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. 17: Jayson Aquino (196 points, 16 ballots) | Summer 2014 Ranking: 21 | High Ballot 8, Mode Ballot 16
Aquino, a 22-year-old left-hander who pitched at age 21 for High-A Modesto and Double-A Tulsa in 2014, had been dominant every season he pitched for the Rockies organization -- that is, until his stint in Low-A late in 2013. Prior to that, Aquino had a career line of 22-7, 1.53 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, and 8.4 SO/9 over 282⅔ innings. In other words, his performance as a professional had been pretty ridiculous, which had a hand in the Rockies protecting him from the Rule 5 Draft by putting him on the 40-man roster after the 2013 season.
Once you get over the crazy numbers, it's important to consider context. Aquino pitched in the DSL, which does suppress power particularly, for 2½ years. It's an environment where pitchers with great control like Aquino can thrive by pitching to contact. Then again, while Aquino didn't strike out as many hitters in Grand Junction (7.5 SO/9) and Tri-City (6.3 SO/9), he was pretty darn effective in both spots (2.31 ERA, 1.04 WHIP over 66 innings between the two).
Aquino struggled a little bit for the first time in his career in the move to Asheville (4.78 ERA, 1.36 WHIP) and experienced continued issues this year in Modesto. In 95 innings, he posted a 5.40 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 4.47 FIP, and 7.0 SO/9 against players that are on average two years older than him. The elevated K rate was a positive sign, as it's a better indicator that he may be able to get hitters out at the next level. Helping that theory were two of the better performances in the organization all year; Aquino twice struck out 11 batters in an outing -- one of which he allowed just one run in 8⅓ innings -- and whiffed eight in another.
The Rockies moved Aquino up to Double-A Tulsa for a playoff run despite the poor results, indicating that the organization views Aquino very positively. Aquino rewarded this promotion by turning in two decent starts for Tulsa, pitching 12 innings of 3.00 ERA ball.
Aquino has never been a true scout's darling, given that his strength appears to be his feel for pitching, which is often enough to get lower-level hitters out but not high-level players. John Sickels of Minor League Ball did rate Aquino 18th on his 2014 preseason prospects list, but he was the only one besides us to give Aquino much consideration (I put him 20th on my list). Purple Row is still on Aquino as a prospect; he's the first player in this series to have been listed on every ballot (every player above him also has this distinction). I really am rooting for Aquino to succeed, and if he does so at Double-A New Britain next year, he'll have a better argument to receive widespread consideration from scouts.
Given his 40-man placement, Aquino has two years left before he needs to be moved onto the 25-man roster.. My guess is that he'll need most of that time to develop into a major league pitcher.
Contract Status: 2009 amateur free agent (Dominican Republic), 40-man roster, two options remaining
MLB ETA: Late 2016