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Rockies prospect undeterred by Arenado deal

Colton Welker is ranked No. 2 in Colorado farm system
@harding_at_mlb
March 6, 2019

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- You’re the No. 2 prospect in the Rockies organization, No. 95 in all of baseball according to MLB Pipeline, and your team signs the guy at your position for eight years and $260 million. Welcome to Colton Welker’s life.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- You’re the No. 2 prospect in the Rockies organization, No. 95 in all of baseball according to MLB Pipeline, and your team signs the guy at your position for eight years and $260 million.

Welcome to Colton Welker’s life.

But Welker, 21, is having the time of his life after receiving his first invitation to Major League Spring Training.

In the Cactus League playing time he’s getting at third base, after Nolan Arenado and the more experienced players have departed, Welker was 5-for-8 with two home runs and six RBIs entering Wednesday’s game against the Angels. Not bad for a player who last year was at high Class A -- a level he led last year with a .333 batting average, to go along with 13 home runs, 32 doubles, 82 RBIs and 42 walks in 114 games for Lancaster in the California League.

No reason to wonder what Arenado’s signing means for Welker.

“I haven’t even played in Double-A yet, so my mind really isn’t on that yet,” said Welker, a fourth-round pick out of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in 2016. “He’s a great player and it’s a business. Who wouldn’t sign that guy with the numbers he’s put up? As a younger guy, you watch other organizations and they do the same thing. I wasn’t surprised at all by it.”

You can barely see the Majors from Class A, but even before position players officially reported for Spring Training, Welker could see Arenado as they did their early defensive work.

“Taking groundballs behind him, it’s been awesome, just watching him, talking to him, seeing how he fields different balls and how he goes about it,” Welker said. “Not everyone’s the same, but he’s definitely a good guy to look at and watch how he does it.

“I watch more than I talk, but it’s not hard at all. He’s a pretty easy-going guy and he wants to get me better, too.”

It’s possible that Welker could end up on the other side of the diamond, fielding Arenado’s throws. Zach Wilson, the Rockies’ senior player development director, said as much Wednesday. Tyler Nevin, Welker’s teammate in Lancaster last season, and Josh Fuentes, Arenado’s cousin and the Triple-A Pacific Coast League Most Valuable Player Award winner last season at Albuquerque, are on the same plan.

“We had started the process of Josh Fuentes playing first base way back in [Class A] Asheville,” Wilson said. “We had started with Nevin last year and into the Fall League. Colton knew going into this past offseason that first base was going to be a focus in 2019, regardless of what happened with Nolan.

“It just goes back to our philosophy -- you never know where those opportunities are going to lie up top because things change all the time. Nobody knew Trevor Story was going to be a shortstop. Then all of a sudden, [Troy Tulowitzki] gets traded, Trevor comes in, plays short in Spring Training, goes ballistic, and all of a sudden he’s playing his natural position.”

Welker, listed at 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds, reported to camp with a more mature muscle base. The maturity doesn’t stop there. Welker has looked comfortable around older Rockies players, and on the field. Manager Bud Black, who said the Minor League staff raves about Welker’s “bat-to-ball skills,” thinks of what’s possible.

“There’s some natural strength coming,” Black said. “Eventually -- we all remember Andres Galarraga -- it could be that type of look. He’s big. He’s strong, too. But he’s got good hands and his feet work pretty well.”

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.