Wednesday Rockpile: Breaking down the minor league Opening Day rosters

Hartford Yard Goats vs Reading Fightin Phils
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Colorado Rockies news and links for Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Are you burdened with the overhanging dread that is a 162 MLB season in Colorado? Do you have a gaping hole in your life begging to be filled with a love of baseball again? Do you suffer from IRS (Irritable Rockies Syndrom)?

Well, lucky for you there is a solution to these troublesome woes and that is the wonderful world of Minor League Baseball.

The minor leagues kicked off the season last Friday at the Triple-A level with the other full-season levels beginning April 5. In a prelude to the whole system starting play, let’s take a look at the Opening Day rosters for each level and break down some of the highlights and reasons to pay attention to the system.

Triple-A: Albuquerque Isotopes

A main focus for the Rockies in the offseason was trying to build up depth, especially for the big league roster. On their Opening Day roster, the Albuquerque Isotopes featured 16 players who have appeared in the major leagues. Pitching is notoriously difficult in the Pacific Coast League, however, so expect some inflated ERAs, but there are sure to still be dominant performances and important growth opportunities as the Rockies hope their safety net of pitching depth is ready to be called upon when needed.

Jordan Beck (No. 6 PuRP) is perhaps the most anticipated name worth keeping an eye on as he inches closer to the big leagues. The top prospect dazzled in spring training and at 22 years old has also gotten off to a hot start in Albuquerque. In his first four games in Triple-A, Beck is batting .357.474/1.403 with a triple, two home runs and six RBI. Rockies fans are eagerly watching his progress and we could end up seeing him sooner than later.

The same can be said for Drew Romo (No. 7 PuRP). He showed real growth in spring training and should his development continue, there’s a strong chance he could make his debut this summer. Aaron Schunk (No. 29 PuRP) is also making his case to earn a role with the big league club as he adds shortstop to his resume and continues to be a productive bat.

Expect plenty of offense in Triple-A, resulting in classic games where no lead is safe.

Double-A: Hartford Yard Goats

In the complete opposite of the PCL, the Eastern League is a much more difficult league to hit for the Hartford Yard Goats. It’s regarded as a true proving for offensive players and the Rockies have some notable names looking to conquer the level.

Zac Veen (No. 3 PuRP) and Yanquiel Fernandez (No. 4 PuRP) are two of the Rockies’ top prospects who have shown plenty of promise, but both players have struggled in Double-A. Veen missed the majority of last season due to wrist surgery and must show he can find patience and consistency at the plate. Fernandez has the power to spare, but like Veen has to find a way to consistently tap into it while commanding the plate in each at-bat.

Adael Amador (No. 1 PuRP) will also have plenty of attention as he tries to get on the fast track to the big leagues this season. Injuries and some underperformance limited him last season but he showed well in Spring Training and he will have the chance to prove he is fully healthy and capable of handling second base in the foreseeable future for the Rockies.

Pitching is where you really want to pay attention to with the Yard Goats. Carson Palmquist (No. 18 PuRP), Mason Albright (No. 20 PuRP) and Connor Van Scoyoc are three of the more notable starting pitcher names that could make quite an impact if they can stay healthy and effective.

Plenty of eyes will be on reliever Jaden Hill (No. 19 PuRP) as he begins his first full season as a reliever in the Rockies system. Before an unfortunate final outing in spring training that saw him cough up five runs in an inning, Hill had allowed just one run in four innings with six strikeouts. His lively fastball and developing secondary pitches could help fast-track him to the big leagues this season as he gets further seasoning the bullpen this year.

The Rockies have more intriguing pitching talent than people give them credit for and it will be interesting to watch how they develop in Hartford this season.

High-A: Spokane Indians

Spokane’s roster includes 16 returning players and five of Colorado’s top 30 prospects. It features a nice mix of organization players and some important players for the Rockies’ future.

Chase Dollander (No. 2 PuRP), the Rockies’ first-round pick in 2024, will begin his professional career headlining the Indians rotation. Fans only got a glimpse of Dollander during the Spring Breakout game and are eager to see what he can do a regular season. He’ll have to find a way to rebound from a rough final year in college and it’ll be a true test of how the Rockies handle a highly regarded pitching prospect.

He’ll be teamed up with Sean Sullivan (No. 12 PuRP), the lefty who features a sneaky good fastball and can wrack up strikeouts. He made a brief appearance in Low-A last season and gets his first look during a full regular season. The 1-2 punch at the top of Spokane’s rotation could give fans a glimpse into the future potentially. As a whole, the pitching staff could be sneakily good with the types of talent housed in the rotation and the bullpen.

The offense will rely on the sticks of players like Cole Carrigg (No. 11 PuRP), Dyan Jorge (No. 9 PuRP) and Kyle Karros. The position players are athletic and versatile which will give the Indians plenty of options when it comes to lineup construction.

Spokane typically ends up being a sifting level, meant to quickly elevate the elite players while giving more development players more time to get to that status if possible. Still, it’s an interesting level that is somewhat of a mystery due to the fact that they still don’t televise their games through MiLB.tv which I hope changes this year at some point.

Low-A: Fresno Grizzlies

Finally, we have the Fresno Grizzlies which have proven to be an invaluable affiliate. Thanks to their history as a Triple-A affiliate, the Grizzlies have great facilities, fans, and dedication to knowing how to run an organization based on building big leaguers.

There is a healthy mix of fresh draft picks along with international signings making the move from the Dominican Leagues and Arizona Complex League. Infield/outfielder Braylen Wimmer, an eighth-round pick, showed off some pop with the ACL Rockies after he was drafted in 2023 when he batted .383 with a 1.049 OPS in 14 games.

Aiden Longwell, Luis Mendez, Andy Perez and Tevin Tucker present a group of infielders with some interesting profiles that could end up hitting their way into higher prospects rankings in the community this year and beyond. The potential is almost limitless as players begin to discover who they are as players at Low-A.

On the mound, the Grizzlies will take advantage of a couple of Rockies Top 30 prospects. Jake Madden (No. 24 PuRP) was acquired via trade when the Rockies sent Randal Grichuk and C.J. Cron to the Los Angeles Angels last season. He struggled in his first season of action after being drafted in the fourth round in 2022, but the young righty has a promising arsenal and working with the Grizzlies’ new pitching coach could do wonders for him. He’s joined by 2023 third-round pick Jack Mahoney (No. 28 PuRP) who gets his first full season action after tossing two innings in the ACL.

Low-A is a foundational level and the Grizzlies are always a fun team to keep an eye on as players get their first taste of regular professional action.

Invest in the Minors

In a season like the Rockies are going to have, it may be more prudent than ever to focus on the teams in the organization. There is a lot of fun talent in the system as evidenced by these rosters.

Nearly every game is available to watch on MiLB.tv, save the majority of Spokane games which can still be listened via radio feed. They feature quality broadcasters, great social media personas, promotional events, and fan engagement. The young siblings to the Rockies are incredibly fun to watch and follow and are more than deserving of your support. Buy the merch, attend games where possible, and show them some love as they are helping formulate the future of the Rockies.

Also, be sure to check out our Monday Pebble Reports courtesy of Evan Lang.

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Amid struggles, Rox want Jones to ‘relax and play baseball’ | MLB.com

Outfield errors have been a problem for Nolan Jones to begin the season. Bud Black and Jones acknowledge the fact that he is putting a bit too much pressure on himself to try and make the big plays that it’s hindering his execution of the fundamentals. The team is trying to get him to understand that he doesn’t need to put the added pressure on himself.

Rockies forecast: What to expect at the home opener | KDVR

The Rockies begin their year at Coors Field on Friday against the Tampa Bay Rays. If you’re planning on attending, it’s always good to check the weather. The forecast calls for beautiful weather on Friday, but the rest of the weekend may not be as pleasant.

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On the Farm

Triple-A: Oklahoma City Baseball Club 7, Albuquerque Isotopes 5

The top four batters in the lineup went a combined 7-for-16 on Tuesday as they lost 7-5 to Oklahoma City. Sean Bouchard, Coco Montes and Sam Hilliard each had two hits while Greg Jones had one. Hilliard and Bouchard both had a double Jones had a pair of stolen bases to give him four on the year. The Isotopes struck out 14 times against six walks. On the mound Thomas Ponticelli got the start, allowing three runs on five hits with three walks in 2 13 innings. Jeff Criswell then came in relief and allowed four runs on three hits in 1 23 innings with four strikeouts and two walks.

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Title: Wednesday Rockpile: Breaking down the minor league Opening Day rosters
Author: Skyler Timmins

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