Welker (suspension) began a rehab assignment July 26 at the Rockies' rookie-level Arizona Complex League affiliate and has since moved up to High-A Spokane. Welker has played six rehab games in total between the two affiliates, going 3-for-22 with a pair of walks and two doubles. The 23-year-old opened the season on the Rockies' restricted list after he was handed an 80-game suspension May 6 following a positive test of a banned substance. Since Welker was assigned to Triple-A Albuquerque coming out of spring training, he'll first be eligible to rejoin the affiliate Aug. 8. In the meantime, expect Welker to continue his rehab assignment in the lower levels of the minors for the next week.
Welker tested positive for a substance banned under Major League Baseball's Drug Prevention and Treatment Program and was suspended for 80 games Thursday. Welker released a statement through the MLB Players Association stating that he tested positive for use of Oral Turinabol. Prior to the suspension, he nearly broke camp with the big-league team and was expected to make an impact in Colorado this season. This suspension will delay that debut, though he reached Double-A Hartford in 2019, so he could still ultimately reach the majors very late in the campaign.
Welker was optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque on Saturday. Welker was being considered for a spot on the Opening Day roster this spring after slashing .366/.386/.512 with one home run and 10 RBI in 24 Cactus League games, but he'll head to Triple-A Albuquerque to begin the year. However, the 23-year-old could be in line to make his major-league debut at some point in 2021 if he continues to perform well in the minors.
The Rockies are giving consideration to carrying Welker on their Opening Day roster, Thomas Harding of MLB.com reports. Welker has experience at both corner-infield spots, but the Rockies are most likely viewing him as a candidate for duties at third base, since C.J. Cron has seemingly solidified himself as Colorado's everyday first baseman. The post-Nolan Arenado Rockies are far less settled at the hot corner, where Josh Fuentes (.714 OPS in 159 career MLB plate appearances) likely projects as the starter in the likely event Ryan McMahon is needed to fill in at second base for Brendan Rodgers (hamstring) to begin the season. Fuentes hasn't performed poorly enough this spring to lose his foothold atop the depth chart, but Welker has made himself relevant in the job battle by slashing .353/.378/.529 with a 23.5 percent strikeout rate over 34 plate appearances in Cactus League play. Harding notes that manager Bud Black has raved about Welker's maturity and power potential throughout the spring, so the 23-year-old looks like he'll have a legitimate shot to stake his claim to a roster spot over the final few spring games. Welker could be worth considering in the endgame of drafts, considering the upside he would have as a potential everyday player at Coors Field.
Welker was added to the Rockies' 40-man roster Friday. Welker will unsurprisingly join the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. The 23-year-old had a .721 OPS with 10 homers and 53 RBI in 2019 and was able to continue his development with the 60-man player pool last season.