Versatile Michael Toglia shines in second season for Colorado Rockies

Michael Toglia of the Colorado Rockies has no preference whether he is stationed at first base or in the outfield.

For Toglia, a 2019 first-round draft choice (23rd overall pick) who is now in his second year in the Majors with the Colorado Rockies, his versatility on defense is proving beneficial.

“Versatility is the name of the game,” said the 25-year-old, who has 20 starts at first base and another 10 starts in the outfield for Colorado this season. “Whatever can get your bat in the lineup is key. If that means playing in the outfield, then you bet I am going to do it.”

A native of Phoenix, Toglia is blossoming into a defensive stalwart for the youthful Rockies no matter where he has seen playing time.

The versatile Michael Toglia has split playing in 2023 between first base and the outfield for the Colorado Rockies

Through action of August 19, he has yet to commit an error in 182 chances on the infield and has handled 30 opportunities flawlessly in the outfield, predominantly in right field.

Does the left-handed throwing Toglia prefer one position over the other?

“Not really,” he said. “First base is probably a more natural position but I enjoy playing outfield, for sure.”

Toglia, who played collegiately at UCLA, showed flashes of his natural ability in the infield in Colorado’s game August 18 against the Chicago White Sox at Coors Field.

With one out in the third inning and Chicago leadoff hitter Elvis Andrus on first base, Toglia cleanly fielded a grounder off the bat of Andrew Benintendi, stepped on first base and then fired to teammate Ezequiel Tovar to tag out a sliding Andrus at second base to complete a double play.

Then, in the sixth inning, Toglia fielded a sharp ground to start a more traditional 3-6-3 double play, again off the bat of Benintendi and again doubling Andrus at second base.

Plays like that by the young first baseman have caught the eye of Colorado manager Bud Black.

“He’s a very good defensive first baseman,” Black said. “That’s been his calling card on that side of the ball. He’s very confident in his ability to play first (base). That’s evident. That was part of his attraction. When scouts saw him play, that was part of his game.”

Toglia, who made his Major League debut nearly one year ago (August 30, 2022), admits that there is a difference in his approach defensively between the infield and outfield.

“First base is fun because you’re in the play, pretty much every play you’re doing something,” said the switch-hitter who grew up a New York Yankees fan and admired then-Yankees switch-hitting first baseman Mark Teixeira, a five-time Gold Glove Award winner.

“You’re moving around,” he added about playing first base. “In the outfield, you can go stretches where you’re not really involved. (In the infield) I like moving my feet, coming in to get ground balls, stuff like that. But, that being said, running to a fly ball is fun, too.”

With the departure of regular first baseman C.J. Cron, who was shipped by the Rox to the Los Angeles Angels at this year’s trade deadline, Toglia has been sharing playing time since at first base with Elehuris Montero.

“We’ve become really good friends over the years,” he said of his relationship with Montero. I speak fairly good Spanish (Montero hails from the Dominican Republic). I have talked to him quite a bit and have gotten to know him pretty well. He’s one of my buddies for sure.”

Toglia, who was drafted by the Rockies in the 35th round of the 2016 draft but decided to play at UCLA at that time, is on his third stint on Colorado’s active roster in 2023.

Since his last recall on July14, he is slashing .157/.235/.258 through games of August 19. He amassed a career-best five-game hitting streak in late July.

Working to improve on his offensive production remains one of his goals.

“You can always get better, more consistent,” he said. “Learning to hit in the big leagues is one of the last steps. I am going to develop it. I feel like I am making progress and am feeling good in the (batter’s) box. I have a solid approach that lets me hit the ball hard and I think the hits are coming.”

Once those offensive numbers start mirroring his success in the field, Toglia will have an even greater impact with the current rendition of the Blake Street Bombers.