Today is the thrilling conclusion of the Winter 2013 Purple Row Prospects (PuRPs) list. Let's take a look at the future stars in Colorado's minor league system. All of these players are either potential MLB regulars (or even more than that).
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 5-1:
5. Kyle Parker (465 points, 19 ballots) -- Summer 2013 Ranking: 5 -- High Ballot 4, Mode (most common when ranked) Ballot 4, 6, 7
Parker, a 24 year-old righty outfielder who spent the year at age 23 for AA Tulsa, is a prospect that I missed on somewhat. The former Clemson QB and 2010 first round pick of the Rockies was expected to crush homers at the lower levels given his prodigious power, but he failed to dominate low A ball and in the first half of 2012 he was slowed by a hand injury.
However, there was a reason that Parker was a 1st round pick despite never fully investing all of his time in baseball. The power is there, the patience at the plate is improving, and the athleticism (for a corner outfield position, anyways) is certainly present -- though it's been said that he's the most likely internal replacement for Todd Helton down the line. And the results finally started to reflect the tools -- Parker's line in Modesto ended up a robust .308/.415/.562 -- and in the second half it ballooned to .326/.431/.628.
AA hasn't been the same walk in the park for Parker though - his .288/.345/.492 line leaves something to be desired for an offense-first prospect at an age appropriate level. For what it's worth, Parker's 135 wRC+ this season (35% better than league average) is an improvement upon Nolan Arenado's last year at Tulsa, though Arenado was 18 months younger and had more defensive utility. Also like Arenado, Parker played in the Arizona Fall League - though his .278/.320/.532 line in 104 plate appearances (129 wRC+ against pitching prospects with MLB futures) wasn't enough to earn the AFL MVP honors like Arenado got last year.
I'm a believer in Parker has MLB talent (I slotted him 6th on my list), though I'm not as high on him as I should be for Colorado's number five prospect. I believe he belongs here, but I'm just not yet a believer that he'll be a true impact player at the major league level.
Contract Status: 2010 1st Round, 40 Man Roster, 3 options remaining
MLB ETA: Late 2014
4. Rosell Herrera (495 points, 19 ballots) -- Summer 2013 Ranking: 8 -- High Ballot 2, Mode Ballot 4, 5, 6
Herrera, a 21 year-old switch-hitting SS who spent the year at age 20 for Low A Asheville, debuted on the PuRPs list back in Fall 2011 just ahead of current top ten PuRP and fellow shortstop Trevor Story due to an impressive stateside debut in rookie ball Casper - and now that he just went gangbusters in the South Atlantic League, he's back on top. Of all the great Latin American players that have come through Colorado's system (until this year, when two prospects got more), Herrera received the largest signing bonus ($550,000) as a 16 year-old. Keith Law (ESPN Insider) named the toolsy Herrera as the Rockies' top sleeper prospect going into 2012.
Unfortunately, that hit tool didn't quite manifest itself in Low A in 2012, as Herrera limped to a .202/.271/.272 line in part time duty in the crowded Asheville infield before being demoted to Tri City and redeeming himself somewhat (.284/.332/.351). This year has been a complete 180 from 2012 at Asheville for Herrera, who utterly dominated the league his second time around. Herrera played SS and hit a ridiculous .343/.419/.515 (168 wRC+) with 16 HRs, 49 XBHs, and 21 SB in 546 plate appearances, earning him the South Atlantic League MVP award.
This was just the kind of bounce back season Rockies fans had in mind for Herrera. I put Herrera 5th on my ballot, one spot behind Story. I did this because Story had a similar (albeit slightly less impressive) year in the SAL last year when he was just 19 and because Story is more likely to stick at shortstop at the major league level. In any case, Herrera had himself a heck of a year and I think we're all excited for what he can do next year at Modesto - where he might team up with Story again.
Contract Status: 2009 FA (DR), 40 Man Roster, 3 options remaining
MLB ETA: 2016
3. David Dahl (527 points, 19 ballots) -- Summer 2013 Ranking: 2 -- High Ballot 2, Mode Ballot 3
Dahl, a 19 year-old lefty outfielder at Low A Asheville, was Colorado's first round pick (10th overall) in the 2012 draft. To say that Dahl impressed in his professional debut would be an understatement. Playing against pitchers 2-3 years older than him on average, all Dahl did was hit .379/.423/.625 (winning the Pioneer League batting title by 41 points), run away with the Pioneer League MVP, and get named the top prospect in the league. In other words, Dahl had just about the best start to a professional career you could hope for from a first round pick.
Unfortunately, his 2013 campaign was a lost year. Dahl began by getting suspended by the team for missing a flight (by most accounts this was a one-time thing, not indicative of any other problems), then he tore his hamstring in May shortly after his return. The end result has been that Dahl was limited to just ten games in 2013. Even so, when he starts next year in Asheville, he'll be a very young 20 and I'm confident that he'll be able to rise to the challenge next year.
Dahl is a five tool talent when healthy that projects to stick in center field defensively and comfortably projects as a MLB regular with the potential for much more. The electorate agrees, with 15 of 19 ranking him in the top three (I had him 3rd) and none ranking him lower than 5th. Unfortunately, this lost season means that Rockies fans will have to wait just that much more as Dahl is still years away from the Show.
Contract Status: 2012 1st Round, Not Rule 5 Eligible, 3 options remaining
MLB ETA: 2017
2. Eddie Butler (549 points, 19 ballots) -- Summer 2013 Ranking: 3 -- High Ballot 2, Mode Ballot 2
Butler, a 23 year-old RHP who spent the year at age 22 for Low A Asheville, High A Modesto, and AA Tulsa, was probably the best pitcher in 2012 in the rookie-level Pioneer League, putting up a 7-1 record with a 2.13 ERA and 1.06 WHIP (albeit a merely okay 7.5 K/9). The bigger question was why Butler, Colorado's supplemental first round pick in 2012, was pitching in that league and not in short season Tri-City. Basically, we hadn't seen him pitch against advanced hitters yet. Well now we have, and Butler has not disappointed.
Butler has shown in a big way this season that he's an effective pitcher at higher levels. In fact, he had the best pitching year for anybody in the Rockies organization (though Dan Winkler has an argument). Over three levels this year (making at least six starts at each stop), Butler went 9-5 with a 1.80 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and a very respectable 8.6 K/9 in 150 innings pitched. The crazy thing was that in his six starts for AA Tulsa, Butler was even more impressive, posting a 0.65 ERA and 0.68 WHIP in 28 IP. He pitched so well early in the year that the Rockies had him on a five inning limit for most of his time in Modesto and Tulsa.
Oh by the way, Butler made his way onto Baseball Prospectus' Top 50 prospect list at #48 and earned a spot in the MLB Futures Game, where he struck out fellow top prospect Xander Bogaerts on three preposterous pitches. Don't watch those gifs if you can't handle the truth.
Everything's coming up Milhouse for Butler this year, as he ranked 2nd on 17 out of the 19 ballots (including mine). He's on the fast track to the big leagues - he'll probably start 2014 at Tulsa and make the move up to AAA if all goes well to begin the season. And who knows, Butler might be at Coors Field sometime this year.
Contract Status: 2012 Supplemental 1st Round, Not Rule 5 eligible, 3 options remaining
MLB ETA: Late 2014/2015
1. Jon Gray (570 points, 19 ballots) -- Summer 2013 Ranking: 1 -- High Ballot 1 (19), Mode Ballot 1
Gray, a 22 year-old RHP who spent the year at age 21 with rookie ball Grand Junction and High A Modesto, was Colorado's first round draft pick this year and probably has the highest ceiling of any pitcher the Rockies have ever drafted. The 3rd overall pick out of Oklahoma was the top player on my draft board coming in, so I was thrilled that he slid to the Rockies - who also managed to sign him for an under-slot (but still record) bonus of $4.8 million.
His professional debut was nothing short of explosive - a 1.93 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, and 12.3 K/9 over 37 innings. That includes a couple of starts where Gray was instructed to work on new pitches. In Modesto, Gray had four starts and 24 innings pitched - and his rate stats were a 0.75 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, and 13.5 K/9. That's preposterous.
Here's David OhNo's analysis on Gray:
On his best day, Gray is unhittable. He can touch triple digits, but sits more around 94 to 98 miles per hour with late life. His devastating slider was unfair in Big 12 play, and that pitch can also reach 91 mph. Gray also possess a promising change, but could get by on just two pitches at OU. At 6'4 and 230 pounds, Gray has a workhorse build, but was surprisingly efficient in college and can throw complete games in fewer than 120 pitches.
Here's some more material to get you excited about the new top PuRP:
Our own Drew Creasman also had several great articles about Gray - I encourage you to read them at your leisure:
Bob Apodaca on Gray (and Butler)
The stuff he showed this year is reflective of an ace ceiling with a floor of a mid-rotation starter or ace reliever at the MLB level, which is why all 19 voters voted Gray as the top PuRP. It's estimated that he will move quickly through the minors, probably starting next year in AA Tulsa with a late year big league call-up a possibility. I'm extremely excited for the Jonathan Gray era and you should be too.
Contract Status: 2013 1st Round, Not Rule 5 Eligible, 3 options remaining
MLB ETA: Late 2014/2015
To wrap up the Winter 2013 PuRPs list, I'll be posting the full list and a short recap of the voting tomorrow.