That often happens to players with size (6-foot-3 in Doyle’s case), speed and periodically demonstrated power. Doyle, 24, has eyes on him because players with his measurables don’t often come in the fourth round out of Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.Va. Until players like him put it together, the questions they get are two “W’s” and an “N.” When? Why not?
Doyle overcame the questions and a slow early start to play his way into Major League consideration by the end of the season. He finished with a combined .256 batting average, 26 home runs and 77 RBIs in 132 games — 123 at Double-A Hartford and nine at Triple-A Albuquerque. In 41 Triple-A plate appearances, Doyle whetted appetites with a .389/.463/.778 slash line.
“The organization always talked about how tough the Eastern League is, and that’s a true man’s league — it has teeth,” said Doyle, who was placed on the Rockies’ 40-man Major League roster last week and is clearly on their radar. “I was able to prove a lot of people wrong. A lot of people have faith in me now.”
It didn’t look that way when Doyle was hitting .215 with 80 strikeouts after his first 58 games. But through those struggles, Doyle still had seven home runs. He believed that once he found the right adjustments, his ability would shine.
“Darin Everson, our hitting coordinator, came into Hartford,” Doyle said. “I was playing pretty well — getting by, putting up some numbers, but not exactly the numbers I wanted to put up. [At] a practice before one of the first games of the series, he wanted me to try a little swing adjustment with my hand positioning — instead of up near my head, [having my hands] down toward my torso. It helped a lot of movements up.”
The pitches Doyle had been swinging beneath, he began to barrel, and he hit his way out of Double-A.
The right-handed-hitting Doyle’s performance put him in line for a long look in Spring Training, even though the expectation is that he will start the year in Albuquerque. But he is part of a wave of outfielders that is included in general manager Bill Schmidt’s offseason strategy. The team could use a proven outfielder, preferably a lefty hitter who plays center field. Free agent Brandon Nimmo fits the bill, but it remains to be seen whether he will be in the Rockies’ price range. And the recent non-tender of Cody Bellinger introduced a unique and intriguing option to the mix.
How the Rockies approach filling their holes will be influenced by the presence of a few talented rising players.
Lefty-hitting Nolan Jones, 24, acquired last week from the Guardians, brings power. Righty-hitting Sean Bouchard impressed Colorado with controlled at-bats in his late-season trial. Doyle and No. 1 Rockies/No. 23 overall prospect Zac Veen is in line for Major League debuts in 2023, and No. 6 prospect Benny Montgomery, who is just 20, could move quickly if physical maturity comes.
How close is Doyle? The Rockies will be patient, but they like what they see.
“From the moment I laid eyes on Brenton, I saw a tooled-up, good athlete,” Schmidt said. “The bat still has some work to do as far as understanding the strike zone and getting the on-base percentage up there. He did play well the last two weeks after we sent him to Albuquerque. When it comes to tools, you won’t find many players like him. If he hits, we could have a pretty impactful player.”