16. Forrest Wall (405 points, 31 ballots)
Getting drafted at all as a high school second baseman is a rarity. Getting drafted in the first-ish round, as Forrest Wall was by the Rockies in 2014, has happened to fewer than 10 players in history. The 22-year-old lefty hitter earned that honor (and a $2 million bonus) because of his exciting hit/speed tool combination and the fact that his limitation was an injured throwing arm.
In his first two years as a professional, Wall displayed these tools as he cruised through Low-A. With that said, during that time the elite speed he’d displayed as a high schooler kept getting worse grades from scouts each year and the hit tool didn’t lead to dominant offensive numbers. In 2016, Wall struggled mightily in High-A with a punchless .264/.329/.355 line (88 wRC+) and defensively posted a 32 error season at second base.
The Rockies responded to this campaign with an intention to turn Wall into a center fielder. In a second tour in the California League (still 1.6 years younger than league average) and at a new position, Wall posted a .299/.361/.471 line in 98 plate appearances (123 wRC+). Unfortunately, Wall’s season ended at that line because he dislocated his left shoulder diving for a ball in the outfield. We’ll have to see if the better form continues into 2018.
Wall was among the top 20 prospects in the system for Baseball Prospectus, whose blurb from Wilson Karaman on Wall read thusly:
There unfortunately isn’t much to write about here, as Wall dislocated his shoulder on an outfield dive after just 22 games and missed the remainder of the year. It was a tough break, as he’d shown flashes of improvement in the box early on. He added some bulk, and did well to barrel velocity he’d previously struggled to turn on with any authority in his first tour of the Cal League. The lost developmental time really hurt, however, in the form of lost centerfield reps after he converted to the grass full-time last off-season. He displayed every ounce of rawness you’d expect from a brand-new convert in April, and with speed for the position already borderline, it’s going to be a long slog for him to show he can hang at the position.
Wall still shows a knack for making consistent line-drive contact from the left side of the plate and using the whole field, though he didn’t manage the strike zone last year as well as he had in the past. He has yet to grow into much power, but his hitting ability, bat speed and projected strength gains could yield double-digit home run totals. After earning 65 and 70 grades on the 20-80 scouting scale for his speed in the past, he turned in merely above-average running times in 2016 and got caught in a career-worst 33 percent of his base-stealing attempts.
Following a year in which Wall led California League second basemen with 32 errors in 117 games, the Rockies introduced him to center field during instructional league. He saw almost all of his 2017 action there, though Colorado plans to continue giving him time at second base. His throwing arm has been a concern since he had surgery to repair a torn labrum in high school but is playable at both positions.
Baseball Census has some video of Wall from April 2017:
It can be easy to lose sight of the fact that Wall just turned 21 and was already repeating the High-A level (with some success). He’s a former overall top 100 prospect who very well could bounce back strong from his injury. With that said, I don’t blame voters who dropped Wall down their ballots due to some combination of the injury, the position change, and the back-up on the tools.
Realistically, Wall will need to show he can adjust to upper minors pitching and a new position as he moves up the minor league ladder before he earns a big league shot. I think it will probably be 2020 at this point. Before that can happen, Wall has a huge year in front of him, during which he will need to convince the Rockies he’s worthy of a 40 man roster spot. I’m a believer in the pedigree and tools but I’m wary of the defensive utility, injury effects, and tool deterioration. Ultimately I ranked Wall 16th in the system as an intriguing potential major-league contributor with a lot of questions. Let’s hope Wall makes that evaluation look low next season.