We're entering the top half of the Winter 2013 Purple Row Prospects (PuRPs) list. In this edition of the PuRPs poll, 19 ballots were cast, with 30 points being granted for a first place vote, 29 for second, etc. Until a player was named on 7 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 7 ballots.
For each player on the PuRPs list, I've included a link to their stats (via Baseball-Reference), their contract status (via Rockies Roster), their probable MLB ETA (assuming they do make the Show), and a note on their 2013 season. For what it's worth, I'll also include where I put them on my personal ballot. All ages are as of April 1st, 2014.
Remember that the statistics pages are not 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:
15. Jayson Aquino (287 points, 18 ballots) -- Summer 2013 Ranking: 12 -- High Ballot 12, Mode Ballot (most common when ranked) 12
Aquino, a 21 year-old LHP who spent the year at age 20 pitching for short-season Tri-City and Low A Asheville, had been dominant every season he pitched for the Rockies organization - until he moved to Low A ball late last year. Until the move to Asheville, Aquino had a career line of 22-7, 1.53 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, and a 8.4 K/9 rate over 282.2 innings. In other words, his performance as a professional had been pretty ridiculous.
Once you get over the crazy numbers, it's important to consider context. Aquino pitched in the DSL for 2.5 years, which does suppress power particularly. It's an environment where pitchers with great control like Aquino can thrive by pitching to contact. Then again, while Aquino didn't strike out as many hitters in Grand Junction (7.5 K/9) and Tri-City (6.3 K/9), he was pretty darn effective in both spots (2.31 ERA, 1.04 WHIP over 66 IP between the two).
Of course, Aquino struggled a little bit for the first time in his career in the move to Asheville, going 0-9 in 11 games pitched over 64 IP. He posted a 4.78 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, and 8.0 K/9 rate - still very decent numbers for a 20 year-old in the SAL, though the W-L record doesn't show it. I'm actually more impressed that Aquino was able to increase his K rate by moving up a level, as it's a better indicator that he may be able to get hitters out at the next level.
Aquino (who placed 16th on my ballot) was placed on the 40 man roster this year, indicating that the Rockies feel he is an integral part of their future. He's a lower ceiling pitcher, but he's gotten results at every level. Given the conservative way they've handled Aquino so far, it wouldn't surprise me to see him back at Asheville next year, but he could spend most of the year in High A Modesto too.
Contract Status: 2009 Amateur Free Agent (DR), 40 Man Roster, 3 options remaining
MLB ETA: Late 2016
14. Tyler Matzek (309 points, 18 ballots) -- Summer 2013 Ranking: 9 -- High Ballot 7, Mode Ballot 12
Matzek, a 23 year-old LHP who pitched for AA Tulsa at age 22 this year, is Colorado's most controversial prospect given his first round pedigree and complete roller coaster of a minor league career to this point. His warts have been well publicized at this point -- he has unusual mechanics (he follows the Mike Marshall method) and a different pitching philosophy that emphasizes throwing any pitch in any count. As a result, Matzek's walk rates are astronomically high -- he has a career BB/9 of 6.3 and a WHIP of 1.59. This leads to Matzek posting less innings per start - his career average outing length is a hair over five innings.
Then again, Matzek also has a career K/9 rate of 8.5 and H/9 of 8.1. This year in Tulsa, Matzek noticeably backed off the gas and pitched more to contact, essentially making him a different pitcher. This has had the result of lowering the BB/9 rate to 4.8, but his H/9 rate jumped to at 9.1 and his K/9 rate dipped to 6.0, resulting in a 3.79 ERA and 1.57WHIP. The result was a thoroughly weird but oddly effective season at AA.
I no longer buy into Matzek's upside as a mid-rotation starter (I dropped him to 11 on my ballot), but he's might have a future as a left-handed bullpen arm or fringe starter. The age, stuff, and proximity to the majors would suggest yes, but the deflated K rate is a point against that. We'll see if the Rockies (who added him to the 40 man roster this off-season) put Matzek in AAA to start the year or if they send him back to Tulsa. When it comes to Matzek, expect the unexpected.
Contract Status: 2009 1st Round, 40 Man Roster, 3 options remaining
MLB ETA: Late 2014
13. Cristhian Adames (311 points, 19 ballots) -- Summer 2013 Ranking: 20-- High Ballot 9, Mode Ballot 10
Adames, a 21 year-old shortstop for AA Tulsa this year, has never been mistaken for a slugger. After all, his career hitting line is .271/.345/.359. There are two big reasons why Adames rates so highly on this list (and even more highly on my ballot at 10): his great defense at a premium position and his decent year at Tulsa (.267/.331/.350) despite being young for the league.
Baseball America ranked Adames as being the best defensive infielder in Colorado's system, and if he continues to hold his own at the plate, a major league career as a utility player is a near certainty. It's easy to look at Adames and see Jonathan Herrera. It's also easy to forget that Herrera has been in the league for several years now -- and that Adames is younger with a better batting line than Herrera had at this point in his career.
Cristhian's high floor makes a major league career very likely...and if that bat develops more, he'll be something more than a utility player. Given his 40 man roster slot and defensive utility, Adames might be the AAA shortstop next year for Colorado at age 21 with a possible big league call-up as soon as September.
Contract Status: 2008 FA (DR), 40 Man Roster, 2 options remaining
MLB ETA: Late 2014
12. Dan Winkler (339 points, 19 ballots) -- Summer 2013 Ranking: 14 -- High Ballot 4, Mode Ballot 11, 14
Winkler, a 24 year-old RHP who spent the year pitching at age 23 for High A Modesto and AA Tulsa, raised his stock this year more than any other Rockies pitcher not named Eddie Butler with a dominant year at Modesto, including a shared no-hitter. In all, Winkler went 13-7 this year over two levels with a 2.98 ERA, a fantastic 0.98 WHIP, and struck out 175 batters in 157 innings pitched (10.0 K/9) while walking just 47 (2.7 BB/9). His strikeouts total led the entire minor leagues this year.
Sure, the 20th round pick in 2010 was maybe a little old for a prospect in the California League, but he was basically the same guy in the age appropriate Texas League - and we certainly can't expect him to perform any better at those levels than he did in 2013. Here's Charlie's interview with Winkler for more on his success this year.
The back-end starter projection (which goes out the window if he keeps up that K rate at higher levels) and age relative to level were all that kept Winkler down at 14 on my ballot. Continuing this performance at Tulsa or Colorado Springs (likely Tulsa) next year should shoot him into the top 10.
Contract Status: 2010 20th Round, Rule 5 Eligible, 3 options remaining
MLB ETA: 2015
11. Ryan Casteel (350 points, 18 ballots) -- Summer 2013 Ranking: 24 -- High Ballot 7, Mode Ballot 9
Casteel, a 22 year-old catcher at High A Modesto, had the biggest jump (13 spots) of any player who was on the Summer 2013 PuRPs List. Like Taylor Featherston, Casteel entered the year in another prospect's shadow - fellow catcher Will Swanner. Last year Swanner destroyed the South Atlantic League...and this time Casteel tore apart the California League while being given a full season's worth of plate appearances for the first time.
In 108 games and 469 PAs this year, Casteel produced a batting line of .270/.352/.523 with 22 HRs (56 XBHs). While Swanner and Casteel alternated between catcher and DH this year, scouting reports have indicated that Casteel is the more refined receiver and is more likely to stick behind the dish. That combined with his results this year (and Swanner's struggles) have jumped Casteel over Swanner on the catching ladder - he'll probably move up to Tulsa while Swanner might repeat initially at Modesto. Casteel ranked 15th on my list due to his position and strong offensive year, but he'll be a top ten player if he has a repeat of that season at Tulsa in 2014.
Contract Status: 2010 17th Round, Rule 5 eligible, 3 options remaining
MLB ETA: Late 2015
Stay tuned for more installments of the 2013 Winter PuRPs List in the near future!