'Steady' Tovar settles in as Rockies' shortstop

No. 25 prospect eager to lead, developing defensive chemistry with 2B McMahon

March 7th, 2023

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- taking over at shortstop was one of the Rockies’ biggest storylines heading into Spring Training, yet it’s turning out to be no big deal.

Tovar, ranked as MLB Pipeline’s No. 25 overall prospect, is batting .267 with a home run, and four strikeouts and three walks in seven games. He struck out in his only at-bat after entering as a reserve in Monday afternoon's 4-1 victory over the Rangers at Salt River Fields. A Rockies split-squad team lost to the Reds, 6-1, Monday night in Goodyear, Ariz.

Last year, Tovar was the Rockies’ most exciting Cactus League player, when he went 11-for-20 with three home runs and seven RBIs to earn the Abby Greer Award as the camp’s Most Valuable Player. But the less fuss over Tovar, the better. The defense needs him to provide steadiness.

“That’s the thing that stood out from the Minor League people who have had him and know him well,” manager Bud Black said. “He’s not variable. He’s steady. There is consistency to the human being. That is comforting to us.”

“He’s got poise. He’s a clear thinker. Those are great attributes to a young player.”

Let explore five ways that Tovar has settled into an important role.

1. He might now show it, but the excitement level is the same
Tovar, 21, played in just nine Major League games at the end of last season (.212 average, one home run). He’d have debuted sooner if not for left hip and pelvis inflammation, which forced him off the field at Double-A Hartford and cost him 1 1/2 months.

Maybe the days in the Majors took away the newness, but Tovar doesn’t want this to ever get old.

“Without a doubt, baseball is always going to be the same for me -- when you’re in your offseason, you want to get back into it,” Tovar said via bullpen catcher and interpreter Aaron Muñoz. “It’s always the same feeling of baseball. I’m excited.”

But, well, he’s cool-headed about it.

“He's confident,” Black said. “He's comfortable. He's got poise. He's a clear thinker. And that's a great attribute for a young player.”

2. It’s not about showing off or trying to match last spring’s numbers
“The baseball is round. The baseball is the same,” Tovar said. “So this year, I’m just trying to do the same thing. I want to play hard. I want them to see me play hard, watch me go hard every day and compete.”

3. is a good mentor
, who won a Gold Glove Award in 2022, was supposed to be Tovar’s middle infield partner, but Rodgers is headed for left shoulder surgery that could cost him the season. But McMahon moving to second gives Tovar an experienced partner.

“I was working with ‘B-Rod’ early in camp, but honestly with ‘Mac’ moving over there, we have the same chemistry,” Tovar said. “They’re the same guy. We are getting to know each other working in the mornings.

"That’s the beauty of having a teammate like McMahon. We’re on the same page. We want to compete, win and work together, and we’re getting to know each other and having a good time.”

4. Tovar earned high marks in the Minors by becoming increasingly vocal in meetings, and at times taking a leadership role. That will come here, but he is being patient
“You’ve got a lot of guys with a lot of experience here,” Tovar said. “I’m not going to speak up unless I feel it’s necessary. But that goes for every level. I want to say something if I need to say something.

“These guys have the same objective and know what they need to do, so you’re not as loud and as vocal up here. Everybody knows what they’re doing.”

Where is Tovar on the learning curve to being a take-charge shortstop?

“I want him to be the general out there in the infield -- it’s something we’re working on,” said third-base coach Warren Schaeffer, who coaches the infielders. “He can do it because his expectations for himself are really high.

"When you play with people like ‘Mac’ and ‘B-Rod’ and C.J. Cron, who are really invested in playing winning defensive baseball, it makes it that much easier for him, because they want him to be himself.”

5. Tovar's got a head for stardom -- literally
Growing up in Venezuela, Tovar’s favorite player was, naturally, Francisco Cabrera. But as Tovar shot up the charts at shortstop, well, one look at him without his cap tells you who became his baseball role model.

“Lindor,” he said, underneath curls that went from front to back, but hung softly over shaved sides.

Interestingly, though, the hair was natural black. He shook his head at the suggestion that he copy the Mets’ Francisco Lindor and color it -- Rockies purple, maybe.

Playing like Lindor, though, would draw happy nods.