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Rockies prospect Garrett Hampson could be more than a utility player

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Hampson ranks No. 9 on the pre-season 2018 PuRPs list

9. Garrett Hampson (711 points, 34 ballots)

The general sentiment among Rockies fans who follow the draft when Colorado took Garrett Hampson, shortstop out of Long Beach State, in the 3rd round of the 2016 draft was that of bemusement. Though the Rockies have had good success with shortstops from that school (see Tulowitzki, Troy), Hampson’s draft scouting reports painted him as a pure utility guy who got by more on grit and work ethic than talent, and who would need to rely on defense to make it to the Show.

But a funny thing happened to that narrative after Hampson signed for $750,000 and was assigned to Short Season A Boise: Hampson was an offensive dynamo in the notoriously pitcher friendly environment in the Northwest League against age appropriate competition, hitting .301/.404/.441 (138 wRC+) with 36 steals (in 40 attempts) and 24 extra base hits in 312 plate appearances. Hampson walked almost as many times as he struck out (48 vs. 56). That showing got him onto prospect radars, and his 2017 performance has elevated him into a prospect with arguably the likeliest major-league future of any of Colorado’s 2016 draft picks.

In 2017, Hampson continued his upward trajectory as the Rockies promoted the now 23-year-old middle infielder all the way to High A Lancaster. Hampson proved the Rockies right with another strong season (again against age-appropriate competition. In 603 plate appearances with the JetHawks, Hampson posted a blistering .327/.387/.462 triple slash (130 wRC+) with 44 extra base hits (36 of which were doubles or triples) and a 51 out of 65 stolen base success rate.

The slugging numbers were admittedly buoyed considerably by Hampson’s home park, where he slugged .532 compared to just .383 on the road and was able to use his plus speed to stretch singles into doubles and doubles into triples. He did show good plate discipline, as the 5’11” hitter maintained a relatively comparable walk (9.3%) to strikeout (12.8%) percentage. Defensively, Hampson mostly deferred to Brendan Rodgers by sliding to second base, but he played 56 games at short vs. 72 at second on the year, making just eight errors combined between the positions.

The continued success on both sides of the ball have opened a lot of eyes: for instance, Baseball America named Hampson the system’s top defensive infielder and rated him as having the system’s top strike zone discipline before the 2017 season.

Here’s some video on Hampson from April 2017 courtesy of Baseball Census:

Notably, Hampson was recently named the 7th best second base prospect in the minors by MLB Pipeline with a 50 FV tag:

Hampson’s well above-average speed is his standout tool and he employs it well. After hitting too many routine flyballs in college, he has adjusted his approach to put more balls on the ground and use his feet to get on base, where he had 87 steals in 105 attempts during his first two seasons. He has a quick right-handed swing and barrels the ball consistently, and while he doesn’t offer much power, he does show good patience at the plate.

After spending his pro debut at shortstop, Hampson split time between second base and short in 2017. While his actions, range, hands and internal clock work at both spots, his average arm is a better fit at second. He shows Gold Glove upside at second base as he continues to learn the position.

Outside of a 30 FV on his power, Hampson is average or better in every other tool, including a 55 hit, 65 run, and 60 field evaluation.

Hampson was ranked eighth in the system by Baseball Prospectus this off-season with a 55 OFP and 45 likely role. Wilson Karaman on Hampson:

The Good: Hampson’s a walking, talking archetype of a grinding, sparkplug middle infielder. His quick stroke and excellent hand-eye allow for all manner of in-swing adjustment and pitching-spoiling ability. Paired with a keen eye and strong discipline, it’s a skill set that lends itself to long, pain-in-the-ass at-bats, with a line drive on the eventual back end of ‘em more often than not. He’s smart, aggressive, and very fast on the bases, with a keen sense for situational risk-taking. He controls his body well in the field, with strong lateral agility and above-average range in all directions at short.

The Bad: The arm is light for the left side; he’ll struggle to finish plays to his right at short, and profiles better at the keystone. It’s a slash-and-dash approach at the dish, which has been an intentional and well-taken evolution from his college days, but one which might be stretched to hold against upper-level pitching. The lack of power will put significant pressure on his hit and speed tools to play to their respective ceilings if he’s going to generate positive offensive value.

The Risks: There’s some variance remaining in the profile here depending on how confident you are in the hit tool actualizing in spite of extremely limited power potential. We are on the “fairly confident” side of the spectrum. Regardless, he’s a polished player with a stellar and long track record of growth and development. The speed, instincts, and tenacity of approach offer a comfortable 25-man projection, with an evident path to production in a starting role.

Hampson was slapped with the utility player tag when he was drafted and it’s hard for a player to escape that label. Still, Hampson has done everything he can with his professional performance so far to change that perception of him. He seems to be a likely major leaguer at this point, and at his current rate he could be in that mix as soon as 2019, depending on how he adjusts to Double-A in 2018.

The improving scouting reports combined with consistent strong performance by Hampson led me to bump him up to 11th on my personal ballot and rate him as a 45 FV player: a major league utility player who could also be a below average regular in a pinch. That’s the same view I had of DJ LeMahieu when he was acquired and that’s turned out pretty well for the Rockies.