clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Rockies prospect rankings: High-ceiling pitchers dominate spots 20-16

New, comments

The California League strikeout leader and a couple of high draft picks highlight this installment of the midseason 2016 PuRPs rankings.

It's time to reveal the next installment of the midseason 2016 Purple Row Prospects (PuRPs) list. Tuesday we revealed prospects 30-26, Wednesday we had prospects 25-21, and today we'll show you 20-16. This is the first portion of the reveal in which we'll see some players who made the vast majority of PuRPs ballots. As a reminder, in this edition of the PuRPs poll, 52 ballots were cast, with 30 points granted for a first place vote, 29 for second, etc.

For each player on the PuRPs list, I'll include a link to individual stats (via Baseball-Reference), PuRPs voting stats, contract status (via Rockies Roster), a note on the 2016 season to date, and a scouting report from a national prospect writer. 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.

20. Jesus Tinoco (381 points, 38 ballots) -- Preseason Ranking: 14 -- High Ballot 13, Mode Ballot 21

How did he enter the organization?

2015 trade with the Toronto Blue Jays (you know which one)

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

Tinoco's position as the third piece of the return in the Troy Tulowitzki trade almost exactly a year ago cemented himself in the minds of PuRPs voters -- that and the fact that Tinoco pitched extremely well in Asheville down the stretch. In 40 innings over seven starts last year for the Tourists, Tinoco was 5-0 with a 1.80 ERA (3.03 FIP), 1.10 WHIP, 8.3 K/9, and 1.8 BB/9. As a result, expectations were high for the 21-year-old righty starter, a 2011 international signee who'd been given a $400,000 bonus, entering 2016.

Unfortunately, in Modesto to start this season Tinoco had issues with a dead arm and got hit around very hard. In 13⅓ frames over three starts, Tinoco allowed 22 runs on 37 hits for an eye-popping 14.85 ERA and 3.00 WHIP. After some time rehabbing and regrouping in extended spring training, Tinoco was sent back to Asheville in early June. Back in the South Atlantic League pitching against players who are still on average about a year older than him, Tinoco has been better than he was in Modesto but has hardly distinguished himself. In 48 frames over nine starts, Tinoco has a 4.88 ERA (4.38 FIP), 1.69 WHIP, and a pedestrian 5.1 K/9 rate.

What do the scouts say?

Tinoco's hot finish to 2015 caught the eye of scouts and invariably colored their opinions of his future. With that said, Dan Farnsworth of Fangraphs rated Tinoco 27th in the system preseason:

Tinoco enjoyed tremendous success in his seven starts after arriving in the Troy Tulowitzki trade, maintaining a reasonable chance at sticking in a rotation. He is primarily a two-pitch hurler, flashing mid-90s heat and an above-average slider. He hasn't shown much feel for his changeup yet, but he's an athletic guy with a good arm that has slowly but steadily improved every aspect of his pitching game.

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. His timetable may get accelerated due to his Rule 5 draft eligibility next offseason, making this year an important one for defining his future role. He is throwing strikes with better consistency and has decent command of his fastball, but his secondary pitch location will be the key to getting big league hitters out, regardless of his role.

Fastball: 50/55/60 Slider: 40/45/50 Changeup: 35/40/45 Command: 40/45/45+
Overall: 35/40-45/50

MLB.com was more bullish, placing him 18th in the system before the year:

Tinoco could become a mid-rotation starter or a late-inning reliever. He has a nasty fastball when he's at 100 percent, working at 92-95 mph with heavy sink and touching 97 with a four-seamer. Hitters have a difficult time lifting it, as evidenced by his miniscule homer rate (0.2 per nine innings) in his first four seasons.

Tinoco had switched from throwing a curveball to a slider last year and immediately took to his new breaking ball, which shows flashes of becoming a plus pitch. His changeup isn't nearly as advanced and will be key to his development as a starter. He works quickly with a low-stress delivery, throws strikes and keeps the ball down in the zone.

When's he going to get to the Rockies and how good will he be once he's there?

Tinoco is neither as good as he was last year in Asheville nor as poor as he's been in Modesto/Asheville this season. Here's the deal, though: Tinoco hasn't pitched above High A ball (where he struggled) and he will be Rule 5 eligible this offseason. It will be an interesting dilemma to see if the Rockies will protect a piece from the Tulo trade by putting him on the 40-man roster. Because of that status, Tinoco might be in the big leagues as soon as next year if a team takes him in the draft, or if he gets protected on the 40-man roster he'll probably be a 2019 call-up.

At this point, Tinoco looks to me like a longshot to make it to the Show as a starter, but as stated by the scouts above he could be an intriguing late-inning relief option with his stuff. I was lower than most of the electorate on Tinoco the last time we did this list and that was true with this edition, when I put him 26th on my ballot. The stuff profile is interesting enough to give Tinoco a Future Value of 45 as a potential impact reliever or starter depth.

***

19. Robert Tyler (384 points, 41 ballots) -- Preseason Ranking: NR -- High Ballot 15, Mode Ballot 19

How did he enter the organization?

2016 Competitive Balance Round A, University of Georgia

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

Tyler is in this slot due to his draft pedigree and his elite fastball. Entering the year, Tyler was in the discussion for a mid to late first-round pick and has shown flashes in college of becoming an elite starter. The 21-year-old righty pitched mostly in the rotation for Georgia, but his time in Athens was marred by injuries, including a forearm strain last year that limited him to just six starts.

Tyler was healthy this year though, where he posted a 10.73 K/9 and 4.10 ERA in 73⅔ innings for Georgia, though he struggled with control (5.54 BB/9). It was enough to command a $1.7 million bonus as the 38th overall pick in this year's draft. Tyler's been assigned to Short Season-A Boise, though he has yet to make his professional debut with the team.

What do the scouts say?

MLB.com's 25th overall draft prospect (and 16th-best Rockies prospect in their midseason update) received a nice review from scouts:

Tyler has no trouble sitting in the mid 90s and hitting triple digits with his fastball as a starter, and on a down day he'll work at 92-95 mph. In addition to its velocity, his heater is nasty because it runs and sinks and he delivers it on a steep downhill plane. He also can flash a plus changeup with fade and sink, but he hasn't shown much feel for spinning the ball and now uses a knuckle-curve as his breaking pitch.

Though Colorado plans on developing Tyler as a starter, many scouts believe he's destined for the bullpen. He has difficulty repeating his mechanics and battles his control and command on a regular basis. He stayed healthy throughout 2016 but had been shut down at times during each of the three previous years, missing three months in 2015 with a forearm strain.

Highlighting that report is the 75 grade slapped on Tyler's fastball (higher than Rockies first round pick Riley Pint and comparable to closer prospect Jairo Diaz).

When's he going to get to the Rockies and how good will he be once he's there?

Tyler is a high-ceiling, low-floor player due to the contradiction of the explosiveness of the fastball/change combo and his struggle with mechanics and control. At the ceiling, if the Rockies can smooth out his mechanics and improve the control profile, Tyler has the upside of a 2/3 starter. If he stays closer to where he is now developmentally, Tyler is an arm with closer potential but one that has a high flame-out likelihood.

If he can remain healthy, Tyler is my pick for breakout prospect in 2017. I think he will remain in the rotation and will iron out his command issues in Asheville or Modesto next year. At that pace he'd be in the big leagues as soon as 2019 but more likely in 2020. That faith and the draft pedigree led me to rank Tyler 16th on my personal ballot, where he received a 50 Future Value given his potential as a mid-rotation starter.

***

18. Yency Almonte (430 points, 42 ballots) -- Preseason Ranking: NR -- High Ballot 11, Mode Ballot 16, 17, 20, 21, 25

How did he enter the organization?

2015 trade with the Chicago White Sox

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

Almonte was another mostly off-the-radar prospect entering this year. The 2012 17th rounder of the Angels had shown enough promise to be the target of two trades (first to the White Sox as a player to be named later for Gordon Beckham before 2015 and then this past offseason -- less than a year later -- in return for DFA'd reliever Tommy Kahnle). Still, though, the buzz wasn't high on Almonte entering the year.

This season for Modesto, the 22-year-old righty starter has been a revelation. In 125⅓ innings for the Nuts, Almonte has a 3.59 ERA (3.83 FIP), 1.18 WHIP, 8.7 K/9, and 2.5 BB/9 against hitters that are on average 1.1 years older. More impressive than that has been the stuff; Almonte is sitting in the mid 90s with his fastball and touching the upper 90s with good life on the pitch as well as a power slider that sits in the 80s. So far it appears that Almonte is a lottery ticket from an easy-to-miss trade that is panning out for Jeff Bridich and the Rockies.

What do the scouts (and Purple Row) say?

MLB.com spoke highly of Almonte's potential in their profile:

Drafted as a projectable right-hander, Almonte has added 25 pounds since turning pro, and his fastball has gotten stronger as well. He now sits at 93-96 mph and reaches 98 with life on his heater. He backs it up with a promising slider and an improving changeup.

Almonte throws strikes and keeps the ball down in the zone, so he should be able to remain in the rotation. He has a ceiling of a No. 3 starter and also could be a weapon as a reliever who could have a mid-90s fastball and a harder slider in shorter stints.

Other national outlets have been silent to date on Almonte, but our own Bobby DeMuro has been on Almonte all year, tracking his development in Modesto. Give his profile on Almonte a read and you'll be excited about this young arm too.

For more videos of these PuRPs and others, check out our YouTube channel.

When's he going to get to the Rockies and how good will he be once he's there?

Almonte has shown enough this year with his arm talent that I feel confident the Rockies will protect him from the Rule 5 Draft this offseason by putting him on the 40 man roster. Realistically he could be up with the Rockies in the late 2018/2019 timeframe, though it is yet to be seen if he can crack the rotation discussion given the wave of arms the Rockies have ahead of him on this list. If he's in the bullpen it will be as an impact late inning reliever, so either way I see Almonte as a potential impact MLB player, which is why he was given a 45 Future Value from me and ranked 24th on my list.

***

17. Mike Nikorak (684 points, 50 ballots) -- Preseason Ranking: 16 -- High Ballot 9, Mode Ballot 17

How did he enter the organization?

2015 first round, Stroudsburg (Pa.) HS

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

It certainly wasn't due to his 2015 performance! Mike Nikorak was Colorado's second first-round choice in last year's draft as a top 15 talent who slid to pick 27 and signed for a $2.3 million bonus. Unfortunately, his debut in Grand Junction went about as poorly as could be feared. In 17⅔ innings over eight starts (the Rockies had him on a very strict pitch count), Nikorak had an unseemly 11.72 (!!) ERA, 9.07 FIP, 3.28 (!!!) WHIP, and walked 32 (%#&!) hitters while striking out 14. It was a small sample size against hitters who were over three years older on average, but yeesh, those are terrible numbers.

Obviously these struggles showed that Nikorak needed to repeat the level in 2016. This year, Nikorak has pitched much better than that low bar, though he has been hittable and has struggled with control. In 28 innings so far with Grand Junction, the 19 -ear-old righty has a 2.89 ERA but his 6.10 FIP and 1.68 WHIP combined with matching 6.1 BB/9 and K/9 rates shows he's been very lucky to get those results.

What do the scouts say?

Nikorak was the No. 13 prospect for MLB.com prior to the season:

When Nikorak has his mechanics in sync, he can deliver ace-caliber stuff. He can sit in the low 90s with sink on his two-seam fastball and hit 97 with running life on his four-seamer. He also can show a hammer curveball in the low 80s and even flash a plus changeup.

Nikorak is still growing into his 6-foot-5 frame and leaning to repeat his delivery and maintain a consistent arm slot. He also needs to get stronger to hold his stuff deeper into games. Youth is on his side because he's only 19, and so is the athleticism that made him an all-conference quarterback in high school before he opted to focus on baseball.

Farnsworth at Fangraphs had Nikorak 15th:

The Rockies have plenty of reasons to be excited about Nikorak's potential, most notably the mid to high-90s heat he brings to the mound. In high school he also excelled on the football field as a promising quarterback, giving his general athleticism more credibility. He shows flashes of a plus curve and an above-average changeup to pair with his hard but straight fastball.

He has a clean but mechanical delivery with a loose arm. At times he can get a little extreme with his spine tilt to throw straight over the top, which stiffens up his arm and rotational actions. His motion can look too practiced that it makes him look less athletic, but off the mound he moves around very well. I will be interested to see if the Rockies can free him up a bit and let his natural skills take over.

Fastball: 50/55/60 Curveball: 45/55/60 Changeup: 40/50/55 Command: 40/45/50
Overall: 35/45/60

Baseball Prospectus named Nikorak as one of its "Five who are just interesting" prospects:

It would be even further approbation of this system to note that a first-round prep arm, and the 14th-best draft prospect according to our own Chris Crawford, failed to make the top 10. That is not why Nikorak missed the top 10, though. He missed the top 10 because he walked 32 batters in 17.1 innings in the Pioneer League. Now, of course you should never scout the stat line, folks, but when Baseball-Reference is spitting out Steve Dalkowski as a comp for your control profile, that is suboptimal. The same issue that kept him out of the 10 also made him a mortal lock for the interesting section. Pre-draft reports never mentioned any control issues and Nikorak got praise for his repeatable mechanics, so something went very wrong here, making Nikorak's 2016 season a definite Tale of Interest.

When's he going to get to the Rockies and how good will he be once he's there?

At this point, who even knows? Nikorak has some very serious issues to overcome given his performance as a professional so far. And yet, many believe there's still a No. 2/3 starter in there somewhere ready to be unleashed. I think it would be unwise to write Nikorak off after just over 45 innings as a professional, but I think his MLB timeline (a very uncertain proposition to be sure) now pushes into 2021. The profile is still tantalizing enough to give Nikorak a 50 Future Value as a mid-rotation MLB starter and rank him 17th on my ballot, but if I told you I wasn't worried I'd be lying.

***

16. Jordan Patterson (718 points, 49 ballots) -- Preseason Ranking: 18 -- High Ballot 12, Mode Ballot 14

How did he enter the organization?

2013 fourth round, University of South Alabama

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

Patterson has consistently hit well as a professional, never posting an offensive line that wasn't clearly better than league average. The 24-year-old lefty outfielder had flown under the prospect radar, though, because he's shared an outfield with more highly touted prospects like Raimel Tapia and David Dahl, and because he's been old for his level until he got to Double-A and now Triple-A. Now in Albuquerque, Patterson's prospect status can no longer be downplayed; he's a potential MLB impact bat just a phone call away.

This year for Albuquerque, Patterson has a .311/401/.484 line (135 wRC+) with 30 extra-base hits in 343 plate appearances. That's less slugging than he showed at previous minor league stops, but the great step forward to a 11.3 percent walk rate (up from 5.5 percent in 2015) paired with an acceptable 20 percent strikeout rate is what's driving the batting line. Also an athletic corner outfielder with a plus arm who has dabbled at first base to increase his positional flexibility, Patterson is anxiously awaiting the call to the Show.

What do the scouts say?

Farnsworth of Fangraphs had Patterson 17th preseason:

Patterson enjoyed a hugely successful season last year split between High-A and Double-A, though questions remain regarding how well he will hit major league pitching. He shows above-average bat speed and respectable power, but inconsistent barreling and a swing that can get overcommitted early may limit its utility against advanced offerings and sequencing. He looked better in the regular season than in the Arizona Fall League, but he likely settles in as a fringe starting option with a streaky BABIP-reliant average and decent pop. If he can make strides with his plate discipline and make pitchers come to him, he has the all-around skills to bump him into above-average starter territory.

Hit: 40/45/50 Power: 45/50+/55 Run: 45/45/45 Field: 50/50/50 Throw: 55/55/55
Overall: 40/45/55

In their recent midseason update, Patterson placed 19th on MLB.com's list:

A big man with long arms, Patterson had a lot going on with his left-handed swing when he entered pro ball but has calmed it down without costing himself any leverage. He's doing a better job of handling breaking balls and southpaws, and he still offers impressive bat speed and strength. If he can learn to control the strike zone better, he could be a .270 hitter with 20 homers per season.

Patterson has surprising athleticism for his size and is aggressive on the bases with his average speed. He's a natural fit in right field with his strong, accurate arm and has also seen time in left and center. The Rockies also have played him at first base to increase his versatility.

Patterson just missed Baseball Prospectus's Rockies top 10 list, but he merited a blurb:

I was surprised to see Patterson end up on the outside looking in when compiling this list. The Rockies system is just that good, because the 23-year-old would cruise into the top 10 in almost any other organization. The profile at the dish isn't that far removed from McMahon's, with potential average hit and above-average power, albeit with the similar approach issues. Patterson doesn't have as much projection left and is limited defensively to the outfield corners and first base, but he should be at least average in right field. Unlike McMahon, he has already had a bit of success in Double-A, which was always going to be the big test for his sort of profile. And his positional flexibility (such as it is), combined with the offensive potential from the left side of the plate, should make for a long major-league career. Patterson could spend more than a few of those years as an everyday player in one of the outfield corners.

When's he going to get to the Rockies and how good will he be once he's there?

I believe Patterson is ready to be a MLB contributor right now. He's Rule 5 Draft eligible after this year and is a mortal lock to be placed on the 40-man roster by the Rockies, so a September bump to the 40-man and a call to the big leagues at that time would seem to be appropriate.

Unfortunately, there does appear currently to be a glut of lefty outfielders ahead of Patterson on Colorado's depth chart, which is why a regular job might be hard to come by unless it's at first base next year if/when Mark Reynolds moves on. MLB regular or no, Patterson at the least should be an impact bat option for Colorado for years to come, which is why I ranked him 20th on my ballot and gave him a 45+ Future Value.

Stay tuned for more installments of the midseason PuRPs list!