Advice in youth paved way to Vilade's debut

September 18th, 2021

WASHINGTON -- A few years back, the Rangers had some prospects at Double-A Frisco who are now well-known -- Elvis Andrus, Rougned Odor, Joey Gallo. While they were working on their play, they took time to educate the middle school-age son of the hitting coach.

Many children that age will never need the advice. But was not any child. Vilade, 22, recalled those days on Saturday ahead of his first game in the Majors with Colorado. The Rockies’ No. 5 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, Vilade made his Major League debut as the starting left fielder against the Nationals.

“I got to hang out with them, and that really shaped me into who I am today in pro ball,” said Vilade, whose father, James Vilade, is now head coach at Prestonwood Christian Academy after stints coaching with the Rangers and Oklahoma State University and scouting for the Marlins. “They gave me good tips and that’s helped me the last five years. It was a really cool experience.”

Those early-teen days, however, were nothing like Saturday, when Vilade spent some time taking in the surroundings at Nationals Park. He also talked to some of the players he shared time with in Triple-A Albuquerque and even received sage advice from Rockies pitcher Scott Oberg, who has been an advisor to players while sidelined because of health issues.

Boiled down, the advice came to merely trying to treat it as the same game. To earn his chance, Vilade, a second-round Draft pick in 2017 (the Rockies lost their first-round pick when they signed free agent Ian Desmond) showed a level of patience and self-evaluation impressive for a young player.

Vilade spent last season at the alternate training site, but essentially went from high-A Lancaster in 2019 to Triple-A and the Majors this year. At Albuquerque, Vilade batted .286 with seven home runs, 27 doubles, five triples and 43 RBIs in 108 games. This is his first Minor League year in the outfield. Drafted as a shortstop and third baseman, Vilade began transitioning to the outfield in instructional ball after the 2019 season.

Often, a well-put-together player like Vilade – listed at 6-foot-2 and 226 pounds – will be expected to have bigger power numbers in hitter-friendly Triple-A West. But leaning on his background in the game and the advice of his Rockies coaches, Vilade concentrated on all-around hitting.

Much like the club did with former star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki before bringing him to the Majors in 2006, the Rockies batted Vilade leadoff for much of the year in Albuquerque. The plan allowed Vilade, who played in the SiriusXM Futures Game at Coors Field during All-Star Weekend, to establish patience as the power naturally grew. Four of his seven homers and 15 of his extra-base hits have come after Aug. 1.

“I have power in the tank,” Vilade said. “As a leadoff guy pretty much the whole year, you like homers but your main job is to get on base to let guys like Taylor Motter, Rio Ruiz, Connor Joe, Greg Bird drive you in.

“I’m not worried about it. I want to be a good hitter, and let the power come.”

"We want him to just be himself," manager Bud Black said. "We feel there's a natural ability to hit. And I think that in time, you know, power numbers increase.”

The Rockies optioned righty Ryan Feltner to Albuquerque and moved righty Jon Gray into the start for Sunday’s series finale at Nationals Park.