SCOTTSDALE – Zac Veen is frequently described as one of the most exciting players in the minor leagues right now. 

That distinction even rings true when putting him in the Colorado Rockies clubhouse at Salt River Fields. And he’s hoping to be one of the most exciting to make their Major League debut this season.

“When I got drafted, I knew I wanted to be in the spot that I’m in now. I think it all timed up perfectly, honestly,” Veen said of his first big league camp. “And I feel like I’m in a position to show I’m ready to make this team.”

If you think a 21-year-old with less than 150 plate appearance above A-ball is joking about his ability to impact the Rockies in 2023, you don’t know Zac Veen very well.

Drafted ninth overall in the 2020 MLB Draft out of Spruce Creek High School in Port Orange, FL, Veen made his professional debut in 2021 with Low-A Fresno and found success across the board as the California League’s top prospect. He batted .301, slugged 15 home runs, drove in 75 RBI and recorded 36 stolen bases.

Veen was challenged a lot more in 2022 at three different stops, but one thing remained the same: the ability to steal bases.

“I’ve never really relied on my speed to get my stolen bases,” Veen said of his 71 stolen bases last year. “I’ve relied more on the technique and the jumps. And that’s worked for me so far. I train to be explosive and fast every day, but I really do think it’s the jumps that matter more than anything.”

As far as his other hitting statistics from ’22 are concerned, its important to note that the High-A Northwest League is not as kind to hitters as the previous level, and Veen’s numbers reflect that. However, before he was promoted to Double-A on August 9, Veen led the league in RBI (60), runs (72) and stolen bases (50).

Though he singled in his second at-bat with the Hartford Yard Goats, it all went south soon after. Veen was immediately caught stealing and would have the same result his next attempt before finally netting his first stolen base at Double-A a week into his promotion. 

When the season came to a close on September 18, Veen finished his stint in the Eastern League with a .177 batting average, one home run in 34 games, and a disappointing 50% stolen base percentage (5-for-10 in stolen base attempts). It was his longest season as a pro. He had dropped 20 pounds from the start of the season and, as Director of Player Development Chris Forbes described it, he got his ass kicked.

“I would say it almost, essentially, pissed me off to a point where it lit another fire under me to where now I have something to show every day,” Veen said of his Double-A experience. “That was a good refresher to essentially remember where I came from.”

Veen got an opportunity to write a different ending to his 2022 when he was invited to participate in the prestigious Arizona Fall League, a finishing school for top prospects before making their big league debut.

Against pitchers three years older on average, Veen got back to form over 21 games with the Salt River Rafters. He improved on his batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, slashing .333/.444/.444 over 99 plate appearances en route to winning the AFL Offensive Player of the Year Award. 

“It taught me some things and made me adjust to be the best version of myself every day,” Veen said of the experience following the struggles in Hartford. “And I really do think that was a positive coming away from that.”

Forbes said he witnessed even more energy from his top outfield prospect in the AFL despite the extended season that saw Veen competitive for 10 consecutive months. 

“His ability to go out to the field and love every part of it, it’s the same as these big leaguers. They love the suck,” Forbes said of the baseball grind. “They love the bus rides, they love the back fields. They love all the little components to a fire truck getting caught on the field on Fourth of July, all that. He’s one of those guys.”

At some point this year, if all goes as scheduled, Veen will truly be amongst the big leaguers, making his MLB debut and contributing for the Rockies.

Paired together in a lineup with NL Rookie of the Year candidate Ezequiel Tovar, the promise of better days ahead for the franchise should be arriving at Coors Field this summer.