When shortstop Ezequiel Tovar reported to instructional league, it was apparent the 19-year-old Venezuelan had added strength under unusual conditions over the summer.
“And that helped him offensively,” Rockies farm director Zach Wilson said, “everything from handling the bat and the weight of the bat, to his bat speed, to being able to get to different pitches that he hasn’t been able to get to, let alone impact.”
Unable to return to Venezuela when spring training was canceled in March, the 19-year-old Tovar and two other Venezuelan minor leaguers remained in Scottsdale, Ariz. Tovar worked with conditioning equipment the Rockies provided and reported to instructional league with 10 additional pounds of good weight on his 6-foot, 162-pound frame. Defensively, Tovar was his usual spectacular self.
“He is an elite ball-catcher,” Wilson said. “He has extremely soft hands. His range is great because he’s got such instinctual movement. I’ve never seen a 16-, 17-, 18-year old be able to do what he was able to do at shortstop. There’s a flow, there’s an ease to his operation, to his actions.”
After his pro debut in 2018 in the Dominican Summer League, Tovar came to the U.S. and began play in 2019 at short-season Boise. Tovar held his own against considerably older players at Boise, hitting .249/.304/.313 with 13 stolen bases in 55 games. Soon after turning 18, the 2017 international signee went to Rookie-level Grand Junction, where he hit .264/.357/.347 in 18 games.
Midway through his DSL season, Tovar stopped switch-hitting and concentrated on batting righthanded, where he had a more natural feel for barrel control, contact and rhythm to his swing. Tangible results started becoming evident in instructional league.
“One of the things that was really going to help him was strength,” Wilson said. “And over the course of this summer, to his credit and being literally caught in Arizona with nowhere else to go, he was able to make some gains in the strength area.”
— Righthander Reid Humphreys, 26, retired after being unable to regain his form following shoulder surgery in 2019. The Rockies drafted him in the seventh round in 2016 out of Mississippi State. Humphreys went 2-0, 1.83 with 22 saves in 2018 at High-A Lancaster, a particularly harsh place to pitch, and 0-1, 3.18 in seven games after moving up to Double-A Hartford that season in late July.
Humphreys returned to Hartford in 2019 and ran up a 15.00 ERA in four games but was bothered by shoulder problems, spending two months on the injured list sandwiched between two April outings and two final appearances in June. He had shoulder surgery that proved to be exploratory, since nothing was deemed necessary to address during procedure. After realizing he was not going to have the stuff he once did, Humphreys decided to retire.
— Hunter Stovall, 24, a super-utility player whom the Rockies traded, re-signed with the organization on a minor league deal. The Rockies traded Stovall to the Phillies in April 2019 for lefthanded reliever James Pazos, whom the Rockies designated for assignment after the shortened 2020 season when he went 0-0, 16.88 in six games. The Rockies drafted Stovall out of Mississippi State in 2018. During his time in the organization, Stovall displayed spark-plug qualities, played second base, shortstop, third base, both corner outfield spots and was working on catching, which he had limited experience with in college.