By Joshua Huff, sports editor
A new MLB season ushers in reinvigorated hopes and dreams for thousands of minor league players looking to stand out amid the logjam of prospects scattered throughout the the country.
One of those players is former Hewitt-Trussville star Tyler Tolbert, who now dons the burgundy and black of the Rookie Advanced Idaho Falls Chukars. As Tolbert enters his second season in the minor league system, the center fielder looks to climb his way up the ladder in the hopes of positioning himself for a potential MLB call-up in the coming years.
In his first season with the Chukars, Tolbert averaged .362 at the plate with 13 hits and two stolen bases in nine games. In his first taste of the minor leagues in the Arizona League, Tolbert posted a 174 PA, .221/.349/.250/.599, 0 HR, 3 XBH, 26 SB, 0.54 BB/K, 81 wRC+ stat line in his first 41 games with the Rookie League Arizona Royals.
This season, the 6-foot, 160-pound Tolbert enters the start of spring training as the No. 73-ranked prospect in the Kansas City Royal’s farm organization. Per the Royal Farm Report, Tolbert is describes as follows:
“Like a long list of Royals prospects before him, Tyler Tolbert can absolutely fly. Tolbert shows good promise at the plate with his ability to make contact, and with his defensive ability in CF, but it will be the legs that carry him through the system. If he can just hit for as much power as someone like Nicky Lopez, and cut down on the strikeouts a bit, Tolbert has some tools that could carry him to the big leagues.”
This coming season will be a test for Tolbert. Some organizations categorize their prospects in tiers based on their chances of ever making the big leagues. Prospects1500 lists prospects in five tiers, with the top 4 tiers listing those players who will more than likely make it to the Show. Tier 5, prospects ranked from No. 42 to No. 50, have a slight chance but are unlikely to make the jump. Anyone listed higher will more than likely experience the heartbreak of slogging through the minors with no hope in sight.
Of course, optimism is crucial in the fight to separate one’s self in the minors. Many players develop over time and become indispensable pieces to a 40-man rotation. Tolbert could very well prove to be just that. He was a vital cog at UAB. While with the Blazers, Tolbert stole 41 bases, which ranked him fifth nationally. He also ranked inside the top 10 for stolen bases at UAB with 76. In his career at UAB, Tolbert started 131 games, recorded 110 hits and scored 82 runs.
“I am a very hard worker that loves the game and loves his teammates,” Tolbert told the Royals Farm Report in 2019. “I like to be a high energy guy on the field and a selfless person in the locker room whom my teammates love being around.”
Only time will tell for Tolbert, but the growth, or lack there of, between the first season and second season in the minors usually is a good barometer for how a player’s journey to become a major leaguer will play out.
Either way, the path forward for the former Hewitt-Trussville star will be fun to watch.