In sports, as much as anywhere in life, we are always on the lookout for the next big thing.
For the Colorado Rockies, the next big thing after the end of the Anreado/Story era was the signing of former MVP and World Series champion Kris Bryant.
But what about at shortstop?
The club signed veteran Jose Iglesias to a one-year, $5 million contract this offseason in a clear sign that for the first time since 2007 they do not expect star production at the position.
They are still, surely hoping that Iglesias can be solid in the field and as a contact hitter, boosting the floor of the club, but it is also not inaccurate to see him as a “stopgap” between the present and future at short.
So who is the future? Who is the next big thing?
Well if recent trends, especially this Spring Training, are any indication, it’s Ezequiel Tovar.
Tovar has always been an excellent athlete and defender at shortstop, one of the reasons why he was drawing buzz before his projectable bat began to bloom.
He posted a wRC+ of 119 in A-ball at 19-years-old in 2021.
Once the hit tool started to come around, and with it some extra weight and extra power, Tovar quickly rocketed up Colorado’s prospect list.
This year, he got his first taste of big league competition at the ripe-old-age of 20. And he fared very well, indeed.
Gobbling up 16 plate appearances, he produced nine hits including three home runs.
The power display was consistent with his 15 home runs across two levels last year but are still mighty impressive for a player who has yet to even take an at-bat in Double-A.
He appears to be on the fast track, and the more he plays like this, the faster the track will become.
Colorado, of course, has a pretty high bar to clear if you want to be the best shortstop in club history. A timeline that transitioned immediately from Troy Tulowitzki to Trevor Story have left the Denver faithful a bit spoiled when it comes to that spot on the diamond.
But here comes Tovar.
You’ve heard this about prospects before but he has all the tools. He’s a good runner, good-to-great defender, has excellent bat-to-ball skills and the power that had been a dream for him before is becoming a reality in front of our very eyes.
When a player gets their first look at MLB pitching, it can be daunting. Plenty of great hitters over the years have been humbled in that first invite to spring camp. And to be fair, plenty of other guys have been awesome in games that don’t count and forgettable in the ones that do.
So, Tovar has a lot to prove. He’s also not likely to play on the MLB squad any time this year unless things go very right for him. Again, that’s why Iglesias is here. A September call-up would be a massive achievement. So would having a shot at the Opening Day roster in 2023.
Whether or not he skyrockets through the system to become one of the youngest position players in recent memory to debut for the Rockies, the kid out of Maracay, Venezuela came to play.
So, yes, for the first time in a long time, Colorado Rockies fans are going to have to deal with a shortstop who isn’t a superstar.
But it might be a short wait.