Today I reveal the penultimate installment of names on the Summer 2014 Purple Row Prospects (PuRPs) list. In this edition of the PuRPs poll, 20 ballots were cast, with 30 points being granted for a first place vote, 29 for second, etc. Until a player was named on seven ballots, his vote totals were modified on a sliding scale to avoid an individual ballot having too much say over the community forecast -- only one of the players on this edition of the list was listed on fewer than seven ballots.
For each player on the PuRPs list, I've included a link to their stats (via Baseball-Reference), their contract status (via Rockies Roster), their probable MLB ETA (assuming they do make the Show), 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 July 1, 2014.
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.
In this installment, we enter the blue blood prospect territory - with three first rounders, a second rounder, and a Latin American bonus baby. Here is the first half of the top ten of the Summer 2014 PuRPs List:
10. Tyler Matzek (393 points, 20 ballots) -- Winter 2013 Ranking: 14 -- High Ballot 4, Mode Ballot 10
Matzek, a 23 year-old LHP currently in the big league rotation, is Colorado's most confusing prospect given his first round pedigree and complete roller coaster of a minor league career. His warts have been well publicized at this point -- he has unusual mechanics (he follows the Mike Marshall method) and a different pitching philosophy that emphasizes throwing any pitch in any count. As a result, Matzek's walk rates in the minor leagues were astronomically high -- he has a career BB/9 of 6.0 and a WHIP of 1.59. This leads to Matzek posting less innings per start - his career average outing length is a hair over five innings.
Then again, Matzek also has a minor league career K/9 rate of 8.5 and H/9 of 8.2. In 66 2/3 IP this year in Colorado Springs, Matzek harnessed his stuff pretty well. He posted a 4.05 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 8.2 K/9, and a career low 4.2 BB/9. This improvement combined with a rash of injuries opened up a big league rotation slot and Matzek has answered the call. In 47 2/3 big league innings, Matzek has a 4.91 ERA but his 3.56 FIP is indicative that he's getting a little unlucky. His 1.47 WHIP and 2.8 BB/9 show that he's not being eaten alive by big league hitters, as many had predicted during his struggles in High A Modesto a few years ago, though the 6.0 K/9 rate leave him susceptible to batted ball luck.
Coming into this year I felt that Matzek was no more than a fringe starter or a lefty bullpen arm, but his results this year have left the door to a mid-rotation starter open. I placed Matzek 10th on my list due to the age (still 23, he's young for AA), the stuff that got him drafted in the first round, and the fact that he's already producing in the big leagues (in fWAR he's Colorado's second most valuable pitcher).
Contract Status: 2009 1st Round, 40 Man Roster, 2 options remaining
MLB ETA: Now
9. Kyle Parker (409 points, 20 ballots) -- Winter 2013 Ranking: 5 -- High Ballot 4, Mode Ballot 9, 11, 12
Parker, a 24 year-old righty outfielder currently in AAA Colorado Springs, is a prospect that has moved up the system ladder pretty consistently despite never really exciting me with his potential. The former Clemson QB and 2010 first round pick of the Rockies was expected to crush homers at the lower levels given his prodigious power when drafted, but he failed to dominate low A ball and in the first half of 2012 he was slowed by a hand injury,
However, there was a reason that Parker was a 1st round pick despite never fully investing all of his time in baseball. The power is there, the patience at the plate is improving, and the athleticism (for a corner outfield position, anyways) is certainly present -- though his major league future is most likely to come at first base. And the results finally started to reflect the tools -- Parker's line in Modesto ended up a robust .308/.415/.562, then he posted an above average season at Tulsa (.288/.345/.492).
This season in Colorado Springs, Parker has posted a pretty typical PCL line of .295/.348/.474 (good for a 111 wRC+) in 359 plate appearances. He struggled briefly in a big league cameo, racking up five strikeouts and one hit in nine plate appearances, but three of them were against Clayton Kershaw during his almost perfect game, so I won't hold that too much against him.
I'm a believer in Parker has MLB talent (I slotted him 12th on my list), though I'm not as high on him as I should be for Colorado's number nine prospect. I believe he belongs here, but I'm just not yet a believer that he'll be a true impact player at the major league level.
Contract Status: 2010 1st Round, 40 Man Roster, 2 options remaining
MLB ETA: Now-ish
8. Rosell Herrera (433 points, 20 ballots) -- Winter 2013 Ranking: 4 -- High Ballot 4, Mode Ballot 8
Herrera, a 21 year-old switch-hitting SS at High A Modesto, has had a roller coaster professional career so far. This year looks like it's a down year on that roller coaster. Throughout the last few editions of the PuRPs list, Herrera has battled fellow shortstop Trevor Story for playing time and (more importantly!) placement on the PuRPs list. Herrera debuted just ahead of Story due to an impressive stateside debut in rookie ball Casper, but then Story moved ahead of Herrera for a few lists.
After Herrera went gangbusters went he repeated the South Atlantic League last year, earning the SAL MVP award with a ridiculous .343/.419/.515 (168 wRC+) year, he moved ahead back on top of Story. However, Herrera has struggled somewhat in his first taste of High A Modesto - putting up a .261/.316/.368 line in 247 PA against players that are about two years older than him. That has led to Story (who you'll read more about tomorrow) regaining the upper hand - for now.
Of all the great Latin American players that have come through Colorado's system (until the past two years, when two prospects each year got more), Herrera had received the largest signing bonus ($550,000) as a 16 year-old. The tools that begat that kind of signing bonus and his SAL MVP award earned Herrera Colorado's lone spot in this year's Futures Game as part of the World team - where Herrera hit two line drive singles to represent the Rockies.
Herrera's got the tools to be an impact player at the MLB level (though probably not at shortstop), but time is running out faster for him than it would for a normal prospect due to the fact that he only has two option years remaining. I placed Herrera 8th on my ballot despite the down year with the knowledge that he could be a top five talent in the system.
Contract Status: 2009 FA (DR), 40 Man Roster, 2 options remaining
MLB ETA: 2017
7. Kyle Freeland (458 points, 19 ballots) -- Winter 2013 Ranking: NR -- High Ballot 4, Mode Ballot 6
Freeland, a 21 year-old LHP at rookie ball Grand Junction, was Colorado's first round pick this year (#8 overall) out of the University of Evansville (and TJ high school in Denver). Freeland, who signed for a below slot $2.3 million bonus, was linked to the Rockies well before the draft and was the Purple Row community's pick for the Rockies. Here's what resident prospect guru David Hood had to say about Freeland when he was drafted:
Despite the lofty strikeout totals this season at Evansville, Freeland's stuff isn't pure power, but above average pitches played up by excellent command. He's going to pitch in the low 90's with a fastball carrying late life, and will back the pitch up with a solid slider that he can locate in the zone. ... Based on his excellent command and solid mix of pitches, Freeland should move quickly with #3 starter potential...if he can stay healthy. ... The first thing I noticed with Freeland was the lack of shoulder tilt in his delivery and the stress he put on his throwing arm. His delivery is more arm than total body, and can at times appear violent.
Overall, this is a solid selection that probably has more injury risk than other picks, but provided he's healthy, Freeland could take a similar short trip to the majors a la Butler. He slots in just behind Gray and Butler on my Rockies pitching totem pole, edging Matzek with superior command despite lesser stuff, and Anderson with superior stuff and even if not better command.
I (as well as the rest of the electorate) took David's advice and slotted Freeland as Colorado's third best pitching prospect - I personally ranked him 6th. Freeland made his professional debut two weeks ago and has yet to throw for more than four innings in a game. Early signs are encouraging, as Freeland has pitched the equivalent of a one run complete game in his three appearances thus far. Though the Rockies are bringing him along slowly now, Freeland could and should be a quick mover through the system.
Contract Status: 2014 1st Round, 40 Man Roster, 3 options remaining
MLB ETA: 2017
6. Ryan McMahon (483 points, 20 ballots) -- Winter 2013 Ranking: 7 -- High Ballot 3, Mode Ballot 5
McMahon, a 19 year-old third baseman at Low A Asheville, can easily be compared to Nolan Arenado. After all, both were high-school third basemen from California taken in the second round, both have shown the ability to be great defensive third basemen (though the 23 errors McMahon has made this year will give pause), and both hit well immediately in their professional careers.
Facing pitchers on average over 2.5 years older than him, McMahon hit .321/.402/.583 with 11 HRs and 32 XBHs over 251 plate appearances in Grand Junction. He then began 2014 by tearing the cover off the ball in his full season debut - hitting .291/.396/.696 in April. Since then his line has cooled off to a more temperate .280/.353/.493 with 12 HRs, 48 XBHs, and 78 RBI in 396 PAs. The aforementioned 23 errors this year are of course concerting, but that is at odds with what scouting reports claim - namely that McMahon has the defensive talent to remain at third.
Here's what David OhNo had to say about McMahon when he was drafted:
McMahon has 50 grade tools across the board, but plus makeup and upside potential. He has a 6'3" frame capable of holding 215-220 lbs. (he's listed at 195 lbs right now), and he could grow into 60 pop. He could also reach 60 grades on defense and should have no problem staying at third base. McMahon's swing is balanced from the left side and has natural loft, so line drive/power potential is evident here.
McMahon's debut has been extremely strong and the reports about his make-up are just as encouraging. I placed McMahon 7th on my ballot given his performance, draft position, and MLB average tools - and I'm excited to see if he can continue this success as he moves up the organizational ladder.
Contract Status: 2013 2nd Round, Not Rule 5 Eligible, 3 options remaining
MLB ETA: 2017
Stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion to the Summer 2014 PuRPs List!