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The youthful Rockies have a bright immediate future

Prospect rankings aren’t the only way to evaluate an organization’s youth movement.

When farm system rankings start to trickle out over the next couple of months, the Rockies will mostly likely be in a worse position than they were last year. MLB Pipeline ranked the Rockies as the fourth best farm system prior to 2016, while Baseball Prospectus had them as the third best. Baseball America, on the low side, ranked the Rockies’ farm system sixth.

The primary reason the Rockies won’t be ranked as highly this season is because they graduated three of their top ten prospects—Jon Gray, David Dahl, and Trevor Story—while only adding one high-level prospect in Riley Pint. The expected decline in rankings, in other words, should not be read as a decline of high expectations.

There’s another way to assess a team’s future outlook that accounts for strength of the farm and major-league youth. Every year when Baseball Prospectus releases its top 10 prospect list for each team, it also includes a “Top 10 Talents 25 and Under” list. Last year, the list included players born on or after April 1, 1990. This year, it includes those born on or after April 1, 1991. Because “top talent” is the implied measure, the ranking favors a player’s realistic ceiling.

The 25 and under view of an organization provides a different perspective than a prospect ranking. A list full of low-minors talent might have a bright future but a poor likelihood of competing at the major-league level. A list with successful major-leaguers and high-minors talent could be ready to compete.

For instance, in last year’s write up of the Rockies, BP author Bryan Grosnick said that it’s necessary to temper “the good news of an outrageously improved farm system with the stark truths of an awful major-league roster.” The roster turned out to be not nearly as bad as many people thought, but it’s easy to see how this list of 25 and under talents didn’t lead one to imagine a decent major-league team:

  1. Nolan Arenado
  2. Brendan Rodgers
  3. Jeff Hoffman
  4. Ryan McMahon
  5. David Dahl
  6. Jon Gray
  7. Raimel Tapia
  8. Forrest Wall
  9. Eddie Butler
  10. Jordan Lyles

That list included exactly one reliable major-leaguer, Nolan Arenado. The immediate fortune of a team just doesn’t seem that rosy when the youth is either a little too youthful or hasn’t found success in the major leagues. It was great to have stacked top prospect lists, but a 25 and under list full of prospects and a couple of post-prospects sneaking in at the bottom left Rockies fans wanting. Butler and Lyles are no longer eligible for the list due to age (not that there would be room for them anymore, as we’ll see soon).

BP won’t release its Rockies list for a few more weeks, but we can take a stab at what it might look like when it does come out. The results are encouraging because they now contain a mix of major-leaguers, close to the majors prospects, and high-ceiling players from the lower rungs of the minors. Here’s how I’d rank them:

  1. Nolan Arenado
  2. Brendan Rodgers
  3. Riley Pint
  4. Jon Gray
  5. Jeff Hoffman
  6. David Dahl
  7. Ryan McMahon
  8. Trevor Story
  9. Germán Márquez
  10. Raimel Tapia

As opposed to the 2016 list, this one has four players who have made the critical turn from shiny prospect to major-leaguer, as Jon Gray, David Dahl, and Trevor Story join Arenado. There are also three additional players who, while they have yet to find sustained success in the majors, have at least received playing time: Hoffman, Márquez, and Tapia. Brendan Rodgers and Riley Pint represent the “skies the limit but still pretty young” contingent, and Ryan McMahon is the lone representative of the "had a down year but is still super talented" group. There are four pitchers and six position players. In all, that’s a pretty good mix.

Not only that, but the Rockies have a few other players that could make a case to be on this list. Catchers Tom Murphy and Tony Wolters both have great cases, but who is removed in favor of one or both of them? Relief pitchers Carlos Estevez, Miguel Castro, and Jaíro Diaz might stake a claim if your jam is power arms from the bullpen. Forrest Wall could challenge to be grouped with McMahon as another down year but still talented guy—Dom Nunez too. Finally, Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela, and Ryan Castellani might carve out space as guys who look like they can hold up a major-league rotation from the back end someday.

How would you rank the Rockies top 10 talents 25 and under?