Jesus Tinoco, the least heralded of the three prospects received by the Rockies from the Blue Jays in the Troy Tulowitzki trade last July, is the first person on the PuRPs list revealed so far to have been named on every voter's ballot. That's a distinction he shares with the 13 players above him on the list as well, the Purple Row consensus top Rockies prospects.
The 20 year-old righty was signed by Toronto to a $400,000 bonus in late September of 2011 out of Venezuela as a 16 year-old, placing him in the same international signing class as fellow new PuRP Miguel Castro. Tinoco made his professional debut in 2012 in the Dominican Summer League and also was given a brief cameo in the short season Gulf Coast League. Tinoco then spent the full 2013 season in the GCL (which is a complex level league) and the 2014 season in the Appalachian League, which is equivalent to the Pioneer League that the GJ Rockies play in. At both levels, Tinoco struggled to stand out against older hitters, with an ERA around 5 and a WHIP around 1.50.
Despite his struggles, Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs ranked Tinoco 16th in the Blue Jays system prior to 2015:
Tinoco is 6'4/190 and projectable, but already sits 92-95, hitting 97 mph with heavy sink. His slider and changeup both flash above average ... The starter traits are here, but it's still early in the process.
That stuff was enough to earn Tinoco a promotion to the Low A Midwest League for the 2015 season in early May, where he began to show glimpses of breaking out. In 81 1/3 innings over 15 starts for Lansing against hitters that were on average two years older, Tinoco posted a 3.54 ERA, 2.77 FIP, 1.35 WHIP, 7.5 K/9, and 2.4 BB/9.
And then it happened: the Tulo trade on July 28, in which Tinoco was the smallest minor league piece coming over to the Rockies.
Now in an Asheville Tourists uniform, Tinoco decided to take his breakout season to a new level. In 40 innings with the Tourists over seven starts, Tinoco turned in elite performance after elite performance. He ended with a 1.80 ERA, 3.03 FIP, 1.10 WHIP, 8.3 K/9, and 1.8 BB/9 -- excellent numbers for a pitcher in his first season of A ball. The performance was enough for MLB.com to place Tinoco 18th in the Rockies system in their mid-season update:
The 6-foot-4 20-year-old has natural size and arm strength working in his favor. With a loose arm, he can run his fastball up to 94-95 mph. He throws it with a ton of sink, already showing a propensity for groundball outs. He complements his fastball with a slider that shows glimpses of being a quality breaking ball and also has a feel for a changeup. In small increments, Tinoco has shown an ability to make adjustments, and he's become a little more efficient, in terms of finding the strike zone.
The stuff and the results in 2015 present a compelling argument for Tinoco's prospect status, though I do think his excellence in a small sample size in Asheville might have encouraged PuRPs voters to overlook his previous struggles. I placed Tinoco 18th on my ballot, on the low side for the electorate, but that's mostly because I'd like to see if Tinoco's breakout is real when he gets to High A Modesto in 2016. This year is a big one for Tinoco, who will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft following 2016, as he can validate his MLB rotation potential or plateau as a relief prospect, an outcome that was seen as more likely even at the time of the Tulo trade.