FanGraphs released its prospect evaluation article for this upcoming season. It’s incredibly promising, and it contains a few surprises. The FanGraphs’ lists aren’t like others. Dan Farnsworth, the site’s lead prospect writer, tiers the prospects by future value grades. They list everyone with a 40+ grade (below average major leaguer), so there is no set number of prospects covered. Also, the write-ups are thorough, so we’re only going to scratch the surface here.
The first saliva-inducing takeaway is that the Rockies have 13 50+ future value prospects (which roughly means at least an average major leaguer), according to Farnsworth. Any grade above that is reserved for Stephen Strasburg type prospects, which means the Rockies are bulging at the very top. For a bit of context, no other team Farnsworth has profiled so far has more than 10 at that grade. The Orioles have just four. That tells us that the Rockies have a lot of high ceiling talent, and most of them also have a pretty high floor. They are:
1) Brendan Rodgers
2) Jeff Hoffman
3) David Dahl
4) Ryan McMahon
5) Jon Gray
6) Raimel Tapia
7) Dom Nunez
8) Forrest Wall
9) Tom Murphy
10) Trevor Story
11) Kyle Freeland
12) Peter Lambert
13) Carlos Estevez
Gray, the No. 1 PuRP, has a semi-skeptical ranking here is on account of his command issues. But his ranking is not even that skeptical. Farnsworth notes that "if Gray can settle-in with slightly below-average command, he’s a number-three starter with the stuff he possesses."
Any disappointment in Gray’s placement at number five should be tempered by the fact that the four players ahead of him also happen to be in the Rockies’ system. Farnsworth’s description of Hoffman suggests that he’s some fine-tuning away from being a top of the rotation starter. To wit: "Consistency with his delivery, particularly finding a rhythm that works for him again, will be the key to seeing him at the top of any big league rotation."
This is probably going to be the most aggressive pre-season ranking for Dom Nunez. It’s the one I’m most excited about, as I’ve come to really appreciate how valuable a defensively sound catcher can be. Even better, Nunez projects to be a very good hitter as well. That Nunez has only been playing catcher for two years and is becoming a name to know corroborates reports that his makeup is excellent. On Nunez: "Assuming a natural progression of his current skills, we might be looking at a rare gifted defensive catcher who can hit for average and power." Squee!
The most surprising name on the list above is Peter Lambert, who isn’t ranked this high anywhere else. Indeed, he ranked No. 21 on this year’s PuRP list, so Farnsworth is higher on him than this purple brain trust we have here. The aggressiveness comes from Lambert’s command, especially for someone just out of high school, and the possibility of a well-rounded profile. Farnsworth notes that he can envision Lambert turning into a number four starter. That might not sound impressive, but seeing a rotation future for someone who has only pitched in Rookie ball speaks positively for Lambert’s future.
There are some disappointments and discrepancies in this evaluation. For one, Farnsworth "definitely see[s] [Miguel Castro] as a reliever going forward." The Rockies very well might agree with him though.
The biggest surprise is that Antonio Senzatela is ranked 24, below Sam Moll, German Marquez, and Tyler Anderson. Baseball America ranked Senzatela the ninth best Rockies prospect, as did the Purple Row community in our most recent PuRP rankings.
Farnsworth’s assessment is a train of caveats that ultimately leaves the reader less disappointed in the ranking than might be expected: Senzatela succeeded in High-A "almost exclusively on the back on his 91-94 mph fastball that he commands extremely well. That said, none of his secondary offerings have a great chance of being average pitches in the big leagues. That said, he is a tremendous competitor who has succeeded against age-advanced competition only three levels away from the majors."
In particular, Farnsworth suggests that because Senzatela relies on his arm rather than his body to generate velocity, his changeup is very easy to read. He has to slow down. In the end, he sees him as a bullpen arm. It’s not what the folks who are placing him as a top 10 Rockies prospect want, but it’s obviously a realistic outcome for almost any pitching prospect.
We’ll wrap up with some one-liners:
Brendan Rodgers: "One of the highest ceilings in the minor leagues."
David Dahl: "Dahl already could produce like a league-average outfielder, but he has a higher ceiling that could be worth waiting for if he develops."
Forrest Wall: "I’m still betting on him developing with gusto, just hedging a bit while he figures out his approach."
Trevor Story: "I have to admit I don’t get how Story can be thought of as less than a future major league starter."
Pedro Gonzalez: "The team sees potential as a five-tool producer if things break right."
Tyler Anderson: "He has a chance to work in the back of the Rockies’ rotation as soon as this year, but it all depends on how his throwing progression goes this spring."
Jesus Tinoco: "He most likely projects as a reliever for me at this stage, though his 2016 performance could bump him into starter territory with some command gains and signs of positive development with his change."