© 2024 ALLCITY Network Inc.
All rights reserved.
There are not many players who have come through the minor league ranks of the Colorado Rockies quite like 1B Michael Toglia.
One of the leading Rockies prospects that has excited the fanbase for the future of the franchise, Toglia is a switch-hitter that flashes both mammoth power and elite defense at first base.
Praise for him has come from up and down the organization.
“I could definitely see him in the big leagues next year for us,” Ryan Vilade said of Toglia during last season’s Arizona Fall League.
Yorvis Torrealba, another player from the Rockies system with extensive experience of Toglia’s ability, went one step further. “He’s going to be a Gold Glover in the big leagues one day, I guarantee that.”
Colorado selected Toglia of UCLA with the 23rd overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft following 17 home runs (tied for fourth-most in the PAC-12) as a 20-year-old.
The Rockies have been enamored with the Gig Harbor, WA product since high school, drafting him in the 35th round of the 2016 MLB Draft in one of few instances of the organization taking a player twice. Toglia hopes to be even more rare by joining 1B Ryan Shealy, RHP Darren Clarke, OF Corey Dickerson and LHP Lucas Gilbreath as the only ones from that double draftee group to eventually debut for the club.
The first professional stop for Toglia was short-season A level Boise Hawks. He batted .248 and led the club with 9 home runs and 26 RBI, earning a spot among Baseball America’s best prospects in the Northwest League for 2019.
And then the world stopped with the global outbreak of COVID-19. Like thousands of professional ball players across the continent, Toglia had no games on his schedule for the first time since he was a child.
Instead of sitting on his hands, he worked hard; however, it wasn’t double the work for a player who bats from both sides.
Toglia set the record straight on being a switch-hitter.
“The reality is you can’t take twice as many swings,” he said under the bright Scottsdale sun. “That will also just destroy your body. So it kind of ends up being like one and a half. (During a game), I’m trying to get that specific side ready and then just loosen up the other side. Because if you just really double the work, you’re gonna be exhausted by the time the game starts.”
He began 2021 at High-A Spokane and finished top five in the league with 17 home runs and 66 runs batted in, despite being promoted to Double-A with seven weeks left in the season.
With a penchant for striking out worse than league average in both stops last season, he’ll need to cut back on his swing-and-miss tendencies going forward.
The power, however, is unquestionable. The 6’5” slugger displayed his prowess with a homer to left-center during the Futures Game at Coors Field last summer.
Shortly after that mammoth blast in front of family and friends, Toglia was promoted to the Hartford Yard Goats.
There he worked with hitting coach Tom Sutaris, who oversaw such development at High-A Lancaster as Colton Welker’s Cal League batting title in 2018 and Ryan Vilade’s excellent .303/.367.466 season in 2019 as one of the youngest in the league.
“One thing about Michael is he’s a very, very sharp guy. He understands what he needs to work on every day. He has routines that he does, depending on what we’re facing that day and you know which swing he has to spend a little more time on, but he’s got a great feel for it.”
“There’s a little bit of an adjustment period, but the stuff is a little bit nastier, a little more finished, and they’re around the zone more,” Toglia said of the progression from High-A to Double-A.
At Hartford, he still managed to whack five home runs in 41 games. While it was a lower frequency than his previous two stops in the minors, his on-base percentage was nearly identical as before, same as was the strikeout rate.
He continued to play deep into the year as a member of the Salt River Rafters during the finishing school known as the Fall League, earning the final spot on the Fall Stars Team, thanks to fan support in the Final Vote. Working with Sutaris again and teaming with Vilade, as well as shortstop prospect Ezequiel Tovar, Toglia led by example in more ways than one.
“I’ve been doing my part to try to learn Spanish,” Toglia said of his communication with the Venezuelan-born Tovar. “I like to think I’m pretty good at it. I took five years in school and so I try to talk with our Latin players as much as I can and just try to pick up on their dialect.”
Beyond his ability to switch languages, the unique skill set which Toglia possesses on the field is even more of a rarity. In fact, the Rockies have never had a switch-hitter with power.
Neifi Pérez has the most (43) in franchise history from both sides of the plate. Dexter Fowler is the most recent to have hit more than 10; his 13 in 2012 is now a decade old.
Third baseman Howard Johnson once played left field for Colorado at the tail end of his career in 1994 and his 228 dingers – 10 came in purple – is good for 23rd all-time by a switch-hitter.
While Colorado is still figuring out their future, Michael Toglia can very quickly make an impact and become a special player for a franchise looking for their next All-Star.