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Rockies pitching prospect Will Gaddis making progress as a polished starter

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Gaddis ranks No. 23 in the pre-season 2018 PuRPs list

23. Will Gaddis (261 points, 26 ballots)

Will Gaddis was well thought of by draft observers this year. In fact, he was more highly thought of than fellow PuRP 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. In 11 appearances with Grand Junction (nine starts), Gaddis pitched 4413 innings with a 5.68 ERA, 1.65 WHIP, and 5.3 K/9 rate. Those are hardly dominating numbers for a high-pedigree, league average age starter, but they are far from the only variable to consider.

MLB.com ranked Gaddis 82nd among 2017 draft prospects, then in their current rank of the Rockies system placed him 18th. Here’s some commentary on Gaddis as a pitcher from that pre-draft 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.

Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs posted this blurb about Gaddis based on his looks at him in fall instructs:

I’ve seen Will Gaddis, Colorado’s third rounder out of Furman, twice this fall and been impressed by his ability to locate his fastball in each look. I think he has a chance to develop plus-plus command, though his stuff—he sat 88-91 with a fringe breaking ball and below-average changeup in each appearance I saw—leaves something to be desired.

Here’s a look at Gaddis in a start for Furman last year:

Gaddis is about the same type of prospect as Sam Howard was three years ago when the Rockies took him in the 3rd round (their tool scores on MLB.com are even similar). 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 22nd 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.