Colorado Rockies 2022 Top 10 MLB Prospects Chat

Image credit: Ryan Rolison (Photo by Tony Farlow)

Following today’s release of our new Rockies Top 10, Kyle Newman answered your questions below. 

Kyle Weatherly (Timmonsville, South Carolina):

     Granted it was in Low A, but Zac Veen did not hit his 1st HR until June 20th & yet he finished the season with an OPS of .900. And he did all this while only 19. Is it possible that the Rockies may have found gold with him?

Kyle Newman: Short answer: Yes. Long answer: When the Rockies took Veen at No. 9 overall last year, they believed he was better than all the pundits and draft beatniks suggested. With one season in the books, he might even be better than what the Rockies thought. He’s somewhat of a free swinger and his plate discipline will need to be shored up… but his domination in the second half with Fresno (1.096 OPS in August) was impressive, especially for his age. And there’s more power in his swing that hasn’t been tapped into.

Frederick (Boston):

     Hi Kyle, thank you for the chat and happy holidays! I was wondering if you could see a potential breakout from Adael Amador coming? And conversely, what are some reservations you or scouts have on him?

Kyle Newman: Amador has an extremely high ceiling, and he had a strong debut pro season in the Arizona Complex League. He will be tested in the Class-A levels in 2022. Whether he can breakout depends on his bat (he’s flashed very little power so far) and his frame (at 18, he still needs to fill out). Also, where he fits defensively is still up in the air — some within the organization aren’t sold on him as a pure shortstop, and project him at second base instead. Even with those concerns, there’s still reason to believe he can be in the lineup at Coors Field in four years or so.

Brad (NJ):

     For a rebuilding team, this farm system seems terrible. Outside of Veen, you have a 1B only good but not great hitter, a defense only C, then a back end SP and basically nothing after that to get excited about. Maybe Montero can hit as a DH. Seems awefully light for a farm on a rebuilding team. I assume this has a lot to do with not getting anything for Gray, or Story, will comp picks and this upcoming draft make a significant impact on their farm next year?

Kyle Newman: Brad, you’re right in the critique that the farm system is thin. No matter what rankings you look at, the Rockies are widely viewed as having a bottom-third farm system. So to bank on a rebuild at the MLB level coming around quickly would be naive; this is a rebuild that is going to take several years. The Rockies had a solid 2021 draft and the 2022 draft will be just as important for Colorado to continue to stockpile talent in the lower levels. Zac Veen, Michael Toglia and Drew Romo (I think he’ll turn out to be a lot more than a defense-only catcher) should give Rockies fans reason for hope. But on the other side of that coin… the organization’s starting pitching depth is extremely thin. Stockpiling arms needs to be a focus for Bill Schmidt in this year’s draft, especially after spending the last three first-round picks on position players.

Zac (ZP):

     The Rangers list from yesterday had two prospects from the Gallo trade in the top ten. Arenado is a significantly better player than Gallo but garnered just one player in the top ten. Firstly, where do you put the other players in that return today? Secondly, how would you say the Cards did in comparison to other trades for high profile players that have happened in the 10 months since?

Kyle Newman: Zac, there’s no doubt the Cardinals won the trade. They got a Hall of Fame player in exchange for a middle-rotation starter (at best) in southpaw Austin Gomber, plus four other prospects. Elehuris Montero (this year’s No. 8 prospect) looks like he could be an impact corner infield player down the line, though he’s a bat-first prospect. The rest of the return in the deal, right-handers Tony Locey and Jake Sommers plus infielder Mateo Gil, are fringe prospects. To answer the second part of the question, 10 months later, the Cardinals did as well in the deal, or better, than every other major trade that occurred in 2021.

Mike R (Lockport NY):

     Is Warming Bernabel in top 15 ? Is a hit only prospect ?

Kyle Newman: Mike, I have Bernabel as the No. 16 prospect this year, but his arrow is rising as fast as any positional player in the organization. The Rockies are high on him internally, and he can hit for average and power. He has a strong arm at third base, but still has lots to shore up there with his footwork and fluidity. He’s definitely a bat-first prospect and should be tested in Double-A in 2022.

Mark (So Cal):

     Why is there so much focus on Doyle’s strike outs when Veen and Toglia are only 1% or 2% better?

Kyle Newman: Mark, to your point, Brenton Doyle had a 31.6% strikeout rate in 2021, while Zac Veen K’d at a 29.3% clip and Michael Toglia K’d at a 28.5% clip. Strikeouts are a concern for all three players, and those rates need to come down for all three players. There’s more focus on Doyle’s strikeouts because he’s viewed as less of a natural talent than the other two, so a high K rate might be more probable to sink his chances of becoming an everyday player at Coors Field.

Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):

     A 2018 1st round Rockies choice who is still in A ball when the season ended – is Grant Lavigne just slow to develop, had injuries, or just what?

Kyle Newman: Karl, Lavigne’s development has been slower than the Rockies had hoped when they drafted him at No. 42 overall. Lavigne has a major-league frame but lacks consistent power to all fields, and when compared to Toglia is a vastly inferior first baseman. Lavigne had growing pains in High-A Spokane in 2021, and 2022 could set up as a make-or-break year for him at the plate in Double-A.

Steve Borden (Lick Creek, KY):

     How likely is it that Michael Toglia gets a meaningful cup of coffee in 2022?

Kyle Newman: Steve, I don’t think Toglia’s cup of coffee next year will be “meaningful.” But I would be surprised if Toglia isn’t among the Rockies’ September call-ups in 2022, as they’re sputtering to another fourth-place finish in the NL West. Toglia has to put himself in position for that call-up by carrying his career momentum into the high minors, after ending 2021 in Double-A.

Kelly (Colorado Springs):

     Julio Carreras had a pretty good year in 2019 in the pioneer league, but then this season he didn’t really seem to have that great of a year. How far has he fallen? What’s the outlook on him moving forward?

Kyle Newman: Kelly, Julio Carreras is buried on the Rockies’ prospect depth chart at middle infield. He struggled to make offensive adjustments this year, and I project him as a fringe prospect at best — someone who could provide middle infield depth for the Rockies if he ever does get there.

Billy (Denver):

     Has your opinion/evaluation of the return in the Arenado deal changed at all in the last 12 months?

Kyle Newman: My evaluation of the deal from the Rockies’ side of things has gotten a little better, as I think there’s two bona fide big leaguers there in Austin Gomber and, soon, Elehuris Montero. That said, I still view the deal as a fleecing by the Cardinals and one of the worst trades in Colorado sports history. Ex-GM Jeff Bridich, where ever he is now, should be embarrassed by the one-sided trade.

Ryan (Denver):

     How close was Jaden Hill to making the top 10? Obvious durability concerns but tantalizing upside. Any idea if the Rockies will develop him as an SP or RP? Thanks for the chat

Kyle Newman: I have Jaden Hill as the Rockies’ No. 11 prospect, so he just missed Top 10. The Rockies definitely intend on developing him as a starter. He’s been progressing in his rehab this offseason and the Rockies expect him to make his minor-league debut in 2022. The past elbow issues are obviously a concern — and the reason why the Rockies were able to draft Hill at No. 44 overall — but if Hill stays healthy, the expectation is for him to become as high as a No. 2 starter.

Frank (Michigan):

     Thanks for taking questions today Kyle. My question is in regards to two state of Michigan products, Karl Kauffmann and Sam Weatherly. Both durable and workhorse types, what’s your thoughts on them The next few years, are they both future back of the rotation starters Or inning eaters as middle relievers. Weatherly has electric stuff when he’s On, and Kauffmann’s competitiveness and toughness Make them both interesting follows. Thanks

Kyle Newman: Frank, both pitchers have the capability to develop into starters in the big leagues. Quite frankly, the Rockies need prospects like Kauffmann and Weatherly to fulfill that potential, as the organization has a dearth of starting pitching prospects. Weatherly has the higher upside in my opinion, while the Rockies were aggressive with Kauffman’s development this year, pushing him to Double-A where he got rocked for a 7.35 ERA. If both guys become back-end starters, that would be a plus for the Rockies. Weatherly’s arsenal would be more potent out of the bullpen than Kauffmann’s.

Kyle (Salt Lake):

     What’s holding back Grant Lavigne from being a power bat? As a former 1st rounder, he can’t be written off, but what are the odds he can develop into an average mlb 1B?

Kyle Newman: Lavigne has gap-to-gap potential, but tends to be too pull-happy. And when he’s struggling, he’s not letting his natural strength and bat speed work for him. I wouldn’t totally write him off, but I put the odds of him becoming an average MLB first baseman at less than 50%. With his fielding still a relative weakness, Lavigne’s bat needs to carry him, and it hasn’t so far.

Alex (Denver):

     Colton Welker has had a rollercoaster ride to finally making his debut in the majors this year. What do the Rockies think he’ll be longterm? Does he have a shot to stick on the big league roster? He’s always been able to hit and still only 24 for all of the 2022 season. Is there still hope that he can eventually become a guy that can slash .280/.350/.450 while hitting 20 HRs?

Kyle Newman: That hope is still there, but there’s many more questions about Welker’s bat now than there were a couple years ago. Expect him to take on a central role in the Rockies’ lineup in 2022 as the club tries to figure out what kind of hitter he can be. As for the power, 20 homers would be on the high end; Welker’s had a power outage since he debuted in Triple-A. A 15-homer average would be optimistic at this point, unless Welker’s power expands in 2022.

Steve (NY):

     What are your thoughts on the Rockies pitching depth? Do you think a core of guys like Marquez/Freeland/Gomber is enough to really turn things around?

Kyle Newman: The Rockies pitching depth is… thin. At the MLB level, the Rockies are asking too much of German Marquez, Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela and Austin Gomber. They have little MLB-ready depth behind that quality foursome when one or more of them is struggling/injured. And what’s more, starting pitching is the huge question mark looming over the rebuild. When the likes of Zac Veen and Drew Romo are mashing baseballs around Coors Field in a couple years, will the Rockies have the starting pitching talent to match? Right now they don’t, and even their highest-rated starting pitching prospect (southpaw Ryan Rolison) doesn’t project as an ace. The next couple drafts will be critical in filling that void, especially if Bill Schmidt takes some proven college arms that need less MiLB seasoning.

Evan (New York):

     Yanquiel Fernandez seemed to have a nice season in the Dominican Summer League. There had been previous reports about him being a fast mover, though I imagine the pandemic did not help that. What are expectations for him going forward, and was he close to making the top 10? Thanks!

Kyle Newman: Evan, Yanquiel Fernandez remains a fast mover. He made a strong impression in his pro debut with the DSL Rockies in 2021, slashing .333/.406/.531 with developing left-handed power. He has a long way to go, and is subpar defensively, but should made his stateside debut in 2022. I have him as the Rockies’ No. 37 prospect, but he could rocket up boards next year with another head-turning offensive year across the Class-A levels.

Buff (Colorado):

     How confident are you that Toglia is the Rox 1st basemen of the future? How confident are you that he will hit enough to win and hold the job?

Kyle Newman: I’m pretty confident. Defensively, everyone in the Rockies organization thinks Toglia has Gold Glove potential. There’s still room for growth with the bat, but nothing I’ve seen has been enough of a red flag to think Toglia won’t be able to excel against MLB pitching.

Jack (Denver):

     Noah Davis seems like a guy where the results haven’t matched the stuff. What are scouts saying about him? What’s his best path to the majors?

Kyle Newman: Davis has a mid-90s fastball that can get up to 96 with slight sink. Plus, he throws a slider (mid-to-high 80s), curveball (high 70s) and developing changeup. Davis has the confidence to throw the curveball in all counts and it could eventually be a plus-pitch. The Rockies want him to throw more fastballs, and continue to develop fastball command. His control can be inconsistent still, as evidenced by the 4.8 walk rate in 2021 before he was traded from the Reds. But if Davis keeps pitching like he has been, he could be a back-end start for Colorado in a few years. Double-A will be a big test in 2022.

Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):

     Although he is getting older (26), Brian Gonzalez finally made it to AAA and seemed to pitch well at the season’s end – what do your think of his chances of arriving in Denver in 2022?

Kyle Newman: Gonzalez became a free agent on Nov. 7, so his time with the Rockies organization may be over for good.

Renee (Wyoming):

     The Rockies have a bunch of SP prospects, McMahon/Weatherly/Kauffmann/Olivarez/Feltner. Which of these guys can you see in your top 10 next year? Thanks!

Kyle Newman: Renee, for the 2023 rankings, I could see Jaden Hill (No. 11 prospect this year), Chris McMahon (No. 13) and Sam Weatherly (No. 17) potentially making the jump into the Top 10. For Hill especially, the internal expectations are high as he makes his way back from Tommy John. Noah Davis (No. 19) and Karl Kauffmann (No. 21) also have momentum heading into 2022. I’m not as high on Ryan Feltner (whose development has been rushed) while flamethrower Helcris Olivarez has the stuff to be a big-league starter, but his lack of command will probably land him in the bullpen.

Colton Welker (Any hope left?):

     Thanks for chatting with us today. I looked like the 3rd baseman of the future at the start of 2019. After struggling the 2nd half of 2019, a cancelled 2020, and getting popped for a PED suspension in 2021, is there any hope left for me as a prospect?

Kyle Newman: Colton Welker’s star has certainly faded over the past couple seasons. But at 24, everything is still right in front of him — including the chance to assert himself as an everyday player in the Rockies’ infield in 2022. If he hits like he did as a young prospect, he can do it. If he continues to struggle at the plate, he could flame out.

Jim (Philadelphia):

     If things continue to click for Veen, does he approach BA’s Top 10 by end of 2022? How many OFers have three 60 grades?

Kyle Newman: If Zac Veen does in 2022 what he did in 2021 — tear up Low-A despite being two years younger than the average player in that league — he should no doubt be considered one of the top prospects in all of baseball.

Matt (Co):

     Is it me or do the Rockies have one of the deeper farm systems in baseball considering Jaden Hill and many of their top international signings from 2020 aren’t in the top 10?

Kyle Newman: The Rockies have one of the thinnest farm systems in baseball, especially when it comes to starting pitching. Jaden Hill isn’t in the Top 10 because he’s yet to make his pro debut (Tommy John surgery), although the Rockies expect that to happen in 2022. And the lack of top international signings in the Top 10 isn’t necessarily an indicator of depth. A lot of the Rockies’ top international guys (SS Adael Amador, 3B Warming Bernabel) are still quite young.

John (New Braunfels, TX):

     Is Aaron Schunk a 3b, 2B or utility man? Does he have a MLB bat?

Kyle Newman: Where Aaron Schunk fits in defensively remains to be seen. With fringe power, Schunk doesn’t fit the profile of a typical slugging third baseman, but there’s still lots of big-league potential in his offense. He takes competitive at-bats with a bat-to-ball approach and has doubles power. Schunk has plus-defender potential at the hot corner, but is also developing at second base and saw a couple starts at first, too, where he is raw. As of now, he projects as a bench player/infield depth in the majors.

David C (Houston):

     thoughts on Mitchell Kilkenny going in to 2022

Kyle Newman: David, Mitchell Kilkenny is regarded by many with the organization as the Rockies’ top control pitcher. He has a low-90s fastball with a slider, changeup and cutter. He’s capable of throwing all of those pitches in any count, and he’ll be tested in Double-A in 2022. He still has the potential to be a part of Colorado’s rotation in a few years, and finished 2021 with a promising stint in High-A Spokane (3.95 ERA in 15 starts) after dominating the Cal League to begin the season.

Matthew (Colorado):

     What can you tell us about Victor Juarez? He looks promising.

Kyle Newman: It’s still too early to tell on if Victor Juarez will develop into anything. His 2.21 ERA in 2021 across the DSL and the Arizona Complex League is promising, but there’s a long way to go. Fringe prospect at best at this point. Not really high on the Rockies’ internal radar.

Kyle H. (Home Depot):

     The Rockies had to be happy about the offensive improvement of SS Ezequiel Tovar. In your opinion, how much improvement will he eventually show and will he develop a little more power in Coors Field now that he is solely hitting right handed?

Kyle Newman: The Rockies are thrilled with Ezequiel Tovar. With Trevor Story’s imminent departure in free agency, Colorado needs a shortstop of the future, and the Rockies don’t believe that’s Brendan Rodgers (although Rodgers takes issue with that and still sees himself as a shortstop). Now, Tovar must prove his offensive prowess in Double-A in 2022, which will be a good litmus test to see if his ability to hit for average and power can continue to progress. Defensively, the Rockies see Tovar as a “wizard” at shortstop, where he has Gold Glove potential.

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