Ezequiel Tovar Shows Resilience
His ability to adjust, his confidence, determination and all he has endured helped 20-year-old shortstop Ezequiel Tovar transition quickly after a promotion to High-A.
After hitting .309/.346/.510 at Low-A Fresno with 11 home runs in 72 games, Tovar moved up to High-A Spokane in early August.
After seven games, he was hitting .172 with one double. In his next 10 games, Tovar went 13-for-42 (.310) with three doubles, two homers and 10 RBIs.
“I feel that when guys are on base, the problem is basically the pitcher's,” Tovar said through Fresno manager Robinson Cancel. “He has the problem, not me. So I try to relax and just try to get a good pitch to hit. I'm not out there trying to drive them in and come out of control.
"I just relax, and if I don't get a good pitch to hit, I'll take my base and let somebody else try.”
Tovar has been unable to return to his native Venezuela since the pandemic caused the abrupt closure of spring training in March 2020. He remained in Scottsdale, Ariz., where the Rockies train, until breaking camp with Fresno. Tovar worked diligently and now stands 6 feet, 185 pounds, up 25 pounds from when he signed in 2017.
“The maturity is something we always wait on,” Rockies assistant farm director Chris Forbes said. “You can't ever speed it up. This is something where he had to tighten his belt and be extremely mature about. It was a circumstance well beyond his control. And, personally, I think he made the best of it.”
The Rockies expected Tovar's bat to develop but not this soon. Now the switch-hitter has offensive prowess and sublime defense.
“There's not one shred of flash to him,” Rockies pro scout Ty Coslow said. “He knows where he's supposed to be. He reads hops. He does all the things you're hoping a 24- or 25-year-old figures out. He's (20) and plays the game like he's 30. He's really comfortable out there.”
— Zac Veen became the fifth player in Fresno franchise history to hit for the cycle and did it in August with his first career grand slam while driving in seven runs. He’s also the first player in Fresno history to hit for the cycle in Chukchansi Park, Fresno’s home park. In July, Veen set the all-time California League/Low-A West record for reaching base 15 consecutive times. He broke Thad Bosley’s record of 14 set with the Salinas Angels in 1976. Veen’s streak included 10 hits, four of them home runs, four walks and one hit by pitch.
— Julian Fernandez, who hit 103 mph in an August outing for Triple-A Albuquerque, has made notable progress this season. The 25-year-old righthanded reliever had recorded a 2.53 ERA in 44 games for Double-A Hartford and Albuquerque with 42 strikeouts and 16 walks in 42.2 innings. He made 11 straight scoreless outings to begin his stint at Albuquerque, where he was 1-0, 0.64 in 14 games with 18 strikeouts and four walks in 14 innings.
The Rockies rewarded Fernandez by making him a September callup.
“The biggest thing to getting a guy who throws that hard to harness it is to get him to attack the strike zone,” Rockies director of pitching operations Mark Wiley said. “And when somebody hits the ball out of the ballpark, you can’t shy away from the bat. And he’s taken it to a really good level, where he’s very aggressive with his fastball in the strike zone. His command is starting to get better, which takes time with guys that throw that hard.”
Wiley said Fernandez’s breaking ball, which is a slurve, “has made really good strides.” Fernandez has a very good changeup, and Wiley said he’s “very aggressive” with that pitch.
The Rockies feel fortunate to be developing Fernandez. He began his career in their organization in 2013 before the Giants selected him in the Rule 5 draft in December 2017. But he had Tommy John surgery in March 2018 and missed that season. Three weeks after the Giants activated Fernandez from the 60-day injured list, the Marlins claimed him on waivers in November 2018. He didn’t pitch in 2019 and was returned to the Rockies that October.
“He’s been on the radar because everybody knows about his arm,” Wiley said. “But he’s really starting to have pitchability now. He was just (an) arm before.”
— Righthander Ryan Feltner was 8-3, 2.62 in 20 starts with 125 strikeouts and 40 walks in 110 innings. He began the season with seven starts at High-A Spokane before moving up to Hartford.
“He’s had a breakthrough year this year,” Wiley said. “He’s really learned how to pitch at the top and bottom of the zone. He used to be up all the time, and now he’s learned when to go down.”
Feltner sits 95-96 mph with his fastball and has a good curveball and good changeup. Wiley said, “he’s become a pitcher and using all the things (he has).”