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Karl Kauffmann joins Brenton Doyle and Riley Pint as latest Colorado Rockies debuts; More on the way?

Patrick Lyons Avatar
May 19, 2023

The Colorado Rockies have been on a horrendous streak of injuries in 2023 that has ravaged their 40-man roster. Five players are on the 60-day injury list with a sixth, Germán Márquez (Tommy John surgery), coming on Friday following season-ending Tommy John surgery.

Five of the club’s top seven starting pitchers to start the season are gone from the rotation: Márquez, Noah Davis (right elbow inflammation), Antonio Senzatela (right elbow strain) and Ryan Feltner (skull fracture and concussion). 

The one not injured was the team’s no. 3 starter to open the season, José Ureña. After being designated for assignment on April 26 following a 9.82 ERA in five games, the only two remaining are left-handers Kyle Freeland and Austin Gomber.

The final three spots in the rotation may be in flux, but Colorado has settled on three options for the foreseeable future. At least until something better comes along. 

“We’re gonna continue to be on the lookout for starters like we have with Chase Anderson,” Bud Black said of the club’s disposition. “And then our minor league guys are starting to show up here a little bit.”

May 16, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Chase Anderson (45) delivers a patch in the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: John Leyba-USA TODAY Sports

Anderson, a waiver wire claim from the Tampa Bay Rays, performed quite well during five scoreless innings in a 3-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday. Connor Seabold has a 5.02 ERA in three starts after opening the year as a long reliever. His place in the bullpen has been taken up by a flurry of promotions from RHP Nick Mears (15-day IL for a left oblique strain) to prized prospect RHP Riley Pint (optioned down to Triple-A after Wednesday’s debut) to 37-year-old veteran LHP Fernando Abad.

Peter Lambert was deemed a candidate to give the Rockies a few innings as he continues to build arm, but the Rockies selected the contract of Karl Kauffman to join the rotation and make the start on Friday in Texas.

“It’s been a journey. Wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Kauffman said of his path to the Majors. “It’s been a really good experience getting to play at the different stops, being able to go the alternate site in 2020 and being able to be around everybody. It’s been a transition, but it’s something that I’ve been looking forward to and finally starting to get the wheels going a little bit, it seems like.”

A second-round pick in 2019 out of the University of Michigan, Kauffmann was shut down following 130.2 innings with the Wolverines during their run to the finals of the College World Series. The pandemic wiped away the entire 2020 Minor League season. When baseball resumed in 2021, Kauffmann was thrust into Double-A after only two starts with Spokane.

The 25-year-old spent the second half of last season at Triple-A Albuquerque and has a 6.68 ERA with the Isotopes over his 21 starts. By Pacific Coast League standards, that’s much closer to average than any other league on the planet.

“There’s a lot of baseball left to unfold here. There’ll be some players you might not expect here,” Black admitted. “You never know.”

Truer words have never been uttered. No, Colorado isn’t expecting more injuries, but with eight different players set to reach free agency at season’s end, the trade deadline could create more roster availability for August and September.

Here are 10 of the most likely candidates — plus a few long shots — we could see make their Major League debut at Coors Field some point this season.

Arms in ABQ

RHP Gavin Hollowell and RHP Blair Calvo are the only pitchers on the 40-man roster right now who are deemed active in the minor leagues. Calvo has a pair of saves and sports an impressive 12.3 strikeouts-per-nine. Hollowell was recently activated from the injured list with right forearm tightness and made his debut with Albuquerque on Thursday night, walking one and striking out two in an inning of work.

LHP Ryan Rolison, currently on the 60-day IL while recovering from left shoulder surgery, made a rehab start with Low-A Fresno, going three scoreless innings. Much like with Lambert, the club won’t be able to count on him for consistent innings as they build up the strength in his arm. He could serve as a long reliever in order to make his Major League debut, something injuries have postponed since being added to the 40-man in November of 2021.

Jul 8, 2020; Denver, Colorado, United States; Colorado Rockies pitcher Ryan Rolison (80) pitches during workouts at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Albuquerque’s rotation has had many hiccups, mostly due to the Rockies needing to recall so many from the staff of first-year manager Pedro López. 

RHP Jeff Criswell was acquired in a trade with the Oakland Athletics this offseason and is coming off three strong starts in a row. Since losing his place in the rotation last month, he has an impressive 3.23 ERA (22.2 IP, 8 ER). LHP Josh Rogers could be the best dark horse to earn a promotion with his command making up for any issues with missing bats.

Mariachi Mashers

“Honestly, that entire lineup is raking,” recently promoted Michael Toglia said of the Isotopes offense. “Just to name a few guys — Nolan Jones, who’s already up here, but he deserves to be back. Coco Montes, for sure. He’s raking. (Aaron) Schunk’s raking. Montero is doing his thing. Did I say Hunter Stovall? I think he deserves it just as much as anyone.”

Brian Serven, Montero and Jones have all spent time on the Rockies’ varsity squad this season with Jones having never actually stepped onto the field in purple. All three should be the next men up should someone in Denver go down with injury. 

Montes and Schunk represent the top infield options for Black. Montes was a 15th round selection out of the University of South Florida in 2018. He’s posted solid numbers throughout the minors as a second baseman who can also play shortstop and third base. The 26-year-old is a doubles machine who has seen his home run total make improvements as he climbed the organizational ladder.

Schunk was taken in the 2nd round in the 2019 MLB Draft out of the University of Georgia where he played third base and served as the Bulldogs’ closer. In 2022, the 25-year-old led the Eastern League in doubles (32) just as Montes had the year prior and topped the Yard Goats with 77 RBI. He’s maintained that success with Albuquerque, batting .315 and already reaching six home runs, something he didn’t do in Double-A until June 4 of last season. 

The final name Toglia mentioned is a player long respected by teammates as one of the best in the system. A great teammate and an even harder worker, Stovall was a 21st round pick of the Rockies back in 2018 out of Mississippi State. He was traded away less than a year later to the Philadelphia Phillies for LHP James Pazos in the hopes of improving Colorado’s big league bullpen. The 26-year-old plays an aggressive style of baseball, can hit for some average, and is capable of playing around the infield and the outfield corners. 

Double-A Hartford

Further away from the spotlight of Coors Field is Dunkin Park where SS Julio Carreras and 3B Warming Bernabel of the 40-man roster ply their trade.

Carreras would like to repeat what Ezequiel Tovar did as the Yard Goats’ shortstop last year: earn a selection to the Futures Game and make his Major League debut in September. The 23-year-old has three hits in two games back from a stint on the 7-day IL. 

Bernabel was a huge part of the Fresno Grizzlies finishing with the best record in the California League last season thanks to 10 home runs and 54 RBI in 64 games. He continued to hit for average and power at High-A Spokane that included an uptick in strikeouts and downtick in walks. The 20-year-old has been quiet through the first seven weeks of the season, slashing .215/.282/.290 through 30 games.

Before Bill Schmidt took over as the general manager of the Rockies, it would have been unthinkable for a player to be promoted directly from Double-A. Since September of 2021, it’s happened to three different pitchers: Feltner, Davis and Hollowell.

At the moment, the Yard Goats rotation is having similar difficulties to the Isotopes as RHP Case Williams and RHP Chris McMahon have struggled in their first full seasons at Double-A. 

Williams began the year at Low-A before finishing up with a start for Hartford. The 21-year-old from Douglas County, Colo. was invited to his first big league camp this year and spun four innings with the Rockies during Spring Training. He has a 9.29 ERA through his first seven starts on the year.

McMahon had a strong 2021 with High-A Spokane, pitching to a 4.17 ERA and going 10-3 in his first season as a professional. The second-round pick in 2020 out of the University of Miami. A lat strain limited him to just 28.2 innings in 2022. With the Yard Goats, his 6.21 ERA is second-best in the rotation at the moment. On Thursday night against Portland, the Eastern League’s best team, the 24-year-old produced a glimpse of his potential: four hits, one walk and five strikeouts over five scoreless frames.

A few bullpen arms like RHP Dylan Spain, RHP Adam McKillican and RHP Dugan Darnell could make enough strides to become a factor in September. Only a few of manager Chris Denorfia’s relievers are as young as the 25-year-old Davis when he was promoted to the Majors from Double-A last year. None are as young as the 24-year-old Hollowell last year.

The options for hitters in Double-A are aplenty with OF Zac Veen leading the list. Expected to premier at 20th and Blake Street some point this summer, he was sapped of his abilities in April because of a wrist injury. But a .326 batting average with 17 RBI and 6 stolen bases in May suggest Veen is back to being himself. Even after proving himself in Hartford, he’ll still get a taste of Triple-A before making his first appearance in purple.

Mar 19, 2023; Summerlin, Nevada, USA; Colorado Rockies right fielder Zac Veen (73) returns to the dugout in a game against the Kansas City Royals at the end of the third inning at Las Vegas Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Not to be overlooked is Hunter Goodman. Drafted as a catcher in the fourth round of the 2021 MLB Draft, the Memphis University product has spent time at first base, left field and designated hitter as the organization works to find a spot for the power-hitting 23-year-old. With 36 home runs — most of any Rockies’ minor leaguer — across three levels in 2022, Goodman has already started 2023 with a bang, blasting 12 home runs to lead the Eastern League. He looks ready for promotion to Triple-A, and a place somewhere in the field for Colorado could follow by the end of summer. 

OF Bladimir Restituyo is the wild card of the bunch. At 21 years old and leading the Goats with a .304 batting average, the center fielder is beginning to display the potential Colorado anticipated when they signed Restituyo at age 16 out of the Dominican Republic. The power is still developing and the speed has shown up with 60 stolen bases over the past three seasons.

Don’t Forget

Triple-A also sports two Rockies who were designated for assignment in recent weeks: OF Yonathan Daza and LHP Ty Blach.

Albuquerque also has 5 other former big leaguers looking to get back to the top with Colorado: IF/OF Cole Tucker, LHP Logan Allen, RHP Matt Carasiti, RHP Phillips Valdez and RHP Matt Koch.


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