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Rockies prospect rankings: No. 23 Helmis Rodriguez facing adversity in full-season debut

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Rodriguez dominated the short-season Northwest League last year, but his concerning peripherals have started to hurt him in Low-A.

PuRP No. 23: Helmis Rodriguez (284 points, 32 ballots) | Winter 2014 Ranking: 23 | High Ballot 15, Mode Ballot 22

Rodriguez rose to prominence as a prospect to watch last year after a great season in the pitcher-friendly Northwest League. In 91⅓ innings over 15 starts, Dark Helmis (who has a twin named Herlis) had a 1.97 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP against players who on average were 1.4 years older than him. That was markedly better than the 5.10 ERA and 1.39 WHIP he posted in the Pioneer League in 54⅔ innings in 2013. There was some question as to the legitimacy of those numbers, given the 4.1 K/9 and 3.90 FIP the lefty had behind those gaudy ERA stats. After all, a pitcher like Helmis, who has good command and pitchability at lower levels, often struggles to get hitters out at higher levels without strikeout stuff.

This year in his full season ball debut in Asheville, the 21-year-old hurler has seen his ERA, K/9, and BB/9 all rise. In 95⅓ innings over 18 starts with the Tourists, Rodriguez has a 3.49 ERA, 4.48 FIP, and 1.40 WHIP against hitters who are on average a year older. The K/9 that was a demerit last year has risen to 6.4 (not great for a prospect, but on the bottom range of acceptable), but the BB/9 that was a secret to his success had also risen to 3.4. In addition, the GO/AO ratio that had stayed above 2.0 at most of his minor league stops decreased to 1.8.

Rodriguez just turned 21 last month, but given his 2010 signing status and two years in the DSL, he's a prospect whose minor league service clock is ticking. He was eligible for the Rule 5 draft this past year and was left unprotected and unpicked, not surprising given that Rodriguez hadn't made his full-season debut yet. He's likely to go unprotected and unpicked again this year given his mediocre results in Asheville, but if the Rockies don't add him to the 40-man roster by the end of the 2016 season, he'll become a minor league free agent.

The Rockies protected Jayson Aquino in a similar situation at the end of 2013 despite how far away he was at the time, but I don't think the team will do so for Rodriguez, who hasn't shown up on any major scouting lists since a cameo in the honorable mention section of Minor League Ball's 2013 top 20 list.

I interpret all of this information to see a pitcher who might not have the stuff to get upper minor league hitters out -- and one who might be too far away given his minor league development clock. That is why he missed my personal list (the last of the five players on this edition of the PuRPs list who did not make my ballot). Most of the voters disagree with that stance, as I was one of just five to not rank him.

Contract Status: 2010 free agent (Venezuela); Rule 5 eligible; three options remaining

MLB ETA: 2018