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Colorado Rockies pitching prospect Parker French demands your attention

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PuRP No. 26, Parker French

26. Parker French (208 points, 23 ballots)

The fact that Parker French made this list (and the midseason version) is a testament to just how good he was in 2016. His case certainly wasn’t built on prospect pedigree. Despite being a fifth-round pick in 2015, the 23-year-old righty starter had very little fanfare as a prospect coming into 2016, mostly due to the fact that as a college senior French was likely picked when he was so that the Rockies could save draft slot money for other players. Indeed, French commanded only a $100,000 bonus from Colorado to sign, a figure well below slot.

After a decent debut campaign in 2015 at Grand Junction, French broke out in a big way in 2016. He began the season at Asheville, where his 1.17 ERA and 0.91 WHIP over 23 innings quickly proved that a promotion was needed. At Modesto (at a league average age), French threw 154 23 innings with very good results—2.85 ERA, 3.76 FIP, 1.04 WHIP, and 1.5 BB/9. He didn’t miss a lot of bats (6.3 K/9), but French really was effective in 2016, and he showed he could carry a full season innings load.

French has yet to be mentioned as a player to watch in Colorado's system by any national prospect writer, though he was given a nice write-up by Baseball Prospectus's Wilson Karaman back in June:

Signed under slot by Colorado as a fifth-round senior-sign last summer. French has a durable frame and moderate athleticism, and he repeats his delivery well despite some effort and violence in the finish. He works off a potent two-seam fastball with solid weight that generates ground ball contact, and he dictates the game pace with an up-tempo style. The change plays well off his fastball, though he lacked feel at times and it shows present immaturity. He struggles to snap off his breaking ball and lacks a swing-and-miss pitch. If the changeup improves he can eat innings at the back of a rotation, and if it doesn't there's still potential bullpen utility on the strength of his solid control of a very heavy sinker.

Karaman clocks French's fastball at 90-93 and grades it as a 50 pitch given its heavy sink, good movement, and strong command. The secondary pitches are below average at present (best is a 40 grade changeup), and those will need to develop if French is going to crack a big league starting rotation.

Bobby DeMuro of this very website had a lengthy piece on French this past spring, including an interview that focused on his low walk rate and his need to work on his approach to lefties.

French has yet to fail on his climb up the minor league ladder, but unless his secondary pitches improve markedly this failure becomes more likely. Assuming that type of improvement is made, French would be in line for a 2019 debut as starter depth or middle relief for Colorado (hence a 40 FV tag). Because of the stuff profile and the lack of strikeouts or pedigree, I just barely left French off my list. I'm hopeful that by this time next year he’s assuaged those concerns at the Double-A level.