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Before the Colorado Rockies hit the road for a 10-game trip in three cities across 11 days, manager Bud Black was asked about what he sees as most important during the final month of the season.
“We’ll have a couple of new players in September,” he said. “We’re hoping it might be a new face or two here to evaluate.”
The promotion of 2019 first-round pick Michael Toglia on Tuesday was a great example of this focus.
The 24-year-old switch-hitter didn’t wasted any time recording his first big league base hit and home run during Wednesday’s night 3-2 loss.
Currently, the 40-man roster is full.
Kris Bryant (plantar fasciitis in left foot) could move from the 15-day IL to the 60-day IL. However, the his potential to return is still on the table.
On Thursday, rosters expanded from 26 to 28 players for the final weeks of the season.
Colorado quickly added Alan Trejo and Chad Smith to their bench and bullpen, respectively, for Thursday’s rubber match in Atlanta.
Excluding other current 40-man players like Ty Blach and the recently optioned Sam Hilliard and Wynton Bernard, here are a few new faces that could be in line for their first promotion to the Rockies:
SS Ezequiel Tovar
It was a year ago at this time that Tovar was outside most top 10 lists highlighting Colorado’s best prospects. Including our list.
The 21-year-old’s rise has been fast. The praise has been deserving.
After impressing at Low-A Fresno to start 2021, he advanced to High-A Spokane and more than held his own against players nearly four years older.
Then he received an invite to the prestigious Arizona Fall League before dazzling against big league talent during Spring Training. The Venezuelan shortstop even won the Abby Greer Award as the team’s spring MVP.
Tovar helped the Yard Goats to their best start in franchise history thanks to an outstanding first mont of the season: .333 (24-for-72), five home runs, 14 RBI and seven stolen bases. For this effort, he was awarded the Eastern League Player of the Month.
A groin injury has sidelined Tovar since late June. Though reports suggest he’s close to returning, there may not be enough runway left in the Triple-A season to debut in Denver in 2022.
RHP Riley Pint
Pint is a sentimental choice for debuting this season.
After the fourth overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft retired from baseball in June 2021, he made a triumphant return with Double-A Hartford with a renewed purpose.
Control issues are still a factor (6.00 walks per nine), but an ability to miss bats hasn’t left his arsenal. Pint was third on the Yard Goats this season with 11.6 strikeouts per nine thanks to 55 Ks in 42.2 innings pitched.
Had it not been a stint on the injured list last month, he very well could have been in purple pinstripes when Colorado returned to Coors Field on Labor Day.
RHP Karl Kauffman
Colorado’s third-highest pick in 2019 didn’t make his professional debut until 2021. An extended spring with the University in Michigan shut down his first opportunity and the loss of all minor league games because of the pandemic canceled his second.
Kauffman began the year where he finished 2021, at Double-A Hartford. The 25-year-old pitched markedly better the second time around.
Improving across the board statistically earned him a promotion to Triple-A Albuquerque where he’s fared well considering the environment.
His first three starts in the PCL produced a 2.72 ERA despite 13 walks in 13.2 innings in July. Since then, he struggled across the board with a 7.20 ERA over his last five starts.
RHP Gavin Hollowell
Hollowell is a highly-regarded reliever in the organization with stuff that allows him to close for the Yard Goats.
Taken out of St. John’s University in the sixth-round of 2019 draft, the 24-year-old right-hander has a 2.95 ERA to go along with 15 saves.
His 11.4 strikeouts per nine are a tic behind Pint, but there’s a major difference between the two right-handers success: Hollowell doesn’t allow many base runners.
With a career WHIP below 1.00 as a professional and four strikeouts per walk in 2022, he’s throwing plenty of strikes without giving up plenty of hits.
Toglia’s promotion gives the Rockies their first switch-hitter since Cristhian Adames (2014-17) a few seasons ago.
Colorado has had only 35 different hitters in their 30 years who could bat from both sides of the plate. (Believe it or not, some relievers like Bryan Shaw and Yency Almonte are labeled as switch-hitters. They don’t count towards this list.)
Of that list, Neifi Pérez (1996-2001) tops the franchise in games played (668), home runs (43) and RBI (281).
Dexter Fowler (2008-13) has hit the most triples (53), walks (325) and stolen bases (83).
Other notable switch-hitters include infielders Walt Weiss (1994-97), Jonathan Herrera (2008, 2010-13), Aaron Miles (2004-05), Jason Bates (1995-98), and Kaz Matsui (2006-07), and outfielders Quinton McCracken (1995-97) and Eric Young Jr. (2009-13).
JD Closser (2004-06) is first among catchers with 141 games behind the plate with Adam Melhuse (2000-01, 2008) second with 28 games.