After coming to the Rockies in the 2014 draft with Colorado's Competitive Balance Round A pick (No. 35 overall) and signing with an overslot $2 million bonus, Forrest Wall has consistently proved that the Rockies made a good decision. It was rare for a high school second baseman (or really, a second baseman period) to go so high in the draft, but resident prospect guru David Hood had this to say about Wall when he was selected as an explanation:
Wall is available at pick 35 because of a couple of arm injuries, one that has led him to 2nd base, where he's likely to stay career-wise, with a fallback of centerfield (with minus arm) if need be, but not as likely. Wall is going to hit. His set up is a little noisy and he can get out on his front foot a little early, but Wall exhibits plus bat speed and the ability to barrel balls. He's a little slight of frame despite a listed height of 6'1, but the bat speed gives him the chance for solid to above average pop, a plus from second base. Wall also exhibits plus, usable speed, making him a threat on the bases and a high triples number candidate in Coors Field.
In other words, Wall is a second baseman who is very likely to stick there. With that said, he's an athletic, bat-first, left-handed-hitting second baseman, which makes him a bit more highly regarded.
In the first year of his professional career, Wall showed off that hit tool, putting up a .318/.416/.490 line (136 wRC+) in 188 plate appearances against players that were on average 2.5 years older than him in Rookie ball Grand Junction.
The combination of production, pedigree, and potential was enough for Nick Faleris of Baseball Prospectus to rate Wall seventh in the system before 2015:
Strengths: Premium contact ability; natural ability to match swing plane to pitch plane, producing regular hard contact and allowing for maximum force at impact regardless of quadrant or pitch type; pure hitter in every sense; solid approach and comfort working deep or attacking early; average raw pop; double-plus speed plays out of the box and on the dirt; range spans from shallow right to behind the bag; sure hands.
Weaknesses: Below-average arm resultant from labrum surgery; arm could limit defensive impact, particularly around the bag; playable pop may top out to the gaps due to swing; limited defensive profile and capped power ceiling place pressure on the hit tool.
It's not often you see a pure second-base profile nab a $2 million signing bonus in the draft, but Wall is an exception to the rule, with his presence at the keystone tied solely to his below-average arm strength. The sturdy, sweet-swinging lefty has the hands and athleticism to handle the six spot, as well as the speed and instincts for center field, and the case can be made that had Wall's arm permitted him to profile comfortably at either spot, his enticing hit tool could have garnered attention as early as the middle of the first round.
While the hit tool is the crown jewel of the profile, Wall's speed and savvy should likewise allow him to impact the game on the bases and in the field, providing a broad baseline skill set to go with what could very well wind up the best pure stick in the 2014 draft class.
In 2015, Wall (who turned 20 after the season) had a pretty good campaign, though a shoulder injury (to his other, non-throwing shoulder) cost him a month of the season - something to watch going forward. In Low-A Asheville against pitchers that were again on average 2.5 years older, the lefty produced a .280/.355/.438 line (125 wRC+) with 33 extra base hits and 23 steals in 416 plate appearances for the Tourists (plus 17 rehab appearances with the Short Season A Boise Hawks, in which he hit .500/.647/.500).
While he wasn't able to maintain the eye-popping 14.4% BB rate he'd managed in Grand Junction, settling in at 9.9% in Asheville, Wall demonstrated an advanced plate approach and had a respectable 17.7% K rate. That production was enough for MLB.com to place him No. 93 on their Top 100 prospects list in their mid-season prospect update, sixth in Colorado's system.
In their preseason 2016 prospect ranks, MLB.com rated Wall the 4th best second base prospect in the minor leagues. In comparison to his 2015 tool evaluation, they dropped the hit (from 60 to 55) and run tools (70 to 65) while elevating the arm tool (35 to 40). Even after that, Wall remains very much in play for a slot in the overall preseason top 100 for a number of publications. Here's what MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo had to say about Wall:
Wall hit .295 with 43 steals in 144 games against much older competition during his first two pro seasons. He has an advanced feel for hitting and the strike zone and hits line drives to all fields. While Wall is not a big guy, he has impressive bat speed and could develop close to average power once he matures physically.
Wall's well-above-average speed makes him dangerous on the bases, though he's still learning the nuances of stealing. The biggest concern with him remains his arm, which hasn't bounced all the way back since he had surgery to repair a torn labrum in 2011. The Rockies are confident that Wall's arm will be playable and that he can become an average defender at second base, with center field a possible fallback.
First of all, the fact that a prospect like Wall, one of the best second base prospects in the minors, is outside the top ten of this PuRPs list (and defensibly so) is a testament to the kind of impact prospect depth the Rockies have developed over the last few years. I was excited enough by the overall tool set and production, but also cognizant enough of the organizational depth, that I ranked Wall 12th on my list.
Wall as a prospect really is an interesting package, especially if his arm strength continues to improve and he can avoid any more serious shoulder injuries. Now it's time to see if Wall's success at the plate continues in High A Modesto this year. If he does continue down this path, Wall could be a player that is a solid MLB starter (and better fantasy baseball commodity) before his 23rd birthday.