Friday Rockpile: Prospectin' Season

SOON - USA TODAY Sports

Checking in down on the farm

Hello. It is January 24. The east coast is suffering from polar vortices. The Rockies (that is, the mountain range) are in the midst of a stellar year for snow. The west coast...well, it's 80 degrees and sunny every day here in Los Angeles, but never mind about that. The point is, we are mired in the depths of winter, and baseball is simultaneously deep in the rear-view mirror and far off on the horizon. That means one thing: it's prospect season.

MLB Network/MLB.com unveiled their top 100 prospect list last night. Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis curated this year's list of impressive young talents who have yet to lose their rookie eligibility in the Major Leagues. Heading up the list is Byron Buxton, the toolsy outfielder in the Minnesota Twins organization. But who cares about that. How did the Rockies fare this year?

The answer: pretty well. Four Rockies made an appearance on this year's top 100 list. While not as bountiful as the Red Sox (9) or the Astros and Cubs (7 each), the team can certainly feel better than the Angels (donut) or the Brewers/A's (1).

The final tally:

Jonathan Gray, 3rd overall pick in last year's draft, is the highest Rockie on the list and checks in at number 14. Callis said on MLB Network that he would have picked Gray first overall instead of Mark Appel and Kris Bryant, the two players who went #1 and #2. Pretty high praise from one of the top prospect gurus in the game. He's the fifth ranked pitching prospect in the whole game, and I get the sense that there isn't much difference between him and number 1, the Diamondbacks' Archie Bradley. Below is the MLB.com blurb on Gray.

Scouting Grades: Fastball: 80 | Slider: 70 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 55 | Overall: 65

Gray didn't enter the spring of 2013 with much fanfare and his teammate Dillon Overton was considered to be Oklahoma's best Draft-eligible pitcher. That quickly changed as Gray's fastball was regularly clocked up to 100 mph and he jumped into the conversation for the top overall pick before settling at No. 3 overall with the Rockies.

Gray has excellent size for a right-hander and uses it to generate easy velocity. He throws his fastball in the mid- to upper 90s. His slider is his best offspeed pitch and he also throws a solid changeup. He displayed impressive command in his professional debut and pitches well off his fastball.

It didn't take long for Gray to reach Class A Advanced Modesto after signing and he has the stuff to become a frontline starter.

Sounds pretty good to me. Gray could very well blow through the minors and make an impact in Denver by early summer.

Eddie Butler: The supplemental first rounder (46th overall) of the 2012 draft is a newcomer to the list, and his stock skyrocketed this year, planting him at 41st overall. He pitched 149.2 innings across three levels in 2013, compiling a smooth 1.80 ERA while demonstrating solid strikeout ability and excellent groundball rates. If he continues to dominate the minors he will certainly see Denver in 2014. He and Gray remind me of the tandem of Ubaldo Jimenez and Franklin Morales in 2007; a couple of young fireballers who might storm into Denver midway through the season and provide a huge lift to the team. If that culminates in another World Series run, I wouldn't complain.

The blurb:

Scouting Grades: Fastball: 75 | Curveball: 55 | Slider: 65 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 55 | Overall: 60

Butler came on strong in the second half of his junior year at Radford and he continued to pitch well in Rookie-level Grand Junction after signing. That run continued in 2013, as he appeared in the Futures Game and compiled a 1.80 ERA (the second-best mark in the Minor Leagues) at three levels.

Butler throws his fastball in the mid-90s and can reach 99 mph. His wipeout slider is his best offspeed pitch and his changeup and curveball give him a chance for four average-or-better offerings. He has had command problems in the past, but his walk rate improved throughout 2013 and his loose, easy deliver should make it possible for him to pound the zone at a high rate.

Before the Draft, some scouts thought Butler might be a better fit in the bullpen. Those concerns have been quieted and he now has the look of a potential frontline starter.



I love to see that know about each other. These two guys are going to be key cogs in the next successful Rockies team.

David Dahl (#71): It's easy to forget about Dahl after his discouraging 2013. A torn hamstring cost the 2012 #10 overall draftee basically the entire year. When a prospect loses an entire year like that, he's always going to drop down these lists, as the newer guys make their statements. Regardless, Dahl still has incredible tools, and if he has a healthy 2014 he's going to jump back up to elite prospect status.

Scouting Grades: Hit: 60 | Power: 60 | Run: 60 | Arm: 60 | Field: 60 | Overall: 55

Dahl made a splash in his professional debut, winning the Pioneer League MVP in 2012. But he was unable to build on that success in 2013. He played on Opening Day in Class A Ashville, but was then sent back to extended spring training for disciplinary reasons. He returned to Ashville three weeks later, only to tear his right hamstring, ending his season in early May.

Dahl is a pure hitter with an innate feel for putting the bat on the ball. He has some pop in his bat already and could develop above-average power as he physically matures.

Before the injury, Dahl had above-average speed and used it well offensively and defensively. He covers ground well in the outfield and has a strong arm. Dahl will have to recover from what was essentially a lost year for him, but he is still young and has the tools to get back on track.

Huh, he has 60 grades across the board, but is an overall 55. Okay then.

Rosell Herrera (#99):

Scouting Grades: Hit: 60 | Power: 50 | Run: 40 | Arm: 60 | Field: 50 | Overall: 55

What a difference a year makes. After struggling so much at Class A Asheville that he was demoted to short-season Tri-City in 2012, Herrera returned to the South Atlantic League in 2013. All he did the second time around was win the MVP and batting title with a .343 average.

An improved swing was crucial to Herrera's turnaround. With his mechanics smoother than before, he has begun driving the ball more and tapping into his raw power. He is a switch-hitter and hits for average well from both sides, but his power mostly comes as a left-hander.

Herrera has also improved defensively. Still, most scouts believe he will eventually outgrow shortstop. He has played some third base already and could also fit at second base if he does have to change positions.

A rangy middle infielder with power and on-base ability? Yes please.

The Rockies have developed a sneaky good system, and this list doesn't even include such intriguing prospects as Tom Murphy, Kyle Parker, Raimel Tapia, and Ryan McMahon. There's a lot of good upside down on the farm, and they'll need those guys if they want to compete with the rest on the NL West.

LINKS

Full list of the top 100

Grant Brisbee is doing a countdown of the best (ie, most aesthetically pleasing) home run parks in baseball, and Coors checks in at 12. Follow the link to see some huge dingers from Tulo and Cargo. Naturally Grant included some Giants homers as well, but you don't have to click on those.

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