The hype is more than just hope with the arrival of Colorado Rockies’ top infield prospect Ezequiel Tovar.
Batting eighth and playing shortstop on Friday against the San Diego Padres as one of fives rookies in the starting lineup, Tovar represents the start of something promising for an organization heading into it’s fourth consecutive offseason without September relevance.
At least that’s what everyone at 20th and Blake expects: promise.
It’s the same exuberance for the fans inside Coors Field and anyone around the world wearing a cap with the interlocking C-R.
Tovar delivered in his first game, knocking a single back up the middle for a base hit on the very first pitch he saw. Then, he did the same on the second pitch he saw becoming first player in franchise history with two hits on two pitches in their MLB debut.
General Manager Bill Schmidt and manager Bud Black have tried to tamp down the pressure on a 21-year-old player who could be next in a group of great shortstops for the franchise.
Troy Tulowitzki. Trevor Story.
And Ezequiel Tovar?
“I think as coaches we’re excited, but we also temper that excitement because we know it’s hard at this level,” Black said on Thursday. “And it takes time to fully get adjusted and fully get to the point where you become the Major League player you hope he can become.”
Even when attempting to under promise in order to set up Tovar to over deliver, the scouting report according to Bud Black is tantalizing for what Rockies’ fans should expect.
“They’re gonna see a 21-year-old shortstop who can play defense, who’s last – I’d say – 18 months has really improved his at-bat skills, which is important coming to this level against this caliber of pitching.”
Colorado has long maintained that promoting young players late in the year is a great way to prepare them for the 2023 campaign.
“The idea all along was try to get him up this month so going into the next year he knew what it was like up here,” Schmidt explained. “How do you walk into the ballpark? How do you get on the airplane? The little things that go into being a Major League player for the first time knowing that next year, at some point, he’s gonna be up here.”
To hear it from Tovar, the excitement is there. He can’t hide it, nor should he.
Even after coming to Denver during his rehabilitation for a hip flexor injury that sidelined him for over two months and taking in a few Rockies’ games at home, the enormity of Coors Field is best experienced from ground level.
“My first reaction was, ‘Wow, this feels big,’” Tovar exclaimed when asked of his first time taking ground balls at Colorado’s cathedral.
Statistics support the idea that Tovar is a legitimate talent. Same with every top 100 prospect list from varied publications who don’t rely on raw numbers as indicators of abilities.
He is undoubtedly talented.
Tovar sites Omar Vizquel, Derek Jeter and Francisco Lindor as inspirations for him.
But to expect such immediate success from the youngest position player in franchise history is a bit much.
“It’s my first day, so I don’t know,” he said of the feel between the minors and The Show. “But I feel like once I’m on the field, I think it’s gonna be the same game. I’m extremely happy right now. I’m just taking it minute by minute.”
For observers like us, we’ll take it game by game and be patient in the process.
But the hype is here.
And not a second too soon.
Friday’s starting lineup featured six rookies, including the entire infield: 1B Michael Toglia, 2B Alan Trejo, SS Ezequiel Tovar, 3B Elehuris Montero, LF Sean Bouchard and SP Ryan Feltner.
The franchise record for most rookies in the starting lineup is seven, taking place on Sept 30, 2012 during a 7-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
That day, the rookies including LF Charlie Blackmon, 2B DJ LeMahieu, C Jordan Pacheco, SS Josh Rutledge, CF Rafael Ortega, 1B Matt McBride and RF Andrew Brown.