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What do you expect from Ezequiel Tovar

When we cover the Arizona Fall League each year, my teammates Jim Callis and Sam Dijkstra split the season. There is often a passage of the proverbial skill in terms of information, the reporter leaving tells the person who will come who loves him, who should pay attention, etc.

A year ago, I was heading to Arizona and Mr. Callis was leaving, and one of the names he circled in red was Ezequiel Tovar, one of the names that was all about short-stop Rocky. Now, as is often the case, one of us has to see him do many things really well, and one of us hasn’t. Jim Tovar saw him swing very well and did a number of stellar defensive plays. I’ve seen one house run off his racket, and the glove always worked in addition to that, but not many others aggressively. To that end, when we were working on the best odds for the league, Jim defended Tovar as I scratched my head and said, “Um, he hit 189.”

As much as it pains me to say it in public, Jim was right.

In all fairness, while I’ve never seen Tovar shine as bright, we’ve all seen at least glimpses of his promise. Considering he was one of the youngest players in the league at the age of 20, the fact that he holds his final numbers or not has us all taking notice and recognizing him as someone who could take the leap forward in 2022.

Coming out of a strong 2021 season, Tovar was his first in full-season ball, performing well enough with Single-A Fresno to bump into High-A Spokane, although he was nearly unimpressive at the offensive level. We wanted to see what he would do as he started this year before considering him in the Top 100, and he didn’t disappoint. When we added Tovar, on June 8, he had a .995 OPS at the age of 20 with Double-A Hartford, a niche notoriously hard to come by. Sure, he’s fared better on the road this year in the Eastern League (1,049 OPS), but the .800 OPS at Hartford helped him show that his racket would eventually play anywhere.

So, obviously, Tovar convinced us, and in early July when we refreshed the Top 100, the talented short shot was from #92 to 59th. And while a thigh injury aside at the end of June until just a week ago when he climbed to Triple-A in the Few games, and we felt his overall kit was worth another jump in our August rankings, this time up to No. 28, putting him in the top 10 stops we’ll list.

Tovar appears to have done away with rust during his five-game stay with Albuquerque, but it’s likely to be a safe bet to keep expectations in realistic territory for his offensive production during the final two weeks of the big league season. He’s always been able to communicate, with a strike rate of 17.7 percent in his Minor League career. But as is often the case with young hitters with impressive bat skills, this often means Tovar will swing at just about anything. This definitely happened at High-A in 2021 and the AFL, where he had a combined 39/8 K/BB ratio.

Tovar made some modifications while adding strength to its chassis. His K is up 20.8% this year, but his walking rate has more than doubled from 3.6% in 2021 to 8.4% this season. This helped him continue to reach his growing strength a bit more and led to increases in nearly every offensive class, from OPS (.796 to .927) to WRC+ (105 to 151).

This is the thing. Even if he doesn’t hit Tovar, or make these offensive gains, he’ll still have major league value. Even if the bat doesn’t swing well here, Rockies fans will see how good he is as a defender in an excellent position. The minor league playing stats are tough, but the fact that he’s made only eight fouls in a total of 69 games at the top levels, at his age, says a lot.

Tovar is also simply not the type to count on. He has a phenomenal range, and while he does all the routine plays, he also makes an outstanding reel while making the often difficult play seem easy. Add one of the best weapons in the Minors game – we gave it a 70 on a Scout scale from 20 to 80 – which is the complete defensive package in a nutshell and he’ll be playing there for a very long time.

So the offense is meat sauce. But it has a chance of being a really good broth. Let Tovar get his feet wet here at the end of the season, then hand him the start-up job on Opening Day in 2023 and put him on any NFL starter rosters this year to go along with his mention in any conversation about future gold and Glove winners.


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