Rockies Get $51 Million Prospect Crudité Platter for Arenado

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.





Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

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mariodegenzgz
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mariodegenzgz

Pretty accurate piece all things considered. None of the guys they got in return can be considered potential regulars and the organization is in the worst possible spot. Bad MLB team, mediocre-to-bad farm system, inept management, behind the times in every sense.

Although I will say, this was curious to me: “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.”

The first part of that sentence is true. But in the case of the Rockies, everything I know leads me to believe ownership and the front office ARE the same thing. AKA, Dick Monfort makes a lot of baseball decisions, particularly at the MLB level. I suspect Bridich only has a high level of authority at the MiLB level (the boring stuff Monfort would likely not want to bother with).

RockiesMagicNumber
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concur on the disambiguation of FO vs Dick Monfort. If Dick Monfort wants to keep interjecting himself into actual baseball operations, he’s just a perpetual wildcard in any big decisions the org makes. Like keeping Bridich at the helm.

mariodegenzgz
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mariodegenzgz

When an organization fails repeatedly like the Rockies have for almost 30 years, the finger can only be pointed towards the top.

This organization is so backwards in every way. I believe I read a comment from someone on this wonderful site a few days ago that said “the Rockies feel like the last franchise in MLB that hasn’t evolved past 2003” and I was like man that’s so on point.

From their pitching philosophy (pitch to contact in 2021) to their hitting philosophy (free swingers galore, once again, in 2021) to their slow, risk-averse decision making to their player development. Just an absolute ****show of a franchise. And a franchise blessed with a great, healthy and very supportive fanbase too. Just sad to see.

treebearded
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treebearded

The whole bit about starting suspect free-agent acquisitions instead of high-level prospects feels very New York Mets. As a Mets fan, I was always puzzled and frustrated by this. Unfortunately, it takes a change of ownership and organizational philosophy to turn around something like this.

steex
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steex

When you realize the 2003 Rockies had noted plate discipline monsters Larry Walker and Todd Helton helping the team to a collective .344 OBP compared to the 2020 collective OBP of .311, it seems like it would be a tremendous boon to the organization if they regained that 2003 philosophy with their hitters (I say partly in jest).

Jason B
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Jason B

Not for nothing, but 2003 was also a decidedly different hitting era than we’re in now. Not sure how those look normalized to league average but it would smooth the difference a bit.

(And to be clear, not saying the 2020 version was in any way better. It was not!)

Francoeurstein
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Francoeurstein

I feel like Colorado, more so than most teams, needs a cutting-edge innovative front office due to the challenges that their ballpark represents. They have the exact opposite of that and this franchise has never had a sustained period of success for that reason. Sounds like it’s going to be very difficult to succeed under Monfort.

Travis L
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Travis L

They seem to be pretty good at player development!

Smiling Politely
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Smiling Politely

There’s a level of complicity for sure; Andrew Friedman was part of the turnover in TB until he left to spend all the money in LA. Billy Beane did plenty of it, then became ownership. Bridich deserves (*plenty of*) criticism, but I don’t know that we can say he’d act similarly with another owner.

Smiling Politely
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Smiling Politely

Update: I just listened to the press conference with Monfort and Bridich, and friends…I’m done giving Bridich the benefit of the doubt 😛

Dominikk85
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Dominikk85

I agree. Obviously the team is backwards in many ways but in the end the owner is the guy who signs the GM and a willingness to get more progressive has to start with the owner pushing for that and hiring the right people. I also thing they should get a new GM but really the owner has to want structural change.

Lanidrac
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Lanidrac

Gomber is a potential regular for the starting rotation.

jfree
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jfree

>But in the case of the Rockies, everything I know leads me to believe ownership and the front office ARE the same thing.

They are ever since 2010. Up until 2005, the ‘principal’ owner was Jerry McMorris. Like most ownership that are groups, they hire someone to handle all the operations on behalf of ownership. That was Keli McGregor. In 2005, McMorris sold his stake to the Monforts and ownership was no longer a group. In 2010, McGregor died and has not been replaced.

I don’t think this is a particularly challenging problem. But apparently Monfort is not capable of firing himself as President and not capable of realizing that he’s pretty incompetent at that job.

Greg in Baltimore
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Greg in Baltimore

Very sad that this mirrors the reign of Peter Angelos on day to day baseball OPs for the Orioles. It’s a terrible condition.