Rox prospect Doyle continues to impress on improbable path

March 7th, 2022

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Baseball has a way of finding talent. In more than a few ways, it found Rockies outfield prospect Brenton Doyle.

Doyle, 23, embodies the classic nowhere-to-prospect story. The Rockies found him at Division II Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W. Va., and drafted him in the fourth round in 2019. It’s not often players from lesser-known colleges are drafted so high, and it’s even more rare that they score high on the five traditional tools (hitting, power, speed, arm proficiency and fielding).

“You don’t see many guys where I went to college get drafted, especially where I got drafted,” said Doyle, the Rockies' No. 7 prospect per MLB Pipeline. “But I like being that inspirational role model. You don’t have to go D-I to get found.”

In 148 games over two Minor League seasons -- 51 at Rookie-level Grand Junction in 2019, and 97 at High-A Spokane last year -- Doyle has slashed .312/.383/.504 with 24 home runs and 38 stolen bases. Doyle also earned a Minor League Rawlings Gold Glove Award and Rockies organization All-Star status in '21.

Both seasons were interrupted -- in ’19 when he missed 3 1/2 weeks after being hit in the face with a foul ball while standing in the on-deck circle, and in ’21 for a delightful cross-country trek for the birth of the first child for him and his fiancée, ShelbyRose Harris, a daughter named Braelynn -- with a pandemic-erased ’20 season in between.

Now comes a clear chance for Rockies coaches and decision-makers to see more than Doyle’s impressive numbers on the stat sheet and in the roster columns of height (6-foot-3) and weight (200 pounds). Doyle and the rest of Colorado's Minor Leaguers began their Spring Training on Sunday at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

But why did the Rockies have to dig for a diamond such as Doyle?

Until his junior year at Kettle Run High School in Fauquier County, Va., Doyle dreamed of a career in the military. At that point, he committed to Virginia Military Institute. The nation’s oldest state-supported military college, VMI requires all cadets to take an ROTC program -- with the Department of Defense maintaining the Army, Navy and Air Force. A VMI education often leads to a military career.

But baseball found its way into Doyle’s soul and tapped into his talent during his junior and senior years of high school. Suddenly, he heard a different calling and marched toward it.

“I developed into a really, really good baseball player, and I was like, ‘Maybe I have a chance of making this my career,’” Doyle said. “VMI was awesome to me, but I didn’t think I could focus on baseball as I’d have liked, having to focus on ROTC.”

The tradeoff, however, was risky. VMI plays in the Division I Southern Conference. By the time Doyle de-committed, finding a place to play was a scramble. But teammates helped him land at Shepherd, which is tucked into West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle, not far from his Washington, D.C.-area home.

Doyle showed his outsized tools in the Coastal Plain League, where former Rockies Minor Leaguer and current scout Jordan Czarnecki spotted him and dialed up Ed Santa, a Rox area scouting supervisor.

“He called me up and said, ‘Eddie, you’re going to think I’m crazy, but I’ve got a kid from Shepherd University in West Virginia: Do you know where it is?’” Santa said. “I said, ‘Yeah.' I’d been there once, but I’d been there. He said, ‘They’ve got a player, beautiful body, good tools, did great at the All-Star Game, ran the [60-yard dash] in 6.4 [seconds], hit the ball out of sight in batting practice.’”

Jay Matthews, who scouts in the Carolinas, backed Czarnecki’s assessment. Santa, whose scouting report on Hall of Famer Derek Jeter famously beat the Yankees' captain to the Hall, laid eyes on Doyle during his junior year and recommended the Rockies take him in an early round.

For a brief period in college, Doyle considered making himself easier to find.

“My sophomore year at Shepherd, I wasn’t Draft-eligible, but I got quite a bit of attention,” Doyle said. “Scouts were coming to my practices. I was debating, do I want to stick at Division II? Am I even able to get drafted out of here? Do I want to enter the transfer portal, try to get to a D-I?

“But I’m glad I stayed at Shepherd. I got a lot of attention my sophomore year, and my junior year, the attention doubled. There wasn’t a practice or day I didn’t meet with a scout or have a scout at my practice.”

Early in proving his mettle at the pro level at Grand Junction, Doyle had a setback that ended up propelling him.

Doyle had ordered a batting helmet with a C-Flap -- a plastic guard that protects the face. It didn’t arrive. It was then unfortunate when the ball found him. A lined foul ball crashed into his face, where the helmet would have protected.

During his absence from the lineup, Doyle talked his hitting coach’s ear off about adjustments he could make and decided to have a more upright stance. His swing returned better than before. He finished his 51-game season batting .383 with a 1.088 OPS.

The production continued last year. After taking time off in late July and early August for Braelynn’s birth, the new mom created Twitter cuteness overloads with baby pictures for each of the new dad’s home runs.

“Dad strength -- everyone says it, and it’s a real thing,” Doyle said.

Doyle also offers hope to players away from the big time with outsized talent.

“If I could go back, I would do the same thing,” Doyle said. “I like being where I’m at now.”