Zac Veen: Rockies 2021 Minor League Player Of The Year
The expectations for outfielder Zac Veen were understandably lofty but also a bit of a burden as he began his first professional season.
The Rockies drafted Veen ninth overall in 2020 out of Spruce Creek High in Port Orange, Fla. He was the second prep player chosen. Veen faced the developmental impediment of never playing in a game last year because the pandemic caused the minor league season to be canceled.
And, oh yes, he’s 19.
The lefthanded-hitting Veen endured 120 at-bats without a home run to start his career at Low-A Fresno before finally ending the drought on June 20. He entered play that day hitting .235/.372/.388.
“I think he was trying to live up to the profile of being the first-round draft pick initially,” Rockies assistant farm director Chris Forbes said. “You start putting a lot more pressure on yourself than you need to.”
When the 6-foot-4, 195-pound Veen started focusing on the process of how he gets hits rather than dwelling on not getting them, he began a notable ascent. He finished the season hitting .301/.399/.501 in 106 games with 15 homers and 75 RBIs.
“He’s got literally everything,” Forbes said. “He’s got the pitch recognition. He’s got the adjustability. He’s got natural loft to his swing. He’s got some length after contact. He’s good at hitting the ball out front. He’s very athletic in the box.
"He’s got all-fields game power, no doubt about it.”
Veen’s monthly OPS increased steadily each month, from .704 in May to .864 in June to .992 July to 1.096 in August before he faded in September (.703). He took advantage of the rules limiting pickoff throws at Low-A to steal 36 bases in 53 attempts.
Veen primarily played right field. Forbes said that “every component of his defense has gotten exponentially better” from instructional league last year.
“He’s got a decent arm,” Forbes said, “but I think we can improve that once he gets in that regimen of a truly arm-strengthening throwing program instead of the in-season maintenance type program.”
— Veen became the fifth player in Fresno history to hit for the cycle and did it in August with his first career grand slam while driving in seven runs. He also was the first player in franchise 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.
— Reliever Tommy Doyle had surgery on Sept. 21 to repair a labrum tear and will likely miss all of the 2022 season. The Rockies drafted Doyle out of Virginia in the supplemental second round in 2017. He reached the big leagues late in 2020 and appeared in three games. At Double-A Hartford this year, Doyle ran up a 9.64 ERA in 10 games and 9.1 innings. The 25-year-old made five appearances between May 6-18, then missed nearly a month with shoulder soreness before returning. Doyle’s season ended after five more appearances from June 13-24.