Nevin looks to sustain AFL success, health
The Arizona Fall League offers a chance for players who were injured during the season to accumulate extra at-bats or innings on the field. Unfortunately for Tyler Nevin, that's an opportunity that he has needed to take advantage of more often than he would like.
A Rockies supplemental first-round Draft pick out of Poway, Calif., in 2015, Nevin has missed time during each of his first three full pro seasons. Severe hamstring issues limited the corner infielder to just one game in 2016, a wrist injury knocked him out for two months in 2017 and he spent two stints on the disabled list this summer with a quadriceps strain.
Arizona Fall League overviews for all 30 teams
"Every offseason it's like, 'Hey, what can I do to stay on the field?' because when I've stayed on the field, I've had some success," said Nevin, who also lost his entire junior season in high school following Tommy John surgery. "That's what I just love doing is playing. I've developed a good routine with my trainers this year and I'm going to continue it through the rest of my career. I've got to stay on the field, that's just the bottom line."
Nevin has been productive when healthy. He batted .328/.386/.503 at Class A Advanced Lancaster this year, ranking second in the California League in batting and fourth in slugging percentage and OPS. His numbers weren't just the product of Lancaster's The Hangar, which might be the most hitter-friendly environment in the Minors, as he posted .340/.397/.454 numbers on the road.
Nevin has stood out with the Salt River Rafters during the first two weeks of AFL play as well. He's batting .421/.500/.474, ranking third in the league in hitting, while walking four times with just one strikeout in 24 plate appearances.
The son of former No. 1 overall pick and current Yankees third-base coach Phil Nevin, Tyler benefitted from growing up around the game. He has a mature approach at the plate, working counts and concentrating on driving balls in the gaps rather than worrying about home runs. He began his pro career at third base but because of the organization's depth at the position, starting with superstar Nolan Arenado, he has seen more action at first base the last two years.
"He'll still play some third base, but he'll spend a lot of time at first base," Rockies farm director Zach Wilson said. "We think he'll be a very good first baseman because he has good feet and hands. He has a great swing, and the power will come because he has a projectable body."
Rockies hitters in the Fall League
Josh Fuentes, 3B/1B -- A first cousin of Nolan Arenado, Fuentes won the 2018 Pacific Coast League MVP award after batting .327/.354/.517 and leading the Triple-A circuit in runs (93), hits (180), doubles (39), extra-base hits (65) and total bases (285). Signed as a undrafted free agent out of Missouri Baptist in 2014, Fuentes doesn't have a standout tool, but has some hitting ability and gap power and can play a decent third base.
Sam Hilliard, OF -- Originally drafted as a left-handed pitcher from Crowder (Mo.) JC by the Twins in 2014, Hilliard signed as an outfielder out of Wichita State in the 15th round a year later. He's a toolsy right fielder who hits left-handed -- prompting Larry Walker comparisons from one club official -- and he hit .262/.327/.389 with nine homers and 23 steals in Double-A this year.
Rockies pitchers in the Fall League
Ryan Castellani, RHP -- After leading his leagues in innings and strikeouts as the youngest ERA qualifier in his circuit the previous two years, Castellani got knocked around in 2018, logging a 5.49 ERA with 91 strikeouts and 70 walks in 134 1/3 innings while repeating Double-A. A 2014 second-round pick out of Phoenix, Ariz., he has a low-90s fastball with run and sink and flashes a solid slider.
Mitch Horacek, LHP -- Signed by the Orioles as a ninth-rounder out of Dartmouth in 2013, Horacek came to the Rockies as a Triple-A Rule 5 Draft pick last December. A finesse southpaw with a low-90s fastball and a slider that neutralizes lefties, he had a 2.20 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 61 1/3 innings as a Double-A reliever.
Justin Lawrence, RHP -- A 12th-round pick out of Daytona State (Fla.) JC in 2015, Lawrence throws from a low arm slot and deals 94-98 mph sinkers and a short slider in the low 80s. He led the Class A Advanced California League in appearances (55) and holds (12) while posting a 2.65 ERA, .188 opponents' average and 62 strikeouts in 54 1/3 innings.
Jesus Tinoco, RHP -- Part of the Troy Tulowitzki trade with the Blue Jays in 2015, Tinoco can reach 97 mph with his fastball and back it up with a pair of power breaking balls, though he lacks consistency. The Venezuelan recorded a 4.79 ERA with 132 strikeouts and 38 walks in 141 innings this season at Double-A.