Heading into 2014, it was the Rockies' Double-A pitching staff -- not their position players -- that received attention from fans, scouts and prospect hounds. That's pretty much how things ended up unfolding; Tulsa had key contributions from a few offensive players, but it was largely the pitching that allowed it to advance to the Texas League Championship Series.
While Tulsa didn't come close to housing the best collection of position-player talent in the organization (that distinction easily went to Asheville), several top 30 prospects took big steps in the right direction while at Double-A.
Tulsa batting stats, 2014
At first glance, those are some pretty poor offensive numbers. Not one player amassed an OPS of .800 or better, and the list is littered with low-walk and high-strikeout totals. But when adjusting for park effects and league production, the picture becomes a bit brighter with a few players in particular.
Ryan Casteel keeps momentum going
Casteel (PuRP No. 15) had a breakout season in 2013 at Modesto, hitting .270/.352/.523 with 22 home runs while playing against competition that was, on average, a year older. On the surface, Casteel's production -- most notably, his power -- appeared to slip upon advancing a level, but that wasn't actually the case:
Ryan Casteel, year-to-year production
A more offense-suppressed league and better competition lowered Casteel's counting stats, but that didn't stop the 23-year-old native of Tennessee from actually posting his best season as a professional.
Taylor Featherston, doubles machine
For a large part of 2014, Featherston (PuRP No. 26) was Tulsa's best and most consistent hitter. The 25-year-old infielder, who like Casteel, is now playing in the Arizona Fall League, posted slug-heavy 116 wRC+ that was helped with 33 doubles, third-most in the Texas League. Featherston has smacked 30 or more two-baggers in each of his last three seasons. He's getting a little long in the tooth, but Featherston has a legitimate shot at making his major league debut at some point next season as the Rockies try to improve their infield depth, which was once again a sore spot in 2014.
Trevor Story holds his own
Story (PuRP No. 4) was the youngest position player on Tulsa's roster when he was promoted from High-A on June 27, and that was clearly evident by his early struggles. But Story wound up nearly cracking double digits in home runs and posted a very respectable walk rate against pitchers three years his superior. The 21-year-old infielder finished slightly below average in terms of production (98 wRC+), but his improvement early on during Arizona Fall League play combined with his first-round pedigree and solid tools across the board make him a promising future big leaguer with an All-Star ceiling and a utility floor.
Tom Murphy's season ends early
In spring training, there were rumblings about Tom Murphy having a real shot at cracking Colorado's major league roster at some point during 2014, but those hopes were dashed pretty early on when Murphy went down with a season-ending shoulder injury. The University of Buffalo product struggled a bit at first, but he began to establish a nice pace -- he hit .278/.395/.556 with a 16.1 percent walk rate in May -- before the injury. If he can get healthy, there's a chance the Rockies' catching situation will work itself out sooner rather than later. But the fact that he missed almost four months can't be a good thing, and there's almost no available information on how he's progressing.