The Rockies may have had their best year ever for rookies in 2016. Tyler Anderson, David Dahl, Carlos Estévez, Jon Gray, Trevor Story and Tony Wolters all graduated to Coors Field this season. Jeff Hoffman, German Márquez and Raimel Tapia also made their big league debuts, while Tom Murphy showed
The Rockies may have had their best year ever for rookies in 2016. Tyler Anderson, David Dahl, Carlos Estévez, Jon Gray, Trevor Story and Tony Wolters all graduated to Coors Field this season. Jeff Hoffman, German Márquez and Raimel Tapia also made their big league debuts, while Tom Murphy showed impressive power for the second straight September.
Nevertheless, Colorado's farm system remains one of the deepest in baseball. And much of that talent is on display in its instructional league program in Scottsdale, Ariz., which began Sept. 20 and will conclude Oct. 9. Twenty members of MLBPipeline.com's Rockies Top 30 Prospects list are on hand, including recent top-five overall picks Brendan Rodgers (No. 3 in the 2015 Draft) and Riley Pint (No. 4 in '16).
"One of the great thing about getting all those guys up there is that most of them impacted right away," Rockies farm director Zach Wilson said. "To know we can graduate guys and continue to churn out our system, knowing we have guys right behind them and more guys right behind them, that's a credit to everyone in scouting and the front office and player development. It's heartening to know we can have waves of guys after waves of guys after waves of guys."
To help keep those waves coming, Colorado runs its program a little differently than other organizations do. The Rockies don't play any instructional league games, and they condense their work into three weeks rather than the typical four.
Rockies Top 30 Prospects at instructs
"It's purposely very different from other programs with what we're focusing on," Wilson said. "Three weeks is shorter than most, but it's intense. It makes sense for us with the things we believe in and we're instilling."
In some ways, the Rockies do treat instructional league like other organizations do, such as using it as an opportunity to expose players to new positions and increase their versatility. The most prominent example in Scottsdale is 2014 supplemental first-round pick Forrest Wall, a second baseman who's giving center field a try.
Known for his pure hitting ability and well-above-average speed, Wall is coming off a disappointing .264/.329/.355 season with 22 steals in 120 games at Class A Advanced Modesto. He tore the labrum in his right shoulder in 2011, which has affected his throwing. Wilson is quick to emphasize that the Rockies still see Wall as a second baseman.
"Forrest Wall is running around center field, and he looks pretty natural doing it," Wilson said. "He's excited about it, putting in a ton of work, having fun with it. It's a position addition, though, not a position change. With his hitting ability and speed, he has a chance to make an impact at different places on the field. He's still a legitimate second baseman."
Top eight 2016 Draft picks in camp
It's also typical for clubs to bring in several of their most recent Draft picks in order to help them prepare for their first offseason, Spring Training and full season as a pro. The Rockies are no exception, as their top eight picks from June -- right-handers Pint (first round), Robert Tyler (supplemental first) and Reid Humphreys (seventh); left-hander Ben Bowden (second); shortstop Garrett Hampson (third); third baseman Colton Welker (fourth); catcher Brian Serven (fifth); and outfielder Willie Abreu (sixth) -- are all in Scottsdale.
Pint's primary focus will be his mechanics after going 1-5 with a 5.35 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 37 innings during his pro debut at Rookie-level Grand Junction. His repertoire borders on the ridiculous, with three plus pitches in a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and reaches 102 mph, a power curveball and a fading changeup. But to make the most of his stuff and stay healthy, Pint will need to throw with less effort and maintain his arm slot.
"Everybody knew that Riley Pint would need some delivery adjustments," Wilson said. "He needs to consistently repeat his delivery, and he has made tremendous steps toward that. It's still a work in progress."
Colorado is also anxious to see more of some promising late-round picks from the 2016 Draft during instructional league, such as slugging first baseman Jacob Bosiokovic (19th round), speedy outfielders Tyler Bugner (21st) and Steven Linkous (22nd round), and hard-throwing right-hander George Thanopoulos (27th).
"Jacob Bosiokovic has exceptional bat speed," Wilson said. "When he squares the ball up, it's loud. I saw him kill about five pitchers with line drives up the middle this year. He's still learning leverage in his swing."
Senzatela, Nevin working way back from injury
Instructional league also will allow the Rockies to get players recovering from injuries back on the diamond. Right-hander Antonio Senzatela posted a 1.82 ERA in seven Double-A starts, but he didn't pitch after mid-June because of shoulder inflammation. He's now playing catch, as is righty Jairo Díaz, who might have made the big league club if he hadn't had Tommy John surgery in March.
Third baseman Tyler Nevin, a supplemental first-rounder in 2015, got only one at-bat this summer while dealing with a severe hamstring injury. The son of former No. 1 overall pick and All-Star Phil Nevin, he's a line-drive hitter who could blossom into a 20-homer threat once he adds strength and experience. Instructional league can help in the latter regard.
"This is very important for Tyler Nevin, not only this program but also what he does beyond this program moving into Spring Training next year," Wilson said. "Is it frustrating for him and for us that he lost a season? Yes. But are there lessons he can learn from this and good things that can come out of it? Yes."
*Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast*.