SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- As part of MLB Pipeline's visit to all 30 Spring Training facilities, we're sitting down with prospects and getting to know them a little better. At Rockies camp, it was Colorado's No. 4 prospect, Colton Welker.Welker was the Rockies' fourth-round selection in the 2016 Draft and received
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- As part of MLB Pipeline's visit to all 30 Spring Training facilities, we're sitting down with prospects and getting to know them a little better. At Rockies camp, it was Colorado's No. 4 prospect, Colton Welker.
Welker was the Rockies' fourth-round selection in the 2016 Draft and received an above-pick value bonus of $855,000 to forego his commitment to the University of Miami. The third baseman attended Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, a program that produced big leaguers like Anthony Rizzo and Mike Caruso, as well as A's lefty prospect Jesus Luzardo. Welker has hit .341/.385/.496 over 118 total professional games to date, though his first full season was cut short by a lower abdominal strain.
MLB Pipeline: Official Minor League camp is really just getting going now, but you did get some time over in big league camp early. How have things been going for you?
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Welker: It's been great. It was good to get my feet wet with those guys before the start of Minor League camp. I feel great and I'm ready to roll this year. Being over there, the game's a little faster, so being over there definitely helps.
MLB Pipeline: When you're playing in the South Atlantic League, I'd imagine that big league play seems so far away. Does being over there, even in a Spring Training game, make it seem a little closer?
Welker: You can definitely picture it and it makes me want to keep doing my thing and keep moving up. It doesn't seem too far away. It's the same game I've always played. It doesn't feel much different.
MLB Pipeline: Was last year frustrating for you? You were firing on all cylinders and then you got hurt. How difficult was that to deal with and what were some things you learned about yourself while going through it?
Welker: It was tough. I definitely felt like I was in a rhythm and I wanted to be out there every day for my teammates. It taught me, just watching the game and not being able to play, to not take it for granted. It made me appreciate being able to play every day even more. I really missed being out there with the guys and it made me hungry to get back, play a full season healthy and focus on my body.
MLB Pipeline: Everyone talks about Asheville, which was your home park last year, as being ridiculously hitter-friendly. Is that overblown? And can it mess with you in terms of your approach at the plate?
Welker: For me, they have that big wall in right field and I love to go opposite field, so it was nice. Some guys come in there, from visiting teams, and try to jack balls out of the park and end up going 0-for-4 with two punchouts and popouts. You can take advantage of it and spray the ball over there or you can come in and try to hit home runs. I think it helped me not try to do too much knowing that wall was 297 feet away or whatever it is. It was a really great experience.
MLB Pipeline: You're a third baseman. They have a pretty good third baseman in Colorado in Nolan Arenado. Is that something you don't think about at all? Will you start working at other positions?
Welker: I stick at third strictly now. All of that is out of my control. That guy is obviously the best third baseman in the game, one of the best players playing right now. I hope he continues his success. I'll just keep working on growing to the player I want to become. The rest will take care of itself.
MLB Pipeline: On the plus side, especially when you get to slide over to big league camp, you get to see how he goes about his business. That must be a plus.
Welker: Oh, it is. He works insanely hard. Just watching his work ethic, even in the cage, is amazing. His focus, he's a different animal out there, definitely.
MLB Pipeline: I did want to ask you about Parkland. You went to Stoneman Douglas High School, which obviously was in the news following the mass shooting tragedy. Where were you when it happened?
Welker: I had just finished here and I got a news alert on my phone or saw it on Twitter. I did a double-take and thought, "Was that Parkland, Florida?" It's a small town, a beautiful area. I was completely in shock and disbelief that something like that would happen there.
MLB Pipeline: What have you been able to do since the tragedy to stay connected to your community back home?
Welker: We have a big group chat with my teammates and coach from high school. I reached out and said, "I love you guys. I hope everyone is OK." I'm trying to show my support everywhere, on social media, posting things there, messaging the families that were affected. I thought Major League Baseball wearing the Douglas hats was great. I was a part of that and it was special to wear that hat again in that situation.
MLB Pipeline: It's an unfortunate thing to have to learn at such a young age, but you have a platform, where maybe you can help comfort people a little. Is that something you've learned?
Welker: That's what I wanted to use it as, like a tool, something people can look at to maybe be lifted up, maybe see a little happiness at a time when it's hard to see happiness.
MLB Pipeline: Without getting political at all, how proud are you of the student body that has stood up for what they believe in strongly in the aftermath of this tragedy?
Welker: I'm not surprised at all. The character of those kids, they come from great families, from a great area. I wasn't surprised at all. It's amazing what they're doing, trying to fight the laws and stand up to make sure nothing like that happens again. I expected nothing less. They're doing a great job.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.