On Sep. 30 the Rockies announced a new Player Development contract with the Lancaster JetHawks of the High-A California League, replacing the Modesto Nuts who had been the Rockies affiliate since 2005.
Zach Wilson, senior director of player development for the Rockies, sees great potential in the new partnership, stating, "The Rockies are thrilled to partner with the Lancaster JetHawks and are excited to build new relationships with the JetHawks and their fans. Our ultimate goal is to maximize the potential of every player in the organization and we believe our new partnership with Lancaster will help us reach that goal."
The JetHawks' 2017 season will begin at home on April 6 against the Visalia Rawhide.
A total of seven Rockies prospects are participating in this year's Arizona Fall League, which started Tuesday, Oct. 11. RHP Shane Carle, OF Noel Cuevas, RHP Rayan Gonzalez, RHP Zach Jemiola, INF Ryan McMahon, INF Pat Valaika and LHP Jerry Vasto will be playing for the Salt River Rafters alongside prospects from the Arizona Diamondbacks, Atlanta Braves, Detroit Tigers and Milwaukee Brewers.
The AFL is a winter league funded by Major League Baseball for which each club sends six top prospects to form six teams broken into two divisions. Nearly 60 percent of all AFL players make a Major League roster. The AFL is celebrating its 25th Anniversary in 2016.
McMahon set the tone for his teammates by winning the National League title in the AFL Bowman Hitting Challenge on Saturday, Oct. 13. The Bowman Hitting Challenge features one hitter from each of the 30 MLB clubs and the batter receives points for home runs and hitting stationary and moving targets that are placed around the field.
The Fall Stars All-Star Game will take place at Surprise Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 3 and the Championship Game will be played at Scottsdale Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 19.
Past Rockies AFL alums include Nolan Arenado, Garrett Atkins, Clint Barmes, Charlie Blackmon, Tyler Chatwood, Corey Dickerson, Dexter Fowler, Brad Hawpe, Todd Helton, Matt Holliday, Chris Ianetta, Ian Stewart, Cory Sullivan, Troy Tulowitzki and Juan Uribe.
A number of Rockies rookies made their Major League debut this season and made an immediate impact. These rookies included LHP Tyler Anderson, OF Stephen Cardullo, RHP Matt Carasiti, LF David Dahl, RHP Carlos Estevez, RHP Jeff Hoffman, SS Trevor Story, C Tony Wolters. RHP Jon Gray, who debuted last season, had a breakout 2016 campaign.
On the mound, Anderson's 3.54 ERA was the second lowest in history for a Rockies rookie. He threw six-plus innings in 11 of his 12 home starts and had a home ERA of 3.00. Carasiti earned his first Major League win on Aug. 20, recording a strikeout in one inning of work. Estevez showed flashes of promise in the late relief and closer role. Gray recorded a Rockies record 16 strikeouts on Sep. 17; he struck out 185 batters this year, the most by a rookie in 2016 and he has a 9.91 K/9 ratio which is the best in Rockies history. Hoffman, who participated in the Futures Game earlier in the year, recorded 22 strikeouts in eight games with the Rockies.
On the position player side, Cardullo, who was playing independent league ball up until this year, hit his first Major League home run and first Major League grand slam on his birthday on Aug. 31. Dahl broke an MLB record this year for the longest hitting streak to begin a career at 17 games. Story took the NL by storm breaking numerous records in just 97 games. He finished the season first among all MLB rookies in home runs (27) and RBI (72). He has hit more home runs than any other NL rookie shortstop, he set the MLB rookie record for home runs in the month of April (9) and had the most home runs through a team’s first six games of a season (7). Wolters impressed fans with his framing ability behind the plate, and also became an offensive force following the All-Star break.
September Baseball is a great time for Wild Card races, and watching prospects take their first steps on big league soil. The Rockies’ September call-ups this season included: RHP German Marquez, C Tom Murphy, INF/OF Jordan Patterson, OF Raimel Tapia and INF Pat Valaika, each impressing in their September campaign.
Murphy continued to be the offensive powerhouse he was in Triple-A this year, smashing five home runs for a line of .273/.347/1.006 in the Majors. Tapia showed off his speed and two-strike approach, providing glimpses of why many believe he will become an impact player in the coming years. Marquez, this year’s Eastern League Pitcher of the Year, became the second-youngest Rockies pitcher to earn a win at 21 years, 212 days old. Valaika, a graduate of UCLA, launched his first career home run on Sept. 24 at Dodger Stadium. Patterson showcased his defensive skills, as well as his offensive ability, going 8-for-18 during his time with the big league club.
This September showed that the next generation of Rockies stars could be the real deal.