DENVER -- Rockies 2016 fourth-round MLB Draft pick Colton Welker has the best example to follow.Welker, 20, enters 2018 as the No. 8 third-base prospect in baseball. And he can look up to Rockies star Nolan Arenado, considered by many the best third baseman in today's game.:: Top 10 Prospects
DENVER -- Rockies 2016 fourth-round MLB Draft pick Colton Welker has the best example to follow.
Welker, 20, enters 2018 as the No. 8 third-base prospect in baseball. And he can look up to Rockies star Nolan Arenado, considered by many the best third baseman in today's game.
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"It's great to have someone to look up to," said Welker, who said he has seen Arenado around the club's Spring Training facilities in Scottsdale, Ariz., but respects his preparation enough to simply watch, but not bother him while he's working. "I definitely watch how he plays. Just to know that they drafted him out of high school, at the same position as me, and he grew up to be the top third baseman in the game, and an All-Star. That lets me know that when my development is over, that could be possible, and the Rockies know what they're doing with young, high school position guys."
Welker led Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. -- the same school that produced Cubs' star Anthony Rizzo -- to a state title in 2016, and has flashed a productive bat in his brief pro career.
Welker batted .329 with five home runs and a .490 slugging percentage at Rookie-level Grand Junction in 51 games in 2016. He hit .350 with six homers and a .500 slugging percentage at Class A Asheville in 67 games in a 2017 season that was shortened by a midseason bout with osteitis pubis -- an inflammation of the pubic bone. Welker was able to return for the final three weeks. Welker has accomplished this with a self-styled swing.
"I believe hitting, there's not one correct way," said Welker, who is training at Bommarito Performance Systems in Davie, Fla., and will arrive in Scottsdale on Feb. 1. "It was just how I felt comfortable, and I'm obviously blessed with the ability to do it. I always did my own thing. My swing isn't a prototypical swing. I feel comfortable with how I swing, the timing. Growing up, I never had someone to watch me hit or anything. I had my high school coaches to throw to me, but I just figured it mostly out myself.
"I love the Rockies because they don't try to mess with you. They try to make you the best version of yourself. They drafted you for a reason, and I respect that. They're not going to come in here and try to change something. They drafted me because they believe that my swing, and what I do, can play. That was huge for me, knowing they believe I me. I've got the confidence that, 'It works in pro ball. It worked in high school.' It's a big confidence thing."
A shortstop in high school, Welker has made strides at third base while working with Warren Schaeffer, his manager at Asheville and a former Rockies Minor League infielder.
"I was always a better defender than people had me out to be," said Welker, who signed with the University of Miami out of high school. "During my first season people could see, 'Hey, this kid can play defense.' I always knew that I could. I just had to pick up a few things. My throwing, I never really worried about. It has always been accurate. It's just adjusting to positioning, getting my feet underneath me, always moving forward through the ball. Warren, he's the best. That guy was out there every day with pants on, with me diving around. He changed my career, to try to stick at third base."
With time between now and the Majors, the Rockies are already looking at ways to get his bat into a lineup when the time comes. They had him practice first base during instructional ball, although he didn't appear in a game there. For now, Welker is likely ticketed for either Asheville or Class A Advanced Lancaster, and hopes to play a full, healthy season.
Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and** like his Facebook page**.