Rockies Add 2nd Dominican Team
By Jack Etkin
The Rockies are adding a second team this season in the Dominican Summer League, an investment in player development at the lowest level of their farm system that could result in more Latin players reaching the majors. Rolando Fernandez, the Rockies’ vice president of international scouting and player development, said the Rockies have been signing more Latin players, “and we need a place for them to play. If they don’t play, they’re not going to get better.”
Both DSL teams will have 35 active players. The Rockies can house 80 players in their complex in Boca Chica, Dominican Republic, that opened in May 2013.
“We’ve got the room, so we might as as well now have another team,” player development director Zach Wilson said, “so we can give everybody the time that they need developmentally.”
Many of the Latin players are 16 when they sign with the Rockies. And Wilson said, “Those are the guys that need the playing time. And they need it early, and they need it often.”
The Rockies are the only major league team without a low-level affiliate in either the Arizona League (AZL) or Gulf Coast League (GCL), where teams use the spring training complexes of their parent club. The lowest domestic rung on the Rockies’ ladder is Rookie level Grand Junction, meaning when Latin players come to the United States they have to make a bigger jump to Grand Junction than do players in other organzations who can instead go to an AZL or GCL affiliate.
“Not only do you sometimes rush a player,” Fernandez said, “but you’re jumping a level and the English language, the cultural (aspects) _ not everybody’s ready for that. So adding the team gives us many opportunities _ not only signing more players but it gives us time to develop those players and give them a better opportunity (to succeed) when they come to the States.”
In 2017, organizations that had two teams in the DSL included the Astros, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Rangers, Rays, Mets, Reds and Phillies. The Indians and Brewers shared a second DSL team.
Julio Campos will manage the second Rockies team in the DSL. He scouts for them in Latin America and particularly in Puerto Rico and is in uniform when the Rockies run their instructional league program in the Dominican in November and January program there prior to spring training.
Michael Ramierez, who was a catcher in the Rockies’ system from 2010-2014 and the past couple years has been a part-time employee as the bullpen catcher in Triple-A Albuquerque, will be the hitting coach.
“We’ve kind of been developing him for this type of role, it were to show itself,” Wilson said, “and it has and he was just the perfect guy for it.”
A pitching coach has yet to be hired for the second DSL team.
The 2017 Rockies included three players who began their careers with two seasons in the DSL _ pitchers Antonio Senzatela and Carlos Estevez and outfielder Raimel Tapia.
When the Rockies stormed to the postseason in 2007 and reached the World Series for the only time in their history, rookie pitchers Ubaldo Jimenez, Franklin Morales and Manny Corpas played prominent roles in that success. All spent one season in the DSL.
Other homegrown Rockies who began their careers in the DSL include shortstop Juan Uribe, catcher Wilin Rosario and pitchers Jhouyls Chacin and Juan Nicasio.
Wilson lauded Fernandez and his scouts for their ability to find Latin prospects but said with one DSL club, some players can “get short-changed” as far as playing time.
“This is going to allow us to play more talented players more frequently and allow them to have more significant time on the field developmentally down there than we’ve had in the past,” Wilson said. “It’s going to give us a bigger pool of players. You never know who’s going to hit, so when you have more players down there, you’ve got a better chance of potentially hitting on a guy.”