We're entering the home stretch 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 10-6:
10. Tyler Anderson (353 points, 19 ballots) -- Summer 2013 Ranking: 10 -- High Ballot 8, Mode (most common when ranked) Ballot 13
Anderson, a 24 year-old LHP who spent the year at age 23 pitching for Short Season Tri-City and High A Modesto, was a first round pick in 2011 who was expected to move quickly through the organization with a mid-rotation ceiling. The results have been there (career 2.82 ERA, 1.09 WHIP over 210 IP), but that doesn't mean there aren't reasons for pause with Anderson.
A paltry 6.1 K/9 rate last year in Low A as a 22 year-old 1st round pitching prospect who was a little old for the level is a pretty serious red flag. High K rates are much better predictors of MLB success than low BB rates, so that's something to keep an eye on. With that said, Anderson improved the K rate in 2013 to 7.6/9 (while maintaining a 2.81 ERA and 1.09 WHIP), though he was limited by injury to just 89 2/3 IP this year. Even that rate is lower than you'd like to see for a first round pick at that level and is an indicator of a low ceiling.
Anderson's pedigree and results were mitigated somewhat by the appearance that Anderson, who was a back-end rotation prospect touted as near-MLB ready when he was drafted, might not even have the stuff to get there. In all, he placed 12th on my list. I'll be more than happy to offer a mea culpa the next time around if he starts looking like a major league pitcher, but for now I'm not seeing enough projection to merit a much higher ranking.
Contract Status: 2011 1st Round, Rule 5 Eligible after 2014, 3 options remaining
MLB ETA: 2015
9. Tom Murphy (433 points, 19 ballots) -- Summer 2013 Ranking: 11 -- High Ballot 5, Mode Ballot 8, 9
Murphy, a 22 year-old catcher who played for Low A Asheville and AA Tulsa this year, had a breakout year offensively and made significant progress as a prospect. Murphy entered the year stuck between two PuRPs splitting the catching duties at Modesto (Will Swanner and Ryan Casteel) on Colorado's organizational chart, but he finished the year ahead of both of them and looks to be on the fast track to Coors Field as soon as this September.
How did he get here? Murphy hit .288/.385/.590 in the hitter friendly South Atlantic League with 19 HRs and 47 XBHs in 341 plate appearances, which was enough for Colorado to promote him to AA. In Tulsa (over a 74 PA sample size) at an age appropriate level for a MLB prospect, Murphy was basically the same hitter (.290/.338/.493). Murphy should start 2014 back with Tulsa, but if he continues to prove himself as a hitter, there's not much in his way in terms of competition from moving quickly toward the Rockies.
With that said, reports on Murphy's defense have shown concerns about his ability to stick behind the dish. That's obviously concerning, but Murphy's bat was very potent this year and the chance he sticks at catcher is still pretty good and I placed him 8th on my ballot this time around.
Contract Status: 2012 3rd Round, Not Rule 5 Eligible, 3 options remaining
MLB ETA: 2015
8. Chad Bettis (436 points, 19 ballots) -- Summer 2013 Ranking: 8 -- High Ballot 4, Mode Ballot 7
Coming into this year, there was some doubt about whether Bettis, a 24 year-old RHP who pitched for AA Tulsa and for the Rockies in 2013, would ever be an effective pitcher again after a mysterious shoulder injury that kept him out for all of 2013. The potential that Bettis showed in 2011 at High A Modesto (3.34 ERA, 1.1 WHIP, 9.8 K/9) while displaying a powerful slider and a high 90s fastball was enough to get him up to #86 on Baseball America's Top 100 list. Jon Sickels ranked him 3rd in the Rockies system coming into 2012, as did BA.
The question on my mind coming into this year was if Bettis could get back to that level. In Tulsa to start the year, Bettis threw 63 innings with a 3.71 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 9.7 K/9 rate - indicating that he'd at least retained the ability to strike out a lot of minor leaguers. Bettis then got the call to the Show in August to fill a rotation hole opened by injury. Bettis made eight straight starts for the Rockies and averaged less than five innings pitched per start (Colorado went 1-7 in those eight games). After that, Bettis made eight appearances out of the bullpen in September - and the Rockies went 6-2 in those games. Coming out of the bullpen, Bettis saw a marked increase in velocity and the general nastiness of his stuff.
With that in mind I'm not sure that Bettis will ever be the mid-rotation MLB starter that he looked like in 2011, but he proved to me that he would be effective enough to help the team as either a back-end starter or a late inning reliever. I placed Bettis 9th on my list because his MLB value is now more likely to come in relief and because of his injury history.
Contract Status: 2010 2nd Round, 40 Man Roster, 3 options remaining
MLB ETA: Now
7. Ryan McMahon (445 points, 19 ballots) -- Summer 2013 Ranking: 17 -- High Ballot 4, Mode Ballot 4
McMahon, a 19 year-old third baseman who played at age 18 for rookie ball Grand Junction, can easily be compared to Nolan Arenado. After all, both were high-school third basemen from California taken in the second round, both have shown the ability to be great defensive third basemen, and both hit well immediately in their professional careers. Facing pitchers three or four years older than him, McMahon hit .321/.402/.583 with 11 HRs and 32 XBHs over 251 plate appearances in Grand Junction.
Here's what David OhNo had to say about McMahon when he was drafted:
McMahon has 50 grade tools across the board, but plus makeup and upside potential. He has a 6'3" frame capable of holding 215-220 lbs. (he's listed at 195 lbs right now), and he could grow into 60 pop. He could also reach 60 grades on defense and should have no problem staying at third base. McMahon's swing is balanced from the left side and has natural loft, so line drive/power potential is evident here.
McMahon's debut was extremely strong and the reports about his make-up are just as encouraging. I placed McMahon 7th on my ballot given his performance, draft position, and MLB average tools - and I'm excited to see if he can continue this success in full season ball at Asheville next year.
Contract Status: 2013 2nd Round, Not Rule 5 Eligible, 3 options remaining
MLB ETA: 2017
6. Trevor Story (455 points, 19 ballots) -- Summer 2013 Ranking: 4 -- High Ballot 4, Mode Ballot 5
Story, a 21 year-old righty shortstop who played the year at age 20 for 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. In all, it was a good enough performance for Story to be rated the #96 prospect in baseball by Baseball America coming into 2013
Unfortunately, Story did not transfer his success to a higher level. He had a pretty bad year in High A Modesto, hitting just .233/.305/.394 (83 wRC+) - though he did steal 23 bases with only one caught stealing. It's his first real brush with growing pains as a prospect in a very tough environment for a 20 year-old hitter. He's probably in line to repeat High A next year, but fellow top prospect Rosell Herrera (who also needed to repeat a level) will require some playing time alongside Story as well. Of the two, Story's the more gifted fielder, so Herrera will probably defer to him just as he did in rookie ball in Casper when they were both on that team two years ago.
Scouts have indicated that Story's a potential five tool shortstop at the major league level, and Story has certainly shown flashes of that potential, just not so much this year. I ranked him 4th on my list as an elite bat with great defense (one spot ahead of Herrera), and I'm hopeful that he can right the ship next year wherever he ends up on the organizational ladder.
Contract Status: 2011 Supplemental 1st Round, Not Rule 5 eligible, 3 options remaining
MLB ETA: 2016
Stay tuned for more installments of the Winter 2013 PuRPs List in the near future!