Thursday Rockpile: Evaluating the Rockies’ Rule 5 protections

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Colorado Rockies news and links for Thursday, November 16th, 2023

Tuesday afternoon marked an important deadline for the offseason: teams needed to move players to the 40-man roster in order to protect them from the upcoming Rule 5 Draft. The Rule 5 Draft will take place on December 6th during this year’s Winter Meetings, and teams will be able to select unprotected players from other organizations. All 30 MLB teams protected at least one player while six MLB top-100 prospects required protections. The Colorado Rockies protected four players, including a top-100 prospect of their own.

INF Adael Amador, Double-A Hartford

Protecting Adael Amador by adding him to the 40-man roster was probably the easiest decision the Rockies could ever make. The 20-year-old from the Dominican Republic is the Rockies’ top-overall prospect as ranked by both MLB Pipeline and Purple Row’s mid-season PuRPs listing. Despite dealing with injuries over the course of the 2023 minor league season, Amador took home an assortment of postseason honors. He was named both a Northwest League All-Star and Northwest League MLB Top Prospect for his work with the High-A Spokane Indians, where he spent the bulk of the season.

Amador hit .302/.392/.514 over 54 games with the Indians while hitting 14 doubles, three triples, nine home runs, and driving in 35 runs. He also utilized his speed to steal 12 bases in 16 attempts. Most impressive about Amador’s season was his excellent plate discipline. The young infielder drew 31 walks to just 26 strikeouts, and hits well from both sides of the plate as a switch hitter.

Promoted late in the season, Amador struggled over 10 games with the Double-A Hartford Yard Goats and hit just .143 in 35 at-bats. However, he still drew four walks and struck out just eight times while hitting his first Double-A home run and stealing three bases. Averaging 3.7 years younger than the rest of the Yard Goats roster, Amador has plenty of time to grow and continue to develop. He’ll likely start the 2024 season in Hartford but it’s not impossible he ends the season a big-leaguer.

OF Yanquiel Fernandez, Double-A Hartford

Yanquiel Fernandez was the other obvious protection choice for the Rockies. Ranked at no. 2 by MLB Pipeline and sitting comfortably at no. 3 for our mid-season PuRPs listing, Fernandez has rocketed up the charts and into notoriety and played in the All-Star Futures Game this year.

Signed in the same 2019 international free agent class as Amador, Fernandez is a “strapping, broad-shouldered young man with considerable thunder in his hands and a more muscular physique than is typical for a hitter his age” and does just about everything with authority. He can generate immense power with the bat and had 34 extra base hits with High-A Spokane in 2023, including 17 home runs with a 148 wRC+ in 58 games while hitting .319/.354/.605 in 248 at-bats. He also has a rocket launcher for an arm, with a 60-grade arm tool and a measured throw from right field to third base clocking in at 103 MPH.

Like Amador, Fernandez struggled to adjust after being promoted to Double-A. Also like Amador, Fernandez is much younger than his teammates and is set to turn 21 in a few months. His strikeout rate ballooned to 32.9% in Hartford (up from 17.9% in Spokane) and he hit just .206/.262/.362 with a 69 wRC+ over 20 games. However, his power was on full display as he hit 10 doubles and eight home runs with 25 RBI during that time.

RHP Angel Chivilli, Double-A Hartford

One of two unranked prospects protected by the Rockies, right-handed reliever Angel Chivilli is an intriguing choice. Another member of the 2019 international draft class, the 21-year-old spent most of his season with High-A Spokane, posting a 5.84 ERA in 50 appearances with 17 saves. In three late season appearances with Hartford he gave up one earned run in four innings of work.

Chivilli has a lively mid-90s fastball in addition to a slider and a potential plus changeup. He leveraged his arsenal for 68 strikeouts last season across High-A and Double-A with 21 walks. His release point can be inconsistent but when he has a feel for it his control is one of his strengths.

The Rockies did not protect Chivilli last season when he was Rule 5 eligible, but are clearly pleased enough with his development to protect him this year. Currently he’s playing for Los Gigantes de Cibao in the Dominican Winter League with five strikeouts over 5 13 innings.

RHP Juan Mejia, Double-A Hartford

One of the Rockies’ breakout stars of the Arizona Fall League, right-handed reliever Juan Mejia was the second unranked prospect protected from the Rule 5 draft. Mejia made 48 relief appearances across High-A and Double-A in 2023 with an impressive 86 strikeouts over 58 23 innings of work.

Mejia has a solid pitch mix that includes a slider with lots of potential, especially if he gets enough ‘oomph’ behind it.

“He has tremendous stuff with his three-pitch mix — fastball, slider, and changeup,” said Rockies minor league pitching coordinator Doug Linton. “The slider was the one pitch he needed to get more consistent. The 88-89 MPH sliders are his best. When he throws it 83-84, he has a tougher time commanding it.”

Mejia has been working with Linton and Yard Goats pitching coach Blaine Beatty to sharpen his pitches, and he took those lessons to the Arizona Fall League. In eight appearances and 8 13 innings, Mejia had an ERA of just 2.16 while notching three saves in his belt and striking out a whopping 16 batters. He was named an All-Star for the Fall League’s “Fall-Stars” game, where he struck out two batters in an inning of work.

With these four protections—interestingly all international signings—the Rockies have a full 40-man roster. While they can still make more moves this offseason, any Rule 5 eligible players in their system are free game for the rest of the league.

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Here were the toughest Rule 5 calls and their outcomes |

Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo at break down the difficult choices for the Rule 5 draft for each team. For the Rockies they called Juan Mejia “less than a slam dunk” but ultimately—and correctly—figured he would be protected.

Player Spotlight: Angel Jimenez | Blake Street Banter

Over at Blake Street Banter, Isaac Stevens (@roxmilbreport) is putting the spotlight on 19-year-old right-handed pitcher Angel Jimenez. Jimenez was one of the youngest players in the Arizona Complex League in 2023, but boats impressive promise. His fastball tops out at 97 MPH and he uses it to pound the upper parts of the strike zone for swings and misses. Jimenez is Rule 5 eligible and was not protected by the Rockies.

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Title: Thursday Rockpile: Evaluating the Rockies’ Rule 5 protections
Author: Evan Lang

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