Fully healthy, Rockies' Thompson ready for next step in AFL

October 9th, 2023

The way began his first full season of pro ball, it would have been easy to see a very quick path to Colorado.

After 18 games in April, the sixth-ranked Rockies prospect had put up an otherworldly .463/.513/.746 line with High-A Spokane. A promotion to Double-A had to be in the near future, and who knows how rapidly the University of Florida product could have moved from there? Instead, the Rockies’ pick at No. 31 overall in the 2022 Draft headed to the injured list. A left elbow issue shelved Thompson for over a month, and he had to almost start over again when he finally got back to Spokane.

“It was frustrating when I got the news, because I had a lot of success, and all the work I put in the offseason,” Thompson said. “Going back to Arizona, it happens for a reason. I can only control what I can control. And I just worked hard. Once I got back, I didn’t find success right away, but I kept working hard and then I got my groove and the season was good.

“It’s, 'What if? What if I didn’t get hurt?' and stuff like that. But I still finished the season strong and I’m happy.”

Thompson would eventually earn that promotion to Double-A, and while he wasn’t as red-hot as he was at the start of the season, he held his own and finished the year with a very respectable .293/.376/.487 line, 14 homers, 17 steals and 134 wRC+ in 94 games.

Once he got to Hartford, aside from having to adjust from a very hitting-friendly park in Spokane to one that was just about league average in the Eastern League, the left-handed hitter noticed that he needed to get used to a different level of pitching as well.

“The VAA, the high fastball, guys are throwing with a little more velo,” Thompson said. “I liked it; I can always handle the velo. The bullpens are all good, and great starters. You have to have a better plan and a better approach every day.”

Thompson has brought those lessons with him to play for the Salt River Rafters in the Arizona Fall League. It’s an opportunity to make up for some of those lost at-bats, but he also understands that the AFL is an outstanding stepping stone to get to the Major Leagues. In his organization alone, he can see Michael Toglia playing for Salt River in 2021 and making his big league debut in '22. Ezequiel Tovar likely sped up his timetable to Colorado that fall as well.

“This is a pretty prestigious league for many years,” Thompson said. “It’s an honor to be in this league and I’m glad the Rockies selected me to be one of the guys to be in this league. There’s a lot of guys who have found success in the big leagues and they were in the spot I am right now. So it’s really exciting moving forward.”

Rockies hitters in the Fall League

Benny Montgomery, OF (No. 8): The Rockies’ first-round pick in the 2021 Draft, taken No. 8 overall out of the eastern Pennsylvania high school ranks, Montgomery missed nearly two months in 2022 with a quad injury but stayed relatively healthy this year with High-A Spokane. The raw tools are all still there, and he’ll continue to work on refining his approach to get to his plus raw power and use his 70-grade speed.

Drew Romo, C (No. 9): Playing nearly all year at just 21 years old, Romo is a switch-hitting catcher who started to tap into his natural raw power a bit more in 2023 -- mostly at Double-A Hartford, with a callup to Triple-A Albuquerque before finishing things off in the Fall League. He’s an outstanding defender behind the plate as well.

Rockies pitchers in the Fall League

Jaden Hill, RHP (No. 29): Hill created some buzz last fall at instructs and during Spring Training this year with electric stuff post-Tommy John surgery, but struggled to build momentum this season. He was shut down in early August with right shoulder and back soreness, so he’s amassed just 61 1/3 pro innings since being drafted in 2021, and he’s looking to find a groove and log some innings this fall.

Alec Barger, RHP: The Rockies got Barger from the Braves at the Trade Deadline in return for Brad Hand. The right-handed reliever has a fastball up to 97 mph and a slider that Colorado feels has the chance to be a true out pitch for him. He’s in the AFL to work on landing that breaking ball for strikes more consistency.

Chris McMahon, RHP: A 2020 second-round pick, McMahon has made slow progress because of injuries. A lat strain kept him off the mound until late July in '22, and this year right shoulder fatigue limited him 15 Double-A starts, so this is an opportunity to make up for some lost innings.

Juan Mejia, RHP: A right-handed reliever, Mejia reached Double-A for the first time, and he struck out 13.2 per nine across two levels in 2023. He goes right after hitters with a fastball that tops out at around 98 mph and a slider that continues to improve, with a Fall League stop providing a good test for full-time work at the upper levels next year.

Case Williams, RHP: Williams made it through a full Double-A season, making 23 starts, but the Rockies wanted to build him out a bit past the 101 2/3 innings he finished with. They also want him to work on continuing to keep his delivery synced up with more work in Arizona.