Drafted For His Bat, Zac Veen Is Working To Colorado

Coors Field
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports activities

The Colorado Rockies didn’t draft Zac Veen ninth general in 2020 due to his wheels. They did so as a result of he may bash baseballs. As Eric Longenhagen wrote the next spring, the left-handed-hitting outfielder possessed “the obvious long-term energy projection” amongst that yr’s highschool draftees, including that Veen’s “in-the-box actions are quiet and clean up till the second he decides to unleash hell on the baseball.” Longenhagen rated him the group’s prime prospect earlier than he had performed his first skilled sport.

Two seasons into his profession, Veen’s still-promising energy has been overshadowed by his operating sport. Via 232 contests, the 6-foot-4 Port Orange, Florida native has left the yard a modest 27 occasions and swiped an conceited 91 bases. Counting his past-season stint within the Arizona Fall League, these totals are 28 residence runs and 107 stolen bases in 253 video games.

I requested Veen, who got here in at No. 51 on Baseball America’s newly launched Prime 100 listing (our personal rankings are forthcoming), about his Eric Young Sr.-like theft numbers previous to an AFL sport final October. Was stealing a variety of bases a purpose coming into the 2022 season?

“Actually, it was simply one thing the place I realized lots final yr, and I needed to hold that over to this yr,” he informed me. “Loads of it is choosing the right time to run. Final yr I form of simply ran each time, and this yr I actually solely tried to run once I wanted to run.”

His success charge bears that out. After going 36-for-53 in stolen-base makes an attempt with Low-A Fresno in 2021, he went 55-for-64 this season between Excessive-A Spokane and Double-A Hartford. With the AFL’s Salt River Rafters, he went 16-for-18.

Veen saying that he tried to run solely when he wanted to run raised my eyebrows. The 21-year-old (as of December) ran 60-plus occasions over 126 regular-season video games, and that’s precisely not selecting your spots. It’s out-and-out aggression. Proper?

“I positively belief what I can do on the bases,” he replied. “It’s one thing I’ve all the time taken delight in. We labored on the operating sport a lot in highschool that it’s form of ingrained in my mind now. It’s one thing I’ll all the time have, and one thing that I’m going to maintain doing,”

The previous adage “You may’t steal first base” stays undeniably true, and plenty of minor-league speed-burners have flamed out for simply that purpose. Even when they do go on to succeed in the large leagues, an absence of on-base abilities enormously limits their worth (whats up, Billy Hamilton). Veen isn’t anticipated to have that downside. Whereas some expertise evaluators are backing off on their energy projections for the younger outfielder, plate self-discipline stays a energy, and his bat-to-ball abilities are thought-about stable. He fanned 132 occasions in 541 plate appearances this previous season, nevertheless it’s necessary to notice that he did in order a 20-year-old who performed his remaining 34 video games on the Double-A stage. He had a 12.5% stroll charge and a .368 OBP at Spokane earlier than ending at 11.8% and .340 after going through older and extra skilled arms in his month-plus with Hartford.

Requested in regards to the up-and-comer’s operating sport, Colorado GM Invoice Schmidt harassed the psychological element.

“Zac performs with a variety of ardour,” mentioned Schmidt, who spent many years as a scout earlier than shifting into his present position in October 2021. “What he’s proven is an aggressiveness, and never having concern. He had a profitable yr. [Stealing bases] is one ingredient of his sport, and we’ll see the place it goes from right here, the way it interprets.”

Veen declined to estimate what number of stolen bases he would possibly get on the big-league stage. Saying that he mainly simply “performs the sport and lets issues occur,” he claimed to not know many steals he had with Salt River on the time we spoke (it was 13 in 14 makes an attempt). However once more, thievery is one thing Veen takes delight in, and he pairs that with good on-base abilities. He received’t essentially need to grow to be an influence hitter with the intention to contribute in Colorado.

“You don’t all the time need to swing it to get in scoring place,” he mentioned. “Some days you may not even get good pitches to hit, but when you will get on base and use your legs, you may positively profit the crew. Velocity is simply one other software in my toolbox.”