With the season winding down, this is the time of the year when clubs take a look at some of their top prospects.
For the Colorado Rockies, they have been giving their young players extended looks for much of the season. In fact, Rockies fans have been given a preview of what 75% of their infield may look like in 2023.
ROOKIES IN THE ROCKIES
Elehuris Montero was once a top 100 prospect, ranked 81st by Baseball America in its 2019 preseason rankings. But after a rough 2019 campaign, he fell out of the rankings and finished the 2021 season as the club’s fourth overall best prospect.
A third baseman, Montero can also play first base and has seen time at designated hitter as well with the Rockies. Third base or designated hitter will likely be his home in the future thanks to Michael Toglia.
The Rockies have been high on Togila for years. The switch-hitter was drafted by Colorado in the 35th round of the 2016 draft and then again by the Rockies in 2019, this time as the 23rd overall pick.
While Montero and Toglia have more than 100 at-bats in the majors, a third rookie is getting a chance to show his skill on the Major League level. That rookie is shortstop Ezequiel Tovar. He is not the power hitter the other two are. Instead, his top tool is his defense and the ability to hit and steal some bases.
So let’s dive right in and take a deeper look at these three players.
Montero signed with the Cardinals as an international free agent in 2015 and played in the Dominican summer league for two seasons before making his American debut in 2017, where he proceeded to slash .278/.370/.468 in 52 games. He then burst onto the scene in 2018 when he hit 16 homers and drove in 82 runs while slashing .315/.371/.504 en route to winning the Midwest League MVP.
But 2019 was a miserable year for Montero as he suffered a broken hamate bone and never came close to duplicating his 2018 numbers. Despite the poor season, St. Louis added him to its 40-man roster in 2020 and he spent the year at the club’s altnernate site before being traded to the Rockies as part of the Nolan Arenado deal.
Success in the Rockies’ System
Once in the Colorado system, Montero started to produce at the level he did in 2018. Splitting time between Double-A and Triple-A last year, Montero slashed .278/.360/.529 with 28 homers and 86 RBI.
He followed that up with a .310/.392/.541 slash line at Triple-A this year with 15 homers and 54 RBI in 65 games before being promoted to the Rockies.
The Tools – Power
Montero displays good bat speed that he combines with his natural strength to provide him his power, which right now is mostly to the pull side.
One downside to Montero’s game right now is his overly aggressive approach at the plate. In the minors, he had a strikeout rate of 21.2% with a walk rate of only 9.0%. Those numbers are even worse so far with the Rockies. He currently has a strikeout rate of 32.3% and a walk rate of 4.5% as major league pitchers are taking advantage of his lack of selectiveness at the plate.
Good against the Fastball, but…
Montero has shown he can hit the fastball. He has a .278 batting average against fastballs with a whiff% of only 15.8. But Breaking balls and offspeed pitches have given him fits. Montero has a .208 average against breaking balls with a 48.1 whiff%. He is even worse against the offspeed pitch, hitting .118 with a 56.3% whiff%.
After not signing with the Rockies in 2016, Toglia attended UCLA. In three seasons as a Bruin, Toglia, who is a switch-hitter, hit 36 homers and drove in 156 runs in 178 career games while slashing .308/.410/.573. As a junior, Toglia mashed 17 homers and drove in 65 in 63 games with a .314/.392/.624 slash line. When Toglia was still on the board when the Rockies’ selection came up, they quickly selected him.
The Tools – Power, Power and more Power
Hitting for average is not what Toglia does. His best batting average in the minors was .249 this year. While Toglia isn’t going to boost your average or on-base percentage, he is going to hit home runs. He blasted 22 in 2021 at the Class A and Double-A level and hit another 30 this year between Double-A and Triple-A.
Toglia can leave the yard any time he steps into the batter’s box, and his power plays from both sides of the plate.
With the Power comes Swing and Miss
While Toglia is capable of piling up the home runs, he has proven he can rack up the strikeouts. In college, his strikeout rate was 22.4%. That number increased to 28.7% during his time in the minors.
How has he done with the Rockies so far? Not too good as he has a 33.7% strikeout rate.
There is some good news to his approach at the plate as he does draw walks. His walk rate was 14.3% at UCLA and 13.1% in the minors. Right now, however, it is at 7.7% with the Rockies.
A Little like Montero
Like his teammate Montero, Toglia is having trouble adjusting to major league-breaking pitches and offspeed pitches. He is hitting only .250 against breaking pitches with a 40.3% whiff%. The numbers are worse against offspeed pitches as he has a .091 average and 46.2 whiff%.
Unlike Montero, however, Toglia is struggling against fastballs as well. He is hitting only .211 off fastballs with a 24.8 whiff%.
Tovar is the baby of the bunch, turning only 21 on August 1. Despite his age, he has held his own against older competition. If defense was a stat used in fantasy baseball, he would be a no brainer to have on your team at shortstop.
Defense, however, is not a fantasy stat, so let’s focus on his offense.
His Tools – All Around Skills
Unlike Montero and Toglia, Tovar is not going to hit a lot of home runs. But that doesn’t mean he can’t hit 15 or so on the major league level, especially as he adds strength to his 6-foot frame. His power has increased each season, hitting 15 in 432 at-bats in 2021 at the Class A and High-A levels and then knocking 14 out of the park in 285 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A.
What Tovar can do that Montero and Toglia can’t is hit for average and steal bases. After hitting .249 in 2019, Tovar’s average climbed to .287 in 2021 and he was hitting .319 in the minors this season before being promoted to the Rockies. On the bases, he has reached double-digit steals in all four of his professional seasons.
With the Rockies rebuilding, there are going to be plenty of at-bats for Montero, Toglia and Tovar next season. If you want to have only one of these players on your roster, I would go with Tovar right now.
He is the likely starting shortstop next season as the Rockies have no real challenger at shortstop. There will be growing pains with a player who is only 21 right now, but he will be able to help in several areas thanks to some modest power, his ability to hit and his ability to steal bases.
Montero would be my second choice of Rockies rookies. He doesn’t have the raw power that Toglia has, but he has more than enough to help any fantasy team and he can hit for a decent average. He can also play third and first, which is nice to have if you want a little versatility on your team.
Bringing up the rear is Toglia. Yes, he has tremendous power. But he has a lot of swing and miss in his game. If he can’t make consistent contact, it doesn’t matter how much power he has. The good news for him is he is a very good first baseman, so he could earn a spot thanks to his glove and grow into his game at the plate. But except for his homers, there isn’t much else Toglia will help with when it comes to fantasy stats in 2023.
So I’d take Tovar and I would take Montero if he is out there as well and you need a corner infielder. But I would pass on Toglia right now unless you have a 40-man roster and can stash him there.
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