252 batting average during an injury-shortened 98-game 2019 season at AA Hartford. He should regain his .300-plus hit tool and develop more power and can expect to move across the diamond from first to third as soon as play resumes.

Others to watch: Michael Toglia, Grant Lavigne

The easiest position to project is second base, where Brendan Rodgers should be a fixture for years to come. Rodgers, 23, is the consensus top prospect for the Rockies and one of the best prospects in the minor leagues. He had an inconsistent start to his big-league career and landed on the disabled list after shoulder surgery in 2019 but he can hit and hit with power and should do both soon at Coors Field.

Others to watch: Terrin Vavra, Brian Mundell, Bladimir Restituyo

Trevor Story likely will man shortstop for the Rockies for a long time to come but next up is probably Ryan Vilade, 21, who posted 12 home runs, 24 stolen bases and a .303 batting average (.367 on-base percentage) at High-A Lancaster in 2019. Drafted in the second round in 2017 out of high school in Stillwater, OK, he may be the top Rockies prospect when the 2021 season opens.

Others to watch: Terrin Vavra, Adael Amador, Eddy Diaz, Juan Guerrero

The third baseman post-Arenado, whenever that is, will be Aaron Schunk, 22, a second-round pick out of the University of Georgia in 2019 where he excelled at the plate and on the mound as the Bulldogs’ closer. He had a .306/.370/.503 slash line (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging) in 173 at-bats at short-season Boise and hit six homers last summer. Schunk has superior defensive skills, a plus arm and profiles well at third at 6 feet, 2 inches and 205 pounds. He may be the best hitter in the Rockies’ minor league system and the power will come.

Others to watch: Ryan Vilade, Julio Carreras, Christian Koss

One of the third base castoffs will end up in leftfield, and that could be Tyler Nevin, 22, who had 13 homers, 62 runs batted in and a .328 average in 100 games at High-A Lancaster in 2018, then followed with an outstanding performance in the Arizona Fall League. Nevin, son of former player and current New York Yankees third-base coach Phil Nevin, got off to a slow start in 2019 at AA Hartford, ending with 13 homers and a .251 batting average in 130 games. A rebound is expected at AAA Albuquerque.

Others to watch: Casey Golden, Vince Fernandez

The huge centerfield in Coors Field will be patrolled one day by Brenton Doyle, 21, a pleasant surprise after being drafted in the fourth round from Shepherd University, WV. He had 8 homers, 33 RBI, 17 stolen bases, a .383 batting average and .477 OBP over 51 games at Rookie-level Grand Junction. His plus speed, plus arm and hit tool would have made him a first-round pick had he played at a larger university. The Rockies scored on this one.

Others to watch: Yonathan Daza, Daniel Montano, Niko Decolati

Right field will be the province of Sam Hilliard, who made his major-league debut in 2019, hitting 7 homers in 77 at-bats and getting well-deserved attention. Hilliard raked at AAA Albuquerque last summer, with 35 HR, 101 RBI, 22 stolen bases and a .335 on-base percentage. This after a 2018 as an Eastern League all-star and Arizona Fall League standout. He may play left field this season for the Rockies but his defensive abilities likely will land him in right eventually.

Others to watch: Brenton Doyle, Casey Golden, Niko Decolati

Ryan Rolison, Lancaster JetHawks. Photo credit Gail Verderico, @1baseballchick on Twitter

The ace starting pitcher of the future is Ryan Rolison, 22, a lefthander who was a first-round pick (22nd overall) in 2018 out of the University of Mississippi and notched 132 strikeouts in 131 innings at Low-A Asheville and High-A Lancaster in 2019. Rolison has a big arm and a big future.

Others to watch: Karl Kauffman

The closer of the future is perhaps the most difficult to predict. We’ll go, for now, with Helcris Olivarez, a power lefty who is just 19 years old. Olivarez was signed for a $77,000 bonus out of the Dominican Republic in 2016. After parts of three summers in the Dominican Summer League, he showed his stuff at Grand Junction in 2019 with 61 strikeouts in 46.2 innings. His fastball hits 94 but his control is a work in progress. But as he fills out his 6-foot, 2-inch body, he’s got the look of an impact player.

Others to watch: Ben Bowden, Tommy Doyle, Ryan Feltner, PJ Poulin

There you have it, 9 for the future. We may have overlooked a diamond in the rough, but we’ve got a diamond’s worth at least.

Michael Parnell is a retired newspaper editor who covers the Colorado Rockies for Prospects1500. He is a longtime fantasy baseball fan who now focuses on his dynasty teams in Diamond Duos and Dynasty Sports Empire leagues. He recently relocated from Fernandina Beach, Fla., to Albuquerque, N.M. Follow him on Twitter @parnellmichael.

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