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Rockies prospect rankings: No. 25 Carlos Estevez brings heat to late relief

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After being added to the 40-man roster, Estevez might see late inning relief work for the Rockies as soon as 2016.

Jen Mac Ramos

Carlos Estevez had a great end of 2015. First, the Rockies selected him for Arizona Fall League participation. Then, they added him to the 40-man roster in advance of the Rule 5 draft. Finally, PuRPs voters placed Estevez on his first PuRPs list. Estevez was a late bloomer relative to most Dominican amateur free agents, signing with the Rockies in 2011 as an 18 year-old just before the 2011 Dominican Summer League season started.

The 6'4" right-hander, who just turned 23, spent two seasons in the DSL with results that hardly jumped off the page. But he showed enough talent to make his stateside debut in 2013 with Grand Junction (and a cameo in Tri-City). Again, his numbers (3.66 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 8.2 K/9, 3.4 BB/9 in 39 1/3 innings) weren't flashy, but Estevez debuted in full season ball in 2014 with Low-A Asheville. It was during 2014 with the Tourists that Estevez started to get some attention from prospect hounds, despite posting lackluster surface numbers again (4.72 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 8.4 K/9, 1.4 BB/9 in 53 1/3 frames).

Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs had seen enough to rank him 22nd among Rockies prospects after 2014:

6'4"/210 Dominican righty is 21 and sits 94-98 mph in short stints out of the bullpen. He isn't just an arm strength guy, as the curveball is solid-average at times and he'll use a slider and changeup. Estevez is still working on consistent mechanics/command, but there's late-inning potential if the feel develops.
In 2015, Estevez the lottery ticket became Estevez the dominant reliever. He started the season with High-A Modesto and embarrassed California League hitters, posting a 1.37 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 11.0 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 in 19  innings before receiving a promotion to Double-A New Britain. Against hitters 2.6 years older than him on average while with the Rock Cats, Estevez didn't post the same strong surface numbers in 36 innings (notably the ERA rose to 4.50 and WHIP to 1.33), but his FIP was a very strong 2.44, while his K/9 (10.8) and BB/9 (2.2) remained very good. Estevez followed that up by garnering praise for his performance in the Arizona Fall League (see the video), in which he threw 11  innings, llowing five earned runs on five hits and seven walks (worrisome), but also striking out 14 hitters.

After standing out in the AFL, Estevez was written up very positively by John Arguello of  2080 Sports. Some highlights:
Estevez was one of the more pleasant surprises of the AFL this year. In fact, he was the best reliever I saw in the league ... Make no mistake. Carlos Estevez can light up a radar gun. He hit 95 to 97 with regularity and touched as high as 98. Though there were pitchers with higher readings, Estevez had one of the best fastballs I observed in Arizona ... The slider can at least be an MLB average offering, but given how good his fastball is, and how well he can set the slider up, he only needs to command it consistently for the pitch to be a solid complement to that plus fastball ... As Estevez's control numbers would suggest (6 walks in 11.1 AFL innings) there is still some inconsistency with his command. If that improves, then Estevez profiles as a late inning high-leverage reliever at the MLB level, possibly as a closer.
There's a lot more good stuff in there (particularly about why Estevez has such an effective fastball), so I recommend reading the whole article. In addition to that praise, Estevez was placed at number 30 of MLB.com's Rockies prospect list:
Estevez has always thrown hard, with a fastball that typically sits in the mid-90s. He can reach back for something extra and touches 98-99 mph with regularity. He scrapped a curveball for a developing, and more effective, slider and he'll mix in a changeup on occasion to keep hitters honest. Especially for a power arm, Estevez does an excellent job of throwing strikes, though he was more hittable than one would expect when he made his full-season debut in 2014 ... Giving someone a "future closer" label is always dangerous, but if Estevez can continue sharpening his breaking ball to go along with his plus fastball, he has the potential to make that kind of contribution.
With Estevez, Jairo Diaz, and Sam Moll (with other potential relievers like Miguel Castro and Eddie Butler), the Rockies have several possibly elite relief arms in the upper part of their system or the major league roster. Estevez has the chance to be a legitimate late inning reliever, which is why I placed him on my list at 29 (something I rarely do with relievers). I would wager that Estevez will begin 2016 in Triple-A Albuquerque, maybe as the closer for the Isotopes, waiting on a mid to late season call-up by the Rockies when the need arises.