Baseball Prospectus has placed Rockies shortstop prospect Brendan Rodgers at No. 11 on their Top 101 prospects list for the 2017 season. He is one of four Rockies players who made the list, each of them in the top 50. These rankings are found in the 2017 Baseball Prospectus Annual. The Patron Saint of BP prospect writers Raimel Tapia made the list at No. 42, flamethrowing righty Riley Pint comes in at No. 46, and fifth-starter-candidate Jeff Hoffman came in at No. 50 overall. The Rockies had seven players make BP’s list in 2016, including Jon Gray and David Dahl, who are no longer eligible.
Last year’s No. 20 prospect, Rodgers moved up the ranks partially due to graduations of players ahead of him, including Corey Seager, Nomar Mazara, and Trea Turner, each of whom performed well in their rookie season. However, he leapfrogged other players, such as White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson and now Brewers prospect Lewis Brinson, due to Rodgers’ excellent performance in Low-A Asheville last season. Hitting .281/.342/.480 in your first full season in professional baseball at 19-years-old will earn that type of respect. With another strong performance in High-A Lancaster this year, expect Rodgers (our No. 1 PuRP) to rise into the top ten, where he will should stay until his likely debut in 2019.
Outfielder Raimel Tapia (No. 4 PuRP) finds himself at No. 42 on the list for the second year in a row, but that shouldn’t be considered a slight. He is completely carried by a swing which, BP writers lament, “we are sorely disappointed at the number of English words available to us to describe.” In six minor league seasons Tapia has a .317/.363/.448 line that is short on power (37 home runs) and short on speed (62% stolen base success rate). There are also mixed reviews on his defense. But the preternatural hitting ability (it’s a word that keeps coming up for him) is enough for BP to take the risk on putting him this high. Tapia made his major-league debut on September 2 last year as a pinch hitter against the Diamondbacks and has an outside chance to make the Rockies as a(nother) left-handed bench bat.
Riley Pint (No. 3 PuRP) was drafted fourth overall (and was moderately pleased by it) last June, so to debut in BP’s top 50 while still just 19 years of age is a significant accomplishment. He has just 37 professional innings under his belt, so this ranking is based more on his scouting report than his 5.35 ERA at Grand Junction last year. But there’s reason to get excited when a major outlet like BP says about said 19-year-old, “The upside here is as big as you can imagine.”
Jeff Hoffman (No. 2 PuRP) fell from No. 24 in 2016 to No. 50 this year, ostensibly due to his uninspiring major league debut (4.88 ERA with 22 strikeouts and 17 walks in 311⁄3 innings). Hoffman has the success of Jon Gray (preseason 2016 No. 33) to thank for his report to be as optimistic as it still is. Gray, too, struggled in his major league cup of coffee in 2015, and there is confidence that Hoffman’s stuff can play up at least as much as Gray’s has. This is further evidence of why Gray is so important to the Rockies going forward; he serves as a sort of “proof of concept” for successful Rockies pitching prospects. The same goes for Hoffman, though in a smaller way. Maybe by the time Riley Pint is ready to contribute, BP will no longer feel the need to compare Rockies pitching prospects to Spinal Tap drummers.
Falling off the Top 101 from last year are third baseman Ryan McMahon, who came in at No. 36 overall last year, and second baseman Forrest Wall, who slipped in at No. 101. Both players had disappointing campaigns in 2016. McMahon struggled for consistency at Double-A Hartford and finished the season with a .242/.325/.399 line and 101 wRC+ in 133 games, while Wall hit .264/.329/.355 at High-A Modesto, good for a wRC+ of 88 in the offense heavy California League. Though both young infielders made our latest PuRPs list (McMahon at No. 7, Wall at No. 15), they will need bounceback 2017 campaigns to regain their prospect shine.
The Rockies don’t have as many players on this year’s list as they did last year, and they will likely tumble a little in BP’s organizational rankings accordingly. But not having a “top” farm system should not be equated with having a poor outlook, especially when part of the reason your system is weaker is because it graduated two positive major league contributors. There is still reason to be excited about prospects on the farm, but the Rockies are now moving toward having the excitement be at the major league level.