2021 Colorado Rockies Midseason Top 30 Prospects Update
If there were any ambiguity about the team’s position at this time last year, it’s now clear that the Rockies should be sellers ahead of the 2021 trade deadline.
The return from those trades could bolster a minor league system that has already gained steam over the last year, with Zac Veen’s debut doing nothing to dampen hype about his future, a group of position players nearly ready to graduate and three Rockies minor leaguers being named to the National League Futures Game roster this year.
For more good news, look no further than the performance of second baseman Brendan Rodgers, who spent the better part of the first half of the season putting together his best run of form with the team.
His development into a productive regular would help turn the tide for a group of prospects that hasn’t delivered all that much to this point, with the likes of outfielder Sam Hilliard, righthander Ryan Castellani and lefthander Ben Bowden all battling injuries or inconsistency this season.
Suffice it to say, the Rockies are in the teeth of a rebuild right now, but a light at the end of the tunnel has emerged, even if it’s still well in the distance.
Top 10 Prospects
1. Zac Veen, OF
Age: 19. Team: Low-A Fresno
So far, Veen’s debut season has been a smashing success. His numbers improved as the season went on, and July was particularly fruitful, with all but two of his home runs coming in the month. He’s described as making “hard, heavy” contact with his strong frame and at the same time has been lauded by rival evaluators for his aggressive baserunning and for being an above-average to plus defender in the outfield. It’s early, but Veen is making a case to be thought of as one of the best prospects in the game.
2. Benny Montgomery, OF
Age: 18. Team: TBA
NEW The Rockies’ first-round pick this year, Montgomery was selected early for many of the same reasons Veen was in 2020. He’s a tooled-up outfielder who has the top-of-the-scale speed and athleticism to be a true center fielder. He also has light-tower power that propelled him to a win in the home run derby at the Perfect Game All-American Classic in 2020. Once he steps on the field, he will immediately be one of the most talented players in the system.
3. Michael Toglia, 1B
Age: 22. Team: High-A Spokane
A slick-fielding first baseman with a patient eye and a powerful bat, Toglia continued to play to his type in 2021, with his home run total among the leaders in High-A West. He showed well in the Futures Game as well, slugging a 444-foot home run in front of what he hopes will soon be his home crowd at Coors Field.
4. Ryan Rolison, LHP
Age: 24. Team: Triple-A Albuquerque
Although he was hampered by a couple of unlucky injuries at Triple-A, including an appendectomy, Rolison’s steady march toward Denver continued apace with his promotion to Triple-A back in May. Upholding his reputation, Rolison pounded the zone in 2021, carrying a 35-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio through his six starts at two levels while also holding opponents to a .214 average. Perhaps the time missed ends up delaying his big league debut, but Rolison is knocking on the door.
5. Elehuris Montero, 3B
Age: 22. Team: Double-A Hartford
The most exciting piece of the Rockies’ return in the Nolan Arenado trade, Montero enjoyed a bounceback season in 2021, particularly from a power standpoint, after an injury-plagued 2019 season ended with him hitting just .194 with far and away the highest strikeout rate of his career. There are still questions about Montero’s viability at third base long term, but he’s shown why his bat has the organization excited about his potential.
6. Aaron Schunk, 3B/2B
Age: 23. Team: High-A Spokane
Schunk picked up where he left off defensively at the alternate training site in 2020 by playing well at second base for Spokane after coming out of Georgia and debuting exclusively as a third baseman. His versatility in that regard is another feather in the cap for a player who isn’t the toolsiest guy in the system but does a lot of little things well and gets the most out of his ability.
7. Chris McMahon, RHP
Age: 22. Team: High-A Spokane
With the 2020 minor league season canceled and his college career having featured small injuries here and there, McMahon got just what he needed in 2021 simply by taking the ball week after week and getting professional innings under his belt. The righthander’s moxie and mound presence stand out, but he has plenty of stuff as well, led by a mid-90s fastball that he locates well.
8. Jaden Hill, RHP
Age: 21. Team: TBA
NEW The Rockies’ second-round pick this year, Hill is one of the most obvious high-risk/high-reward selections in the entire draft. When he’s healthy, Hill is electric. His fastball reaches the high 90s and both his changeup and breaking ball are swing-and-miss offerings. The issue is that he was not often healthy at Louisiana State due to a UCL strain in 2019 and a full UCL tear in 2021 that led to Tommy John surgery. He ended his college career with just 51.1 innings. Hill could end up being the steal of the draft, but return to health will be key.
9. Brenton Doyle, OF
Age: 23. Team: High-A Spokane
A toolsy outfielder who was a breakout star in the Rockies’ system back in 2019, Doyle continues to be one of the club’s most intriguing prospects. A product of Division II Shepherd in West Virginia, Doyle continues to show signs of being a unique all-around threat who can beat teams with his bat, speed and defense.
10. Ryan Vilade, OF
Age: 22. Team: Triple-A Albuquerque
One of the three Rockies representatives at the Futures Game, Vilade is one step away from the big leagues thanks in large part to his approach and line-drive swing at the plate, and added strength has allowed him to impact the baseball with more authority as time has gone on. Limitations defensively forced the Rockies to try Vilade in the outfield, and his defense there did nothing to hold him back.
11. Ezequiel Tovar, SS
12. Noah Davis, RHP
NEW Davis ranked as the Reds’ No. 15 prospect entering the season, then was acquired by the Rockies in the two-player package acquired by Colorado for reliever Mychal Givens. Davis brings in a low-90s fastball which has peaked at 96 mph. His slider is a potentially plus pitch, and his curveball is a tick behind. His changeup needs to improve.
13. Helcris Olivarez, LHP
14. Adael Amador, SS
15. Warming Bernabel, SS
NEW One of the most promising hitters available in the 2018 international class, Bernabel has opened his first stateside season with a bang. He’s expected to be a player who can hit for average and power, and gives the Rockies another in their collection of promising middle-diamond players.
16. Drew Romo, C
17. Ryan Feltner, RHP
18. Hunter Goodman, C
NEW Goodman’s game is long on power, both offensively and defensively. At the plate, he was one of the best college power bats in the draft, as he clubbed 42 home runs in three seasons at Memphis, including 21 during the 2021 season alone. Behind the plate, he has a strong arm, which also helped him play the outfield for the Tigers back in 2019. His game is, however, short on some of the more nuanced skills required. There are swing-and-miss concerns offensively. Defensively, it’s an open question whether he’ll be able to catch full-time given his shortcomings when it comes to blocking and receiving. If he hits like he’s expected to, he’ll have a place in the lineup one way or another.
19. Willie MacIver, C
NEW One of the Rockies’ three Futures Game representatives in Denver, MacIver showed improved power to match with athletic defense behind the plate. His 14 homers through 64 games were one more than his career high for a season, which came in 2019 in hitter-friendly Asheville, then the team’s Low-A affiliate.
20. Joe Rock, LHP
NEW After struggling as a freshman at Ohio in 2019 and missing all of the shortened 2020 season due to eligibility issues, Rock returned in 2021 and put up a dominant season. Not only was his stuff still excellent—his fastball was up to 96 mph and he got a 43% and 53% whiff rate on his slider and changeup, respectively—but walks were no longer a problem as they had been before, as he issued 27 free passes and struck out 117 in 88.2 innings. There is reliever risk with Rock, but he’s earned the chance to go out as a starter.
21. Jameson Hannah, OF
22. Grant Lavigne, 1B
23. Colton Welker, 3B/1B
24. Sam Weatherly, LHP
25. Karl Kauffman, RHP
26. Eddy Diaz, SS
27. Yanquiel Fernandez, OF
28. Julio Carreras, 3B/SS
29. Bladimir Restituyo, SS
30. Ben Bowden, LHP
Baseball America Prospect Report—August 25, 2021
Zac Veen hits for the cycle, Brady House crushes his first pro home run and more.
3B Elehuris Montero recaptured the form that made him the MVP of the Midwest League in 2018 after an injury-filled 2019 and a lost 2020 season due to the pandemic. Defensive questions remain, but his offensive upside is such that he could live up to this billing as the gem of the Rockies’ return in the Nolan Arenado trade.
SS Warming Bernabel, signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2018, was one of the top hitters available in his class. He has a short swing from the right side, and evaluators at the time expected him to grow into power as he matured. He started the season hot in the Rookie-level Arizona Complex League.
C Willie MacIver always had potential to move quickly because of a relative dearth of catching prospects in the system and his athleticism behind the plate. That was the case in his vault up to Double-A Hartford, but he also showed the offensive productivity to match, which helped earn him a spot in the Futures Game in 2021.
3B/1B Colton Welker had an outstanding spring with the big league club, backing up the confidence shown in placing him on the 40-man roster at the end of 2020, but the 80-game suspension handed down in May after he tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug served to halt his momentum. He’ll have time to get going before the season is up, but unless he hits the ground running upon his return, it’s easy to see 2021 being a lost season for him.
RHP Ryan Castellani showed well in his big league debut back in 2020, but it has been tough sledding for him since then. He was designated for assignment in June after making just one appearance with the Rockies in 2021, but later took a minor league assignment to stay in the organization. His experience will always make him a contender for a promotion at some point, but he will have to throw more strikes.
LHP Ben Bowden, as expected, was in position to earn a regular role in the Rockies’ bullpen in 2021, but it wasn’t easy for him along the way. He proved to be quite hittable in the big leagues, and as a result, was shuttled back and forth from Triple-A to Denver several times.
RHP Riley Pint, the Rockies’ first-round pick in the 2016 draft, announced his retirement in May.
After dealing with a hamstring injury early in the season, 2B Brendan Rodgers became a lineup stalwart and played as well as he ever had with the big league club. Despite numerous false starts to his career, the Rockies were confident in Rodgers’ skills and perhaps he’s now coming into his own.
After his promotion to Triple-A in May, LHP Ryan Rolison had nothing but bad luck. First, he had surgery to remove his appendix after an appendicitis attack. Then, during the recovery from that episode, he broke a bone in his throwing hand while fielding balls in batting practice. The expectation is that he will return to throwing by the end of July and return to competition before the end of the season.
It’s not an injury but rather an 80-game suspension that has 3B/1B Colton Welker on the shelf. In early May, Welker tested positive for Dehydrochlormethyltestosterone (DHCMT), a drug that has shown up in small amounts in other recent positive tests like those of Nationals catcher Tres Barrera and Astros lefthander Kent Emanuel, who, like Welker, say that they never knowingly ingested the substance. His return is set for late August.