Today is the thrilling conclusion of the Summer 2013 Purple Row Prospects (PuRPs) list. Let's take a look at the future stars in Colorado's minor league system. Non first-rounders (or supplemental first round) need not apply for the top five.
As a reminder, 21 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 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 this 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 to date. For what it's worth, I'll also include where I put them on my personal ballot.
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 (543 points, 21 ballots) -- Fall 2012 Ranking: 4 -- High Ballot 3, Mode (most common when ranked) Ballot 4
Parker, a 23 year-old righty outfielder in 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 .271/.327/.459 line leaves something to be desired for an offense-first prospect at an age appropriate level. For what it's worth, Parker's 120 wRC+ this season (20% 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.
In other words, I'm a believer in Parker has MLB talent (I slotted him 8th on my list), though I'm not as high on him as most, and I hope that his second half in Tulsa resembles 2012's second half.
Contract Status: 2010 1st Round, Rule 5 Eligible After 2013, 3 options remaining
MLB ETA: Late 2014
4. Trevor Story (544 points, 21 ballots) -- Fall 2012 Ranking: 3 -- High Ballot 3, Mode Ballot 4
Story, a 20 year-old righty shortstop at High A Modesto, was ranked as the top prospect in the rookie level Pioneer League by Baseball America after 2011 and he showed us why in Asheville in 2012 (he was the #2 prospect in BA's SAL list this year). As one of the youngest players in the league and playing the toughest defensive position well, Story hit an impressive .277/.367/.505 (138 wRC+), including an impressive 67 XBHs.
Unfortunately, Story has had a terrible year in High A Modesto, hitting just .209/.277/.339 (63 wRC+) - though he has managed to steal 12 bases without being caught. It's his first real brush with growing pains as a prospect, and it will be very revealing to see how he bounces back in the second half of the year. He might be in line to repeat High A next year a la Rosell Herrera (maybe even a demotion to Low A this year if the struggles continue).
Scouts have indicated that he's a potential five tool shortstop at the major league level, and Story has certainly shown flashes of that potential. I ranked him 3rd on my list as an elite bat with great defense, and I'm hopeful that he can right the ship at High A the rest of the year.
Contract Status: 2011 Supplemental 1st Round, Not Rule 5 eligible, 3 options remaining
MLB ETA: Late 2015
3. Eddie Butler (554 points, 21 ballots) -- Fall 2012 Ranking: 13 -- High Ballot 2, Mode Ballot 3
Butler, a 22 year-old RHP at High A Modesto, was probably the best pitcher last year 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.
Fortunately, Butler has shown in a big way this season that he's an effective pitcher at higher levels. In fact, it's a two horse race between him and Dan Winkler over who has had the best pitching season in the Rockies organization. Over two levels this year, Butler has gone 8-2 with a 2.01 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and a very respectable 8.5 K/9 in 98 innings pitched - leading to speculation that he might finish this year at his 3rd level by pitching with AA Tulsa in the playoffs.
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. Everything's coming up Milhouse for him this year. Butler jumped ten slots in this year's balloting and he's a good candidate to stay in the upper echelon (I ranked him 5th), particularly if he continues his success at higher levels.
Contract Status: 2012 Supplemental 1st Round, Not Rule 5 eligible, 3 options remaining
MLB ETA: Late 2014/2015
2. David Dahl (607 points, 21 ballots) -- Fall 2012 Ranking: 1 -- High Ballot 1 (2), Mode Ballot 2
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 has been a bit of a lost year. Dahl began by getting suspended by the team for missing a flight, then he tore his hamstring in May shortly after his return. The end result has been that Dahl has been limited to just ten games in 2013.
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 18 of 21 ranking him in the top two (I had him 2nd) and none ranking him lower than 4th. 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: Late 2016
1. Jonathan Gray (622 points, 21 ballots) -- Fall 2012 Ranking: NR -- High Ballot 1 (18), Mode Ballot 1
Gray, a 21 year-old RHP assigned to rookie ball Grand Junction, 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 underslot (but still record) bonus of $4.8 million.
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:
The stuff is reflective of an ace ceiling with a floor of amid-rotation starter or ace reliever at the MLB level, which is why 18 of the 21 voters (myself included) 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 Summer 2013 PuRPs list, I'll be posting the full list and a short recap of the voting.