When Nick Castellanos of the Phillies sent a fly ball to right field that eventually nestled in the glove of Astros’ Kyle Tucker for the final out of the World Series, it marked the end of the 2022 MLB season and the start of the offseason.
It would not be long before the Colorado Rockies announced they were open for business.
OF Sam Hilliard was traded to Atlanta for RHP Dylan Spain on Sunday in what was baseball’s first deal of the Hot Stove Season.
Drafted by Colorado in the 15th round of the 2015 MLB Draft out of Wichita State, Hilliard quickly put up impressive power and speed numbers at each stop throughout the minor leagues.
Though he played a larger role on the roster in 2020-21, his proclivity for strikeouts prevented him from being an everyday player despite above average defense thanks to a strong throwing arm and range at all three outfield positions.
In return, Colorado opens up a spot on the 40-man roster while also adding a pitcher who could contribute as early as 2024.
A 10th round selection by Atlanta in the 2021 MLB Draft out of Division II University of Hawaii-Hilo, Spain is a 6’6” right-hander that has seen his fastball velocity increase steadily since college.
Spain didn’t give up a run in 17.2 innings during his professional debut in 2021.
At High-A Rome of the South Atlantic League this season, he held a 5.45 ERA out of the bullpen. After getting an opportunity to start seven games in the second half, he had a 3.15 ERA over his final seven outings with 21 strikeouts and just three walks.
New Coaching Staff Hires
One day after altering the roster, the two available spots on the coaching staff were filled on Monday.
Hensley Meulens will replace Dave Magadan as the team’s hitting coach, while Warren Schaeffer will serve as the third base coach and infielder instructor following Stu Cole’s reassignment in the organization.
Meulens, 55, most recently served as an assistant hitting coach with the New York Yankees in 2022. During his 10 seasons with San Francisco as both a hitting coach and bench coach for manager Bruce Bochy from 2010-19, Meulens won three World Series with the Giants in 2010, 2012 and 2014.
Born in Curaçao, a Dutch island in the Caribbean, Meulens spent parts of seven seasons as a player in MLB from 1989-1993 and 1997-98 with the Yankees, Montreál Expos and Arizona Diamondbacks.
In Schaeffer, Colorado has a 37-year-old coach who already has a decade of experience under his belt.
His first position with short-season Tri-City Dust Devils in 2013-14 meant showing the ropes to an 18-year-old Antonio Senzatela and a brush with future All-Star Trevor Story.
From there, he worked with nearly every homegrown player on the 40-man roster thanks to three years with Low-A Asheville Tourists (2015-17), two with Double-A Hartford Yard Goats (2018-19) and three with Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes (2020-22).
Schaeffer’s promotion leaves an opening at the highest level of the Rockies’ farm system, but Isotopes General Manager John Traub is still delighted at the news.
“We are extremely thrilled for Warren and his family on his promotion to the Colorado Rockies coaching staff,” Traub said. “Warren did such an amazing job in Albuquerque, where he was respected by everyone he came in contact with over the last two seasons. His future is very bright and we cannot wait to see his career unfold.”
The Western Pennsylvania native spent six seasons in the minors with Colorado, reaching Triple-A Colorado Springs (2010-11) before transitioning to a career in coaching.
Additionally, six coaches will return to Bud Black’s staff in 2023: Mike Redmond (bench coach), Darryl Scott (pitching coach), Ron Gideon (first base coach), Reid Cornelius (bullpen coach), Andy González (assistant hitting coach) and P.J. Pilittere (assistant hitting coach).