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Rockies' youngsters make history on consecutive days; who's next to join the group?

Patrick Lyons Avatar
June 8, 2021

Major League debut. First big league hit. First home run. 

For many players, it’s the moment they’ve been envisioning their entire life. It’s what makes all the youth tournaments, minor league bus rides, all those days playing through soreness and time spent away from family worth the grind of being a professional baseball player.

“When you look at a players career,” explained Colorado Rockies manager Bud Black, “coming to big league camp, rubbing shoulders with Nolan Arenado, Carlos González, (etc), there’s a progression.”

Years before we see the next generation on the grandest stage beneath the bright lights of Coors Field, it’s the sun-soaked diamond of Salt River Fields that fans are introduced to these youngsters. It’s there in Scottsdale where a player can first begin to taste The Show. 

“You get your first hit in a Spring Training game. Progression. You work your way through the minor leagues. You get to the big leagues,” Black continued. “Your first start and then, ultimately, your first hit. And then your first homer… They are a progression.”

Over the weekend, two more players got on the board with the first dinger of what hopes to be a career filled with many more. 

Alan Trejo, a 16th Rd Pick in 2017 that has long been an overlooked member of Colorado’s prospect pipeline, teed off on a 1-1 fastball by Oakland Athletics reliever Burch Smith to left-center in the seventh inning.

“It’s the greatest feeling in the world,” Trejo said of the 433ft blast. “It’s what you dream about as a kid.”

On Saturday night, the much higher-profile Brendan Rodgers slugged a pinch-hit homer to straight-away centerfield, becoming only the ninth Rockies players to ever do so in the process.

“It was definitely a big weight lifted off my shoulders,” shared the third overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft. “It has been a long time. Been a lot longer than I expected from when I first made my debut.” 

And yes, both players did get the ball retrieved thanks to the Rockies’ dutiful clubhouse staff.

Not to be forgotten, the middle infielders joined Yonathan Daza in home run No.1 department. The 27-year-old’s long ball on April 21 was the first since Joshua Fuentes tagged his first career homer on September 12, 2019.

With no minor league season and a shortened 60-game schedule in 2020, no Rockies made that personal or professional history in their progress last season. Four players did so in 2019 – Garrett Hampson, Dom Nuñez, Sam Hilliard and Fuentes – while three joined the club in 2018 – Noel Cuevas, Ryan McMahon and Germán Márquez.

Could 2021 bring a notably higher number of first career homers? 

If there’s any chance someone else joins the procession of Daza, Trejo and Rodgers, here’s who we could see make the progression.

Connor Joe

The oldest position player in this group is also the most likely to fulfill his dreams after playing well during the Spring and showing some promise at the plate for his less-than four week stay on the roster, hitting two doubles and batting in the top of the order thanks to an ability to lay off pitches outside of the strike zone. 

The 28-year-old has three doubles and a homer in just 22 at bats with Triple-A Albuquerque since being optioned on June 1. While Colorado has two first baseman on the roster already, both are short-term pieces that should have value ahead of the July 30 trade deadline. Until some space is freed up on the Rockies, it’s a matter of when and not if Joe will hit his first career homer. 

Ryan Vilade

As the youngest player on the Albuquerque Isotopes, the 22-year-old is only one step away from the big leagues. The 48th overall selection in the 2017 MLB Draft has the most at bats on the roster and is batting .282 through 28 games played. 

Vilade has just one home run in the Pacific Coast League this season, but has done well to cut down on strikeouts in favor of putting the ball in play at a much higher rate than most of his older and more experienced teammates. September would be the earliest we see him should he break out offensively this season, but 2022 is the probable timetable for his debut.

Brian Serven or Chris Rabago

With only two catchers currently on the 40-man roster, Colorado is walking a tight rope with their backstops. Should Nuñez or Elias Díaz miss some time on the injury list, one of these AAA catchers will get consideration along with the veteran José Briceño.

Serven, 26, has already clocked three dingers while Rabago, 28, is awaiting his first of the season with the ‘Topes. While Rabago has been with the organization longer, Serven has more life in his bat and the higher ceiling. 

Antonio Senzatela, Austin Gomber and Chi Chi González 

Since a player needs to be on the team in order to get a plate appearance – let alone his first career home run – look no further than three starting pitchers that may be the only players on this list to even step into a batter’s box donning purple this season.

Gomber and González have nearly identical stats at the plate: one walk and one double in 39 at bats. Gomber has one more single to brag about, not to mention a lower strikeout rate. He’ll also be the one with more opportunities to go yard as a permanent fixture in the rotation, so the odds are strongest for him to join the 2021 first-timers.

As for Senzatela, he may be the worst hitting-pitcher in the game. Since 2018, he’s last in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage (.038/.051/.051) for any pitcher with as many plate appearances. He has been able to record two doubles, but none since April 27, 2018.


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