clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Colorado Rockies prospect rankings, midseason 2017: The injured and the recovering

New, 42 comments

Midseason 2017 PuRPs list, 21-25

Let's keep the midseason 2017 Purple Row Prospects (PuRPs) list reveal rolling. Tuesday we revealed prospects 30-26, and today we go with prospects 25-21. As a reminder, in this edition of the PuRPs poll, 40 ballots were cast, with 30 points granted for a first place vote, 29 for second, etc.

For each player on the PuRPs list, I'll include a link to individual stats (via Baseball-Reference), PuRPs voting stats, contract status (via RockiesRoster.com), a note on the 20167 season to date, and a scouting report from a national prospect writer. For what it's worth, I'll also include where I put each player on my personal ballot. All ages are as of the time the article was posted.

25. Will Gaddis (202 points, 23 ballots) -- Preseason Ranking: NR — High Ballot 13, Mode Ballot 21, 27

How did he enter the organization?

2017 3rd Round, University of Furman

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

Gaddis was well thought of by draft observers this year — in fact, higher thought of than Tommy Doyle, who was picked by the Rockies one round before the 21-year-old righty starter. Some of that is due to the fact that Gaddis was a starter in college and projects to stay there in professional ball.

The 6’1” pitcher signed for a slightly under-slot $600k bonus and was assigned to Rookie ball Grand Junction in the Pioneer League a few weeks ago. In four games with Grand Junction so far (two starts), Gaddis has 14 innings pitched and has allowed 4 runs on 18 hits and a walk while striking out 9.

What do the scouts say?

MLB.com ranked Gaddis 82nd among draft prospects this year, then in their recent re-rank of the Rockies system placed him 19th in the system. Here’s some commentary on Gaddis as a pitcher from that blurb:

Gaddis can hit 96 mph with heavy sink on his fastball, though he spent most of the spring working at 88-92 and topping out at 94 with less action on his heater. He has complete trust in his changeup, which shows flashes of becoming a plus pitch but was more of an average offering during his final season with the Paladins. So did his curveball and cutter, which show signs of turning into solid offerings.

While Gaddis lacks ideal size, there's no obvious reason he can't remain in the rotation. He got stronger in college, has no issues repeating his delivery and pounds the strike zone. He's fearless on the mound and has a high ceiling as a relatively good bet to become a No. 4 starter.

Looking at the “pitching tools” of Gaddis, there is nary a weakness to be found, with all attributes getting a grade between 50 and 55.

Here’s some video of Gaddis in a start for Furman last year:

When's he going to get to the Rockies and how good will he be once he's there?

Gaddis is about the same type of prospect as Sam Howard was three years ago when the Rockies took him in the 3rd round. I realize one is a righty and the other is a southpaw, but from a stuff and polish perspective I can see a similar path ahead of Gaddis as the one Howard has followed to Triple-A. Under that path, Gaddis would be in the Show sometime in 2021.

Because Gaddis is just beginning that path, there’s some distance between how I ranked Gaddis and Howard — I had Gaddis 25th on my ballot with a 40 FV as a back-end starter prospect who is several rungs away while Howard’s big league proximity means he carries less risk albeit with a similar upside.

★ ★ ★

24. Jaíro Diaz (229 points, 26 ballots) -- Preseason Ranking: 24 — High Ballot 12, Mode Ballot 29

How did he enter the organization?

2014 Trade with LA Angels

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

Simply, Díaz is a very high upside reliever who has already bounced between Triple A and MLB twice this year. Yes, Díaz is still eligible for this list despite making his major league debut in 2014 for the Angels before being acquired by Colorado in a trade for Josh Rutledge. He lost all of last year to Tommy John surgery and has spent much of his time in 2015 and 2017 in Albuquerque. This year Diaz also took a month-long personal leave of absence from the team, limiting his time at that level this season.

The 26-year-old righty really is a fascinating story: Díaz had a stellar 2014 that got him to the big leagues all the way from High-A ball. That’s unusual in itself, but the crazy part is that all of this progress occurred after Díaz had spent several years with the Angels as a catcher! He signed with the organization in 2007 out of Venezuela behind the plate, but after two seasons in the Dominican Summer League trying and failing (.118 batting average in 2009) to hit professional pitching, Díaz moved to the other side of the battery in 2010 as a pitcher with a rocket arm.

Díaz didn’t make a stateside debut until his fourth professional season and didn’t arrive in High A until his sixth — and then in his seventh season he jumped from High A ball at the start all the way to the majors — in a division race!

Since his acquisition by the Rockies, Díaz has thrown 24 innings at the big league level with a 3.75 ERA, during which time he has struck out 10 and walked 11. He’s been great this year in limited duty with the Isotopes, allowing three runs on 10 hits in 1223 frames while striking out 16 and walking two.

What do the scouts say?

MLB.com had Díaz 25th in the system in their mid-season list. Here’s their conclusion on Diaz:

Diaz has bounced back this year, reclaiming his 96-98 mph fastball that can reach triple digits. He gets a lot of swings and misses with his heater, and hitters tend to beat it into the ground when they do make contact. His slider also can be overpowering, topping out in the low 90s with nasty break when it's on.

Though he has the pure stuff to be a closer, Diaz will have to prove he can throw enough strikes and locate his pitches well enough before he's trusted in the late innings. He overthrows at times, causing his fastball and slider to flatten out, and he gets hit hard when that happens.

Díaz gets a phenomenal 75 grade on his triple digits fastball and an above average evaluation of his slider (55), but notably receives a poor 40 grade on his control — something we’ve witnessed in his 2017 major league results to date.

Here’s some video of Diaz when he was on the rise from High A to the big leagues in 2014:

When's he going to get to the Rockies and how good will he be once he's there?

Díaz has already been in and out of games for the Rockies in two separate seasons. In fact, due to his injury last year, Díaz boasts over a year of service time. I’m a believer in what Díaz can become as a fire-breathing late inning reliever, though my expectations have been lowered by the lack of control I’ve seen from him in his brief 2017 season to date. He’s got to get that stuff under control or he won’t be usable in a contending bullpen this season.

With that said, the golden arm and fun backstory make Diaz a personal favorite prospect of mine. I placed him 22nd on my list with a 40 FV — though his ceiling is that of a MLB closer.

★ ★ ★

23. Tyler Nevin (253 points, 28 ballots) -- Preseason Ranking: 23 — High Ballot 14, Mode Ballot 23

How did he enter the organization?

2015 Competitive Balance Round A, Poway (CA) HS

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

Most PuRPs voters are likely voting for Nevin because of his lofty draft position (38th overall in 2015), signing bonus ($2 million), and bloodlines (he’s the son of former major leaguer Phil Nevin). The 20-year-old corner infielder (he’s spent time at both first and third this year) also has been universally lauded for his great makeup, a big determinant in a prospect’s floor.

The reason voters are relying mostly on pedigree with Nevin is because the righty 6’4” slugger hasn’t been on the field much as a professional. After a decent debut in 2015, Nevin was limited to just one plate appearance in 2016 due to hamstring injuries and spent two months on the shelf this year, limiting him to 43 games across two levels (including six in Boise on a rehab assignment) this season.

In 157 plate appearances with Asheville this year, Nevin has a .268/.331/.380 line with 10 extra base hits (108 wRC+) against pitchers who are on average 1.5 years older than him. Those aren’t bad numbers by any means, but they haven’t yet distinguished Nevin among the teeming masses of strong third base prospects the Rockies have developed in recent years.

What do the scouts say?

Coming off his lost 2016 season, Nevin received a 40 FV grade (with raw power as the top tool) from Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs, who ranked Nevin 17th in the system:

Scouts who saw him during spring training liked the bat speed, thought he had plus raw power projection and a chance to be an average defender at third base, provided he could add a half grade of arm strength into his 20s. We’ll have to see if Nevin’s severe hamstring injury will have lasting effects on what was already a fringey defensive profile next spring. He’s a potentially average regular who is far away from the majors and now has health questions to answer.

Finally, in their mid-season rank, MLB.com placed Nevin 18th as well:

Nevin has a chance to hit for power and average. Growing up around the game has helped him develop advanced hitting skills for his age, as he works counts and presently tries to drive balls from gap to gap. He has bat speed and plenty of room to add strength on his 6-foot-4 frame, so home runs should come naturally once he adds some loft to his right-handed stroke.

While there are few questions about his offensive potential, Nevin's long-term defensive home remains in question. The Rockies believe his actions, hands and arm could work at third base but have played him more at first base this year. Additionally, his below-average speed and average arm probably fit better at first base or on an outfield corner.

Here’s Nevin’s pre-draft prospect video courtesy of the Prospect Pipeline:

When's he going to get to the Rockies and how good will he be once he's there?

At this point Nevin is trying not to fall behind his development curve by another year — and he seems to be succeeding so far in Asheville. If he is able to get back on track, a 2021 debut seems most likely for a player as far away as Nevin. He’s a potential big league regular but more likely becomes an interesting bench bat or weak-side platoon partner.

Overall the prospect pedigree, tools, and scouting reports — tempered by his injuries and performance to date led me to rank Nevin 26th in the system with a 40 FV as a potential but far away major-league contributor.

★ ★ ★

22. Mike Nikorak (294 points, 30 ballots) -- Preseason Ranking: 27 — High Ballot 12, Mode Ballot 17, 25, 26

How did he enter the organization?

2015 1st Round, Stroudsburg (PA) HS

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

It certainly didn’t have anything to do with Nikorak’s performance as a pro so far. The 20-year-old righty starter infamously walked 32 batters in 1723 innings in 2015. In his repeat campaign in Grand Junction in 2016, Nikorak reduced his walk rate to 5.8/9 over 2913 frames of 3.68 ERA ball but seemed to have lost the stuff that had made him a highly regarded prospect in the first place. Then Nikorak suffered an injury that required Tommy John surgery in Spring Training this year, making 2017 a lost year.

Okay, that’s a lot of bad stuff. The reason Nikorak remains on this list is tied to where he began his professional career and where he was right before the TJ surgery. He began his career as a first round draft pick with a $2.3 million signing bonus that ended up in top 100 prospect conversations because of his stuff profile. Reports from Spring Training this year indicated that, before he got hurt, Nikorak had shown marked improvements to his delivery and stuff, putting him on the path to regaining his prospect shine.

In short, if Nikorak gets right he’s got sky-high upside and you can’t expect much more from your #22 prospect.

What do the scouts say?

Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs wrote up Nikorak after his 2016 campaign but before this spring. He dropped Nikorak out of his Rockies top 24 prospects list:

Nikorak has struggled to throw strikes in pro ball. He was 88-91 during instructional league in 2015 and was 87-92 this spring. Colorado has been working to improve his arm action.

In February, 2080 Baseball’s Nick Faleris and Dave DeFreitas gave a run-down on Nikorak’s current state:

Nikorak has struggled to rediscover his mid- to upper-90s velocity and plus breaking ball ... generally showing softer and less consistent stuff throughout his time in the Rockies’ organization. After reworking his mechanics to try and clean up his arm action some and help him to maintain a more consistent tempo to the plate, Nikorak was finally starting to show signs of more fluid and consistent motion during his most recent run through fall instructs.

At present, the fastball is working mostly in the 89-to-93 mph range on a solid downhill plane. The curveball is coming with more consistent shape than he displayed a year ago, but the breaking ball still lacks the bite flashed during his one- and two-inning outings on the high school showcase circuit ... He has the size and quality of stuff arm to develop into a quality rotation piece, while the fastball and curveball could perhaps help him fit into a solid seventh- or eighth-inning role should the Rockies be forced to shift him to the pen over the few seasons.

Finally, MLB.com listed Nikorak 29th in the system recently:

When Nikorak can keep his delivery together, he can sit in the low 90s with sink on his two-seam fastball, reach 97 mph with his four-seamer, spin a hammer curveball in the low 80s and flash a plus changeup. But he has trouble repeating his mechanics and sometimes pitches tentatively, resulting in heaters sitting around 90 mph and diminished secondary stuff.

If Nikorak can repeat his delivery, maintain a consistent arm slot and recapture the arsenal he has shown in the past, he still could become a frontline starter. The Rockies saw positive signs during instructional league and early in Spring Training, which offers hope that he'll figure it out, as do his youth and the athleticism that made him an all-conference quarterback in high school.

Here’s some video of Nikorak courtesy of Purple Row’s own YouTube channel:

When's he going to get to the Rockies and how good will he be once he's there?

At this point, who even knows? Nikorak has some very serious issues to overcome given his performance as a professional so far and now TJ surgery. And yet, some believe there's still a No. 2/3 starter in there somewhere ready to be unleashed. I think it would be unwise to write Nikorak off after just over 47 innings as a professional, but I think his MLB timeline (a very uncertain proposition to be sure) now pushes into 2021 at the earliest.

The profile is still tantalizing enough in a weaker system to give Nikorak a 40+ FV tag as a potential back-end MLB starter and rank him 21st on my ballot, but I’m certainly not confident in that assessment.

★ ★ ★

21. Robert Tyler (323 points, 31 ballots) -- Preseason Ranking: 18 — High Ballot 13, Mode Ballot 19

How did he enter the organization?

2016 Competitive Balance Round A, University of Georgia

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

Tyler is in this slot due to his draft pedigree and his elite fastball. Entering 2016, Tyler was in the discussion for a mid to late first-round pick and showed flashes in college of becoming an elite starter. The 22-year-old righty pitched mostly in the rotation for Georgia, but his time in Athens was marred by injuries, including a forearm strain in 2015 that limited him to just six starts. Tyler was healthy in 2016 though, where he posted a 10.73 K/9 and 4.10 ERA in 7323 innings for Georgia, though he struggled with control (5.54 BB/9).

It was enough to command a $1.7 million bonus as the 38th overall pick in the 2016 draft. Tyler was assigned to Short-Season A Boise, where in 7 professional innings he allowed 11 runs on 2 hits — oh, and 16 walks — a Nikorakian stat line. Since then, it’s been a mystery where Tyler has been, since he hasn’t thrown a competitive pitch in 2017. Only recently in Tyler’s blurb for MLB.com’s top 30 did we learn that Tyler had been held out because of “shoulder fatigue”. Uh oh.

What do the scouts say?

2080 Baseball had this to say about Tyler back in February:

Tyler shows a borderline elite fastball, sitting in the mid-to-upper 90s and touching triple digits with regularity while working well downhill. His best secondary offering is an impressive circle changeup that he turns over to get arm-side dive, and the pitch shows good arm speed and pitch-plane deception. The breaking ball is a below-average knuckle curve that Tyler struggles to throw for strikes and lacks consistent shape and bite.

While the Rockies will likely continue to try and develop Tyler as a starter, the profile screams fastball/changeup relief arm. Even if he has to pull back on the effort and sacrifice some velocity for control, Tyler could quickly grow into a late-inning contributor off the strength of his top two pitches.

MLB.com dropped Tyler to 28th in the system in their mid-season update:

As a starter, Tyler can sit in the mid-90s and reach triple digits with his fastball, and on his worst days he'll still work at 92-95 mph. Besides its overwhelming velocity, his heater is tough to catch up to because it features run, sink and downhill plane. His fading and sinking changeup gives him a second plus offering at times, though he lacks feel for spinning the ball and uses a knuckle-curve as his breaking ball.

The Rockies initially will develop Tyler as a starter so he can have plenty of innings to work on his shortcomings. He has yet to prove he can repeat his delivery and command his pitches, and he has missed time in four of the past five years, so many scouts believe he'll wind up in the bullpen. As a reliever, he would likely throw even harder in shorter outings and could concentrate on his two best pitches.

Like Díaz, Tyler has a 75 fastball/40 control combo with a plus secondary pitch at present.

Here’s some video of Tyler pitching for Team USA in 2015:

When's he going to get to the Rockies and how good will he be once he's there?

Tyler is a high-ceiling, low-floor player due to the contradiction of the explosiveness of the fastball/change combo and his struggle with mechanics and control. At the ceiling, if the Rockies can smooth out his mechanics and improve the control profile, Tyler has the upside of a 2/3 starter. That seems...unlikely at this point. 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.

Tyler has had a lost 2017 season and still hasn’t made his full season ball debut. The earliest I envision him in the big leagues is 2020, and that’s as a reliever. Still, I’m one of the high votes for Tyler in the electorate by ranking him 17th and giving him a 40+ FV as a potential impact reliever or back-end starter — and I hope that looks low this time next year after Tyler gets some more professional innings under his belt.

Tomorrow, we’ll crack the top 20 of the midseason 2017 PuRPs list!