It's time for the Winter 2014 Purple Row Prospects (PuRPs) list, the Purple Row community's list of the top 30 Rockies prospects. The top 30 prospects will be revealed one at a time over the next few weeks to give people who aren't in the know a little bit more of information on them. First up, an intro to the list and the five Honorable Mention PuRPs.
In this edition of the PuRPs poll, 16 ballots were cast, with 30 points granted for a first place vote, 29 for second, etc. Until a player was named on six ballots, his vote totals were modified on a sliding scale to avoid an individual ballot having too much say over the community forecast -- though none of the players on this edition of the list was listed on fewer than six ballots. The first tiebreaker goes to the player who was ranked on the most ballots, then to the one who was ranked highest on an individual PuRPs ballot, and the third is the mode ballot (but no ties were broken in this edition).
In all, 59 players received at least one vote for this PuRPs list (down from 68 last time), 42 got mentioned on multiple ballots (down from 53), 32 were named on at least six ballots (up from 31) and therefore were unmodified. The top 17 players were named on every ballot, though not necessarily in the same order, while only two PuRPs failed to appear on at least 10 ballots. Here is a link to the polling thread.
All prospects who retained their Rookie of the Year eligibility (less than 130 ABs, 50 IP, and 45 days on the active roster) were eligible for selection on this list. From the Summer 2014 list, only Tyler Matzek (10) exhausted his rookie eligibility and is not eligible for this list. In addition, Dan Winkler (13) and Taylor Featherston (26) are no longer in the organization after being selected in the Rule 5 draft and therefore are also ineligible for this list.
For each player on the PuRPs list (and the HM players below), I've included a link to their stats (via Baseball-Reference), their contract status (via Rockies Roster), and a note on their 2014 season. For what it's worth, I'll also include where I put them on my personal ballot. All ages are as of January 1, 2015. 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.
More discussion on the voting will be included in the final installment of this series, but here are the five players who came closest to inclusion on the Winter 2014 PuRPs List, the Honorable Mention PuRPs:
35. Michael Tauchman (8 points, 2 ballots), 2013 10th Round, OF at High A (24)
34. Erick Julio (18 points, 4 ballots), 2013 FA (CO), RHP in DSL (18)
33. Scott Oberg 26.7 points, 5 ballots), 2012 15th Round, RHP in AA (24)
32. Ben Paulsen (37 points, 6 ballots), 2009 3rd Round, 1B/OF in AAA/MLB (27)
31. Emerson Jimenez (44 points, 8 ballots), 2011 FA (DR), SS in Low A (20)
Here are some notes on the five honorable mention PuRPs:
Tauchman, who started the year in Short Season Tri-City, moved to High A Modesto in July and was a bright spot on a dreadful team, hitting .294/.386/.452 (121 wRC+) for the Nuts in 228 plate appearances. Tauchman has been old for the competition level so far as a pro -- one reason why he didn't merit consideration on my personal list -- but he has yet to falter. If he can repeat this level of production in AA next season, he'll garner more consideration for the PuRPs list.
Julio, who debuted as a professional this season for the Dominican Summer League, received a $700k bonus when he signed with the Rockies out of Colombia last year and was rated as the top player from Colombia to sign that year. This pedigree was enough for me to place him 28th on my personal list. In his professional debut in the pitcher friendly DSL, Julio had a 2.45 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in 66 innings of work. The relative lack of strikeouts (6.1 K/9) is worrisome, though typically throwing the ball consistently in the strike zone is heavily emphasized in the DSL and Julio's 1.5 BB/9 is great. He'll probably repeat DSL next year before perhaps making a late 2015 stateside debut in Grand Junction.
Oberg, who was the closer for the AA Tulsa Drillers this last year, is a great example of a mid-round arm who has panned out well so far. The 24 year-old righty threw 27 1/3 innings of 2.63 ERA, 1.02 WHIP ball - though his 6.9 K/9 rate left something to be desired. He's a live relief arm who has been successful at every stop so far, though I think in the reliever pecking order he's behind several fringe 40 man roster players. I generally discount relievers pretty heavily in these lists (I only listed one on my ballot), so Oberg wasn't somebody I seriously considered. With that said, he should be a reliever in AAA (potentially a closer) in 2015, so it's very possible that he gets a big league role as soon as next year.
Paulsen was a player that was on the PuRPs list on every edition between Spring 2010 (which is as far back as my records go) until Spring 2012 - after which he fell off steeply in the estimation of PuRPs voters. After a very successful major league debut (.317/.348/.571 in 66 plate appearances), an opportunity that only arose due to a well-timed (for Ben) string of injuries, Paulsen merited closer inspection this time around. Indeed, this time he made my personal list (at #30) for perhaps the first time ever because, quite frankly, he's already provided more big league value than most of the players that will make the Winter 2014 list. He should get an opportunity in 2015, either in Spring Training or during the season, to try and stick with the big league club. I don't believe he'll be able to replicate his 2014 success, but he's earned a second look for sure.
Jimenez displays two traits that I value highly when I compile prospect lists. First, he's young for his level (he turned 20 yesterday, but played at age 19 in the SAL -- which is about 2.5 years below average). He struggled offensively against this competition, hitting .259/.276/.342 (70 wRC+) with a terrible 1.8% BB rate, which is doubtless why he slid down or off other lists. He's a candidate to repeat the Low A level next year. Secondly (and more importantly), Jimenez is an elite shortstop defensively, a player with the defensive utility to contribute at higher levels even if the bat doesn't develop much. That's why I placed Jimenez 19th on my personal list and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
Stay tuned in the coming days for more installments of the Winter 2014 PuRPs list!