2023 Colorado Rockies Top 10 Prospects Chat

Geoff Pontes chatted about the Rockies system. You can read the transcript here.

Scott (Boston):

     How did Jaden Hill look in his return to the mound last year?

Geoff Pontes: Solid. The velocity was back, as he sat 94-96 mph topped out at 99 mph. Changeup is still a good pitch for him, slider sat mid-80s and played fairly well. He had three appearances late with Fresno. The stuff is back, now it’s just a matter of getting some innings for the first time. Easy to forget he only threw 51.1 innings in college.

Scott (Boston):

     What’s a reasonable offensive expectation for Ezequiel Tovar this year in the majors?

Geoff Pontes: I’d anticipate he’s sees the bulk of the time at shortstop for the Rockies in 2023. Steamer is projecting him for a .280/.328/.463 line with 18 home runs. I think that’s pretty reasonable considering the contact skills, game power and running ability. He’s likely to be a lower walk/lower strikeout guy that’s going to run higher averages, particularly with the aid of Coors field. He can defend as well as anyone, it’s easy plus defense. That should keep him in the lineup and I think his contact+power combo allows him to overcome his aggressiveness.

John (NJ):

     How on Earth does Hunter Goodman not make this list? Surely he struggled in a 12 game stint with Hartford, but a .294 average with 36 bombs, 106 RBI, and not to mention 71 extra base hits in total should speak for itself. Is it because BA doesn’t believe he will be a true catcher long term? Thanks!

Geoff Pontes: Thanks for the question John – He’s close as you’ll see in the Top 30 coming. The issue is two-fold, he’s definitely not going to stick behind the plate. Meaning he’s likely headed to a 1B/DH type of profile. That puts extra pressure on the bat. The power is undeniable, I worry about hitters with low contact rates and high chase rates. He’s not going to get on base enough to offset the swing and miss, and it will likely only get worse as he sees upper level pitching. It’s true 70 power but I worry there might not be enough for him to get to it against MLB caliber pitching. He had a great 2022, but the true test will be age appropriate competition at the upper levels.

Evan (New York):

     Feels like Yanquiel Fernandez has been touted as a sleeper big bat in this system for forever but he hasn’t moved up the board much. Do the Rockies still consider him an interesting prospect? How close was he to the top 10?

Geoff Pontes: Hi Evan, thanks for the question. Yanquiel is close to the top ten and was considered. He’s not far off from Beck and he’s viewed in a similar fashion. The issue is Yanquiel’s approach is aggressive and he’s not a very good defender. The Rockies system is pretty deep and they made four picks in the first 50 picks of the draft. So he’s moving up in the Top 30 and he’s just outside the top 10. The power on Yanquiel is for real and he has bat-to-ball skills. The numbers speak for themselves. It’s a bat first power prospect with a risky approach.

Warren (New London):

     What is your take on the Nolan Jones/Juan Brito trade? How would you compare Brito to Adael Amador? Was it easier for the Rockies to let Brito go because Amador would probably be better off at second base?

Geoff Pontes: It was a solid trade, Brito certainly fits the Guardians type. Jones is interesting, there were some positives to take a way from last season. He showed progress at the plate in Triple-A. He’s got an opportunity to earn some playing time. Not a bad move for the Rockies if they feel they can give him the MLB reps he needs. Brito versus Amador is interesting. Amador is younger, has some shot to stick at shortstop and everything Brito does well, Amador does a little better. He makes more contact, chases less and hits the ball harder. Long term, Amador is likely to move to second, I haven’t heard if that was going to be in 2023.

Frederick (Boston):

     Hi Geoff, Thank you for the chat today! With regards to Adael Amador, I was wondering why he never received a promotion to HiA last season. Is there anything to be gleaned from this slow approach to him? Also, is becoming a player like Luis Arraez a legitimate outcome for Amador?

Geoff Pontes: The Rockies tried to keep that core group of young players together last year. Yanquiel, Brito and Guerrero all spent all of 2022 at Fresno. Easy to forget Amamdor just turned 19 the first week of the season. I’d anticipate if things go well he could see multiple levels this season. I think he’ll walk more than Arraez and have more power. That said Arraez had a 3 WAR season at 25 and I think the Rockies would be pretty happy with that outcome.

Matthew (Colorado):

     What are your thoughts on Jackson Cox? How far off was he from the top 10 and what are the Rockies plans in terms of his development?

Geoff Pontes: He’s 11. Just missed the top 10, it’s some of the best stuff in the 2022 class. Sinker at 92-95 mph, high-spin banger curveball with two-plane break. He competes on the mound too, the feedback was really good. I think this is the Rockies highest upside pitcher. As for the plans, we have to wait and see. I did not get specifics around what the next year will look like.

Molly B. (New Jersey):

     What can Jordy Vargas do to raise his upside past a #4 starter, if anything, and how likely do you think he could accomplish it? Thanks!

Geoff Pontes: Hi Molly – Throwing strikes with his secondaries. He has great command of fastball and the secondaries look good but he doesn’t land them regularly. He could also add some velocity, his fastball shape is just okay, but if he can get up to sitting 93-96 regularly, he can take that jump.

Taylor V (Seattle, WA):

     Is Bryan Perez still an intriguing prospect with breakout potential or has he falling of the radar? Thanks for your time, Geoff

Geoff Pontes: He’s still on the radar, but he struggled this season on the complex. The fastball is up to 98 mph but he doesn’t miss many bats for that type of power. Strike-throwing isn’t an issue but batters have seen the ball well out of his hand. It’s a small sample and he dealt with injury, so let’s see where it goes from here.

Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):

     These fellows (Tommy Doyle and Riley Pint) are getting older, but they were really high draft choices – any chance they finally make a significant contribution to the Rockies’ pitching staff?

Geoff Pontes: Pint has a shot if he can throw strikes. He was pretty nasty out of the pen for Hartford this year. The strikes are still a problem though. Pint sits 96 mph with an outrageous slider in the upper-80s. It’s real deal bullpen stuff but he’s walking 15%+ of the batters he’s facing. Pint is on the 40 man and could be an option this year. Doyle I don’t know, he hasn’t pitched in close to two years, and is about a year and a half removed from shoulder surgery. I know he’s throwing as of October but don’t know much more than that.

Sparky (Colorado):

     How concerned should Rockies fans be about the bumpy start Benny Montgomery has had since being drafted? And is the hitch in his swing going to hold him back eventually?

Geoff Pontes: It’s not just a hitch as much as a bunch of weird quirks. He hand pumps, bat wraps and has an arm bar too. That said he’s a freak athlete with crazy bat speed. The makeup is off the charts too. He’s tricky on the surface the numbers were good, he was really good post injury too. Under the surface it’s below-average contact and approach, which makes me wonder if he can maintain it. I wouldn’t call his 2022 bumpy as he was really productive. He’s just toeing a tight line. This is an athlete over skills profile and you hope the skills come along.

Will (Boston, MA):

     It’s interesting to see BA’s report on Amador which highlights his limited ceiling in power, but also notes his “immense upside” as a hitter. Even with the average power, what is Amador’s ultimate ceiling as a hitter in Coors?

Geoff Pontes: Will thanks for the question. He has 65 hit grade and I think that’s driving the profile, he has the ability to run high averages and high OBPs with mid-teens type of power. If we put that type of player in Coors the numbers are going to get a boost. No matter where he plays I think he’s a really advanced hitter and it’s not just elite contact with no approach like many in this archetype. Not many guys are this advanced at 19 inn their first taste of full season ball.

Glenn (Boulder, CO):

     Exactly how deep is this system compared to others around the league?

Geoff Pontes: It’s right up there in terms of depth but starts to fall off toward the back of the top 30 list. I think the top 20 or so is strong, there’s a lot of upside too.

Aiden (CT):

     Which Rockies minor league team is the most exciting going into the 2023 season

Geoff Pontes: My guess would be Spokane with all of the young players from Fresno moving up, could make for an exciting squad late with Hartford.

Dennis (Windsor, CO):

     Will Jaden Hill end up being one of the biggest steals of the 2021 MLB Draft? And is his future as a reliever or starting pitcher? Thank you.

Geoff Pontes: To be determined. I get mostly relief roles on Hill, but it’s tough to know exactly with so little experience to draw from. He has power and two average or better secondaries. Starting isn’t out of the question and I imagine he’ll be given every opportunity.

Aiden S (Connecticut):

     What are your predicted power rankings comparing all the Rockies affiliates for next year?

Geoff Pontes: Spokane > Hartford > Fresno > Albuquerque. I think we’ll see the most talent in Spokane to start and for the biggest chunk of the year.

Adael Amador (Fresno, CA):

     I know the 2026 line-ups are just a fun exercise, but there really won’t be a starting spot for me? What does that say about my long-term potential? Am I the next Jean Segura?

Geoff Pontes: You’re going to be 22 (just about 23) on opening day. It’s a matter of you earning your spot in 2026 in the coming years. My guess is you debut in 2025 and will be on the active MLB roster in 2026 to start the year. The Rockies like to slow roll guys into everyday jobs unless they take the job like a Story or Arenado. I don’t think it’s anything more than a reflection of your age and opportunities. You could be the next Jean Segura and that’s not a bad outcome, there might be more hit we’ll see.

Lou (Philadelphia):

     Is the prudent development path for Veen to start him back at AA Hartford with a mid-season AAA bump and a cup of MLB coffee in September? It would be great for him to work on and demonstrate an uptick in power as a minor leaguer, as opposed to pressing for it. Heck, he will still only be 21 for the entire baseball season.

Geoff Pontes: I do not think there’s any rush to get Veen on an accelerated path. No Rule 5 decisions are needed until 2024 and he needs to add impact. He’s a tall kid and I think there’s more physical strength coming. There’s some elements of his swing that are sapping some of his raw power that he can likely improve. Really good approach, smart player in the field and a good heads up base runner that reads pitchers well. He’s a good player but not a finished product, if he takes a step forward in terms of hitting for impact he may force the issue a little earlier.

Matt (Co):

     Is Veen in the lineup on opening day?

Geoff Pontes: Not until 2025 IMO.

Anthony (Denver):

     I’ve heard someone from Fresno throw a Pedro Martinez comp on Jordy Vargas. Too ambitious?

Geoff Pontes: That seems really ambitious based on my conversations with outside evaluators I’ve spoken with. They see more a solid number four starter capable of giving you quality innings.

Zac (NYC):

     Hi there. Can you talk about Bryant Betancourt? He had a nice year. Does he have breakout potential and will be crack the Top-30?

Geoff Pontes: He cracked the top 30, it’s a funky profile as I don’t think he’s sticking at catcher. The bat is very legit, there’s contact, approach and power and evaluators liked what they saw from him. He’s the rare DSL repeater who might be something. More coming in the Top 30.

Warren (New London):

     How confident are you in Drew Romo’s bat? As a defense-first high school catcher who was a high draft pick, he reminds me of Jeff Mathis and Austin Hedges. That would be a reasonably good outcome, but do you think Romo could be better?

Geoff Pontes: It’s tricky! The defense is at that sort of level where I’m certain he’ll have a long big league career. He makes a ton of contact, it’s plus bat-to-ball skills, he has average approach, maybe a tick better. The issue is he never really taps into his true raw power due to his contact focused swing. That said, switch-hitters take longer to come around and he has two-thirds of a good offensive profile. If he maintains his approach and contact and gets to average power that’s a really good everyday catcher, maybe an all-star. It’s more offense than Hedges or Mathis, it’s just not going to be a 20+ homer bat at catcher. A Jason Kendall type.

Alex (Denver):

     Hi Geoff, thanks for host the chat today. With Warming Bernabel having such a low K%, I would expect his hit tool to grade out at least 60. 13% seems insanely low especially for today’s 3 outcome game. Can you explain how you settled on 55?

Geoff Pontes: Thanks for the question Alex. The bat-to-ball skills are above-average not plus (sub-80% contact) and he chases a lot. There’s bat-to-ball skills masking a bad approach and that is often a bad formula as you move up and see upper level pitching. I think we saw some of that in the AFL. It’s still an above-average hit tool which is a carrying tool.

Warming Bernabel (power potential):

     Thanks for chatting with us Geoff. Can you elaborate on why my power is a 45 even though I have above average bat speed and such good barrel control? Is it a launch angle issue where my bat path lends to lower line drives than balls going over the fence? If so, are there any minor adjustments that can be made for me to bump my power potential up?

Geoff Pontes: Some of it is the bat path and the swing itself. I don’t know if it’s a matter of adding launch angle. You’re not that flat, your average LA on batted balls 95+ is around 12 degrees. The other issue is the exit velocity data and hard hit rates are below-average. I feel 45 is always a hedge that a player is a below-average power hitter that shows flashes of average power. That to say you could get there, but as currently constituted I get 45 grades from the power from scouts.

Nate Handy (Colorado):

     I think you’d agree, there is a good amount of arm talent in this system. Coors is a riddle/hurdle that isn’t conquered by arm talent alone, or by maybe anyone for that matter. But do you see a common theme running through the system in way of traits they are after and/or attempts at developing it in a specific way? Any inclination the Rockies, as an organization, are taking strides in, generically speaking, “pitching development” or not so much?

Geoff Pontes: Hey Nate – Good to have you in the chat! Shocked this isn’t a Beef Goodman question! I see it at the lower levels they have a variety of profiles from picthability guys like Vargas or Juarez, to power arms like Hughes or Hill and they have added some interesting looks in someone like Palmquist. I think they’re acquiring better talent and there were strides made by many of their pitchers. Now it’s time to see how this crop of more talented Rockies pitching prospects fair as they move up. They’ve certainly shown a greater bias to stuff guys, as shown by the adds of Blair Calvo and Pint to the 40 man roster. I haven’t heard of any specific focuses outside of individual development plans for pitchers. They’re certainly not moving more toward an Astros, Dodgers or Rays sort of pitching development machine, but they’re bringing in better talents.

Renee (Wyoming):

     What’s your analysis of Brenton Doyle? Has he addressed his problems with striking out, and do you see him playing center field for the Rockies soon? Thank you!

Geoff Pontes: We will see but he still strikes out too much to profile as anything more than a bench guy. He could be a really good bench player, reserve outfielder I just think he would get exposed at the plate over long periods of time. The power, speed, defense and arm are all above-average or better, he just has a 30 hit tool.

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