It's definitely MLB prospect season these days, as several baseball sites have released their various top prospect lists (read Jay's Rockpile from last Friday for a breakdown of the MLB.com list). Yesterday it was Fangraphs' turn, as they released their top ten Rockies prospects list. It's well worth a read to familiarize yourself with Colorado's top prospects - that is if you haven't already been paying attention to the top 30 Purple Row Prospect (PuRPs) List.
While I would certainly quibble with a couple of choices on the Fangraphs list (Eddie Butler over Jon Gray, no mention of Ryan Casteel), the choices are pretty good in terms of the players in Colorado's system with a MLB future. In addition, Marc Hulet's summary of the system is a fair one:
The Rockies' Top 10 list includes two young pitchers with the potential to develop into No. 1 or 2 starters, as well as an outfielder with five-tool talent. So, in other words, there is some high-ceiling talent in this system but the overall depth in the organization is not overly compelling.
ESPN Insider's Keith Law (who ranked the Colorado minor league system 8th yesterday) has his top 100 prospect list out today as well. There are four Rockies on the list headlined by Jon Gray at #12 (the 4th highest pitcher on the list) and Eddie Butler at #17 (the 7th highest pitcher). Here's the money quote from Law's blurb on Gray (the unanimous top PuRP):
Gray's a physical presence on the mound, with a lightning-quick arm, taking a long stride toward the plate with moderate hip rotation and accelerating his arm quickly after a slightly stiff landing. Other than the changeup, which is coming along faster than expected, his main issues are fastball command and maintaining his delivery when working out of the stretch.
He's a potential No. 1 starter with a very high floor as long as he stays healthy, as even fringy command will still lead to a ton of swings and misses on his primary two pitches.
Here's a selection from Butler's blurb:
Butler is more than a two-pitch guy now and the Radford alum profiles as a future top-of-the-rotation starter. Butler will work in the mid-90s, touching 98 mph from the windup, with big-time life on the pitch because of his low slot -- not just sink, but tailing life as well, producing a ground out/air out rate just under 60 percent across three levels this year.
His silder is still there and still plus in the mid-to-upper 80s, but the changeup was the real revelation this year; if you saw the Futures Game, you saw him throw one at 90 mph that moved almost like a screwball, and you probably heard the gasps from everyone in the scouts' seats.
With three pitches and the ability to keep the ball down, he's at least a No. 2 starter, and you couldn't find a better fit for Coors Field than this kind of power and life.
Pretty glowing praise for Colorado's top two prospects (and there's more in the rest of the blurbs)! I know that Franklin Morales was a top ten overall prospect in 2008 (#8 on Baseball America's list), but for my money Gray and Butler just might be the best two pitching prospects the Rockies have ever had. And they might force their way into Coors Field as soon as this year! That more than anything makes me hopeful for the 2014/2015 time frame.
Also on the list for Colorado was David Dahl at 47 (much higher than I've seen him elsewhere):
On the field, Dahl boasts strong tools across the board, with above-average speed now that may trend down as his frame fills out, a variable that will determine whether he stays in center or moves to right field; his arm is strong enough for either spot and he'll likely show plus range in a corner. His real impact will come at the plate, where he's got a very quick bat and is short and direct to the ball, with good loft in his finish for future-plus power, possibly projecting as a 25 homer, 20 steals guy with good OBPs.
Rosell Herrera at 54 (again, much higher than elsewhere):
He might not stay at shortstop; he has the actions and quickness, but his frame is big and he could end up outgrowing the position and moving to third. He should have the power for the position, 20-plus homers a year, with solid OBPs once the Rockies can smooth him out at the plate.
A quick comparison to the rest of the NL West reveals that the Giants' system is devoid of top tier talent (only Kyle Crick at #69), but the other teams in the division have some talent too. Arizona has the top pitching prospect in baseball in Archie Bradley (#9 overall) with two more guys on the list (at 25 and 72), while the Padres have four guys on the list (33, 39, 48, and 94). It's the Dodgers that look best though, placing five prospects (14, 18, 41, 75, and 96) on the list.
Brew Crew Ball, our Milwaukee Brewers site, writes about the flaws inherent in top 100 lists. Of course, they're ranked at the bottom of the heap with no top 100 prospects. Here's what Law had to say about the Milwaukee system:
There may not be a player in this system who projects as an above-average player in the majors; the best bets are all teenagers who played in low Class A or below in 2013, and none is close to a lock to get there.
The system lacks ceiling and it lacks depth beyond reliever candidates and likely fourth outfielders, with nothing in the middle of the diamond and no starting pitching of note.
Ouch. Thank goodness that's not the Rockies!
In any case, for those wondering just how good these types of lists are at predicting future MLB success, Chris St. John at Beyond the Box Score shows that over the past 20 years the scouting has gotten much better at predicting MLB glory for top prospects.
Continuing with the prospect list theme, Will Leitch of Sports on Earth has compiled an analysis of the Baseball America Top 10 prospects from 1994-2009, along with some notes on other top 100 players. During that time (most of Colorado's existence), the Rockies have placed just two players in the top ten, Ian Stewart at #4 in 2005 and Franklin Morales at #8 in 2008 - and neither of them panned out as hoped.
One Rockies prospect that did pan out is Jhoulys Chacin. Thomas Harding has an article on Colorado's top starter, detailing Chacin's offseason and his vision for a successful Rockies starting rotation.
There were some rumblings that the Rockies might not be done in assembling that starting rotation, but Troy Renck clarifies that Colorado's purported interest is mild in free agent pitcher Ervin Santana at his current price. While getting Santana would be a positive development for Colorado's 2014 rotation, I'm not sure the fit is there from a money or on-field standpoint - plus the fact that signing Santana would require the Rockies to surrender the 35th overall pick in the 2014 draft.
David Schoenfield at ESPN writes about payroll and wins over the past five years. Colorado is 21st in payroll with $396.8 million spent in the time frame ($79 million per year) and has gotten 386 wins in that time (20th in MLB). That's about $1.03 million per win. If Colorado gets more from its farm system over the next few years, that number will improve (relative to the rest of MLB anyways).
The MLB news of the day is the introduction of padded hats as an option for players to wear. The issue, ESPN's Jayson Stark writes, is will anyone actually wear them? In the words of new Rockies pitcher Brett Anderson:
I'll pass on the Super Mario Brothers inspired padded hat. pic.twitter.com/YKliFwZMgM
— Brett Anderson (@BAnderson_30) January 28, 2014
Harding has some quotes from Keith Dugger on the hats. The article highlights Juan Nicasio because of his 2011 injury, but a padded cap isn't going to save you from getting hit on the temple (with a subsequent broken neck).