Second Chance: Rockies Attraction to Toglia Never Faded from High School to UCLA

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Three years ago, the Rockies made it known what they thought of first baseman Michael Toglia.

He was set on attending UCLA, but the Rockies used their 35th-round selection in the 2016 first-year player draft to select the switch-hitting first baseman. It is a move teams often making knowing they aren’t going to sign a high school player, but allowing them to open a dialogue that gives the organization a chance to get to know the prospect better.

Obviously, the Rockies liked what they saw and heard from the young man out of Gig Harbor, Wash. Tuesday, the Rockies, drafted Toglia a second time, this time with the 23rd selection in the first-round of this first-year player draft.

“Not only (did the Rockies see) the development of his tools, but also the physical, maturity and the mental maturity he has developed warranted him being selected where he was,” said Rockies scouting director Bill Schmidt.

As well as drafting Toglia, the Rockies took third baseman Aaron Schunk of the University of Georgia in the second round, with the 62nd pick overall, and used their Competitive Balance pick, the 77th selection overall, to draft right-handed pitcher Karl Kauffman of the University of Michigan.

The selection of Toglia marked the second time in the 28 years the Rockies have been a part of the draft that they have selected a first baseman with their first pick. The other? Todd Helton in 1995.

The 6-foot-5, 226-pound Toglia impressed scouts last summer in the Cape Cod League when he hit seven home runs, and he finished up strong this spring in his junior year at UCLA. He rallied from early season struggles to finish the regular season with a .311 average, 45 runs, 16 doubles, four triples,16 home runs and a .633 slugging percentage. He drew 25 walks and struck out 60 times.

Toglia was an All-Pac-12 first-team selection in 2018 and 2019.

Scouts say Toglia has an easy swing from both sides and are impressed with how he handles uptick fastballs. He is considered to be athletic enough to be a plus defensive first baseman, and there is some thought he could handle right field, but not stand out defensively like he can at first base.

He showed his ability to answer the challenge in No. 1 ranked UCLA’s back-to-back wins Sunday and Monday against Loyola-Marymount, allowing the Bruins to bounce back through the loser’s bracket in the NCAA regionals, and advance to the Super Regional next weekend against Michigan.

He hit a home run that got the Bruins started on their way to a 6-1 win against Loyola-Marymount on Monday, and after Toglia was charged with two errors in the first inning on Monday that allowed Loyola-Marymount to take a 2-0 lead, he delivered the third-inning home run that put the Bruins up 3-2 en route to a 6-3 win and the Super Regional berth.

In addition to playing third base, Schunk pitched in relief for Georgia, but Schmidt made it clear the Rockies “will use him as a corner position player, and primarily at third base.”

Schmidt said the Rockies had followed Kauffmann since he came out of high school, and was impressed with his “physical development, and as he progressed in his college career he has tightened up the strike zone. H also threw strikes, but his command has improved.”

Schmidt gave no credibility to suggestions Kauffmann could be converted into a reliever.

“We feel he has the ability to be a Major League starting pitcher,” said Schmidt. “There is development to be done, but he will go mid 90s (with his fastball) as a starter. He has an ability to miss bats and has an ability to get ground balls.”

With the first two rounds completed on Monday, MLB will continue the 40-round selection process on Tuesday and Wednesday.