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. 18: Alex Balog (157 points, 15 ballots) | Summer 2014 Ranking: 18 | High Ballot 14, Mode Ballot 18
Balog, a 22-year-old right-hander who pitched in Low-A Asheville, was Colorado's competitive balance second round pick in last year's draft out of the University of San Francisco. The righty was the 32nd rated prospect overall by Baseball America but lasted until the 70th pick, leading many to label him a steal.
Here's what David Hood had to say about Balog after the draft:
It's not often you get the chance to draft a tall collegian with a mid 90's sinking fastball, but Rockies did just that. Balog also shows promise in his breaking pitches, and despite his size, he's highly athletic and can repeat his delivery and should develop a solid change. Athleticism still gives him some upside.
Unfortunately, Balog's pro debut got off to a rough start. He was knocked around to the tune of a 9.30 ERA and 1.97 WHIP while posting a paltry 5.1 K/9 rate in 30 innings of work in 2013. System pitching instructor Bob Apodaca described an injury Balog was pitching through that year as "one of the most unusual injuries [he's] ever heard of."
"He went in for a precautionary MRI to have something checked out and because of where it was his arm had to be pinned above his head," Apodaca said while taking his own arm and miming the awkwardness of the position. "Being in there so long, he came out sore and never felt completely right."
As such, 2014 was both Balog's first healthy season as a professional and also his first year in full-season ball. Understood in that context, he was very impressive, throwing 150⅓ innings of 3.95 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 4.01 FIP, 6.8 K/9 baseball at an age appropriate level. Those aren't great numbers, but they certainly are more within the acceptable realm.
Kiley McDaniel rated Balog 17th among Rockies prospects:
Balog was a bit of an enigma his draft year, with scouts saying he got as high at 99 mph and sat 94-97 for stretches while he'd sit 89-92 for other outings. The Rockies got the 6'5/210 righty in the 2nd round last year and he's showing back-end rotation potential in Low-A this year. He'll sit 90-93 and hit 94 mph with a slider and changeup that are both a bit above average at times, but there's still some adjustments that need to be made.
That potential is what keeps Balog this high in these lists (he was 24th on my ballot), but the results need to catch up to the stuff for him to rise much higher than his current level. Balog will likely begin the year in High A Modesto, moving in lockstep with quite a few other interesting prospects.
Keep a close eye on Balog in 2015 and beyond; his big 6'6 frame and explosive fastball are intriguing and make him a decent candidate for a potential switch to the bullpen if he doesn't pan out as a starter.
Contract Status: 2013 Supplemental 2nd Round, Not Rule 5 Eligible, 3 options remaining
MLB ETA: 2017