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Right-handed pitcher Chase Dollander, the Rockies’ top pick in this summer’s MLB Draft out of the University of Tennessee, promises to be worth the wait.
Several members of the Draft class are at Minor League affiliates.
Seventh-round righty -- and Dollander’s Tennessee teammate -- Seth Halvorsen is already at Double-A Hartford. Playing at Single-A Fresno are second-round lefty Sean Sullivan, Competitive Balance B multi-position player Cole Carrigg, fourth-round lefty pitcher Isaiah Coupet, fifth-round third baseman Kyle Karros, sixth-round righty reliever Cole Denton and 17th-round first baseman Aidan Longwell.
Where is Dollander, who signed for $5,716,900?
Friday, Dollander -- the No. 60 overall prospect per MLB Pipeline, which ranks him third in the Rockies system -- will throw his fourth bullpen session at Salt River Fields, with live batting practice coming soon and some outings in the Arizona Instructional League, which runs from Sept. 18-Oct. 7.
On Tuesday, Dollander threw a bullpen session during the day and by night was in the stands at Chase Field in Phoenix to watch the Rockies’ 3-2 victory over the D-backs. Out of sight on affiliated rosters, Dollander, 21, is at the front of the Rockies’ minds. His progression is the result of honest conversations between Rockies club officials and Dollander.
“I'm actually ramping up to throw a few innings in instructs -- the plan for me right now is to do that and call it a year,” said Dollander, who will visit the Rockies and meet with local media next week at Coors Field. “I threw a lot in college. I know a lot of the other Draft guys are throwing at affiliates and stuff like that, but the Rockies wanted me to stay here, stay under close vision, get back to my normal self and be able to dominate next year.
“I took a couple of weeks off after the end of the season. Probably shouldn't have done that. But I really, really needed it. It was not only physically draining, but it's mentally draining as well.”
Dollander entered the 2023 season as a candidate for the top pick. He was not as dominant as he was the previous year, so he fell to the Rockies at No. 9.
However, it was a valuable learning experience.
“There were a lot of people that told me I made some unnecessary adjustments,” he said. “But in reality, I didn't make those adjustments on purpose. It just kind of happened when I was chasing velocity early on in the year, and the bad habits started.
“I'm just trying to get back to my sophomore version of myself, and build the ground from there, just keep going up.”
Former Major League pitcher Dave Burba, who is supervising Rockies pitchers at the Scottsdale complex, has seen the beginning of Dollander’s rise.
“He’s starting to let it go, and you can see the electricity behind it,” Burba said. “I’m excited for him.”
How teams handle their top Draft picks varies by player and organization.
LSU righty Paul Skenes, whom the Pirates took with the No. 1 overall pick, made three appearances across three levels (Rookie, Single-A, Double-A) for 6 2/3 total innings before Pirates general manager Ben Cherington said on Tuesday that Skenes had “checked all the boxes” necessary for his Draft summer and ended his season.
Dollander said he believes he is good for 10-15 innings in instructional ball, but he will wait for the Rockies to set his limit and prepare for 2024.
“It wasn't outside pressure,” he said. “It was just myself: ‘I'm better than this. I can do better than this. Why am I not doing this?’ After a while, I realized it was time to turn on a different switch and just go out there and be Chase Dollander. If I get back to that version of me, I’m going to be good to go. Let’s just say that.”
MAYBE THE NEXT FLEX WILL BE FOR REAL
Between innings of Tuesday’s game, Chase Field panned the stands with the “Muscle Cam.” Fans were encouraged to flex and be shown on the video board. But who was the guy wearing glasses, a Michael Jordan/North Carolina basketball throwback and a small brace on his left wrist?
If he and the Rockies have their way, the footage was a preview of a nightmare for the D-backs and other teams. The camera just happened to find Rockies 2020 top Draft pick Zac Veen, an outfielder who underwent left wrist tendon surgery in June. Veen isn’t far from using his considerable muscle in game action.
A left-handed hitter, Veen, who said his doctor rates him two weeks ahead of schedule, plans to begin swinging a fungo bat with two hands on Friday, which will be 10 weeks from surgery -- not to mention the day this newsletter lands in your e-mail. He will stay on a steady swing progression, with the goal of being ready for winter ball in Puerto Rico with Ponce -- whose bench coach will be Rockies assistant hitting coach Andy González.
Veen, 21, will spend time at home in Florida working with Johnny Goodrich, his coach at Spruce Creek (Fla.) High School as he builds for winter ball.
“I was blessed with a really good swing, and he keeps my mind where it needs to be and makes sure my mechanics are there,” said Veen, currently the MLB Pipeline No. 94 and the Rockies’ No. 5 prospect. “I’m really excited to go to Puerto Rico and be healthy.”
Veen struggled at Hartford (.209/.304/.308). A big part of that was trying to play through the injury, which he first sustained in 2022 at High-A Spokane because he pressed himself to push his way to the Majors this year.
Veen will receive a preview of big-time intensity in Puerto Rico, where teams and fans are interested in championships and couldn’t care less that someone is preparing for 2024.
González saw Veen’s elite potential from his first instructional league and is eager to see how he handles Puerto Rico.
“This year was part of him growing up, but there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s going to be a good player,” González said. “Hopefully, he gets healthy, goes to winter ball and does his thing, then comes to Spring Training next year."
YOU’VE HEARD THIS BEFORE, BUT IT DOESN’T GET OLD
Catcher Drew Romo, a first-round selection after Veen in 2020 (Veen was ninth and Romo 35th overall), hit three home runs Thursday for Double-A Hartford in a 9-5 victory over Binghamton in the second game of a doubleheader.
Romo, the Rockies’ No. 9 prospect, also homered three times on July 28 against New Hampshire.
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