"This is a really, really good system."
Thus begins Baseball Prospectus's newly released top Rockies prospects list today. Just like the other recently released lists, this one has a lot of great things to say about the depth and breadth of the Rockies system.
Unsurprisingly, last year’s number one, Jon Gray, has fallen a few spots. Brendan Rodgers takes the mantle as the Rockies number one prospect for now, on account of his very high ceiling. Jeff Hoffman is once again ranked higher than Gray. That's a positive for Hoffman more than it is a negative for Gray. This is probably going to be the last time Gray shows up on a prospect list, though that doesn't necessarily mean he'll be an entrenched major league starter. Here, as elsewhere, there worry about Gray's command.
We already knew the top seven Rockies prospects because seven appeared on the BP Top 101 prospects list, but they appear here slightly differently ordered. Most notably, Ryan McMahon leaped David Dahl for the three spot. Despite the high ranking on this list and in baseball in general, Jeffrey Paternostro, who wrote up the ranking, suggests that McMahon "does get overlooked a bit when talking about the best prospects in baseball. Third base prospects can get neglected, mostly because they are not shortstops, and McMahon's power production as a pro could be pooh-poohed by people who focus too much on the parks and leagues he's played in so far."
The word "preternatural" is once again used to describe sixth ranked Raimel Tapia's hitting skills. Sometimes, no other descriptor will do an act justice.
Antonio Senzatela, Kyle Freeland, and Trevor Story round out the top ten.
Baseball America has Senzatela ranked ninth in the the Rockies system, so his eighth ranking here isn't too aggressive. But it is another vote of confidence for someone who has really risen within the system. The rise is due to Senzatela's potentially plus-plus fastball, which can reach the high 90s, and his deceptive delivery. The caveats here come with his current lack of polished secondary offerings. The write-up concedes that he might the surest future in the bullpen, but "the feeling internally at Prospectus is that he can stick in the starting rotation long term."
After most of a lost season, it is nice to see Freeland remain in among the top 10 here. The big worry for him is that Freeland "has a starter's arsenal, but he does not have a starter's mechanics." Couple that with the fact that Freeland has yet to pitch over a full season, and the outlook on him is slightly dampened. We'll learn a lot about Freeland this season.
Trevor Story comes it at number ten. While Story has lost some of the prospect shine he previously had, he's more and more looking like a major leaguer. I think this will be Story's last go-round on a prospect list, although they place his ETA at 2017.
1) Brendan Rodgers
2) Jeff Hoffman
3) Ryan McMahon
4) David Dahl
5) Jon Gray
6) Raimel Tapia
7) Forrest Wall
8) Antonio Senzatela
9) Kyle Freeland
10) Trevor Story
Three players from last year’s top ten aren’t on the list any longer. Eddie Butler, who was ranked fourth, has exhausted his rookie eligibility, although he might end up playing more Triple-A ball than a couple of names on the list. Eighth ranked Tyler Anderson didn't play at all in 2015, which is reason enough for him to get squeezed out. Last year's number 10 prospect, Dom Nunez, got pushed off this year because the system got stronger at the top.
In addition to the top ten, there are five more "interesting" names that received coverage here. These players can be thought of as "prospects on the rise." They are Jordan Patterson, Tom Murphy, Dom Nunez, Mike Nikorak, and Pedro Gonzalez.
Paternostro notes that he was surprised to see Patterson left off the top 10 because "he would cruise into the top 10 in almost any other organization." He makes a similar comment regarding Murphy, who profiles similarly to top 10 catchers in other systems. Gonzalez will make his case when he makes his stateside debut.
Nunez, who is quickly becoming one of the most exciting names in the Rockies organization, is a top 10 casualty of the leap the system took from a year ago. After another year of excellent hitting and, most importantly, continued progress as a catcher, he’s someone to keep a close eye on. But as with all developing catchers, the progress will be slower.
It looks like Nikorak is going to go one of two ways on a future top prospects list. If he exhibits the strengths he had on draft day last year, he'll easily crack the top 10. If the horrid command he showed in the Pioneer League proves not to be an anomaly, he won't even be in the "plus" section of these lists.
While different evaluators have been responsible for the BP lists over the past three years, there is an institutional memory and a long-standing emphasis on high ceiling talent at BP. In this light, the Rockies system sure looks to be getting stronger. The fact that Raimel Tapia has fall from the number three prospect prior to 2014, which was a very aggressive ranking that has since been validated, to the number six prospect prior to 2016 is evidence of this.
Finally, the Top 10 under 25 list offers a glimpse at the youthful talent both in the majors and minors. Unsurprisingly, Nolan Arenado sits atop this list for the second year in a row. It’s revealing that there are more minor leaguers than current major leaguers on this list right now. The Rockies major league roster is not that young, but the organization has a lot of very talented players who should debut within the next one to three years. The major league roster is, obviously, also not very good. Contributor Bryan Grosnick writes: "One must often buoy the good news of an outrageously improved farm system with the stark truths of an awful major league roster."
Whether or not the Rockies can contend with this wave of young talent relies both on the realization of this talent as well as filling out the roster with capable depth. This can come from deeper within the organization, but it might also come from shrewd free agent signings. In particular, Gerardo Parra's presence on the 2018 Rockies, when six of the Rockies top ten prospects right now might already have debuted, might cause us to view his acquisition from a different perspective.
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
It's worth noting the presence of Butler and Lyles here. The inclusion of the first indicates that there is still reasonable hope that Butler sticks in the majors, even if that means a bullpen role. The inclusion of the second is not only a reminder that Lyles is still very young, but that he has demonstrated enough ability to remain in a major league rotation. He's never going to sit at the top of one, but competing teams need quality 3-4 starters. It's also worth nothing that the inclusion of Butler and Lyles means the absence of Tyler Matzek. If Matzek can find a resolution to his mound troubles, he can be about as good as Gray. But that's no certainty. Overall, this is another positive review of the state of the Rockies farm system. It's no guarantee of future success, but it sure helps. The Rockies have had exciting prospects before, but the system has never been this deep, with high ceiling-talent peppering every level of the minors.