Colorado Rockies news and links for Thursday, October 14, 2021
The regular season may have just ended a little over a week ago, but hey: only 123 days until pitchers and catchers report, right? Spring training—much like Christmas—is just around the corner, and many players will be vying for a spot on the Colorado Rockies’ 26-man roster.
It may be way, way, way too early to say anything for certain, but there are a few players whom I believe deserve some extra looks in order to break camp with the Rockies in 2022.
Connor Joe, LF/1B
Connor Joe was a delightful surprise in a disappointing season. The 29-year-old rookie became an instant fan favorite for his affable nature and inspiring story of defeating cancer. Signed as a free agent before camp in 2021, Joe had an excellent spring training by slashing .368/.489/.711 in 38 at-bats, hitting four doubles, three home runs, driving in 11 runs, and walking seven times to his 11 strikeouts. Joe was a favorite to make the initial 26-man roster, but ended up being assigned to the alternate training site instead.
Joe would eventually get his due with two short stints in the majors in May and June to limited success and playing time before being called up for good in July. To the elated chants of “Joe! Joe! Joe!” from the Rockies faithful, Joe became one of the Rockies’ great success stories from July onward. He showed strong control of the plate and the strike zone by drawing frequent walks and getting on base however he could with a team high .379 OBP for the season. Joe earned every second of playing time he got, frequently hitting leadoff and playing solid left field defense despite having never played there before.
Joe’s season was ended prematurely with a hamstring injury that kept him out for the majority of September. He is expected to make a full recovery this offseason and be ready to go for spring training, where he absolutely deserves every chance to make the final cut and perhaps earn a starting role.
Alan Trejo, SS/2B
Alan Trejo is a product of Bud Black’s alma mater at San Diego State that the Rockies drafted in the 16th round of the 2017 draft. Trejo has never been ranked in the Rockies’ top organizational prospects and has been frequently overlooked, which is a shame because he’s had a very strong minor league career so far. Just by looking at his numbers you can see how he’s developed as a hitter and added power to his swing. He struggled a bit with the jump from High-A to Double-A, but bounced back after spending 2020 at the Rockies’ alternate training site and then had a stellar season this year in Triple-A Albuquerque.
Trejo turned in a strong offensive performance with the Isotopes in 2021 and was named the team’s MVP for the season while playing predominantly shortstop and second base (with some third base thrown in for good measure). Trejo also got his first cup of coffee in the majors this year with several short stints, but didn’t get much playing time to establish a foothold on the big league roster. He played just 28 games with 50 total plate appearances in purple pinstripes, slashing .217/.260/.326, but notably hit his first career big league home run before Brendan Rodgers did.
As Kenneth Webber noted back in September, Trejo has very little left to prove in the minor leagues. The 25-year-old deserves the chance to break camp with the big league team and obtain more significant playing time. Plus it just so happens that one of his two main positions will likely have an opening, depending on where Brendan Rodgers plays in 2022.
Frank Duncan, RHP
The future of a rotation slot is up in the air with Jon Gray’s status unknown. If that spot remains open, a strong possible candidate to fill it will be the right-handed Frank Duncan, who had a strong season on the farm this year. The Rockies signed Duncan to a minor league contract in May after he played indy and international baseball in 2019 and 2020. Duncan started 2021 with Double-A Hartford and finished the year with Triple-A Albuquerque.
Frank Duncan is an interesting case of it being now or never to bust into the major leagues, being drafted in 2013 by Cleveland and bouncing around the minors with various organizations. The 29-year-old has yet to pitch a single inning in the majors despite logging 311 2⁄3 innings in Triple-A thus far.
So why is it finally time for him to get a shot? It’s because Duncan played some of his best ball in the Rockies organization in 2021. He was promoted to Triple-A Albuquerque after eight solid starts, including four quality starts. In Hartford he didn’t allow more than three earned runs in a single appearance and posted an ERA of 2.76 through 42 1⁄3 innings. With his promotion to Triple-A, he continued his strong pitching by only giving up more than three runs in just two of his 16 appearances across 80 1⁄3 innings, 15 of which were starts.
While Duncan did struggle a bit more with walks and home runs in the hitter-friendly Triple-A West, he kept his ERA under 4.00 and rarely gave up more than three runs in an outing. A concern is that those outings were generally short, with only six of his 15 starts going for at least six innings. However, Duncan remained a consistent and reliable pitcher in 2021 and deserves a shot at the majors in 2022.
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Rox Pile’s Nathaniel Sunshine breaks down a fascinating deep dive into a painful hypothetical: what if the Rockies and Nolan Arenado had never parted ways? Nathaniel shows his work mathematically while showing how Nolan’s offense and defense could have impacted the Rockies’ ceiling in 2021.
Each team’s top prospect going to AFL | MLB.com
MLB Pipeline’s Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis go through the top prospect attending the Arizona Fall league for each MLB team. Highlights include MLB’s no. 4, 5, and 6 prospects in the Tigers’ Spender Torkelson (1B/3B), the Giants’ Marco Luciano (SS), and the Padres’ CJ Abrams (SS). Mayo and Callis believe the Rockies’ top representative in the AFL is OF Ryan Vilade, who played in the 2021 Futures Game and made his big league debut in September.
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On the Farm: Arizona Fall League Edition
Wednesday was opening day down in the Arizona Fall League! The Salt River Rafters took on the Peoria Javelinas, with Rockies prospect Michael Toglia (No. 4 PuRP) starting at first base, while OF Ryan Vilade (No. 10 PuRP) and RHP Jake Bird (No. 50 PuRP) both made appearances.
Bird finished the sixth inning by facing two batters. He walked the first batter he faced before inducing a groundout to Toglia to end the inning. Toglia singled to right field to represent the go-ahead run in the bottom of the ninth, and Vilade pinch-ran for him. Vilade would be brought around to score on three straight walks from the Javelinas pitcher.
The Rafters will play the Surprise Saguaros tomorrow at 1:35 PM MDT, with the starting roster yet to be announced.
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