18. Robert Tyler (374 points, 34 ballots)
When the midseason PuRPs list was released, Robert Tyler had yet to make a professional appearance. Colorado’s Competitive Balance Round A pick in 2016 was signed to a $1.7 million bonus and had at times leading up to his draft year been projected as high as a top 10 pick. The 21-year-old righty pitcher, who boasts an elite fastball and pitched for team USA, showed flashes at the University of Georgia. He become an elite starter, but his time in Athens was marred by injuries over the last couple of years, including a forearm strain in 2015 that limited him to just six starts.
Tyler was healthy in 2016 though, when he posted a 10.73 K/9 and 4.10 ERA in 73⅔ innings for Georgia—unfortunately he struggled with control (5.54 BB/9) there, a problem that continued into the summer. In a seven inning professional cameo in Short Season A Boise, Tyler had a Nikorakian debut, walking 16 in his seven innings of work and allowing 11 runs (five earned) while striking out five.
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). It’s a lottery pick profile, but Tyler has one of the highest ceilings in the system.
Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs ranked Tyler 19th in the system:
This is the type of prospect who sparks discussion about curveball projection among scouts. Tyler doesn’t have a good one, throws mid-90s fastball, and flashes a plus changeup. If Tyler were to develop even an average curveball he’d instantly become a potential mid-rotation starter based on his stuff. But most scouts think that pitchers, especially college pitchers, either have a good breaking ball or they don’t and Tyler’s feel for his is very inconsistent. Tyler’s two-pitch mix is better on pure stuff than Ben Bowden‘s but Tyler’s lack of command makes him considerably more risky in my opinion. He walked 16 in 7.0 pro innings after signing. That’s not a typo. He projects as a volatile but potentially electric reliever.
Notably, Longenhagen’s grade of Tyler’s fastball is just a 60 (to go along with a 60 FV changeup) and there is the aforementioned doubt about whether the curveball will become a usable pitch.
Tyler is a high-ceiling, low-floor player due to his struggle with mechanics and control in the midst of the explosiveness of the fastball/change combo. 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 and/or Lancaster next year. At that pace he'd be in the big leagues as soon as 2019 but more likely in 2020. That belief and the draft pedigree led me to rank Tyler 12th on my personal ballot, where he received a 45+ Future Value given his potential as a mid-rotation starter.