The Road to The Show™: Rockies’ Tovar
Each week, MiLB.com profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he's taken toward achieving his Major League dream. Here's a look at second-ranked Rockies prospect Ezequiel Tovar. For more stories about players on The Road to The Show, click here. At the start of the season, many would have
Each week, MiLB.com profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he's taken toward achieving his Major League dream. Here's a look at second-ranked Rockies prospect Ezequiel Tovar. For more stories about players on The Road to The Show, click here.
At the start of the season, many would have suspected that Ezequiel Tovar’s long-awaited September debut would be in Denver, not Albuquerque. But, as it goes, the best laid plans often go awry.
MLB Pipeline’s No. 28 overall prospect was sidelined for 11 weeks this season with injuries to his hip and groin. Tovar had been swinging an excellent bat for Double-A Hartford to open the year while flashing his Gold Glove potential at shortstop. In his first 66 games, he batted .318/.386/.545 with 31 extra-base hits, including 13 homers and three triples, 47 RBIs, 39 runs scored and 17 stolen bases.
“He has a presence [where] guys look forward to his spot in the lineup coming up [and] look forward to ground balls being his,” Hartford manager Chris Denorfia told MLB.com. “And that's something that superstars have. You can't really teach that.”
The second-ranked Rockies prospect returned for his first career Triple-A game with Albuquerque just last week after about a month of rehab at the team’s facility in Arizona.
The hot start in the Eastern League created rumblings that the 21-year-old could quickly follow in the footsteps of Rockies great Troy Tulowitzki, bypass Triple-A and go straight to the Majors. But with the time missed, it’s more likely he’ll follow in the path of another fast-rising Colorado shortstop, Trevor Story, who played in just 61 games at Triple-A before his MLB debut in 2016.
The comparisons to those distinguished Rockies have been amplified, not only by Tovar’s on-field performance, but by the ease, maturity and leadership qualities that he’s displayed throughout his Minor League career.
“A long time ago, my mom told me if you’re going to play this game, remember that it’s a game and have fun,” Tovar told MLB.com. “That’s one thing I want to bring every day. I’m not out to prove I’m a leader. I don’t see it that way. I just want to help make everyone around me play better and have fun out there.”
While he’s gotten more attention because of the looming potential of a Major League callup before the injury, Tovar has proven to be beyond his years since signing with the Rockies.
Ezequiel Tovar is on FIRE— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) March 25, 2022
His 3⃣rd home run in the last 4⃣ days 🔥 pic.twitter.com/0BsLN46yxF
Colorado landed the skinny, switch-hitting Venezuelan shortstop for an $800,000 bonus on his 16th birthday, Aug. 1, 2017. The Marcay native trained with Roberto Vahlis before inking the largest bonus of the Rockies’ international class that year.
Tovar’s first Minor League action came in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League in 2018. It was during his first professional season that Tovar decided to become a full-time right-handed hitter, which was his natural side of the plate. He finished with a .262 batting average and .723 OPS in the DSL but displayed little to no power through 35 games.
In 2019, he made his debut stateside in the short season leagues. Across 73 games with Grand Junction and Boise, he batted .253/.318/.322, clubbed his first two professional homers and stole 17 bases. As he matured, Tovar started driving the ball more. Under less-than-ideal circumstances the following year, he was able to continue to add muscle.
Tovar was unable to return home to Venezuela during the pandemic and lost season in 2020. Instead, he and two other Venezuelan Rockies prospects stayed at the team’s facility in Arizona and, quite simply, worked out. Tovar got to the instructional league that fall with a reported 10 added pounds of muscle, and that work showed on the field.
Even now, Tovar possesses less than average raw power. But he handles the bat well enough to get the barrel to the ball and find gaps with some strength behind the swing, even showing more in-game power than his six-foot, 162-pound frame might suggest possible.
Tovar made his full-season debut last year with Single-A Fresno before getting promoted to High-A Spokane in August. He swung the bat very well in the hitter-friendly California League, but a lot of the areas of his game that needed improvement were exposed against older competition. He batted .229 with a .662 OPS in the Northwest League, and his struggles continued during the Arizona Fall League with Salt River.
By the time Tovar reached Spring Training, the struggles of the AFL were a distant memory. Right away, he impressed Major League players and coaches with his demeanor and personality. But he also had 11 hits in 20 Cactus League at-bats (.550), including three homers and seven RBIs.
"He's doing a great job -- playing loose, playing with confidence," Rockies manager Bud Black told MLB.com in March. "It's nice to see. It's Spring Training. It's a bigger stage, although it's Spring Training, and he's rising to the occasion."
His bountiful spring clearly carried into the regular season with Hartford. And if not for the injury, Tovar could have long cleared his prospect status by this point in the season. There’s a very good chance that he’s the Rockies’ Opening Day shortstop in 2023, especially with veteran Jose Iglesias due to hit free agency this offseason.
Upon his return last week, Tovar has enjoyed a hot start with the Isotopes. He collected five hits in his first 14 at-bats, including his first home run in what was his second game at the level. The club also hasn’t ruled out a potential call to The Show for the end of the regular season.
"I'll try to control what I can control," Tovar told MLB.com in March. "I just have to do my job and let it be what God wants."
Gerard Gilberto is a reporter for MiLB.com.