Welcome to another edition of Farm System Breakdown. This series is exactly what it sounds like: a comprehensive breakdown of each team’s farm system, including breakdowns of the organization’s top hitters and pitchers, potential breakout candidates, the top individual tools in the system, and draft strategy. So far, we have covered the Arizona Diamondbacks. Click here to check out that breakdown! Today we continue making our way through the NL West with the Colorado Rockies. Before we begin, here are a few parameters for this series:
- Players will be considered prospects so long as they have fewer than 130 at-bats (hitters) or 50 innings pitched (pitchers) at the Major League level at the time of writing.
- The rankings and tool grades are based off of my own personal opinion and evaluation.
- Tool grades are based on the traditional 20-80, 5-point increment scouting scale.
- All tool grades are potential; the grades indicate what I believe each tool will develop into by the time the player is fully developed, not what each tool is currently.
- Any statistics referenced in the article are courtesy of Fangraphs or Baseball Reference.
Without further ado, let’s begin breaking down the Colorado Rockies farm system.
1) OF Zac Veen
Hit: 50|Power: 60|Raw Power: 65|Field: 50 (COF)|Arm: 55|Run: 50
The Rockies’ 2020 first-rounder has monstrous upside due to a beautiful swing and a very projectable physical frame. Veen’s swing starts with a wide base and relaxed hands. He separates very well during his load, with a leg kick that activates his lower half. Veen generates fantastic rotation and lower-half explosiveness in his swing, and his ability to delay torso rotation enables him to generate high exit velocities. Veen’s swing has a beautiful bat path that is built to hit the ball in the air. His launch-centric approach and impressive bat speed give him potential 30-homer power. Veen also has a very advanced approach for a hitter his age. He is able to string together tough at-bats and take/foul off tough pitches. The only negative offensively is like other long-levered hitters, Veen will struggle with swing-and-miss. His swing can get a bit long, and he may have problems avoiding strikeouts. Defensively, Veen projects as a corner outfielder. He isn’t a stellar defender, but his solid general athleticism and respectable arm will make him adequate in a corner. Drafting Veen in 2020 was a much-needed jolt to a lackluster crop of hitters in the Rockies system.
2) 1B Michael Toglia
Hit: 50|Power: 60|Raw Power: 65|Field: 55 (1B)|Arm: 55|Run: 40
A 2019 first-round pick out of UCLA, Toglia is a physical athlete with exciting offensive potential. A switch hitter, Toglia has a smooth swing from both sides of the plate. He uses his lower half very well, and he does a good job of delaying torso rotation at foot strike. Those things are what helps Toglia generate his big raw power. Toglia also shows a solid approach at the plate, but that does come with some swing and miss issues. The hit tool is solid for Toglia because of his ability to hit to all fields, and he makes hard contact when he connects. I see a potential 30 homer hitter in Toglia, and he should be fun to watch offensively at Coors Field. He is a first baseman only, which means a lot of his value will be wrapped up in his offense. Toglia has the athleticism and hands necessary to be an above-average defensive first baseman. I like Toglia as an everyday first baseman, but he will have to hit in order to make up for his lack of defensive value.
3) 3B Aaron Schunk
Hit: 50|Power: 50|Raw Power: 55|Field: 55|Arm: 65|Run: 45
Schunk started hitting the ball in the air a lot more in his final season as a Georgia Bulldog, and he continued to hit for power as he transitioned into pro ball. Schunk has a traditional setup at the plate, with a quiet hand load and a bit of a leg kick. He has a smooth, clean hack that generates good bat speed. Schunk’s bat path is very conducive to line drives and fly balls, and he shows an ability to rotate and pull balls with authority. We will have to see if Schunk continues to hit for power, but I like the base of his hit tool a lot. I don’t have huge concerns about his ability to make consistent contact. Schunk was used out of the bullpen at Georgia, and that translates into his big throwing arm at 3rd base. His arm combined with his solid athleticism gives me a reason to believe that he will be able to stick at 3rd base long-term. Schunk seems to be the type of player who is trending upward, and he could vault up prospect lists with continued progress in 2021.
4) 3B Ryan Vilade
Hit: 50|Power: 50|Raw Power: 60|Field: 50 (3B) 55 (1B) 50 (COF)|Arm: 55|Run: 45
A pre-2019 swing change unlocked some of the raw juice that Vilade had in his bat, as he went from a 2018 stat line of .274/.353/.368 with 5 homers to a 2019 stat line of .303/.367/.466 with 12 bombs. The change that propelled Vilade to such success was a more closed-off stance with a quieter lower half in his load. Vilade is a solid athlete who uses his athleticism in his swing. He has a twitchy swing that creates a quick bat and a smooth swing. Vilade gets good angle on his swing, and his lower half usage in his swing is solid at well. The lower half rotates and the hips clear well, which explains why he has always had solid raw power in the tank. Vilade does an exceptional job of making contact, as he struck out at just a 16.2% clip in 2019. Defensively, Vilade started his pro career as a shortstop but has since moved over to third base. With Nolan Arenado at the hot corner in Colorado, versatility will be key for Vilade. He will likely play both corner infield and corner outfield spots at the next level. His arm is his best defensive tool, with above-average strength and accuracy. In the outfield, I think Vilade is an average corner guy in the future. He doesn’t have great foot speed, which hurts his overall range. I think Vilade has the hands and athleticism for third, but like I mentioned Arenado doesn’t seem to be moving off of third base any time soon. Vilade has improved steadily throughout his minor league career, and at just 21-years-old still has a pretty high ceiling.
5) OF Brenton Doyle
Hit: 45|Power: 55|Raw Power: 60|Field: 50|Arm: 55|Run: 60
The Rockies’ 2019 4th rounder, Doyle flew a little bit under the radar coming from D-2 Shepherd University. Standing in at 6’3/210, Doyle has an impressive physical build to go along with a strong run tool. Doyle has the ability to stick in center field because of his combination of speed and outfield instincts. At the plate, Doyle’s physical tools give him great power potential, and he showed a good deal of polish for a D-2 player in his first summer in pro ball. He demonstrated an ability to hunt his pitch and not chase offerings outside the zone, and Doyle was able to spoil offerings late in counts. He will have to continue to hit, but the physicality, athleticism, and statistical performance that he put up to start pro ball are very encouraging.
1) LHP Ryan Rolison
Fastball: 55|Curveball: 60|Changeup: 55|Command: 50
The former Ole Miss standout has tinkered with his mechanics a little bit since his entrance into pro ball: he has gone from a crossfire-type pitcher in college to more of a drop-and-drive guy in the minor leagues. His new drop-and-drive style has not only allowed him to repeat his mechanics more consistently, but it has also allowed Rolison to attack hitters with more of a vertical plane that lets his north/south fastball/curveball plan of attack play well. Rolison’s fastball sits in the 90-94 range, and it shows impressive carry up in the zone. His ability to attack hitters from a more centered plane has given his fastball the ability to miss bats up in the zone. Rolison combines his four-seamer with an impressive curveball. His curve is a true 12-6 with sharp break that freezes hitters and creates swings and misses down in the zone. The pitch comes from a higher arm slot, which creates steep movement that makes it difficult for hitters to barrel up when Rolison locates down in the zone. Rolison supplements his fastball/breaking ball combination with an above-average changeup. He has the ability to throw the changeup for competitive strikes, and he does a fine job of getting bat-missing movement on the pitch. Rolison has shown good ability as a strike-thrower, but he has to do a better job of staying out of the middle of the plate; there are lapses in command in his game still. Overall Rolison looks like a very solid middle-of-the-rotation arm, and his swing-and-miss approach gives him an opportunity for reasonable success at Coors Field.
2) RHP Chris McMahon
Fastball: 60|Slider: 55|Changeup: 50|Command: 50
The former Miami Hurricane comes with a combination of both stuff and polish, and it is quite possible that he ascends rapidly through the minor leagues. McMahon’s fastball is his best pitch. The heater sits anywhere from 92-95 and tops out at around 96. McMahon’s fastball is a 4-seamer that stays true. Hitters swing underneath his fastball, and his ability to locate the pitch (especially up) makes it a plus offering for me. McMahon also throws a slider with sharp sweep. The slider doesn’t have crazy length, but the sharp movement on it is enough to miss bats when he locates the pitch down and away. McMahon shows a changeup as well that is more of an average offering, but it is a viable third pitch that can get some lefties out. The big thing with McMahon will be health. During his prep and college career, McMahon dealt with various knee, back, and shoulder injuries. If he can stay healthy, McMahon looks like a guy who can fit as a solid #4ish starter.
3) LHP Helcris Olivares
Fastball: 55|Curveball: 50|Changeup: 40|Command: 45
Olivares has big-time potential, mainly because of his frame, clean mechanics, and feel for spin. Standing in at 6’2/192 at just 20 years of age, Olivares has plenty of room to grow into his body and add strength. Mechanically, Olivares moves very gracefully. He has a clean delivery with very few moving parts, and it is easy to see what Olivares has to offer on the mound. With that being said, I think that Olivares could improve his timing at foot strike, and his hip hinge is quad-dominant, and thus too inefficient for my liking. In terms of the stuff, Olivares attacks hitters with a combination of 4-seamers and curveballs. The heater sits in the 92-94 range, and he shows the ability to locate to both sides of the plate. Olivares also shows the ability to miss bats with his fastball at the top of the zone. Olivares’ breaking ball is a big curve that has a lot of spin and vertical break, but I worry that it may not play well with his fastball. The velocity discrepancy between his fastball and curveball is too big in my opinion, and I think hitters may be able to adjust too easily to his off-speed pitch. Olivares’ changeup still leaves more to be desired, as he struggles with the feel of the pitch too often. Olivares still has a long way to go, but the smoothness in his delivery and his ability to spin a breaking ball are encouraging for a pitcher his age.
4) RHP Riley Pint
Fastball: 65|Curveball: 70|Command: 30
The former top-five pick has had a very rough start to his professional career (5.71 career minor league ERA), but the stuff is still too loud to ignore. The Rockies began to move Pint into more of a bullpen role in 2019, and focusing on attacking hitters with the fastball/curveball in short stints may serve him well. Pint brings it in the upper-nineties with the fastball, and he pairs that fastball with an outstanding power curve. The curveball has the ability to be a devasting breaker that misses bats at an elite clip if he can start to control his arsenal. Pint has some of the worst control in all of the minor leagues. Pint averaged just over one wild pitch per inning, and he walked an astounding 31.6% of hitters in 2019. Pint won’t be able to start with that complete lack of control, but the loud two-pitch mix gives him the chance to be a high leverage relief arm.
5) RHP Tommy Doyle
Fastball: 55|Sinker: 55|Slider: 60|Changeup: 45|Command: 50
Doyle is one of a few solid reliever-only types in the Rockies system that will soon make up a decent portion of Colorado’s bullpen. The former Virginia Cavalier has an arsenal with multiple above-average offerings, as well as solid command. Doyle throws both a traditional 4-seamer and a two-seam/sinker. He does a nice job of getting under the hands of righties with the two-seamer, and he shows the ability to attack up with the four-seamer. Both fastballs sit in the mid-nineties, and he shows the ability to locate at times according to where each pitch plays best (fastball up, sinker down). Doyle’s slider is his best pitch, in my opinion. The slider has big raw spin and he creates sharp break on the pitch. The slider’s ability to miss bats down in the zone, as well as Doyle’s ability to use it in tandem with his fastballs, makes it a plus pitch for me. Everything about Doyle’s repertoire suggests that he will always be a guy that is in the mix for late-inning/leverage work, with a floor as a solid middle reliever.
Projected Breakout Player
3B Aaron Schunk
I am pretty bullish on Schunk, and I think that he will continue to produce in the 2021 minor league system. As I mentioned earlier, Schunk started to pull the ball with authority in his 2019 college/pro season. Schunk already does a solid job of making contact and controlling the strike zone, and adding sustained power to his game makes him a more complete offensive player. I think that Schunk is in store for another big year, and will thus become more prominent in the prospect world.
Best Individual Tools
Best Hit/In-Game Power/Raw Power Tools: OF Zac Veen
Veen is simply far and away the best offensive player in this system. The loose athleticism in his swing, his fantastic mechanics, and his advanced approach make him one of the best hitting prospects in all of the minor leagues. I expect Veen to move quickly relative to his peers, and he has the chance to mash playing his home games at Coors Field.
Best Approach/Plate Discipline: 1B Grant Lavigne
Lavigne is one of many talented Rockies corner infielders. Lavigne doesn’t hit for a ton of power, but he shows the ability to take his walks and not expand the zone. Lavigne posted a 17.4% BB% in 2018 and a 12.9% BB% in 2019. Even though he had a down year in 2019 (.236/.347/.327), Lavigne still managed to get on base at a good clip, and his approach at the plate still gives me hope that he can move back towards his 2018 form (.350/.477/.519).
Best Individual Defender/Best Arm: C Drew Romo
The Rockies selected Romo with the 35th overall pick in the 2020 draft. Some scouts have called Romo the most advanced defensive catcher coming out of high school they have ever seen. The Woodlands, Texas native is extremely talented behind the dish. He is an excellent receiver, has quick feet and a strong arm, and keeps the ball in front of him very well. Romo’s bat is what will ultimately determine his future role, but at the very least he provides stellar defense at a premium position.
Best Run Tool: OF Bladimir Restituyo
Restituyo possesses elite speed that gives him a shot to play center field at a high level one day. Restituyo’s speed also enables him to have success in the running game, as he has stolen 38 bases in 138 career minor league games. Still only 19, Restituyo is a dynamic athlete who still has time to develop into an exciting player.
Best Fastball/Best Curveball: RHP Riley Pint
As I discussed in my breakdown of Pint above, Pint has extraordinary stuff. His fastball sits in the high-90s, and he pairs it with a wipeout, swing-and-miss breaking ball. Pint’s command is well below-average right now, but the stuff is so good that it will still miss bats regardless.
Best Slider: RHP Tommy Doyle
Doyle’s slider is a true plus pitch that he executes well to put hitters away. As I mentioned in Doyle’s breakdown, I love the way Doyle uses his slider and two-seamer in tandem, as it creates a tough look for hitters. Doyle’s arsenal is that of a late-inning reliever.
Best Changeup: LHP Ryan Rolison
Rolison does a good job of inducing bat-missing horizontal movement on his changeup, which is impressive coming from a guy that throws from such a high arm slot. Rolison also shows the ability to throw his changeup for strikes, and it will provide him with a more-than-serviceable third pitch to go along with his impressive fastball/curveball combination.
Best Control/Command: RHP Ashton Goudeau
An older guy (27), Goudeau had a huge breakout year in 2019 where he boasted a 26% K%-BB%. Goudeau did a fantastic job of pounding the strike zone in that 2019 season, and his newfound strike-throwing ability was able to earn him a brief big league stint in 2020.
Past Draft Strategy
In recent years, the Rockies have seemed to simply select the best player available with their first-round pick. I would argue that, at the time of their selection, Zac Veen (2020), Michael Toglia (2019), and Ryan Rolison (2018) were each the best player available at the time the Rockies were selecting. Colorado has also shown a tendency to select some of the top college relief pitchers early in the draft. The selections of Tommy Doyle (Virginia, 2017), Ben Bowden (Vanderbilt, 2016), Jacob Wallace (Connecticut, 2019), and Sam Weatherly (Clemson, 2020) were all successful college relievers before being selected by the Rockies within the first three rounds.
The state of Colorado’s system isn’t particularly strong, but there are some talented pieces to build around. Zac Veen should be a fixture in a corner outfield spot, and Ryan Rolison looks like a guy who can be a valuable mid-rotation starter. Besides Veen and Rolison, I don’t really see a ton of impact talent. Guys like Michael Toglia and Chris McMahon are two of the top six prospects in the organization, but both of those guys don’t have extraordinarily high ceilings. This is an organization that is trending in the wrong direction right now, and as a result, Colorado could expect an influx of new talent coming in via the draft in coming years. The Rockies could choose to stimulate their farm system even further because of some of the talent they could unload off their big league roster. A potential trade of Nolan Arenado, German Marquez, or Trevor Story would go a long way in adding impact talent to a system that is in need of more.
Featured Photo: @Rockies on Twitter