TDG’S Triple Play: Colorado Rockies!
The Triple Play is back for a sixth season! This regular feature is broken down by senior writer Phil Barrington and he is joined by a rotating panel of some of the best Dynasty Baseball writers in the business. If you’re new to the Triple Play, this series breaks down an arm, a bat, and a prospect within each organization for your reading pleasure!
This week I (@barrington_phil) am joined by Ben Sanders (@HPBenSanders) and Andrew Jurewicz (@amoney2727), follow us on Twitter and send us any questions, feedback, disagreements, what have yous, in the comments.
Ezequiel Tovar, Age: 21, Position: SS
Analysis by: Ben Sanders
Hype in Tovar Drive
So much for the Rockies not giving opportunities to younger players. Ezequiel Tovar started the 2022 season with what seemed at the time like a fairly aggressive assignment at Double-A. He was excellent there for 66 games, hitting .318/.386/.545 with 13 homers and 17 steals before a hip injury sidelined him for two months. When he returned, he spent five games at Triple-A before heading to MLB for his debut at age 21. A strong spring cemented his place as Colorado’s starting shortstop to open 2023.
When you consider Tovar’s youth and his potential to be a five-category contributor at Coors Field, it’s not hard to see why dynasty managers were excited entering this season. He ranked 107 in our top 500 for average leagues and 117 for OBP leagues. So far, however, he hasn’t lived up to the hype.
Tovar has a .198/.253/.296 line between last season and this one. It’s still a sample at 87 PA, but there’s not much to be encouraged about in there. He has just one homer and zero steals, although his 83rd percentile sprint speed suggests the bags may come if he starts getting on more often. The biggest problem has been his approach. He’s swung at 56% of the pitches he’s seen this season, down from 58.7% last season, but still well above the league average of 45%. That’s not an uncommon problem for such a young player; Corbin Carroll and Jordan Walker are also struggling with plate discipline, but at least they’re doing damage when they make contact. Tovar has just an 84.6 average exit velocity and 23.5% hard-hit rate this season. His max exit velocity in MLB is also just 106, although with so few PAs it’s possible he can hit the ball harder and simply hasn’t yet.
This is far from Tovar
Tovar is only 21. There are players his age struggling in the low minors right now who will eventually have MLB success. He may have been rushed to the big leagues, but that doesn’t change his long-term outlook. It’s not hard to envision him hitting .300 atop the Rockies lineup in a few years with double-digit homers, 20-plus steals and 100-plus runs. I still think of him as a very good prospect rather than a current MLB contributor.
His situation could be tricky in some dynasty formats, however. If you have limited MLB roster space and are no longer allowed to stash Tovar in the minors, it may be difficult to play with a bench spot tied up while he adjusts. I still recommend being patient, and if he continues to struggle he might be a good trade target in the near future.
Sterlin Thompson, Age: 22, Position: 3B/OF, Level: High-A
Analysis by: Andrew Jurewicz
Sterlin Thompson is one of the latest additions to the Rockies farm system after being selected as a draft eligible college sophomore from the University of Florida as the 31st overall pick in 2022. Why did the Rockies have a compensation pick? Well my friends, that’s because a Trevor Story trade never happened at the 2021 deadline and this is now forever linked as the return for Story signing as a 2022 free agent with the Red Sox. So let’s break this down and see what they got, shall we?
Stepping into the box at 6’4” 200 lbs, word on the street is that Thompson is a pure hitter that can make contact to all fields and you’ll immediately see a sweet left handed swing show up when popping on the video. In his sophomore season at UF he hit .354/.443/.563 with 11 home runs in 305 PA. Tennessee Vols Head Coach, Tony Vitello, spoke highly of Thompson on the night he was drafted saying was one of the best hitters they faced in the SEC but also one of the most clutch hitters in the league. I take that as no surprise he was one of the more polished hitters that opponents had to face coming from a very good UF program that’s had success recruiting and developing quality hitters; some of those that have become MLB caliber in the likes of Pete Alonso, Jonathan India, and Harrison Bader.
A Sterlin Investment
Thompson has been locked in to start the 2023 season at age appropriate High-A collecting 11 hits through the first six games, including one home run, which of course gives us an inflated slash line of .478/.462/.739. Obviously that slash should become more realistic as games go on and we get deeper into the season but a quick promotion to Double-A would absolutely be in order if he continues to outplay High-A level of competition. Looking forward to that possibility this season as I’d love to have a chance to watch him play in person; the Rockies Double-A team, the Hartford Yard Goats, are an Eastern League rival of my beloved Somerset Patriots.
I’ll admit I wish I had invested a little bit more time digging into his profile heading into the FYPD drafts that I had lined up. From what I’ve seen I get the impression that this guy has a knack for hitting and should have a good shot to continue to grow into a quality professional hitter. Looking back on my FYPDs the average price was a late third-round pick investment and could provide a nice return. Perhaps a little bit more power shows up too as he was on the younger side of a college hitter leaving some room from projection. Definitely worth a roster spot if you have the opportunity.
Mike Hampton, Age: 28, Position: LHP
Analysis by: Phil Barrington
Back to the Future
After appearing in one game for the team that drafted him (the Mariners, in the sixth round) Hampton was on the move to Houston in a deal straight up for right-fielder Eric Anthony. Hampton spent six seasons with the Astros, and pitched 200+ innings his final three years in Houston, where he struck out 6+ hitters per 9 and walked 3.5. He did provide a sub 3.25 ERA over those three seasons, and that made the Mets take notice; they acquired him right before Christmas 1999 along with Derek Bell.
“Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.”
Hampton pitched the second-best season of his career on the Mets, compiling 15 wins with a 6.24 K/9 and an ERA of 3.14. The MVP of the NLCS, Hampton was heading into his first taste of free agency. The Colorado Rockies came calling, and although Hampton had many suitors, and he was the prized left-handed pitcher of that offseason, signing an eight-year, $121 million deal (the largest deal in the history of the game when it was signed).
“You’re not thinking fourth dimensionally.”
Back then, ESPN’s (and one of my favorite baseball commentators) Tim Kurkjian said this about the signing “Mike Hampton is an excellent pickup for the Rockies.” Baseball lifer Sandy Alderson said at the time of the signing, “He’s an outstanding pitcher. It’s a lot of money. Case closed,” with a very “old man yelling at clouds” vibe. [I highly encourage clicking on the link to the ESPN article; it shows what the ESPN website looked like back then, and it was…not great]. Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd said Saturday at a press conference at the winter meetings in Dallas. “His leadership in the clubhouse will be very important for us in the next eight years.” Hampton’s career 6.88 Coors Field ERA as a visiting player did not scare O’Dowd (but it should’ve).
“Why don’t you make like a tree and get out of here?”
After two seasons pitching to a 5.14 ERA, the Rockies jettisoned Hampton to Florida (now Miami) Marlins, along with Juan Pierre, who was instrumental in the Marlins winning the World Series a year later. Hampton was not on that team, however; two days after the Marlins acquired him they sent him to Atlanta, where he spent the rest of his career, ineffective and injury prone. A long way from when Hampton said, after signing “I think as I get a chance to pitch there on a regular basis, I can only get better.”
Something we may forget about Mike Hampton is that, for a pitcher, dude could hit. Five straight Silver Slugger awards is proof of that, as are four seasons with an OPS+ over 105. Maybe the Rockies would’ve gotten more out of him just letting him hit, but who knows? What I do know is I am sure the Rockies (fans) wish they could go back to the future (I assume that’s why management keep signing guys way past their prime, cough, Mike Moustakas, cough). But, in all seriousness, avoid Rockies pitchers…that’s it, that’s the fantasy baseball lesson here. Thanks for taking the trip down memory lane with me.