PuRP No. 20: Alex Balog (325 points, 32 ballots) | Winter 2014 Ranking: 18 | High Ballot 15, Mode Ballot 22
After suffering an injury that system pitching instructor Bob Apodaca had called "one of the most unusual injuries [he's] ever heard of", in which Alex Balog was forced to pin his arm above his head for an elongated period of time, Colorado's supplemental second round pick in 2013 struggled mightily in his debut season. Balog then had a bounce back year of health in 2014. He pitched 150⅓ innings of 3.95 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 4.01 FIP, 6.8 K/9 baseball at an age appropriate level. Not great numbers, but decent in context.
Unfortunately, Balog's bid to break out this year found a setback when he suffered a groin injury on his first day at spring training that knocked him out until June, when he reported to the High-A Modesto Nuts. In eight starts with Modesto thus far, the 23 year-old has thrown 48⅓ innings with a 3.91 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 3.54 FIP, and 6.3 K/9 against hitters that are on average a year older than him. These numbers represent Balog's best minor league campaign so far, but results thus far have not matched the stuff the Rockies thought they were getting when they drafted Balog.
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.
The stuff shown in the above video was apparent to Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs, who rated Balog 17th among Rockies prospects last year:
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 high round potential and starter stuff is what keeps Balog so high in these lists (he was 25th on my ballot), but the results need to catch up to the stuff for him to rise higher. If he's able to settle down in Modesto and really get in a rhythm, he's a potential "out of nowhere" prospect that could provide valuable starter depth to the Rockies within two years. Beyond that, Balog's 6'5 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 (2016), 3 options remaining
MLB ETA: Late 2017