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MLB Draft 2017: Rockies prospects impressing in short season debuts

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Checking in on the latest Rockies draftees

The Rockies short season teams (the Grand Junction Rockies and the Boise Hawks) are at the halfway point of their 75 game schedule. Last night was the Northwest League/Pioneer League All-Star Game in Hillsboro, so it’s time to check in on how the latest draft picks are doing in professional ball so far. We recapped and graded the Rockies’ class from the 2017 MLB Draft last month and now we’ll look at how the class is performing so far. Keep in mind, this is a very small sample size and there is plenty of time for the numbers to turn around or regress. That said, it’s been a very good half-season for the Rockies draftees.

Good Starts

Ryan Vilade, SS, Grand Junction Rockies (Round 2, pick 48)

Vilade, our newly minted no. 8 PuRP, has been excellent in his first 27 games in pro ball. He sports a .316/.455/.526 line with five home runs and a BB/K rate of 24/28. He has played exclusively at shortstop so far and has looked good there, showing good range and arm strength. I liked Vilade a lot going into the draft and I like him even more now. The power is showing up already and as a kid just coming out of high school, he has impressed me with his plate discipline and contact ability. The way he has looked at shortstop combined with his impressive approach at the plate, hitting ability, and overall makeup add up to an impressive second round find for the Rockies.

Will Gaddis, RHP, Grand Junction Rockies (Round 3, pick 86)

Gaddis has had a solid start to his career, with a 4.50 ERA and 12 strikeouts in his 18 innings. Gaddis is a command-over-stuff righty and he has only walked three batters so far on the season. He’s started three times for Grand Junction; two of those starts were stellar, the most recent was a little rocky. The command and control are there and his excellent walk and ground ball rates are promising signs. He was recently named the no. 25 (now no. 24) PuRP.

Chad Spanberger, 1B, Grand Junction Rockies (Round 6, pick 176)

Spanberger was drafted after a monster 2017 season with Arkansas after posting average numbers his previous two seasons as a reserve for the Razorbacks. He improved his contact rate, beefed up his power numbers, and dropped his strikeout rate significantly. Through 114 at bats in Grand Junction, he has carried those numbers into pro ball as he is slashing .298/.362/.553. The walk and strikeout rates aren’t as good as you’d like to see, but at least he hasn’t taken a step back from his impressive junior season. He just missed inclusion on our most recent PuRPs results, until the Pat Neshek trade bumped him into the no. 30 spot.

Bret Boswell, 2B, Boise Hawks (Round 8, pick 236)

Boswell’s scouting reports suggested he had good power potential that had yet to show up in games. So far, he’s proving those reports right by clubbing six home runs in his first 31 games. His approach will have to be improved (just six walks in 150 PAs) but the power beginning to show up this early in his career is encouraging.

Sean Bouchard, 1B, Boise Hawks (Round 9, pick 266)

Bouchard has lit up the Northwestern League to the tune of a .337/.398/.571 line. He has been exclusively a first baseman so far for the Hawks but has the athleticism to play at third base as well. Bouchard had a nice breakout season for UCLA in 2017, showing over-the-fence power that had previously been lacking. So far the Rockies are getting the same guy and there’s likely more power in there waiting to be tapped into. He received eight votes in our most recent PuRPs balloting, placing him 42nd overall.

Alan Trejo, SS, Grand Junction Rockies (Round 16, pick 476)

Trejo is an athletic shortstop who also has played at third base and second base to start his career. At San Diego State, Trejo was a good contact hitter who started to show good gap power in his junior year. So far in his career he’s shown that same type of power to go along with good speed and defense at short. His .327/.378/.477 line is supported by a 22.2 percent line drive rate.

Daniel Jipping, OF, Boise Hawks (Round 22, pick 656)

Jipping’s nine home runs rank first in all of short season A ball. His power was certainly enticing going into the draft, as was his speed and approach at the plate. The speed has shown in the form of three steals in three attempts but the approach has suffered a bit thus far as Jipping has struck out 37 times and walked 13. Still, the power he has shown is a great start and hopefully he can get back to his college K/BB rate which typically hovered around 1.5.

Moises Ceja, RHP, Boise Hawks (Round 32, pick 956)

Ceja has been great thus far. He owns an 11.3 K/9 and has walked just two batters in his 14 13 innings. Those numbers are a far cry from his less-than-stellar college ratios so it is certainly possible he’s benefiting from a small sample. However, his 3.00 FIP indicates he has been almost as good as his 2.51 ERA suggests. His time at UCLA was split between starting and relieving so a focus on coming out of the pen may also be helping him improve his ratios.

Michael Agis, RHP, Grand Junction Rockies (Round 36, pick 1,076)

Agis is the lowest draft pick who actually signed with the team, making him the Rockies Mr. Irrelevant. He’s doing his best to put that distinction behind him as he has been lights out through his first 17 13 pro innings. He has walked just two batters and struck out 19, while limiting hitters to a .215 average. Agis is about six months older than the average Pioneer League player so he may face tougher challenges as he moves through the system.

Tough Starts

Tommy Doyle, RHP, Grand Junction Rockies (Competitive Balance Round B, pick 70)

Doyle has struggled to begin his career, sporting a 2.65 WHIP with six walks in eight and two thirds innings. He has certainly had a little difficulty adjusting to professional baseball. But his 64.7 percent ground ball rate and .471 BABIP also indicate some positive regression can be expected. The pedigree was enough for Doyle to earn the no. 30 PuRP ranking and, thanks to the aforementioned Neshek trade, is now our no. 28 PuRP.

Jesse Lepore, RHP, Boise Hawks (Round 24, pick 716)

Lepore struggled mightily at Miami his junior season but his good freshman and sophomore seasons were enough to get him drafted. Thus far, the Rockies have seen junior season Lepore on the hill. He has pitched exclusively in relief and has allowed at least a run in all but two of his appearances to this point. Unlike Doyle, Lepore doesn’t have good batted ball rates to indicate a turnaround is coming but there is a good pitcher in there somewhere. He’s just hard to see behind the 14.04 ERA and 2.40 WHIP.

Additional Notes

  • Pearson McMahan (4th round, pick 116), Nick Kennedy (5, 146), Lucas Gilbreath (7, 206), and Garrett Schilling (18, 536) have all begun their careers as starters. It was a bit surprising to see Hunter Williams (11, 326) start out as a reliever in the system but so far it’s been a pretty successful move.
  • Joey Bartosic (19, 566) is the stolen base leader among Rockies draft picks with nine steals in his 16 games.
  • Nate Harris (21, 626) owns a 6.00 ERA in nine innings but his 61.9 percent ground ball rate and .435 BABIP back up his stellar 2.72 FIP.
  • The only signed Rockies draft pick yet to make an appearance is Shameko Smith (13, 386).
  • Three Rockies draft picks participated in last night’s Northwest League/Pioneer League All-Star Game. Ryan Vilade went one for two with a single and a run scored. Michael Agis pitched one clean inning without recording a strikeout. Daniel Jipping pinch hit and didn't record a hit. He did however win the home run derby on Monday.

★ ★ ★

The fact that this is a small sample size can’t be emphasized enough. That said, it is very encouraging that the Rockies top picks have performed so well thus far. It’s been a good start for a lot of these guys and the ones I left out either had middle-of-the-road stats or a very small sample to work with. We’ll check in again at the end of the season but at this point, the Rockies have to be very happy with what they’ve seen from this class through the first half.