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Rockies prospect rankings: No. 10 Mike Nikorak struggling early in pro career

Nikorak represented a tremendous value pick at No. 27 overall for the Rockies in the 2015 draft. Early issues in his pro debut don't change that.

PuRP No. 10: Mike Nikorak (762 points, 37 ballots) | Winter 2014 Ranking: NR | High Ballot 4, Mode Ballot 8

In the lead-up to the 2015 draft, the Rockies were known to be a possible landing place for Mike Nikorak -- as a potential third overall draft pick. That would have been seen as a slight reach at one point, but many considered the 18-year-old Nikorak a top 10 talent entering June. The right-handed starting pitcher from Stroudsburg, Pa. struggled somewhat in his final high school season, but he was still considered by industry experts to be the top high school pitcher in the draft class, full stop (he was ranked 16th overall pre-draft by Baseball America and fifth by David Hood).

Therefore, many in baseball thought the Rockies got a steal when Nikorak fell into their lap with the 27th pick in the draft. Colorado quickly signed him for a slightly overslot bonus of $2.3 million. MLB.com's decision to put Nikorak in its midseason top 100 (at No. 98), seventh in Colorado's system, shows the kind of love Nikorak is getting from the prospect community so far:

Nikorak started raising his profile with his performance at the Perfect Game National Showcase at the beginning of the summer before his senior season. When the eastern Pennsylvania native came out this spring once it thawed in the Northeast with the same 94-97 mph fastball he showed the previous summer, he cemented himself as a first-rounder. Though he struggled a bit with command and lost a tick or two as the spring wore one, he was still effective with his fastball thanks to plenty of run and sink. He shows the makings of a plus curveball at times and also flashes at least a solid changeup.

An all-conference quarterback before he decided to focus on baseball, Nikorak is extremely athletic and has a lot of projection remaining in his lean 6-foot-5 frame.

Thus far, Nikorak has been handled very carefully in rookie ball Grand Junction, with a strict innings and pitch count. He's struggled in a small sample size in his professional debut, with an ERA of 11.00 and an unsightly 3.00 WHIP over nine innings in four starts. Nikorak has struck out six in that time but has worryingly also walked 12. It's just the very beginning of Nikorak's professional career, but admittedly it hasn't been a good first impression for the righty.

Despite that poor start (which hadn't happened yet when PuRPs voting occurred), I definitely have bought in to the combination of stuff, pedigree, and potential that Nikorak brings to the table; I ranked him sixth on my PuRPs ballot as a top 15 value who Colorado wisely pounced on at the end of the first round. We'll see if the Rockies decide to give him a taste of full-season ball next year or if they continue bringing him along more slowly with a short-season ball repeat.

Contract Status: 2015 first round, not Rule 5 eligible (2019), three options remaining

MLB ETA: Late 2019