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Colorado Rockies prospect Forrest Wall enters critical season

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Purple Row Prospect No. 15, Forrest Wall

15. Forrest Wall (564 points, 38 ballots)

Getting drafted at all as a high school second baseman is a rarity. Getting drafted in the first-ish round, as Forrest Wall was by the Rockies in 2014, has been done by less than 10 players in history. Wall earned that honor (and a $2 million bonus) because of his exciting hit/speed tool combination and the fact that his limitation was an injured throwing arm.

In his first two years, those tools were evident as Wall more than held his own against older competition at both Grand Junction and Asheville. In 2016, however, the now 21-year-old lefty-hitting second baseman hit an offensive (forgive me!) wall at High-A Modesto against pitchers who were on average 2.4 years older than him. In 521 plate appearances with the Nuts, Wall produced a .264/.329/.355 line with just 26 extra base hits (and 22 steals in 33 attempts), which equates to an 88 wRC+. For the third straight year, Wall’s walk rate fell (to 7.9%) while his strikeouts rose (18.6%). Most worrisome was the lack of punch—Wall’s three year SLG trend is .490, .438, .355.

Even though Wall struggled, this past season doesn’t spell disaster for the lefty hitter. Wall isn't on the top 100 prospects radar right now (he was 90th in the preseason 2016 MLB.com list). He’s also been resilient through his slumps this year according to a profile with Purple Row's Bobby DeMuro during the season.

On the scouting side, Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs slotted Wall tenth in Colorado’s system:

[Wall] spent all of 2016 at second base but saw time in center field during instructional league. His feel for center is not good right now, and his arm strength remains below average. Once a plus runner, Wall was average during the year according to scouts with whom I’ve spoken and was below average during instructional league. I consider it unlikely for him to stick in center, but because it’s so new I think it’s unwise to say that definitively.

Despite lacking a defensive home about which scouts are enthused, Wall’s impressive bat-to-ball skills remain. He tracks well, is short to the ball, has good bat control and solid-average bat speed. He has fringe raw power and can tap into it during games when he turns on balls down and in, but it generally plays down due to a contact-heavy approach.

If the power spike across baseball (and especially at second base) holds firm, then it will take every bit of bat-to-ball Wall has in the tank for him to profile as a regular there. If he looks much better in center field next spring and can somehow play there, that would significantly increase his chances of providing big-league value down the line. I’m betting on the bat, because it is rather special, but something else needs to develop.

Longenhagen gave a 60 FV on Wall’s hit tool—the most important one to me—and a 50 on his fielding FV, but everything else graded below average for him. This is a big departure from previous reports (including the MLB.com report below) that also pegged Wall as having plus speed (65 run tool from MLB.com).

Wall's below average 2016 dropped him from sixth to ninth on MLB.com's current Rockies list:

[Wall] has an advanced feel for hitting and and hits line drives to all fields, but his command of the strike zone hasn't been as strong as usual in 2016. While Wall is not a big guy, he has impressive bat speed and could develop double-digit home run power once he matures physically.

Wall's well-above-average speed makes him dangerous on the bases, though he's still learning the nuances of stealing. The biggest concern with him remains his arm, which hasn't bounced all the way back since he had surgery to repair a torn labrum in 2011. The Rockies are confident that Wall's arm will be playable and that he can become an average defender at second base, with center field a possible fallback.

Finally, Wilson Karaman of Baseball Prospectus had a blurb on Wall, but he missed their top 10:

Billed as one of the more advanced prep bats in the ‘14 class, Wall’s skills in the box have yet to really begin coalescing, despite flashes throughout his at-bats. It’s a viscerally appealing swing; he shows an ability to handle the barrel and get into the zone quickly and accurately, and the mechanics from trigger to launch are fluid and generally consistent. His timing remained an issue all season, however, and he struggled to sync the swing consistently to make quality contact against inner-third hard stuff or stay back against anything slower than fastball speed. There’s little in the way of swing plane to lift and drive pitches, which puts further pressure on the contact skills actualizing. He looks to be a borderline plus straight-line runner, but the speed plays down on the bases. He posts 50/55 run times, and his breaks on stolen base attempts are still inefficient. The glove is the biggest question mark of all, as he struggled with game speed and fielding fundamentals at times last season. Despite the makings of above-average range and sound body control he doesn’t always finish plays, and the arm strength is still on the fringier side for even second base after shoulder surgery several years ago. The club worked him out in center during instructs, and a transition may prove increasingly alluring if the inconsistency on the dirt continues.

I think this time around the lack of power and the updated scouting reports led to an understandable pull-back on the Forrest Wall prospect hype. Though it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that Wall is a former top 100 prospect who just played his entire age 20 season in the California League. I think despite his relative struggles in 2016, Wall will get an opportunity to face Double-A pitching this year. On that pace, Wall would be up in the Show by 2019, by which time playing time in Colorado's middle infield should be very tough to come by.

Realistically, Wall will need to show he can adjust to upper minors pitching and unlock that power potential as he moves up the minor league ladder before he earns that big league shot. I'm a believer in the pedigree and tools but I’m wary of the recent reports and power outage. I ranked Wall 16th in the system and gave him a Future Value of 45. I hope both of those numbers look silly in a good way this time next year.