Ryan Vilade: The Real Hidden Gem of the Rockies
In recent history, the Colorado Rockies have successfully developed an array of power-hitting infielders, ranging from current and former all-stars Troy Tulowitzki and Nolan Arenado to developing sluggers Trevor Story and Brendan Rodgers. In last year’s MLB Draft, the Rockies ensured that their pipeline of brawny batsman continues to flow by selecting Ryan Vilade in the 2nd round.
Vilade, the 48th overall pick in the 2017 draft, graduated from high school with an impressive list of accolades, including Gatorade’s 2017 Oklahoma Baseball Player of the Year and 2016 Under Armor All-American Home Run Derby champion. He won the ladder over highly touted players such as Hunter Greene and Jordon Adell. Vilade was destined to play college ball at Oklahoma State where his dad is an assistant coach but chose to sign with the Rockies out of high school last summer.
After he was drafted, Vilade headed to Grand Junction where he played for the Rockies rookie ball affiliate in the Pioneer League. At just 18 years old, Vilade was one of the youngest players in the league, but he did not let this faze him and turned in a strong season. His batting line of .308/.438/.496 shows his ability to hit for average and power along with a patient approach at the plate. In 33 games, Vilade was able to hit 10 extra-base hits including 5 home runs. Vilade also showed strong discipline, nearly matching his total of 31 strikeouts with 28 walks. While it is a small sample size, Vilade’s successful season in rookie ball is certainly a positive sign for his future.
Now let’s examine Vilade’s skill set. His strongest tool is his bat. Measuring 6’2 and weighing in at 194 pounds, he has a strong build and a quick bat. When combining his physical attributes with his history of hitting home runs in high school and the minors it is clear Vilade possesses plus raw power and has already begun translating it into game action. Vilade hits well to all fields and has shown solid plate discipline. These attributes translate into good contact skills as well. The son of a former minor league hitting coach, Ryan has shown an advanced approach and batting skills well above his age.
Defensively, Vilade has been playing shortstop, but will also see playing time at third base and first base in the future. It is uncertain whether he will be able to stay at shortstop, but his bat should carry him to a lineup spot regardless of position. Looking at the Rockies’ current infield situation, there are many future openings which Vilade could fill. Nolan Arenado may choose to leave for free agency in 2020 and the Rockies currently lack a consistent, long-term option at first base. Vilade is still 18 years old and is projected to make his MLB debut around 2021, but his advanced batting skills could carry him to the majors quicker than projected. In fact, Vilade is expected to begin this season in full-season ball at low Class-A Asheville, so his swift ascent to the majors may already be underway.
Selected in the second round, Vilade is severely undervalued, and often unheard of, in the dynasty baseball realm. Currently, he cannot be found on most top prospect lists and is not ranked very highly on those which he made. In a year with so many big-named additions to dynasty league draft pools such as Shohei Ohtani, Hunter Greene, and Luis Robert, he is often overlooked and lost in the crowd. This will allow him to slip in drafts and provide immense values to fantasy managers. Vilade is destined to begin climbing up prospect lists very soon so it is a good opportunity to get him now before he gains value and costs much more. As a power-hitting infield prospect for the team that plays half its games at Coors Field, Vilade should be extremely sought after and has the ability to be a great asset to his fantasy owners. Buy in on Vilade now before his value skyrockets, and cash in on this massive value.