Image credit: Brendan Rodgers (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
- Why do you have Rodgers listed? It seems that he is no longer rookie eligible.
Joe Healy: Hello, everyone! Sorry I’m a few minutes late. I’m a first-timer in the BA chat, so there was some learning curve for me. I’ll make it up to you. This question is a great place to start because I’ve already been asked about it on Twitter. Rodgers is still prospect eligible for us because the threshold is 130 at-bats. Hard as it might be to believe, he’s still not there. Had the 2020 season been a normal one or had he not been nicked up, he probably graduates off the list, but instead, he’s back once more.
- sweet list Joe. How many rockies do you think make the top 100? Also, when will the top 100 be out? thanks as always
Joe Healy: First things first, the Top 100 will be out Monday. I’m not involved in the Top 100 deliberation myself, but based on conversations I’ve had with those who are, it probably won’t be more than a couple of players, perhaps just Rodgers and Veen. HOWEVER, as I discussed on a soon-to-be-released BA podcast with Kyle Glaser about the system, there are a whole host of guys who are in that next group outside the Top 100 who could be ready to move in once they see more time at the upper levels. It’s not a very strong system at the very top, but there’s some quality depth. Most of it just hasn’t played above the Class A levels.
Bored Lawyer, Esq. (Office):
- What happened to Grant Lavigne? Slugging .333 in Asheville just seems impossible for a guy with his power. Is he too patient in the box? Any optimism in the org that he can be the guy he was in Grand Junction?
Joe Healy: Hello bored lawyer! I’ll answer your question under the assumption that it won’t count toward billable hours. There is some concern that his patience, while an asset, also hurts him in that maybe he’s letting pitches go by that he could drive. The Rockies still really like him because of his raw power and strike zone discipline, but a couple of things are hindered him. One is that he is a raw player himself. As a New England high school kid, he hasn’t played nearly as much baseball as kids who grew up in California, Florida or Texas, or that went to college. The other thing is that he’s largely blocked in the system. Michael Toglia is also a potential middle-of-the-order bat, but he might be a Gold Glover, too. Also, Colton Welker may need to move to 1B at some point if his bat plays but he shows that he’s not a 3B. He needs to further prove himself first and foremost, but even if he does, his path is a tough one to see.
- Thanks for taking questions today. How close was Jameson Hannah to making the top 10? Does he project more as a 4th OF in the majors?
Joe Healy: He wasn’t particularly close to the top 10, even if his ranking isn’t too far from the top 10, if that makes sense. He was just never really in the discussion to get that high. I think his floor is pretty high. He has a mature approach, he can run and he can cover center field. That will get him pretty far. But there is an increasing feeling that he’s a fourth outfielder in most cases. If he shows that he can impact the baseball more in the next year or two, that may change.
- What’s the latest on Ryan Vilade? What’s his ceiling? Does he have the potential to be an everyday player for the Rox going forawrd?
Joe Healy: The Rockies are really excited about him and think he can be a regular. There’s been so much discussion about what position he ultimately plays on the infield that I have to wonder if the move to just focus him in the outfield will kind of free him up to just be who he is. Of course, he still will have to learn play the outfield well enough to be viable. The bat isn’t really in question. He’s gained some strength and he looks the part physically of someone who should hit with significant power, but his bat path is pretty flat. It’s dangerous when young players try to manufacture lift, but if he can naturally learn to do that, I think he’s got a chance to have the power of someone like Sam Hilliard with more hittability.
- Thanks for your time, Joe. Love the list. Did you debate Rodgers/Veen for the #1 spot? Also, which rockies do you expect to make the BA top 100? Probably Rodgers and Even. Maybe rollison and Tolgia? Thanks as always Joe!
Joe Healy: I have to answer any question from another Joseph. I think that’s the rule. It was a debate between Rodgers/Veen. What made it tough is that they could not be any further apart in terms of their prospect journeys. Rodgers is a guy who would have graduated the list if he had been healthier or if the season in 2020 were a normal one. And Veen is someone who hasn’t played an organized game in the system yet. Ultimately, we went with Rodgers because, for all intents and purposes, he’s a big leaguer and that counts for something. He’ll be on the roster in 2021 and will have a shot to sink or swim. Whereas with Veen, there’s a ton to like, but we haven’t seen him yet. Also, if we’re nitpicking, Veen seems like he may be ticketed for right field in the future rather than center, especially if he continues to grow physically. His arm will give him value at RF, but obviously, you’d prefer he be able to be a CF.
- Awesome list. Thoughts on Drew Romo? When will the top 100 prospects be out? thanks
Joe Healy: ICYMI, Top 100 will be out Monday. Early reports on Romo are that he’s the real deal defensively, but that’s no surprise. High school catcher is a notoriously risky profile in the draft, but everything that I’ve heard about him is that he’s mature beyond your typical high school draftee and that might not only help him reach his potential, but also might help him move a bit faster than other high school players. The question about him is the bat. The Rockies liked what they saw from him in a limited window this fall and thought that maybe they had undersold his offensive tools, but with hit-first catchers, you’re always in wait and see mode about what they develop into offensively.
Dan (Baseball fan):
- I feel like every year there’s a guy or two who puts up huge numbers in Grand Junction, gets some helium on the lists, and then putters out when he gets to full season ball. Vilade, Lavigne come to mind. What distinguishes Brenton Doyle from this?
Joe Healy: It’s a good question, and I was admittedly more skeptical on Doyle than some of my colleagues just because we haven’t seen him do it outside of Grand Junction yet. What I would say is that his game is so much more varied than guys like Vilade and Lavigne. He can hit and hit with power, and on top of that, he’s a guy they think can potentially play all three OF positions. That’s different from a guy like Vilade who has always had defensive questions and Lavigne, who is a traditional 1B. What I will also say about Doyle is that he’s the guy that the people within the organization light up about when they talk about him. Sometimes when you’re talking prospects, it’s not what they say but the tone of voice in which they say it, and you can tell that they’re really excited about him.
- Is Ben Bowden still on the T30? Chance he could make his debut this year?
Joe Healy: Yes, I can confirm that he’s in the 30, right about in the middle. It would be a surprise, to me at least, if we DIDN’T see him debut this season.
- Seems like every scouting report on Drew Romo says; great defense, questionable bat. Despite that, Rockies selected him high, so do they value catching defense a lot more than other organizations or do they believe that his hitting tools will improve?
Joe Healy: Because I’m not a Rockies beat writer or a local reporter, I can’t say for sure how they value catching defense versus other organizations, but they do like Romo’s chances to hit at the big league level, and coming out of the fall, maybe thought that they had undersold his tools on that side of the ball. But we’ll have to wait and see.
Grant Lavigne (#11?):
- Thanks for chatting with us Joe. Why did I drop from #6 in the 2020 midseason rankings to completely out of the top 10? Was I invited to the alternate site and instructionals? If so, did I just look that bad?
Joe Healy: Hi Grant, Don’t get down on yourself! The org actually really liked the quality of your at-bats in instructs, so you’ve done nothing wrong. The reality of the situation is just that you’re still pretty raw and inexperienced, and there were a good number of guys in the back half of the Top 10 that have either exploded onto the scene or taken big jumps. Be patient and be yourself!
- What impact do you think the young international players will have on the system.
Joe Healy: There are some really talented international players in the mix, but they’re mostly in the back half of the Top 30 and fairly far away. Helcris Olivarez is the obvious exception, as he rocketed in the Top 10. The fact that the Rockies put him on the 40-man after just one season stateside tells you most of what you need to know about what they think of him.
Colton Welker (Rebound candidate?):
- Great write ups! As you noted, I was on cloud 9 with a breakout 2018 season followed by a sizzling start to the 2019 season before I started pressing and fading badly the 2nd half of the year in AA. That was really my first taste of adversity since being drafted. How did I look at the alternate site and the instructional league? Do the Rockies think that rocky patch (pardon the pun) was actually good for my long-term development? Is a plus hit/average power mix still a realistic outcome?
Joe Healy: Hi Colton, I’ll tell you the same thing I told Grant. Just be yourself, because the org really liked that version of you. Just because you’ve settled into a corner infield profile, that doesn’t mean that you have to become a masher. Just hit the ball hard and focus on that. You’re going to play in Coors Field, where you can hit doubles for days, and some of those balls will find their way out. Also, I would say that it’s important to stay as fit as possible to do everything you can to try to avoid becoming just a 1B defensively. Your hitting is always going to be your ticket to the big leagues, but it can’t hurt to mix in some versatility.
- Hey, Joe! Curious for news on Adael Amador’s development over the past year. Have you heard anything? Thanks!
Joe Healy: They really like the toolset, but they haven’t really seen him yet. He obviously didn’t get a season in 2020 and then injury kept him from playing in instructs. He’s really advanced for an international signee, and in a best case scenario, he’s an everyday shortstop with above-average hit and average power. Still a long way to go for him, though.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):
- Tommy Doyle got to pitch in a few games in 2020 for the Rockies – will he get to pitch in a lot of games in 2021? After all, he was a really high draft choice (2nd round, 2017).
Joe Healy: I think the answer is yes. He clearly wasn’t quite ready in 2020, but the Rockies are looking for long-term answers in the bullpen, and he has the stuff to be a real guy for them. The Rockies think he might be a potential closer of the future, in fact.
- Do you think the Rockies farm system is on the come up?
Joe Healy: I’m glad something like this got asked, because while no one would argue that the Rockies’ system be among the best in the sport right now, there is quality depth here. A lot of it just hasn’t gotten past Class A and/or hasn’t made the move stateside. Just by virtue of some of those guys getting older, I think we’ll see this system start to move in the right direction of the org talent rankings. Also, this 2020 class could have a lot to do with that. Veen is an exciting player, Romo gives the org some much-needed high-end ability at a thin position and I heard some rave reviews on Chris McMahon already.
Matthew (Colorado Springs):
- How close was Drew Romo to making the top 10? And how did he look at fall instructs?
Joe Healy: He was close, ultimately got squeezed at the last minute, mostly just because it’s good practice to use extra caution with prep catchers. The org liked what they saw from him, but it’s still early, obviously.
- Julio Carreras performed well in Arizona. Any thoughts on how much of an impact he might make?
Joe Healy: Now here’s a guy in the back half of the 30 who is easy to dream on. Good body, good leverage in his swing, which will help him continue to hit for power as he fills out, and there’s real optimism that he’s not only a legit 3B thanks to his actions and arm strength, but could also be a 2B or SS in a pinch. I’ll be eager to see how his bat progresses in 2021 and beyond.
John A (San Francisco):
- What, exactly, is Michael Toglia? The dream of a contact-first 1B who plays in Coors is tantalizing, especially because it might mean he’s less of a liability on the road. Are we looking at a potential .300 AVG / 25 HR hitter here, or is that too optimistic on the average?
Joe Healy: The comp I was given on Toglia is J.T. Snow. The like him as an elite defensive first baseman who hits with power. I don’t think your projection is too optimistic on the whole, but if I had to bet on one of the .300 average or 25 HR, I’d go 25 HR.
- What tidbits can you share from the alternate site and instructs? Anybody stand out at either place? Any surprises or deep roster guys?
Joe Healy: One guy who lit up instructs is Ryan Feltner, which kind of seems to have put him back on course as a SP prospect rather than a fringe SP who might be more of an RP. The Rockies loved what he did with the pandemic-induced layoff in terms of making use of the time and getting better remotely. His fastball is one of the best in the system, he has an above-average changeup and has improved the slider. Reports were that he was pounding the zone at instructs, but with Feltner’s history, that control piece will be something to watch moving forward.
- Can you go over the catching depth in the system? It seems a little light….
Joe Healy: It is extremely light, which is why getting Romo in the system is a sight for sore eyes. In terms of actual prospects, the next-best guy is probably Willie MacIver. Now, as a college baseball writer by day who loved watching MacIver at Washington, I’m probably higher on him than most, but he’s not in the Top 30. Other than that, it’s just a lot of depth guys.
- Your thoughts on Michael Toglia? Will he stick at 1B? Thanks
Joe Healy: I think if the Rockies have their way, he will be a 1B for his entire career. He’s simply too good a defensive 1B to force the issue. But let’s say that Colton Welker gets back on track at the plate and becomes one of the best hitters in the big league lineup and he’s just a 1B and we’re living in a world where we still don’t have a universal DH. In that specific scenario, they do think Toglia could serviceably play the outfield. But again, I think that would take their hand being forced.
Yanquiel Fernandez (Cuba):
- The Rockies have told me that I could reach the majors in 3 years…what’s the latest update on me and is it possible to make a Juan Soto ascension to the Bigs in a Rockies system.
Joe Healy: Well, Yanquiel, with the 2020 season being taken from you, that timeline does seem aggressive. But if (a big if!) there’s a profile that seems ripe for making a quick ascent, it’s a mature body with big-time power and a defensive tool that makes you playable right away, and your arm certainly qualifies.
Brad (Colorado Springs):
- I noticed that Grant Lavigne did not make the top 10. Is it time to give up on that guy or might he still be able to turn himself into a productive major leaguer? What’s your assessment of his future?
Joe Healy: Lots of curiosity about Lavigne in this chat, so I’ll say definitively that it is not time to give up on him. He’s as green as any non-international prospect in the system, and that honestly includes some of the 2020 draftees. His path to the big leagues is a tough one given that he’s not likely to jump Toglia and Welker may end up at 1B as well, but don’t sell your Lavigne stock just yet.
- So what’s the story on Riley Pint? It would be nice to know if he’s made any progress.
Joe Healy: His fastball is always going to give him a shot to be SOMETHING at the big league level. It’s still the best one in the system. The reports on him from the team this offseason were that he looked as good as he has in a while and that while there still was some inconsistency, the disastrous outings were much fewer and further between. On the other hand, there also weren’t rave reviews, so for him, I think it’s just a matter of whether he ends up with good enough control for a long enough period of time to carve out a bullpen role at some point.
- Outside the Top 10, which prospects are you keeping a particularly watchful eye on in 2021? Also, how about a less talked about prospect that may get noticed in 2021 (a/k/a “personal cheeseball”)?
Joe Healy: I don’t know if he qualifies as a less talked about prospect because he was a high draft pick, but early reports were excellent on Chris McMahon. The stuff is plenty good, but they really, really like his mentality. I cover college baseball normally, and I recall from his days at Miami that he always carried himself with a ton of confidence and belief. I think that matters in this system as much as in any system because of the Coors Field factor. Even if there are other hitter havens that don’t get as much publicity, there is just that mystique about pitching at Coors, and it seems like the pitchers who have done best there are the guys who just have that “so what?” attitude about it. He’s a guy that I think is well equipped to get it done there because he’s not going to deflate after his first five-run inning. And yes, he has a fastball up to 96 mph with the potential for two plus secondaries.
- What differentiates a prospect like Veen vs Doyle for you? Different profiles, but it’s debatable Doyle has more skills and Veen has the bigger power. Both have to answer the question of better competition yet one gets more love than the other. Doyle feels like a more avenues to the bigs type while Been may fit the mold of a riskier power over hit type Whatt do you think contributes to that?
Joe Healy: Whether it’s fair or not, I just think there’s still a lot of skepticism about Brenton Doyle since he’s a DII college player who has only played at Grand Junction. There are those who will tell you that if Doyle had played at Florida or Miami or UCLA or even a school like West Virginia rather than a small school in the state of West Virginia that he’s a first-round talent. Through that lens, maybe there isn’t much daylight between them. I think there is probably something to your assessment. Doyle probably ends up as the more well-rounded player given his chances to play CF. Veen is probably more likely a RF. But just because there is a scenario where Veen develops into a true masher, don’t undersell his hit tool. We still have it graded higher than Doyle’s.
- Which hitter in the system has the highest ceiling, and why is it Brenton Doyle?
Joe Healy: It very well might be Brenton Doyle, and I get the sense that the org might feel we still have him a bit too low here. His hit tool is a tick below the other upper-tier prospects on this list, but I do think there’s a scenario where that improves as he continues to face better pitching and get accustomed to this level. Let’s not forget that because he was a small-school player and because he’s only played at Grand Junction, he probably hasn’t faced very many pitchers yet who are going to end up in the big leagues.
- Vilade at 9, you guys seem cooler on him than others. Is that because of the defense? Lack of a real standout tool? Lack of upside? Just all those things rolled into one?
Joe Healy: I think you answered it there at the end. It’s a combination of him not having any 60 tools, the fact that he may end up as a LF (or DH) profile and the fact that he got a little caught up in the mechanics of building a top 10 in that guys like Schunk, McMahon and Doyle needed to move up. Sometimes guys move down through little fault of their own.
- Was Adael Amador able to accomplish anything of enough note in the instructional league to get anywhere near this list, or is the jury still too far out?
Joe Healy: He’s the next international guy in the rankings behind Olivarez, but ultimately, the injury right at the start of the instructs kept him from doing anything that was going to vault him any higher than he is.
- To what extent does altitude impact the Rockies’ selection and preferences for MiLB affiliates? Do they want their minor leaguers to get accustomed to playing home games at altitude to prepare them for life at Coors? Albuquerque is at a similar altitude as Denver, but Hartford is near sea level, whereas cities in the Texas league are at a higher altitude (Amarillo, at 3,600 feet, even switched affiliations this offseason). They also went from Asheville and Lancaster (both above 2,000 feet) to Spokane (1,800 feet) and Fresno (300 feet). It seems that they could have used MiLB realignment to potentially get more affiliates at higher altitudes, and I am curious if this is something that has been a consideration for the team and its player development goals and strategies.
Joe Healy: This is a really well thought out and interesting question, so I wanted to acknowledge it even if I don’t have a good answer. To be honest, I don’t really have a feel for what went into the selection of their affiliates in the reshuffling. In my own personal opinion, it seems to make a lot of sense that you would want to expose players to the pros of cons of playing at altitude before encountering it at the big league level. At the same time, I think there is also something to the idea, especially at the lower levels, of just giving your players a chance to focus on themselves without worrying too much about playing at altitude and other things like that that they can’t control. What I can confidently say is that this latest realignment of the minor leagues was complicated and messy, as JJ Cooper has reported repeatedly, so it’s also probably not nearly as simple as you and I might think it is.
- Colton Welker has been lauded for his advanced hit tool ever since being drafted in 2016. He’s shown that off at every stop until he started to sell out for more power after a hot start to the 2019 season in AA. He’s obviously shown that he can be an elite hitter. Is a 55 hit potentially even too low if he goes back to focusing on hitting the ball hard rather than trying to hit home runs? With him eventually playing at Coors, it feels he’ll naturally hit 20 HRs as it is. Do you think a future 60 hit/50 power mix is possible?
Joe Healy: Lots of Colton Welker questions in this cast as well. He, Doyle and Lavigne seem to be on your minds, Rockies fans. So that seems like a good place to wrap up. Simply put, I think a 60 hit/55 power profile is on the table for him. It’s not that far off from where he is now, and honestly, his defensive limitations make it hard to be this high of him if we DIDN’T think he had it in him to have plus hit and above-average power in the big leagues. Thanks for joining me today. I had a lot of fun reporting on and learning about this system in this process, and I hope to be joining you again about this time next year to do it all again. Have a great day, everyone!