Pair of top prospects flash power bats

May 12th, 2022

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Pair of top prospects flash power bats, Locey deals no-hit ball (May 11)
Of the prospects acquired in exchange for big league third baseman Nolan Arenado in 2021, Elehuris Montero was the headliner. Ten days after he made his MLB debut, Montero was swinging a big league bat.

Colorado's No. 4 prospect cranked a homer and added a double while tallying three hits and reaching base four times as Triple-A Albuquerque doubled up Sugar Land, 10-5.

Montero kicked off his day with a single in the bottom of the first before notching his first RBI on a line drive double off the left field wall in the bottom of the second. Two innings later, the corner infielder crushed his sixth home run of the season to left field, a two-run shot to extend the Isotopes' lead.

The 23-year-old added a walk in the sixth.

Over 28 Triple-A games this season, Montero is batting .306/.377/.509 with 18 RBIs. His May has been even more impressive than his full season numbers. In eight games this month, Montero's line sits at .357/.438/.679.

Two steps down the organizational ladder, Colorado's top prospect Zac Veen helped support a dominant effort on the mound by starting pitcher Tony Locey in a 10-0 win for High-A Spokane at Hillsboro. Veen went 2-for-3 with a homer and three RBIs, his third multihit game in his last five. The outfielder drove home a run on a sacrifice fly to center in the third, then connected on a solo shot to left-center field in the fourth and singled to left in the sixth.

His efforts aided a brilliant start by Locey who, like Montero, was acquired in last year's Arenado deal. Over six sparkling innings, Locey didn't allow a hit or run and struck out 10 to work around six walks. Hillsboro finished the night with just one hit against the Spokane bullpen. -- Tyler Maun

Kauffmann stacks up strikeouts for Yard Goats (May 6)
Karl Kauffmann took his lumps in his first taste of Double-A last season, but through five starts in 2022, the club’s No. 28 prospect has shown ample flashes of why Colorado selected him in the second round of the 2019 Draft out of the University of Michigan.

The latest example stems from the Yard Goats’ 4-0 victory over the Rumble Ponies, where Kauffman blanked the Mets’ Double-A affiliate over eight frames, compiling nine strikeouts in the process.

Known for an arsenal that keeps the opposition off-balance, Kauffmann deftly weaved through the Binghamton lineup, retiring the first seven batters that he faced. He received some big-time assistance from his defense in the fourth when back-to-back singles to begin the frame materialized into another goose egg on the scoreboard thanks to an unassisted double play and a runner being thrown out at the dish.

All six outs recorded in the fifth and sixth by Kauffmann came via the punchout, with the righty hitting his groove and retiring 12 of the final 13 batters he faced. The 97 pitches and 63 strikes both tied career highs, as the 24-year-old has done a complete 180-degree turn since yielding eight runs in five innings two starts prior.

On the year, Kauffmann boasts a 3.03 ERA and 1.08 WHIP to go alongside 37 strikeouts in 29 2/3 innings of work. Coupled with the six no-hit frames that he spun against Somerset on April 19, the Michigan native now has two stellar starts under his belt across the season’s first month. -- Jesse Borek

Welker nursing a left shoulder injury (May 3)
Corner infielder Colton Welker (the Rockies' No. 23 prospect) has not played at Triple-A Albuquerque since April 21 because of a left shoulder injury. Welker, 24, started the season hot, was called up briefly before being optioned back to Albuquerque, then sustained the injury his second game back in Triple-A.

The Rockies want to make sure the injury doesn't recur.

"It just seems loose, so he will strengthen the shoulder right now," Rockies player development director Chris Forbes said. -- Thomas Harding

Vilade tallies first career five-hit game (May 1)
The hits kept on coming for Ryan Vilade in Triple-A Albuquerque’s 16-8 win over Sacramento.

The Rockies’ No. 9 prospect recorded his first five-hit game out of the two-hole for the Isotopes, tallying three RBIs and scoring a run. He sprayed line drives and ground balls up the middle of the field all day and raised his batting average by 55 points.

The 23-year-old is now batting .261 with a .358 OBP in 18 games. He has 18 hits, but just three doubles and a .304 slugging percentage, well below his career mark of .417. -- Nick Trujillo

Tovar homers in three-hit performance (April 30)
Colorado No. 6 prospect Ezequiel Tovar is showing out in his fourth professional season.

The 20-year-old continued his fast start on Saturday with Hartford. He went 3-for-4, being a double away from the cycle in a 4-2 win over Harrisburg.

After grounding out in his first at-bat, Tovar tripled to right field on the first pitch in his next plate appearance. He followed that with back-to-back hits, a single in the fifth and a solo home run in the seventh. Tovar was hit by a pitch in his last at-bat in the ninth to end his night.

The shortstop has a hit in 15 of his last 34 at-bats with four home runs and eight RBIs.

Tovar is on a six-game on-base streak, having a hit in five of those games. He's highlighted that with a three-game multi-hit streak, and hitting .333 to start the season.

With Tovar not even turning 21 until Aug. 1, there are two areas to watch -- how he is handling the success and his concentration on defense.

Not to worry.

"He's pretty ready," Rockies director of player development Chris Forbes said. "His instincts are there. The quickness of transitions -- especially from glove to hand -- are there. And we've seen that for a while. And he's doing it in more of a man's league. The ball's coming off the bat a lot firmer than he's dealt with. He's in a pretty good place." -- Ethan Sands and Thomas Harding

Pint working way back onto radar (April 30)
Right-hander Riley Pint went from No. 4 overall pick in 2016 to off the prospect lists and into a brief retirement last season. Pint returned this spring, and his numbers at Double-A Hartford -- 1.93 ERA with 12 strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings -- have put him back on the Rockies' radar.

But Rockies director of player development Chris Forbes is as interested in the negative results as the positive ones. Pint, 24, also has three walks, three hit batters and two wild pitches. And a performance last Sunday against Somerset that started shakily caught Forbes' eye.

After pitching Pint at the beginning of innings, Hartford went to him with the bases loaded and no outs. Pint's first pitch was wild and a run scored. But he struck out the next two hitters and forced a lineout to end the inning with no further damage.

"He's extremely athletic and confident right now," Forbes said. "And his stuff is playing. He's done a lot of clean innings, but you want to get him some traffic and just get him prepared for the next level. So he threw a wild pitch, but then he got out of that jam.

"He's doing well for himself and he's been the same guy every day. He's away from that up and down. If he throws one poorly, so what? On to the next one." -- Thomas Harding

Prospects Romo, Amador blast off in day games (April 26)
Second-ranked Rockies prospect Drew Romo continued his impressive start to the year with High-A Spokane, homering for the second straight contest -- his first two longballs of the year -- and helping his club to a 14-6 rout of Everett. Romo drove in three runs and scored twice, adding a pair of walks. The backstop now has at least one hit in seven straight starts and has driven in runs in four straight including two or more over his last three games. Through 16 games, the 2020 35th overall pick is batting .350/.382/.500.

One step down the organizational ladder at Single-A Fresno, Colorado's No. 10 prospect Adael Amador notched his first multihomer game with a pair of blasts in the Grizzlies' 7-2 win at Stockton. Amador led off the game with a homer to right field before belting a two-run shot to right-center in the top of the fifth. The shortstop has hits in all but three of the 15 games he's played this season and is now batting .339/.457/.607 for the year. He's also walked 13 times -- including one on his two-homer day -- while striking out just nine. -- Tyler Maun

Feltner positioned to start Wednesday (April 25)
Right-hander Ryan Feltner and the Rockies knew there was more power and more effectiveness within him. And Feltner knew the person who could unlock it.

Feltner, 25, the Rockies’ No. 21 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, was summoned from Triple-A Albuquerque on Monday and is positioned to start Wednesday against the Phillies, although no move has been announced. He said his younger brother, Riley Feltner, was instrumental in preparing him to reach this chance.

“Obviously we grew up playing baseball together,” Ryan Feltner said. “He helped me take the Rockies’ plan that we had after last year, as far as mechanical tweaks and adjustments, and put it into action. We came up with some drills together, and I put in some work at Driveline [a baseball performance center outside Seattle] at the end of the offseason to get things squared away.”

Feltner fanned 10 in five innings in his last Triple-A start on Friday at Round Rock. He has seen a jump in his fastball velocity, from topping out in the mid-90s last year to reaching 100 mph during Spring Training. He did not reach triple figures in his four Triple-A starts but has clearly brought more power.

Riley Feltner pitched at Kent State but stepped away because of injuries and is concentrating on his studies. And he was something of a teacher for his older brother in mechanics.  

“I went back to look at some video of him in the Cape Cod league in ’17, when he was throwing his hardest,” said Riley Feltner, 21. “There were a few adjustments I thought he could easily make to get back to those really good movement patterns he had then. I put together a report for him and he ran with it.”

Ryan is throwing better, as well as harder.  

Feltner breezed through the Minors last year with an above-the-zone fastball and a changeup. But two starts in the Majors, including one against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park (two runs on four hits in 3 2/3 innings last Sept. 12) led him to believe he needed more. Now a slider that he’s always had confidence in and a curveball are making him predictable, and allowing him to work low, the way manager Bud Black believes is the best path to success for a pitcher whose home games are at Coors Field. -- Thomas Harding

Tovar, Feltner have stellar performances (April 22)
It was a good day to be a Rockies prospect. No. 6 prospect Ezequiel Tovar had a two-homer game for Double-A Hartford, and his second long ball was a walk-off three-run shot. With Triple-A Albuquerque, No. 21 prospect Ryan Feltner struck out 10 over five innings at Round Rock for his third career game with double-digit strikeouts.

Tovar was everywhere for the Yard Goats in their 7-6 win over Somerset. After flying out in his first at-bat, the 20-year-old walked, stole second, doubled to right, scored the tying run and homered in back-to-back innings. His solo blast to center in the bottom of the eighth brought the Yard Goats within two runs.

In the ninth, Tovar was down to the game’s final strike, and he laid off a pitch in the dirt before turning on a fastball and depositing it over the fence in left-center to send a sellout Hartford crowd home happy. It was the first multihomer game of Tovar’s career, and he’s now batting .304/.396/.609 with three dingers, 10 RBIs, 11 runs scored and three steals.

Feltner had everything working in the Isotopes’ 10-7 win after getting touched up in his previous two starts. The 25-year-old didn’t allow a hit through the first four innings before he gave up his only earned run of the game in the fifth after a walk and two singles.

Feltner was racking up the K’s from the start as he struck out the side in the first and whiffed seven of the first eight batters he faced before surrendering back-to-back walks. He escaped the jam with another K and punched out two more in the fourth. The righty hurled 50 of his 86 pitches for strikes, and eight of his 10 strikeouts came on swings-and-misses.
-- Stephanie Sheehan

Veen all about the process (April 20)
Zac Veen, the Rockies' No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline, has a .188 batting average at High-A Spokane, but he's walked eight times in nine games. He entered Tuesday's game against Hillsboro needing some success to match how good he felt about his swing. His first home run of the season, a double and a walk did the trick.

“Honestly, I’ve had some good at-bats,” Veen told Dave Nichols of The Spokesman-Review newspaper. “I think today, you know, finally I got some to fall. I’m definitely just sticking with the process, and hopefully a lot more start falling.” -- Thomas Harding