It's time for the 2016 preseason Purple Row Prospects (PuRPs) list, the Purple Row community's ranking of the top 30 Rockies prospects. The top 30 prospects will be revealed one at a time over the next few weeks to give people who aren't in the know a little bit more of information on them. First up, an intro to the list and the five honorable mention PuRPs.
In this edition of the PuRPs poll, 41 ballots were cast, with 30 points granted for a first place vote, 29 for second, etc. Until a player was named on 14 ballots, his vote totals were modified on a sliding scale to avoid an individual ballot having too much say over the community forecast -- though none of the players on this edition of the list were listed on fewer than 14 ballots. The first tiebreaker goes to the player who was ranked on the most ballots, then to the one who was ranked highest on an individual PuRPs ballot, and the third is the mode ballot (one tie was broken in this edition).
In all, 66 players received at least one vote for this PuRPs list (up from 59), 44 got mentioned on multiple ballots (down from 51), and 32 were named on at least 14 ballots (even with last time) and therefore were unmodified. The top 14 players were named on every ballot, though not necessarily in the same order, while only two PuRPs failed to appear on at least 20 ballots. Here is a link to the polling thread.
All prospects who retained their Rookie of the Year eligibility (less than 130 ABs, 50 IP, and 45 days on the active roster) were eligible for selection on this list. From the midseason 2015 list, only Kyle Parker (14) exhausted his rookie eligibility and was not eligible for this list.
For each player on the PuRPs list (and the HM players below), I'll include a link to individual stats (via Baseball-Reference), contract status (via Rockies Roster), and a note on the 2015 season. For what it's worth, I'll also include where I put each player on my personal ballot. All ages are as of the time the article was posted.
Remember that the statistics pages are not the end-all be-all when evaluating these players. Context is hugely important (such as the player's age relative to the league's average or the league average offensive numbers), as is the fact that injuries to prospects can affect both their tools and their stats. I'll make sure and make mention of instances where this is the case as we go on.
More discussion on the voting will be included in the final installment of this series, but here are the five players who came closest to inclusion on the 2016 preseason PuRPs List, the Honorable Mention PuRPs:
35. David Hill (46.3 points, 12 ballots), 2015 4th Round, RHP at Short Season A (21)
34. Sam Howard (50 points, 10 ballots), 2014 3rd Round, LHP in Low A (22)
33. Zach Jemiola (63 points,16 ballots), 2012 9th Round, RHP in High A (21)
32. Daniel Montano (67 points, 15 ballots), 2015 IFA (VZ), OF in DSL (16)
31. Ryan Casteel (68.6 points, 12 ballots), 2010 17th Round, C in AAA (24)
Here are some notes on the five honorable mention PuRPs:
Hill is a player who fell into Colorado's lap in the fourth round with the 133rd overall selection. The 21-year-old San Diego product had been rated as the 44th best prospect in the draft by Baseball America (four spots ahead of Colorado second rounder Peter Lambert) and was ranked 33rd on my personal list this time, just off the ballot. He was assigned to the Short-Season A Boise Hawks, where he threw 23⅓ innings. In that small sample, he had a 3.09 ERA, 8.9 K/9, and 3.5 BB/9 for the Hawks.
Hill is a candidate to begin the year in either the Low-A Asheville or High-A Modesto rotations, though I'm leaning toward the former.
Hill is one of the more electric arms in this college class. While the velocity tops out around 94 mph, he has hard sink of the fastball and can get almost curveball action on his slider when he stays on top of it. He has the makings of an average change-up, but I didn't see it enough on film. Hill's delivery is a little mechanical and his release point can be inconsistent, but few pitchers in this class pitch with better stuff when he's on.
Howard, a hurler noted more for his finesse, was Colorado's third rounder in 2014 out of Georgia Southern. The 6'3, 170-pound southpaw struggled initially as a professional, posting a 5.40 ERA in 53⅓ innings in rookie ball Grand Junction, which pushed him somewhat off the prospect radar (though Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs did mention Howard could turn into a fifth starter). In 2015 against age-appropriate competition at Asheville, Howard showed why he's a potential rotation piece, throwing 134 innings of 3.43 ERA, 8.2 K/9, and 2.1 BB/9 ball.
Our Charlie Drysdale interviewed Howard back in May and the lefty talked about the new slider he had been working on and the mechanical changes he had undergone. On my ballot, Howard was just outside the top 40, but he's one I'll be watching in 2016, likely at Modesto, as potential rotation depth.
Jemiola was the No. 28 PuRP in the summer list but narrowly missed this time around. The 21-year-old right-hander entered 2015, his fourth year as a pro, needing to distinguish himself from the crowd, and Jemiola delivered in a repeat stint at Asheville. In 62⅔ innings with the Tourists, Jemiola posted a 3.16 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 7.5 K/9 before earning a rare midseason promotion to Modesto. With the Nuts, Jemiola had a 4.08 ERA, 6.9 K/9, and 2.7 BB/9 in 90⅓ innings while pitching to hitters that were, on average, more than two years older than him.
The fact that Jemiola was in this situation at all given his poor results through 2014 speaks to how much the Rockies think of him and his live arm, though that promise wasn't enough for me to place him on my personal ballot. At any rate, Jemiola will likely repeat at Modesto, at least to start 2016.
Montano was Colorado's big Latin American signing, agreeing to terms with the club on July 2. The Venezuelan outfielder, who was listed as the 14th best international prospect by MLB.com, was given a $2 million bonus (Colorado's highest ever for a Latin American player). Here's a blurb from Jesse Sanchez on Montano:
Montano is lean -- some evaluators even describe him as lanky -- and he is athletic, with room to grow. On defense, some scouts view him as the ideal center fielder because of his ability to read balls off the bat and his defensive instincts. He has also impressed evaluators with his reactions to balls hit into the gaps. A natural left-handed hitter with a fluid stroke and a good approach, he should grow into more power.
Montano's arm is best described as playable, and he has enough arm strength to play his primary position in center field. He does have some experience playing in the infield, particularly at second base, but his future will be in the outfield as long as he continues to develop.
Though Montano has yet to play a professional game, the teenager has the tools to be an impact prospect for Colorado, albeit one who is years away from contributing. I tend to value potential ceiling highly when filling out a ballot, which is why Montano ranked 21st on my list.
Casteel, who was a 17th round pick in 2010, was No. 22 on this list in the summer. But an injury-marred 2015 and the lack of scouting buzz around him combined for Casteel to narrowly miss the list this time. The 24-year-old catcher has been young for his level at every stop and has put up a power-heavy batting line (he's called "Hammer" by teammates) of over 100 wRC+ at each level -- until 2015 at Triple-A Albuquerque. For the Isotopes, Casteel slipped to a .292/.301/.415 line (86 wRC+) against pitchers on average almost three years older than him. Unfortunately, Casteel was limited in 2015 by a quadriceps injury to 34 games and 134 plate appearances. For Casteel, who was sharing the catching duties with Dustin Garneau, it marks his second straight year with an injury keeping him out of play for a while, after suffering a fractured cheekbone while running the bases last year.
The challenge with a player like Casteel, who has done nothing but hit well in his professional career, is that he doesn't seem too high on the organization's priority list. After all, the Rockies have had multiple chances to add him to the 40-man roster during the offseason and other MLB teams have not selected him in the Rule 5 Draft. As a result, it's difficult to put a finger on Casteel's ultimate big league fit. While he's still got time, that question is what led me to drop Casteel to 28th on my personal ballot this year after placing him as high as the mid-teens previously.
Casteel will become a minor league free agent if the Rockies don't place him on the 40-man roster after the 2016 season, so Colorado will need to make a decision one way or the other with the slugger, who could be a factor this season at the major league level as catching depth or as part of a first base platoon.
Want to know which players made the PuRPs cut? Follow our Purple Row prospect rankings StoryStream to stay up to date.