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Rockies Mailbag: What prospects could make real impact this season for Colorado?

Denver Post sports writer Patrick Saunders with the latest installment of his Rockies Mailbag.

Pose a Rockies- or MLB-related question for the Rockies Mailbag.

Patrick, what prospect do you feel in the Rockies’ system has the best chance of seeing real action this year in the majors? 

— Jon Exner, Greeley

Jon, I imagine we’ll see a lot of Kid Rox play this season, especially in the second half of the season. As for “real action,” the top contenders right now would be power-hitting outfielder Jordan Beck and infielder Aaron Schunk.

Beck dazzled during his time with the big-league club before he was assigned to minor-league camp on Tuesday. Schunk has had a solid camp, too, but the Rockies would like to see him play more at shortstop before bringing him onto the 26-man roster.

The thing fans need to remember is that young players need to play. It does no good to join the big-league club and sit on the bench and get limited at-bats and playing time.

On the pitching side, I could see hard-throwing right-handed reliever Jaden Hill getting called up in May or June.

Can you provide any insight on why the Rockies and Brittany Haby, the Rockies’ manager of baseball research, have “mutually agreed to part ways?” The team has never invested in its analytics department but, with their challenges of dealing with altitude, seems like the team most in need of it. Tampa Bay has proved that even small-market teams can win by being smarter than the competition.

— Greg, Estes Park

Greg, a source told me about Haby’s departure and the Rockies would only confirm that she left, saying the club “doesn’t comment on employee personnel matters.” I was told that she signed a non-disclosure agreement when she left, so she has not talked publicly about her decision.

When Scott Van Lenten was fired as the head of analytics, I was told it was a contentious situation. I don’t know if that was true in the case of Haby.

It’s not unusual for analytics personnel to leave teams and move on to other career choices. It happens all of the time, all around baseball.

But you’re right that the Rockies need to beef up their analytics department to catch up with other teams. Right now, it remains one of the smallest in the majors.

Jorge Soler and Matt Chapman, two players who would certainly help the Rockies, sign very team-friendly deals. In the last couple of weeks. Two excellent pitchers remain available. Are the Rockies ever intending to seriously compete?

— Jeff, Paso Robles, Calif.

Jeff, Soler (three years, $42 million) and Chapman (three years, $54 million) will help the Giants but they were never a consideration for the Rockies. Why? The Rockies have plenty of young position talent coming up through the organization. It wouldn’t be wise to spend money on veterans right now when the team is still at least a year away from contention. I know fans don’t want to hear that, but it’s true.

The Rockies are in a full rebuild and with veterans Charlie Blackmon ($13 million) and Kris Bryant ($28 million) already on the payroll as the club’s highest-paid position players this season, there is no way the Rockies were going to chase veterans.

Regarding the pitchers available, I assume you’re talking about Blake Snell, but I’m not sure who your second pitcher is. Regardless, unless a pitcher is on the back side of his career, quality free-agent hurlers are not going to sign with Colorado. It’s just the reality of baseball at altitude.

What is the best outcome for the Rockies this year, if everything goes right and maybe some good surprises?

— Louie, Arvada

Louie … World Series champs, baby! I kid because I care.

I’m on the record predicting the Rockies will finish 65-97.

If everything goes right — starting pitching shocks us, Kris Bryant regains his powers at the plate, young players Ezequiel Tovar, Brenton Doyle and Nolan Jones continue to grow, Ryan McMahon finally has a break-out year, and another young player blossoms — a .500 season is possible. But I just think that the pitching is too thin and the young talent still too young for that to happen.

Jenny Cavnar used to do at least 15 play-by-play games a season subbing for Drew Goodman on Rockies TV broadcasts. Who will take that role this season when Drew is away? I’d suggest bringing over Jack Corrigan from the radio side and doing simulcasts.

— Dom, Longmont

Dom, I checked into this and I’m told that when Goodman is away, Ryan Spilborghs will take that role and share play-by-play duties with other analysts, including Marc Stout, on occasion. There are no plans to team up with KOA Radio and Jack Corrigan.

Is this the year Michael Toglia finally breaks through?

— Marshall, Parker

Marshall, Toglia has flashed power and potential this spring, but I honestly don’t know if he’s ever going to live up to what the Rockies hoped he would become when they selected him out of UCLA with the 23rd overall pick in the 2019 draft.

The switch-hitter is competing for an opening-day roster spot and he’s launched three home runs and was hitting .345 with a 1.165 OPS (through Monday) in Cactus League play.

Toglia has a ton of self-confidence, which is great. But he has a lot to prove. In stints over his first two big-league seasons, he’s hit .187 with six home runs in 76 games and has a strikeout rate of 34.6%. His whiff rate is 29.4% in Cactus League action (10 Ks in 34 plate appearances).

Toglia still has minor-league options, while power-hitting first baseman Elehuris Montero does not, so the Rockies have a difficult choice to make as opening day draws near. I would not be surprised to see Toglia begin the season at Triple-A Albuquerque.

How are Antonio Senzatela and German Marquez doing? What’s their ETA to return to the team?

— Mike, Denver

Mike, I talked to both pitchers recently and they both said they’re feeling great and making progress. Marquez is in great shape and he’s ultra-optimistic.

“I have a brand new arm. I’m ready for 10 more years,” Marquez told me recently for a story I did about Tommy John surgeries.

As for ETAs, look for Marquez to return in late July or early August but not before the All-Star Game. Senzatela might pitch in the minors at the tail end of this season but there are no plans for him to pitch for the Rockies this season.

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