This week we finished the latest edition of our vaunted Purple Row Prospects list. One of the things that makes this list so special is that it doesn’t come down from the Baseball Intelligencia, but is in the hands of the people of this community.
The wisdom of crowds does seem to have its limits, but each edition of our PuRPs list seems to conform nicely to national consensus as well as reality. But what is the track record of these lists? How well do they forecast future MLB success?
We have voting records for our PuRPs lists going back to 2010, so let’s jump in the wayback machine and use the benefit of hindsight to mercilessly mock ourselves for our shortsighted buffoonery.
Spring 2010 PuRPs
|Rank||Player||Vote Total||2009 Level||MLB PA/BF||Rockies WAR||Career WAR||Current Organization|
|Rank||Player||Vote Total||2009 Level||MLB PA/BF||Rockies WAR||Career WAR||Current Organization|
|1||Christian Friedrich||412||A+||1324||-0.7||-0.2||San Diego Padres|
|2||Jhoulys Chacin||400||MLB||3603||14.1||14.6||San Diego Padres|
|3||Tyler Matzek||399||1st Round||605||2.5||2.5||Free Agent|
|4||Esmil Rogers||360||AAA||2054||-2.6||-3.6||Hanwha Eagles (KBO)|
|5||Wilin Rosario||349||A+||1601||2.7||2.7||Hanwha Eagles (KBO)|
|6||Hector Gomez||323||A+||162||0.0||-0.3||SK Wyverns (KBO)|
|7||Rex Brothers||302||A||1067||5.0||5.0||Atlanta Braves|
|8||Tim Wheeler||298||1st Round||0||n/a||n/a||Free Agent|
|9||Samuel Deduno||290||AAA||1376||0.0||2.3||Free Agent|
|10||Eric Young Jr.||270||MLB||1684||0.4||0.9||Los Angeles Angels|
|11||Mike McKenry||249||AA||953||1.6||3.0||Tampa Bay Rays|
|12||Charlie Blackmon||241||A+||2452||9.2||9.2||Colorado Rockies|
|13||Nolan Arenado||240||2nd Round||2342||20.1||20.1||Colorado Rockies|
|14||Chris Balcom-Miller||226||Rookie||0||n/a||n/a||Amarillo Thunderheads (American Association, 2015)|
|15||Juan Nicasio||215||A||2441||1.3||2.1||Pittsburgh Pirates|
|16||Chris Nelson||187||AA||901||-2.4||-2.4||Free Agent|
|17||Casey Weathers||143||AA/Injured||0||0.0||0.0||Cleveland Indians|
|18||Chaz Roe||140||AA||409||n/a||-0.2||Baltimore Orioles|
|19||Kiel Roling||138||A||0||n/a||n/a||Last pitched in 2013|
|20||Delta Cleary||124||A||0||n/a||n/a||Long Beach Ducks (Atlantic League)|
|21||Matt Reynolds||116||AAA||733||2.1||2.6||San Francisco Giants|
|22||Jordan Pacheco||114||A||1149||-3.2||-4.0||Free Agent|
|23||Cole Garner||108||AA||10||-0.1||-0.1||New Britain Bees (Atlantic League)|
|24||Eliezer Mesa||85||Rookie||0||n/a||n/a||Piratas de Campeche (Mexican League, 2015)|
|25||Ethan Hollingsworth||63||A+||0||n/a||n/a||Winnipeg Goldeyes (American Association, 2014)|
|26||Edgmer Escalona||56||AA||427||-0.1||-0.1||Acereros de Monclova (Mexican League)|
|27||Scott Beerer||45||A+||0||n/a||n/a||Last pitched in 2012|
|28||Darin Holcomb||43||AA||0||n/a||n/a||Last pitched in 2011|
|29||Ben Paulsen||43||3rd Round||517||0.1||0.1||Minnesota Twins|
|30||Andrew Johnston||36||AA||0||n/a||n/a||Sugar Land Skeeters (Atlantic League)|
The Spring 2010 PuRPs list produced 20 players who have made it to the majors, which seems to be a pretty good rate of return. These 20 have combined to accrue 25,810 plate appearances or batters faced and 54.2 bWAR, 50.0 of which came while they were members of the Rockies. There are the same number of players currently playing for the Hanwha Eagles in the KBO as are playing for the Rockies, and twice as many are playing in the independent Atlantic League. Rather than go through them one-by-one, let’s hand out a few superlatives.
Most Overrated: Esmil Rodgers (No. 4)
When you find your way to the top of prospect lists, expectations are heightened, sometimes unfairly. Really, prospects are a bit of a crap shoot so we should be happy if they provide any value whatsoever. When they provide negative value, though, we’re right to be disappointed.
Most Underrated: Al Albuquerque (Not Ranked)
As could be expected, there weren’t that many major leaguers on the list outside the Top 30. The only one of those with significant experience is Al Alburquerque (No. 37). Alburquerque never threw a pitch for the Rockies; he was non-tendered after the 2010 season. In six years, primarily with the Tigers, he has a 3.21 ERA in 227 innings and has accumulated 4.6 bWAR. He signed a contract with the Kansas City Royals on January 7.
I really wanted to put Nolan Arenado here but, to be fair, he had just been drafted in the second round and hadn’t played a professional inning yet.
Most Appropriately Rated: Matt Reynolds (No. 21)
What do you do with a 20th round pick who turned into a reliever with a 2.98 ERA and a 9.2 K/9 in the minors? Slide him into the back end of your PuRPs list and watch him a 3.93 ERA (118 ERA+) over three seasons before he’s moved to the Diamondbacks and his career slowly burns, flickers, and fades.
Most Memorable: Wilin Rosario (No. 5)
If you’ve been paying attention to the Rockies over the last five to ten years, you remember Wilin Rosario. Maybe you remember him for the enormous home run swing. Maybe you remember him for his valiant attempts to play defense. It’s hard to forget a player who hit .282/.314/.507 with 49 home runs in his first two full campaigns, even if it came with -10 defensive runs saved (is that all?). You still hear his name evoked, whether aloud or in your head, whenever people talk about the sterling receiving abilities of Tony Wolters.
And, just like that, he’s gone. Never fear, though: he’s carved out a nice living for the Hanwha Eagles in the Korea Baseball Organization.
Least Memorable: Ethan Holingsworth (No. 25)
Last summer on an episode of Effectively Wild, Sam Miller and Ben Lindbergh discussed what it would take for a team to install a fake minor league manager—one without previous playing or coaching experience—without the players knowing. Let’s say he at least had enough knowledge of the game to competently coach. One of the first things you would need to pull of the ruse would be a Baseball Reference page for the man, filled with fake statistics that were unremarkable enough to pique further clicking.
What I’m trying to say is I’m not entirely convinced that Ethan Holingsworth’s Baseball Reference page wasn’t exactly this sort of ruse.
Wildest Career Trajectory: Mike McKenry (No. 11)
Really, this award should go to Esmil Rodgers, Wilin Rosario, and Hector Gomez: all top 10 PuRPs, all currently employed in the Korea Baseball Organization, but that warrants a deeper dive later. So we go to the next best one, and that’s Mike McKenry. “Fort” McKenry is a player who not only got significant major league playing time with four different teams, but spent 2016 bouncing between four different organizations! He came up with the Rockies and was traded to the Boston Red Sox in early 2011 only to find himself on the Pirates less than three weeks later. After becoming a free agent he signed back with the Rockies.
The lesson here, kids, is being a back up catcher seems like a rough life, but the bar is low to keep you employed.
Strangest Ranking: Delta Cleary (No. 20)
Delta Clearly Jr. was drafted in the 37th round of the 2008 draft out of LSU-Eunice (so, not the big one). In 2008 he played 27 games at Rookie League Casper and slashed .276/.321/.400 with three home runs and four stolen bases. In 2009 he hit .256/.315/.376 in the hitters haven of Asheville. He did have 32 stolen bases, though, with 11 home runs. Perhaps that was what compelled the community to put a player drafted in the 38th round on their PuRPs lists. Perhaps.
Missed Opportunity: Scott Beerer (No. 27)
This has nothing to do with his purported talent. Imagine having a player named Scott Beerer playing his home games at Coors Field.
Most Valuable After Leaving: Samuel Deduno (No. 9)
Samuel Deduno received a brief cup of coffee with the Rockies in 2010 but was placed on waivers and claimed by the San Diego Padres before the 2011 season. The Minnesota Twins then signed him to a contract and he worked mostly as a spot starter, giving the Twins 279 innings of 4.26 ERA pitching over parts of three years, worth 3.2 bWAR. He was waived in 2014 and then claimed by the Houston Astros, where they turned him into a key cog in the bullpen for their surprise playoff run. Even though he and his 6.86 ERA in 2015 was worth -0.4 bWAR, he still put up the most value since leaving the organization, by far, of any other player on the list.
Least Valuable After Leaving: Jordan Pacheco (No. 22)
Branch Rickey once said he’d rather trade a player a year too early than a year too late. Due to, perhaps, some sence of loyalty to the player, the Rockies have traditionally made the mistake of holding on to players just a little bit past their expiration dates (see: Hawpe, Brad; Atkins, Garrett; De La Rosa, Jorge).
They did not make this mistake with Jordan Pacheco. Sure, it could be argued that the Rockies were foolish to buy into his .304/.341/.421 rookie line that resulted in -0.4 bWAR and a top 10 finish in the Rookie of the Year award voting. It did, after all, earn them the ignominy of employing a -1.7 bWAR utility catcher. The -0.8 WAR since he left the organization is proof enough that they at least got rid of him, even if it was a year too late.
Perseverance Award: Johendi Jiminian (No. 46) and Rossel Herrera (No. 39)
Johendi Jiminian and Rossel Herrera, international signings back in 2009, both received votes on our most recent PuRPs list. Sure, they only received a combined three votes between them, but the fact that they’ve been around for PuRPs lists for seven consecutive years has to say something about them.
Good Luck in the Padres Rotation: Christian Friedrich (No. 1) and Jhoulys Chacin (No. 2)
When the two guys at the front of your rotation are guys who have put up a combined 0.5 bWAR after leaving Coors Field, you will really need to bank on that marine layer to bring you success.
Back in 2010 following prospects wasn’t the huge industry it was now. For the most part we were confined to scouting the statline and maybe getting a few snippits of information here or there from outlets like Baseball America and...that’s about it. With the benefit of hindsight we can say that the system was not in a good place at this time. Nolan Arenado accounts for nearly half the value these players have contributed, which says just as much about him as it does about the system as a whole.
The strange thing is the system was well-regarded. Sports Illustrated placed the Rockies in the middle 20 teams in baseball and Baseball America had them 10th. The teams ranked higher (such as the Rangers, Rays, Red Sox, and Giants) did have moderate success with their prospect corps, so it wasn’t as though the ranking was random. Sometimes things just don’t pan out the way you hope, and prospects often break your hearts. In reviewing our latest list, it might be best to at least somewhat temper your expectations.
Note: this post was edited to reflect the updated contract status of Rex Brothers