Editor's note: We've made a change with the PuRPs list this year, deciding to unveil each player individually over the course of a few weeks. To keep track of the rankings, keep checking our PuRPs list StoryStream.
PuRP No. 22: Pat Valaika (100 points, 11 ballots) | Summer 2014 Ranking: 17 | High Ballot 20, Mode Ballot 20, 21
Valaika, a 22-year-old shortstop who spent 2014 at Low-A Asheville and High-A Modesto, had a very interesting year in his first year of full-season ball. First, he tore the cover off the ball in Asheville to the tune of .370/.407/.575 in 144 plate appearances (168 wRC+). That encouraged the Rockies to promote him to Modesto, where he struggled initially before heating up near the end of the year. In 362 plate appearances in the California League, Valaika had a .272/.321/.417 line (90 wRC+), striking out 28 percent of the time against pitchers that were on average about two years older than him.
Valaika was the last of the 2013 Rockies draft picks (ninth round) to sign because his UCLA team won the College World Series that year (he was the PAC 12 defensive player of the year while hitting cleanup for the Bruins). Valaika will probably repeat at Modesto, but it's been unusual for a Rockies minor leaguer to gain a midseason promotion upon his first exposure to full-season ball and Valaika certainly had earned it. We should expect Valaika to split his time in 2015 between High-A and Double-A, though I wouldn't be shocked if the Rockies just moved him in lockstep as a caddy for Trevor Story (whose season Valaika mirrored pretty closely) initially and then serve as the main glove man in New Britain.
Valaika might lack the arm strength to play shortstop at the big league level, which will hurt his value, but he definitely has promise as a utility infielder at the next level (Kiley McDaniel called him a "solid middle infield utility type"). That was enough for me to place him 23rd on my personal ballot, as I think that he's the type of player that has a higher level of probability of providing major league value to the Rockies.
Contract Status: 2013 ninth round, not Rule 5 eligible, three options remaining
MLB ETA: 2017