Spring PuRPs List: #15-11

DENVER, CO - JUNE 15: Charlie Blackmon #8 of the Colorado Rockies hits an RBI single in the sixth inning against the San Diego Padres at Coors Field on June 15, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockies defeated the Padres 6-3. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

This is the 4th of 6 installments of the Spring 2012 PuRPs list. Here are PuRPs 30-26, 25-21, and 20-16. As a reminder, 31 ballots were cast in this edition of the PuRPs poll, with 30 points being granted for a first place vote, 29 for second, etc. Until a player was named on 11 ballots, his vote totals were modified on a sliding scale to avoid an individual ballot having too much say over the community forecast -- but none of the above players had that problem, as all 30 players on the PuRPs list were named on at least 14 ballots.

For each player on the PuRPs list, I've included a link to their stats (via Baseball-Reference), their relevant "tool score indicators" compared to their league on a 1-100 scouting scale (which is explained here) per the wonderful Baseball Cube, their contract status (via Rockies Roster), their probable MLB ETA (assuming they do make the Show), and a note on their 2012 season to date. For what it's worth, I'll also include where I put them on my personal ballot.

Remember that neither the tool scores nor the statistics pages are the end-all be-all when evaluating these players. Context is hugely important (such as the player's age relative to the league's average or the league average offensive numbers), as is the fact that injuries to prospects can affect both their tools and their stats.

Here are PuRPs 15-11 -- there's a lot of exciting prospects in this bunch:

15. Charlie Blackmon (459 points, 27 ballots) -- Fall 2011 Ranking: 10 -- High ballot 6, Mode (most common when placed) ballot 10, 14, 16

The 25 year-old (for another 2 weeks) Blackmon, a lefty outfielder currently rehabbing an injury in short season Tri-City, has had a pretty tough 2012. In the hitter's paradise that is Colorado Springs last year, the lefty outfielder mashed, hitting .337/.393/.572 with 33 XBHs in 58 games, which earned him a call-up to the Show in June and the eternal love of Fangraphs' Carson Cistulli. He struggled in MLB, hitting just .255/.277/.296 in an admittedly small sample size (27 games, 102 PAs) before going down with a season-ending injury -- a fractured foot.

Unfortunately, that fractured foot and nagging turf toe has turned 2012 into a season very unlike 2011 for Blackmon -- as he's played in just 21 games this year with a combined hitting line of .187/.265/.320. When he's right, the toolsy outfielder has flashed the combination of a sweet swing, great contact skills, and plus speed thus far in his MiLB career. His minor league line to date is .310/.310/.468 with 76 steals, after all.

The most likely outcome for Blackmon, if he recovers well from his injury, is that he sticks in MLB as a 4th outfielder -- that is why I placed him at 14 on my ballot. The thing with the Rockies system though is that there are a lot of outfielders that potentially fit this description -- Blackmon is the 5th highest outfielder on this list -- and none of the rest crack the top 8 PuRPs!

Hit Tools

Speed
85
Contact
90
Patience
25
Batting
91
Power
57

Contract Status: 2008 2nd Round, 40 Man Roster, 2 options remaining

MLB ETA: Late 2012, health permitting

14. Corey Dickerson (566 points, 30 ballots) -- Fall 2011 Ranking: 19 -- High ballot 4, Mode ballot 12

Here is a player that has really capitalized on the opportunities that he has been given -- and the fans are rewarding him in this ranking (I put him at 16 on my ballot). The 23 year-old lefty outfielder now plying his trade for AA Tulsa has raked at every stop -- his .338/.396/.583 line with 37 XBHs in 60 games for High A Modesto this year was enough to get him the in-season promotion. That's a pretty rare occurrence for the Rockies, especially this early.

Despite his relative anonymity and absence of prospect hype, Dickerson has grabbed attention with his career minor league line of .312/.378/.614 over 4 levels in 2.5 seasons. That kind of line will get you a perfect "power" tool score of 100 and a promotion to AA. Now we'll see how Dickerson handles this challenge. If he keeps hitting like this, he could be a major league contributor in, you guessed it, the 4th outfielder role in the near future.

Hit Tools

Speed
61
Contact
31
Patience
59
Batting
71
Power
100

Contract Status: 2010 8th round, Not Rule 5 Eligible, 3 options remaining

MLB ETA: 2014

13. Will Swanner (577 points, 31 ballots) -- Fall 2011 Ranking: 21 -- High ballot 6, Mode ballot 12

Ask a number of scouts who has the most raw power in Colorado's farm system and you'll get a few answers. Many will say Kyle Parker or Kent Matthes. The tool scores will say Corey Dickerson. However, the correct answer to that question just may be the 20 year-old Asheville catcher, Will Swanner.

The righty has already made a name for himself as a hitter of mammoth homers -- but he's also garnered a reputation for poor plate discipline. This stems from his first year in Casper, where Swanner struck out 33 times in 76 plate appearances and walked zero times. Fortunately, this stopped being true to an extent last year and much more so this year.

Swanner still strikes out a fair amount (23% of PA), but he has also drawn walks (11% of PA). Oh, and he's hitting .333/.418/.612 as a 20 year-old catcher in the SAL. No wonder people get a little excited about the kid (I put him 8th on my ballot). He might not stick as a catcher defensively at higher levels, but those hit tools will play fine at first base or a corner outfield position. He's a little ways away, but with Swanner there's All-Star potential if everything breaks right.

One bonus fun fact about Swanner -- he has 114 hits in his professional career. Of those,62 (54%) have gone for extra bases. That's insane. It's also how you get a career minor league line of .298/.374/.592.

Hit Tools

Speed
15
Contact
5
Patience
78
Batting
37
Power
98

Contract Status: 2010 15th Round, Not Rule 5 Eligible, 3 options remaining

MLB ETA: 2015/2016

12. Rafael Ortega (589 points, 30 ballots) -- Fall 2011 Ranking: 15 -- High ballot 4, Mode ballot 11, 13

When compared to the Corey Dickersons, Kent Matthes(es), and even Charlie Blackmons of this list, Rafael Ortega -- a 21 year-old lefty outfielder in High A Modesto -- will certainly not present an impressive offensive profile. After all, Ortega is nominally a speedy lead-off hitter.

The big difference between Ortega and the above players is that he can stick in center field at the major league level while providing a decent bat with speed at the top of the order (he's leading off and hitting .286/.333/.403 as one of the youngest players in the California League). There's considerable value in that, which is why I had Ortega 6th on my PuRPs ballot. In fact, Ortega was easily the highest outfield prospect that I rated.

Ortega is a player whose MLB future is quite likely despite how far he is from the Show, because even if his power doesn't develop fully, there's always room for a speedy, above average defensive center fielder with good contact ability. And if the power does develop...well that would be a delight to be sure.

Hit tools

Speed
88
Contact
77
Patience
38
Batting
90
Power
55

Contract Status: 2008 Amateur Free Agent (VZ), Rule 5 Eligible After 2012, 3 options remaining

MLB ETA: 2014

11. Edwar Cabrera (606 points, 30 ballots) -- Fall 2011 Ranking: 13 -- High ballot 4, Mode ballot 14

The thing that is important to understand when you look at Edwar Cabrera's numbers is that an inordinately large amount of his earned runs have come via the long ball. The 24 year-old LHP starter at AA Tulsa has given up 30 earned runs in 91 innings -- good enough for a 2.97 ERA. A full 14 of those runs have directly come from homers, with more indirectly coming around from runners on base.

This is how a starter can have a 2.97 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP, as Cabrera does. That 1.4 HR/9 rate is very strange for a pitcher who has otherwise been exceptionally effective. After all, Cabrera led all of minor league baseball in strikeouts last year with 217 over 2 levels (not to mention a 3.34 ERA and 1.17 WHIP).

The book on Cabrera is that he's more of a finesse lefty with good command whose stuff won't strike out as many hitters at upper levels, which has borne itself out to a degree this season in AA. When your previous year K/9 rate is 11.9, it's hard to go up -- but his K/9 is a relatively respectable 7.2 this year.

The bottom line with Cabrera is that he's always been a little old for his level (and has been dominant at almost every step, with a career K/9 of 11.1), but there's been questions about where his ceiling lies given the nature (finesse, trickery) of his success. I think that he's been an ace for Tulsa this year, which bodes well for his future MLB placement. I put him at 11 on my ballot this spring because I believe that he will be a MLB starter for the Rockies on a regular basis as early as next year, with a cameo this year not out of the question.

Pitch tools

Control
66
K-Rating
95
Efficiency
66
vsPower
41

Contract Status: 2008 Amateur Free Agent (DR), 40 Man Roster, 2 options remaining

MLB ETA: Late 2012/2013

It might be worth noting that I rated these 5 prospects on average slightly better than PuRPs 10-6, which will appear tomorrow.

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