Adael Amador, Yanquiel Fernandez Add To Growing Strength Of Rockies Farm System
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.—Ever so quietly, a steady stream of talent is making its way up the lower levels of the Rockies system.
Last year, it was outfielder Zac Veen, catcher Drew Romo and shortstop Ezequiel Tovar who revealed themselves as promising young players at Low-A Fresno. All successfully made the jump to higher levels and now rank among the top 50 prospects on the BA Top 100.
This year, another wave of talent is making its presence known with Fresno.
Shortstop Adael Amador and outfielder Yanquiel Fernandez each hit a two-run homer and righthander Jordy Vargas pitched four solid innings in his full-season debut on Tuesday night to lead the Grizzlies to an 8-5 win over Inland Empire (Angels). Fresno has won five of seven and is 61-42 overall, in contention for the California League’s best record for the second straight season.
The Grizzlies have done that fielding a roster primarily made up of players who won the Rookie-level Arizona Complex League championship with the ACL Rockies last season. Already, a culture of winning is taking root at the foundational levels of the Rockies system.
“They've been told come here and play hard every day and give it all they got and we'll take care of showing them how to play the right way, how to win ballgames,” said Fresno manager Robinson Cancel, the former big league catcher. “I think it’s working out for us (the) last couple of years. We've got a good group here and a good dynamic, and I think that's why it's working out.”
Amador, the Rockies No. 4 prospect and No. 59 overall on the BA Top 100, led a five-run rally in the eighth inning to fuel a come-from-behind victory. After striking out in his first at-bat and walking in his next two, he finally got a pitch to drive when he got a slider over the plate from Inland Empire reliever Blake Seigler and didn’t miss it. He launched a two-run homer off the scoreboard in right-center field, his 14th home run of the year, to kickstart the rally.
Signed for $1.5 million as one of the top prospects in the 2019 international class, Amador is now batting .307/.427/.481 and ranks third in the Cal League in hits as a 19-year-old in his first full season.
“I've just left it all in God's hands and come out and just have fun every single day and just do whatever it whatever it takes to win,” Amador said through interpreter Yorvis Torrealba, Fresno’s left fielder. “Consistency has been my biggest thing this year. That’s been huge for me.”
Fernandez, the Rockies No. 24 prospect, opened the scoring with a long two-run homer to left-center field in the first inning and kept Fresno’s eighth inning rally going with a double two batters after Amador’s homer. He later came around to score the go-ahead run on a bases loaded walk and finished 2-for-5 with his double, home run and a pair of long, loud flyouts to deep center field.
Another 19-year-old signed in the 2019 international class, Fernandez now leads the Cal League with 29 doubles and ranks second with 80 RBIs.
“He’s going to be obviously a monster,” Cancel said. “When he makes contact, when he barrels balls, they just take off.”
While Amador and Fernandez have been with Fresno all season the callup of Vargas reinforced just how much talent lies in the lower levels of the Rockies system. An 18-year-old Dominican is his first full season stateside, Vargas blew through the ACL with a 2.36 ERA and 40 strikeouts against just four walks in 26.2 innings.
He made his first start for Fresno and showed a 91-94 mph fastball that got repeated swings and misses in the strike zone, a tight, biting 73-78 mph curveball he could land for strikes and an 84-85 mph changeup he could throw in any count, all out of a loose, quick arm. He quickly worked through Inland Empire’s order the first two innings before running into trouble in the third, where he briefly lost his fastball command and his defense allowed a fly ball to drop on what should have been the third out of the inning, setting the stage for three runs to score. But Vargas stayed composed and recovered to finish his night with a 1-2-3 fourth inning, striking out the final batter he faced to finish on a high note.
Even though Vargas’ final line didn’t stand out, his total package had scouts in attendance opining that if he were in this year’s draft class—where he would have fit age-wise—he would have been selected in the first round.
“I'm very pleased the way he pitched,” Cancel said. “He only gave up three runs because a ball got caught in the twilight and then dropped. He threw the ball well for four innings.”
Amador, Fernandez, Vargas and the rest of the Rockies talented young players at Fresno are largely teenagers and still years away from being ready to contribute in Colorado. Even some of the organization’s “older” talents like Tovar, Veen and Romo are in their age-20 seasons and have a lot of development still remaining.
But for a Rockies team on pace for its fourth straight losing season, it’s notable the promise of better days ahead exists in the homegrown talent they have now as opposed to some undetermined date in the future.
In terms of both wins and talent, the lower levels of the Rockies system continue to stand out.
“We just have good talent over here,” Cancel said. “When you have talent and then they play hard, eventually we'll come up with Ws.”