Rockies Get $51 Million Prospect Crudité Platter for Arenado by Eric Longenhagen February 2, 2021 It was never going to be enough for one of the more electrifying players in the world, but allow me to sing one part of the harmony panning the Rockies’ return for Nolan Arenado. As I was on the phone working on prospects lists in the days before the trade’s prospect details were finalized, casual conversation with scouts and front office folks indicated that both Arenado’s public request for a trade as well as Rockies ownership’s supposedly mediocre financial situation made it so that teams pursuing the third baseman were really leveraging Colorado into taking an underwhelming prospect package, knowing that the front office (which is different than ownership) would have no choice but to trade him, and soon. While I can’t know what other offers the Rockies received or how those prospect packages compared to the one they got, which we’d really need to know to truly evaluate this or any trade, it certainly isn’t an exciting group. They’re 40 FV prospects who I think can be big league role players, but none are potential stars, and there may not even be a regular among them. I think you could argue this group does better to mitigate risk through quantity than, say, the prospects in the Joe Musgrove trade, but the best piece in the Musgrove trade (Hudson Head, a 45 FV) is two full FV grades better than anyone in this deal. And St. Louis got Nolan Arenado. But let’s talk about these players — Austin Gomber, Elehuris Montero, Mateo Gil, Tony Locey, Jake Sommers — and then the future of this bizarre Rockies organization. The player in this deal with the most obvious physical talent is 22-year-old 3B/1B Elehuris Montero, who spent the year at the Cardinals’ alternate site. He peaked as a 40+ FV prospect after his 2018 performance (.322/.381/.529 at Low-A) but I backed off of him after spending an extended period watching him in the 2019 Arizona Fall League. His approach is a problem. During some of his Fall League starts, Montero saw five pitches over the course of an entire game. During the regular season, he averaged just shy of 2.5 pitches per plate appearance. For comparison’s sake, among big league hitters with at least 200 PAs in 2019, Willians Astudillo ranked last in pitches per PA with 2.9; no other big leaguer was under three. From a hitting talent perspective — the bat speed, primarily — Montero has everyday upside, but corner bats with approach issues are terrifying prospects. 20-year-old SS/3B Mateo Gil (son of Benji Gil, who’s currently managing Mexican Pacific Winter League champion Culiacan in the Serie del Caribe) and righty Tony Locey are the two prospects with the most potential for physical and technical growth. Gil was a polished high school defender with considerable frame projection. He’s filled out quite a bit and with that has come quite a bit of bat speed and raw power, but Gil is also an indiscriminate swinger, which results in strikeout issues. The Cardinals did not have instructional league but Gil played for his dad’s Tomateros during the winter, and he didn’t hit well. Gil’s pop is new and he hasn’t had a whole season to hone it yet, so there’s variance here, but again I see a likely corner profile with an approach issue trap door. Locey came on late in college and became St. Louis’ 2019 third rounder. He struggled early in his college career but toward the end of 2019 Locey would hold mid-90s velo late into games, hitting 97 regularly and landing a solidly average breaking ball that dev-minded folks in baseball think has more ceiling. If his changuep and command develop, maybe he can start, but Locey’s aggressive, bulldog approach is conducive to shorter stints, so I have him projected in middle relief. Austin Gomber is a big league lefty with four viable (but vanilla) pitches and starter’s command. He spent 2020 as a swingman/long relief piece and that’s the kind of role he’d likely play on a contender, but he’s probably a rotation piece in Colorado. The name I knew the least about when the trade became official was Jake Sommers, St. Louis’ 2019 10th round pick out of UW-Milwaukee. He went to Johnson City after the draft and struck out 55 in 51 innings as a starter. All I have on him right now is that he was 89-93, touching 94 during the summer of 2019, and that his fastball has sinker action, which the Rockies seem to prefer because of the challenges Coors Field presents to team building. It’s hard to see even a long-term path to contention for the Rockies. They’re in a division with the juggernaut Dodgers, the ascendant Padres, a Diamondbacks club with an excellent foundation of minor league talent and a well-funded Giants team that’s starting to build one. At a certain point, it was clear the Rockies really had something in Germán Márquez (who they pilfered from the Rays) and it appeared that he, Kyle Freeland and Jon Gray could spearhead a competitive rotation, which along with the young core of position players (Arenado, Story, McMahon, Rodgers, Tapia, Blackmon, Dahl, Hampson) might enable Colorado to be in the postseason mix pretty regularly for a while. Then some of the pitchers regressed, or got hurt, and puzzling free agent additions blocked their upper-level prospects, arguably slowing their development. Things began to unravel from there. The org’s inability to backfill behind those enigmatic arms is, in my opinion, a development problem rather than a talent acquisition one, though that might be my biases talking. Just because I’ve liked a bunch of the Rockies recent drafts (2015 and 2016 specifically) doesn’t mean they were actually good. But while other orgs are developing velocity at a rate that has pushed the average big league velocity to record levels, some more than they have space for on their 40-man, the Rockies minor league pitching development has been horrible. I don’t like the strike-throwing pitchability college arms they seem to use an early pick on every year, but others — Javier Medina (Tommy John, then released), David Hill (ridden pretty hard in college, hurt a lot in pro ball), Riley Pint (still has 20-grad control), Mike Nikorak (TJ, velo up and down), Peter Lambert (Tommy John), Robert Tyler (retired due to constant injury), Pearson McMahan (released less than two years after he was drafted) — were well-regarded amateur players who the Rockies haven’t gotten anything from. Lucas Gilbreath had a great instructs (95-97, touch 99, above-average breaking ball) but nobody else in the system has taken a clear step forward.