Las Vegas, Nevada —— The Noel Cuevas playing for the Colorado Rockies‘ Triple-A affiliate Albuquerque Isotopes in 2017 is not the same guy who spent 2016 middling through an inconsistent .296/.331/.414/.744 campaign split between two levels. The Rockies even sent Cuevas off to the Arizona Fall League last October, which is where I first saw him, and he looked unimpressive: less than dynamic athletically with little by way of offensive firepower in his swing and a lack of real foot speed that could change the game in the outfield. Cuevas had been a fringe prospect at best anyways after coming over to Colorado in the Juan Nicasio trade after 2014, but he lacked the ‘oomph’ you’d expect of at trade chip coming out of the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ system.
What a difference a year makes, though. After an underwhelming AFL stint in October, I expected little of Cuevas when I sat on him playing with Albuquerque this spring, and I was more than pleasantly surprised by what I saw. The outfielder is far more dynamic this year than he was a year ago, with a noticeably stronger, more cut frame that should handle the everyday duties of baseball a little better. Beyond that, Cuevas reportedly was dealing with a hamstring injury for much of 2016 (which would explain his lack of dynamic athleticism), and only ever really got fully healthy after the season and the AFL finally ended. Healthy now, he looks great. He’s slashing .319/.350/.502/.852 through his first 80 games in Albuquerque this year, and he’s got more consistent access to his power swing, with 11 home runs in 313 at-bats. (He had just three home runs in 331 at-bats last year.)
Still just 25 years old, and not on the Colorado Rockies 40-man roster, Noel Cuevas will be a free agent at the end of the year. He’s still something of a fringe big league hopeful who should slot in as a fourth outfielder-type with little chance of making an everyday impact in The Show, but he’s going to draw some interest this winter as a potential minor league acquisition that could impress in spring training and eventually make a Major League impact. His significant change for the better between 2016 and 2017 alone should be a sign that there’s some mild projectability left to squeeze out of him, and in the next couple years, that may turn into minor opportunities to prove himself in the big leagues.
In a way similar to fellow Colorado Rockies outfielder Mike Tauchman, who quietly worked his way onto a big league roster for the first time earlier this summer, Noel Cuevas may yet sneak up on some people this year or next. Albuquerque is undoubtedly a great place to hit the ball, but the Puerto Rican outfielder’s improvement goes far beyond that now in his third season in the Rockies’ organization. The big league club has a deep contingent of outfield options in the upper minors, including eight outfielders currently listed on their 40-man roster, but Cuevas’ good health, his comeback from an unimpressive 2016, and his vastly improved athleticism all have put him at least somewhere on the radar for an eventual big league opportunity.
Noel Cuevas, OF, Colorado Rockies — Scouting Report Video
In addition to our notes on Noel Cuevas, we have two scouting videos on the Colorado Rockies prospect, as well — one from the 2016 Arizona Fall League, and a more recent one from an Albuquerque series on the road in Las Vegas in late April:
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