Rockies Prospects: End of season Minor League awards; Pure Hitters

Rosell Herrera - Charlie Drysdale

A look back at the best pure hitters in the Rockies organization this season. Swing-and-miss need not apply.

Some of the Rockies top hitting prospects graduated to the major leagues this offseason: Corey Dickerson, Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon made a strong case that they belong on a big league roster, leaving the system with new up-and-comers to turn our eyes to.

Last week I focused on the Rockies prospects who had the best power-season in the system this year. This week, I'm reviewing the players who posted the best pure-hitting in the Rockies organization this year. The criteria used for measuring these players was wRC+ (a stat that measures the runs created by a player with 100 being average), Batting Average and Strikeout Percentage. Originally I wanted to rely on wRC+ alone because it tends to normalize hitters parks and leagues. Unfortunately, the wRC+ stat doesn't normalize enough to give players in the Texas and Northwest Leagues a chance and would have left us with three Asheville players at the top of the list.

Strikeout percentage was an important measuring tool because, as Trevor Story proved this season, holes in a players swing can severely hinder their performance against better pitching competition. So here's my list of the best pure hitting prospect performances in the Rockies system this year, feel free to chime in with your own opinion in the comments:

Gold Star - Raimel Tapia

Center fielder, Grand Junction (.357 AVG, 10.8 K%, 141 wRC+)

Signed by the Rockies in 2010 with a six figure bonus, Raimel Tapia led the Pioneer League with a .357 average 30 points higher than the next-best hitter. Tapia's 29-game hitting streak surpassed Grand Junction's previous record of 27 by 2012 first round pick David Dahl and was just three games shy of the all-time Pioneer League record set by Marlins infielder Chris Valaika in 2006.

Tapia showed power with his swing as well, slugging 33 extra base hits, including 20 doubles-- nearly matching Kyle Parker's total for the season. At 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds, Tapia has plenty of frame to fill out and could lead to an even higher power surge as he matures. Tapia was described by Tony Diaz, the Rockies Rookie-level Developmental Supervisor, as the best pure hitter to come out of the Dominican academy.

"This guy, in my opinion, is probably the best pure hitter out of the (Dominican) academy that we've had." -Tony Diaz, Grand Junction Rockies Developmental Supervisor on Raimel Tapia

At just 19, there's little chance that Tapia will skip a level to start next season. The Rockies will most likely show patience with the young lefty and start him in Single-A Asheville alongside David Dahl in a talented outfield.

Tapia earned the Gold star because of the tools which led him to being such a productive hitter for the Rockies this season. He is extremely comfortable he was at the plate and excels at avoiding strikeouts. His strikeout rate of just 10.6% was tied with shortstop Alec Mehrten for the best among stateside players. Tapia has a low center of gravity and a bat that stays in the hitting zone for a long period of time leading to hitting streaks such as the kind we've come to enjoy from prospects such as Corey Dickerson and other high profile contact hitters.

Silver Star - Rosell Herrera

Shortstop, Asheville (.343 AVG, 17.6 K%, 168 wRC+)

Signed with the same class as Jayson Aquino in 2009, Rosell Herrera led the Dominican signings with a bonus of $550,000. All Herrera did in 2013 was lead the South Atlantic League in hitting with a .343 average and finishing second with a .168 wRC+. The switch hitter's average was 28 points higher than second place and fellow Rockies prospect Francisco Sosa (.315). Rosell stumbled in August, but posted a .948 OPS or higher in every other month of the year, good enough for 49 XBH's on the season.

The 6-foot-3 shortstop had a huge bounce back season coming on the heels of a 2012 when he struggled in Asheville and was ultimately demoted to finish the year in Short-season Tri-City. Herrera showed a lot of resolve to not only show he belonged in A-ball, but that he was head of the class.

There are two leagues in the Low-A minor leagues and Baseball America chose one player for each as the Best Batting Prospect and Most Exciting Player; the Twins prospect Byron Buxton was chosen for the Midwest League, while Rosell Herrera was the pick for the SAL. It's pretty impressive credentials to be selected alongside Buxton, who was also ranked the Minor League Player of the Year by BA.

The 20-year-old Herrera still has a lot to prove to Rockies officials, such as if this season was a fluke and if he can stick at shortstop. Those questions most likely leave him taking a single level jump to High-A Modesto next season. The switch-hitting prospect earns the silver star because he's one of the most exciting players to watch in the Rockies system and I'm glad to see that he's made his way back to becoming a solid prospect with a future in Colorado.

Bronze Star - Mike Tauchman

Right fielder, Tri-Cities (.297, 20.1 K%, 129 wRC+)

Drafted in the 10th round out of Bradley, Tauchman led all of NCAA Division I with a .425 average his senior season. While at Short-season Tri-Cities, the right fielder hit .297 with 13 doubles and showed impressive speed with 20 steals including a straight steal of home on August 30th. Between his college performance and the numbers he put up in a very pitcher-friendly Northwest League, I'm giving Tauchman the benefit of the doubt and awarding him with the third best pure hitting performance by a farmhand this season.

Baseball America described the Bradley products as, "Disciplined, line-drive approach allows him to hit for high average, and there's enough strength in his 6-foot-2, 215-pound frame for perhaps average power if he adds more loft to his left handed stroke."

Tauchman's .297 average was the fourth highest in the NWL and his 129 wRC+ ranks in the top ten for the league. Looking forward to next year, since he was drafted as a college senior and will be 23-years-old, I wouldn't be surprised if the left-hander skipped Asheville and started 2014 in Modesto-- following the path of Josh Rutledge.

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Honorable Mentions

Taylor Featherston - 2B, Modesto (.292 AVG, 21.3 K%, 114, wRC+)

Known as the other infielder last season behind Trevor Story and Sam Mende, Featherston had a breakout year in Modesto and was one of the club leaders in OPS and average. Taylor rode a hot August, hitting .385 in the month which raised his average to a respectable .292 at the end of the season. Taylor was solid and provided a stabilizing force for the offense in leading the Nuts to a playoff berth. At 23-years-old Taylor was a little old for the California League, but numbers don't lie and he had them. Look for the right-hander to move to Tulsa and face a stiffer test against more advanced pitching next season.

Ryan McMahon - 3B Grand Junction (.321 AVG, 23.5 K%, 147 wRC+)

Featured in the power hitters portion of the series, McMahon would have finished in the top three of this list if not for his strikeout rate. The third baseman led Rookie-level Rockies with 59 strikeouts while compiling a .321 average with 32 XBH's. I really like McMahon's hitting potential and if he can shore up the contact issues he'll have a bright future with the Rockies.

Table

Sorted by batting average. A more in-depth table sorted by wRC+ here.

Name

Age


PA

2b

3b

HR

XBH

K%

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS

wRC+

Raimel Tapia

19

SS-GJ

286

20

6

7

33

10.8 %

0.357

0.399

0.562

0.961

141

Rosell Herrera

20

A

546

33

0

16

49

17.6 %

0.343

0.419

0.515

0.933

168

Jose Briceno

20

SS-GJ

160

16

0

9

25

18.8 %

0.333

0.356

0.614

0.971

137

Ryan Mcmahon

18

SS-GJ

251

18

3

11

32

23.5 %

0.321

0.402

0.583

0.984

147

Francisco Sosa

23

A

530

35

2

20

57

23.6 %

0.315

0.397

0.529

0.926

165

Mike Tauchman

22

SS-TC

274

13

3

0

16

20.1 %

0.297

0.388

0.377

0.765

129

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