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Josh Fuentes Builds His Own Identity

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Like many minor leaguers, third baseman Josh Fuentes had to find his stroke. But Fuentes had an additional challenge. He also had to find his baseball identity and escape the looming shadow of his cousin, Rockies all-star third baseman Nolan Arenado.

All that has happened, leading the Rockies to add Fuentes to their 40-man roster along with outfielder Sam Hilliard and righthanders Ryan Castellani and Justin Lawrence.

Fuentes, who turns 26 in February, went to Missouri Baptist and signed with the Rockies in 2014 as an undrafted free agent. Farm director Zach Wilson said, "On both sides of the ball, when you would watch him, you would go, ‘Oh, that’s Nolan.’ ”

The Rockies sent Fuentes back to low Class A Asheville to start the 2016 season but promoted him to high Class A Modesto after two dominant months. In 2017, he hit . 307/.352/.517 at Double-A Hartford with 15 home runs and then had a huge 2018 season at Triple-A Albuquerque.

Fuentes hit .327/.354/.517 with 14 homers and 95 RBIs and was named the Pacific Coast League MVP and rookie of the year. He then went to the Arizona Fall League, where he started slowly but hit .301/.356/.482 with three homers in 21 games.

Wilson said Fuentes’ success in A ball in 2016 gave him confidence, but he "still wasn’t his own hitter.” Two mechanical changes Fuentes began implementing in spring training in 2017 proved vital. "He lowered his hands a little bit, had them more down by his shoulder,” Wilson said, "and he developed a leg kick.”

As a result, Fuentes was better able to time pitches, which helped him use his natural instincts for the game more often. Plus, his hand-eye coordination was developing as his at-bats mounted.

Fuentes is an above-average third baseman. The Rockies, as they have done with others at that position, introduced him to first base. He should also end up being above-average there as he moves along in a career where he is no longer tethered to his famous cousin, save for one important attribute.

"His work ethic—that’s where you see the bloodlines,” Wilson said. "The way they work, the way they play the game, the fun that they have playing. That’s where the similarities lie. But Josh is his own man with his swing and his own set of tools.”

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ROCKY ROADS

— Right fielder Willie Abreu, who missed two months in 2018 at high Class A Lancaster with a broken left hand, is playing winter ball in the Puerto Rican League. He had hit .310/.355/.397 with one homer and seven RBIs through 15 games for Caguas.

— Marv Foley 65, retired after 16 seasons in the organization, the past six as the development supervisor at low Class A Asheville and the seven before that as the roving catching coordinator. Short-season Boise development supervisor John Pierson, 65, left the organization after one season for a job outside the industry in his home in Chandler, Ariz.

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