Rockies prospect report from alternate site

October 7th, 2020

With alternate sites coming to an end, MLB Pipeline is recapping the development highlights for the prospects involved for each organization.

Top position prospect: Ryan Vilade, OF (No. 4 on Top 30)
In the second half of the the 2019 season, Vilade hit .327/.357/.527 and was excited to make the leap to Double-A. That obviously never came to pass this year, but he clearly carried the adjustments he made last year with him into instructional league play last fall, this spring and throughout the summer. He’s matured, both physically and as a hitter, and it showed up at the alternate site held at Metropolitan State University in Denver.

“He started to get his man strength” Rockies farm director Zach Wilson said. “Now he’s 225 pounds, it’s strong, put together and still athletic. The way the ball came off his bat last fall, then this spring and into summer camp. He’s squaring up more balls than ever, the power is really showing up now. He understands his swing now. The approach started to click last summer, you can see it in the numbers. The rest started to click last fall.

“The power, the understanding of his swing path based on pitcher and pitch type, the intricacies of becoming a good hitter. It’s carried all through with hitting homers, driving balls in the gap. He’s really maturing as an all-around hitter.”

He’s done all that while continuing to learn a lot more about playing a new position. A shortstop in high school who shifted to third as a pro, Vilade is becoming more and more familiar with playing an outfield corner.

“You look at the work he’s done in the outfield now, he holds his own there now, to say the least,” Wilson said. “He’s starting to feel at home, in left field in particular. He’s put things together. I can’t wait to see him in games.”

Top pitching prospect: Helcris Olivarez, LHP (No. 15)
As a young pitcher who made his United States debut in 2019, Olivarez wasn’t at the alternate site to be ready for the big league club. But that doesn’t mean the lefty didn’t seize the opportunity to impress this summer.

“He’s only pitched in rookie ball and at times he looked like he could get big league hitters out,” Wilson said of the 20-year-old. “The consistency isn’t there yet, but he’s always 95-97 mph with his fastball, at times he has a plus curve -- it’s going to be solid plus with consistency -- and the same with his changeup.”

At 6-foot-3 and now coming in around 200 pounds, he looks the part and carried himself with confidence while facing players much older and more experienced. He made big strides in repeating his mechanics -- he can get too quick with his delivery -- but showed when he’s on time, his stuff more than works.

“He was opening the eyes of guys who’d played in Double- and Triple-A and they were asking where this guy came from,” Wilson said. “He’s as exciting as Ubaldo Jiménez and Franklin Morales were coming up. He’s a bit of an under-the-radar chance to be a star starting pitcher. His stuff is that good.”

Youngest prospect: Olivarez
Olivarez didn’t turn 20 until Aug. 8, making him easily the youngest player at the Rockies' alternate site.

2020 Draft picks
The Rockies didn’t send any draftees to the alternate site, but all six are participating in the organization’s instructional league program in Arizona.

Pleasant developments
Aaron Schunk (No. 6), the team’s second-round pick in 2019, was very impressive while learning how to play second base during his time in Denver. He continued to get reps at third, his natural position. At the plate, he impressed with better bat speed and was driving the ball to all fields with authority.

Michael Toglia (No. 3) was the club’s first-round pick in 2019 and also showed strides with his offense. A switch-hitter, Toglia made some small adjustments to his right-handed swing in particular and it showed up in games, with three homers over the last couple of weeks in simulated games, all from the right side.

Right-hander Tommy Doyle (No. 17) had a bit of a rough big league debut in September, but the fact he even got there this year is a sign of just how well he pitched at the alternate site. The 2017 second-rounder hadn’t pitched above Class A ball prior to this year, but the strides he made at MSU allowed him to make the leap from California League to Colorado.

“With a 95-97 mph fastball with sink and a plus slider, he’s going to be big part of the bullpen,” Wilson said. “He had to be protected on the 40-man roster this offseason anyway, but he proved he’s going to be a staple in our bullpen over the next few years.”