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Rockies Prospects: Jonathan Gray promoted to Modesto and does Raimel Tapia deserve more love?

Jonathan Gray was promoted to Modesto this week and will be taking Eddie Butler's regular start day. Plus Raimel Tapia just broke David Dahl's hit streak record. Does he deserve more prospect love?


The No. 3 overall pick in this year's draft has already received a promotion and skipped a level. Jonathan Gray will be making his first start in High-A Modesto this evening according to an announcement by Modesto's twitter feed:

Gray made four starts in Grand Junction, with each one going progressively longer. His 4.05 ERA was inflated by his debut where he gave up three earned runs in three innings pitched. Since then the Oklahoma native allowed just three earned runs in 10.1 innings pitched with 14 strikeouts. His final start appeared to be enough to push the Rockies brass into promoting the right-hander by going five innings and earning six strikeouts.

Throughout his time on the Western Slope, Gray was able to touch 101 and consistently stay in the upper 90's. The coaching staff limited Gray's repertoire with a message to limit his slider and focus on the change-up. So it will be interesting to see if that message continues in Modesto.

There's a conflicting point to this promotion that I find interesting: Gray will be starting on Eddie Butler's regular day. Butler last pitched on July 27 and since yesterday was a travel day, today would be his sixth day out. So has Gray surpassed Butler in the depth chart?

Eddie hasn't allowed a single earned run in his last three starts while striking out 12 batters in 15 innings. So he certainly hasn't done anything to deserve a demotion. So, does the front office have other plans for the Virginia native? With the promotion of Chad Bettis to the major leagues, Tulsa has a rotation spot available.

How much love should we be giving Raimel Tapia?

Raimel Tapia surpassed David Dahl's 27-game hitting streak on Wednesday and extended it to 29 a day later. The Dominican is having a brilliant start to the Pioneer season and leads the league in hitting with a .384 average.

A left-handed center fielder, Raimel has filled the hole that Dahl left since moving on to Low-A Asheville this year. It's difficult to compare players like Dahl and Tapia as one was a highly scouted prospect taken with the No. 10 pick in the 2012 draft while the other was brought on as a 17-year-old international free-agent for a six-figure signing bonus. Tapia spent two seasons in the Dominican Summer League prior to arriving in Grand Junction, where he's demonstrated the ability to make contact and draw walks. At 19, he's just two months older than Dahl.

Tapia probably falls closer to Julian Yan than Dahl when it comes to talent projections, although he's having a much better season than the 121 wRC+ that Yan put up as a Rockie last year. Surprisingly, to me at least, Tapia is also slugging at a higher rate. Yan hit more homers last year, but Raimel has more triples and nearly as many doubles already.

I was high on Tapia entering this season and wrote the following in a January article:

"(Tapia) posted a higher batting average for the Dominican Rockies than any previous fielder since Rafael Ortega hit .324 in 2009. Only 18, he has the hit tool and on-base skills to move to Grand Junction. After adding muscle in the offseason, Tapia is a player to keep an eye on in 2013."

Tapia's numbers this season are impressive, even beyond the hit streak. He's posting a batting line of .384/.406/.568 which ranks him in the top 10 in each category for the Pioneer League. His wRC+ of 146 leads the Rockies and is just above second-round pick Ryan McMahon's output of 144.

The center fielder is putting up some eye popping numbers, but is it time to show him some real prospect love? I had a chance to watch Tapia in person this spring and saw a talented center fielder with some holes in his swing. He showed a long stride on defense with an easy ability to cover a lot of ground. His speed wasn't outstanding, but he definitely can motor. The left-hander was a little wide-eyed at the plate, crushing fastballs to the gap, but getting completely fooled on off-speed pitches.

Perhaps, if Tapia had come into the Rockies system with a little more fanfare, people would be more excited about him. At this point though, he's creating his own buzz with a record-breaking hitting streak and a flirtation with .400.

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