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Colorado Rockies prospect rankings, preseason 2018: Intro and honorable mention PuRPs

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Warm yourself with Rockies prospect rankings this January

It's time for the reveal of the 2018 preseason Purple Row Prospects (PuRPs) list, our community's ranking of the top 30 Colorado Rockies prospects. The top 30 prospects will be revealed individually over the next month or so to give people who aren't in the know a little bit more of information on them. First up, an introduction to the list and then a rundown of every player to get votes, plus the five honorable mention PuRPs.

In this edition of the PuRPs poll, 34 ballots were cast, with 30 points granted for a first place vote, 29 for second, etc. Until a player was named on 12 ballots, his vote totals were modified on a sliding scale to avoid an individual ballot having too much say over the community forecast – though none of the top 30 players on this edition of the list were listed on fewer than 12 ballots. The first tiebreaker goes to the player who was ranked on the most ballots, then to the one who was ranked highest on an individual PuRPs ballot, and the third is the mode ballot (no ties in the top 30 were broken in this edition).

In all, 68 players received at least one vote for this PuRPs list (up from 66), 54 got mentioned on multiple ballots (down from 58), and 33 were named on at least 12 ballots (flat from last time) and therefore were unmodified. The top 14 players were named on over 90 percent of ballots cast, though not necessarily in the same order, while only one PuRP failed to appear on at least 50 percent of ballots. Here is a link to the polling thread.

All prospects who retained their Rookie of the Year eligibility (fewer than 130 ABs, 50 IP, and 45 days on the active roster – DL and September service time are not included) were eligible for selection on this list. Since the mid-season list, Raimel Tapia (4) exhausted his rookie eligibility, while Pedro González (12) and Sam Moll (HM) were traded out the organization.

For each player on the PuRPs list, I'll include a link to individual stats (via Baseball-Reference), contract status (via Rockies Roster), and a note on their 2017 season. For what it's worth, I'll also include where I put each player on my personal ballot. For players receiving votes I'll provide the B-Ref link and voting stats, plus a short blurb where pertinent. All ages are as of the time the article was posted.

Remember, statistics are not the end-all be-all when evaluating these players. Context is hugely important (such as the player's age relative to the league's average or the league average offensive numbers), as is the fact that injuries to prospects can affect both their tools and their stats. I'll try to make mention of instances where this is the case as we go on.

More discussion on the voting will be included in the final installment of this series, but here are the players who received votes but not enough for inclusion on the 2018 preseason PuRPs List:

Single Ballot Players

T-65. Matt McLaughlin (0.1 points, 1 ballot) — 21-year-old SS in Boise who had a 130 wRC+; was Colorado’s 12th round pick in 2017.

T-65. Moises Ceja (0.1, 1) — 22-year-old RHP in Boise with a 10.7 K/9; was Colorado’s 12th round pick in 2017.

T-65. Bryan Baker (0.1, 1) — 23-year-old RHP in Asheville who had a 1.66 ERA over 5413 relief innings and a 9.4 K/9.

T-65. Cristopher Navarro (0.1, 1) — 18-year-old SS in the DSL who had a 106 wRC+ in a repeat campaign; signed for $450k in 2015.

T-62. Jefry Valdez (0.3, 1) — 22-year-old RHP at Grand Junction who struck out 48 in 30 innings in his first extended stateside run.

T-62. Nick Kennedy (0.3, 1) — 21-year-old RHP at Boise, had a 3.68 ERA across 9 starts; was Colorado’s 5th round pick in 2017.

T-62. Manuel Melendez (0.3, 1) — 20-year-old lefty OF at Asheville, had a 96 wRC+ playing mostly center field in full-season ball.

T-60. Ty Culbreth (0.3, 1) — 23-year-old LHP who posted a 3.09 ERA and 4.2 K/BB ratio in 128 innings spread across Asheville and Lancaster.

T-60. Omar Carrizales (0.3, 1) — 22-year-old lefty OF and former PuRP who held down CF in Hartford (at over 2 years younger than the level’s average) with a 89 wRC+.

T-58. Max George (0.5, 1) — 21-year-old 2B was nearly not a single ballot guy, as he was the top name who just missed on my ballot. In a repeat year in Asheville (still younger than average), the former 6th round pick posted a 124 wRC+, including 13 HR and 30 SB, for the Tourists.

T-58. Jerry Vasto (0.5, 1) — the 25-year-old LHP rose out of obscurity all the way to Triple-A this year, whereupon he posted a 10.4 K/9 but a 6.88 ERA across 5323 relief innings. MLB.com provided this scouting report on Vasto:

A left-handed specialist, Vasto has shut down lefty hitters since entering pro ball. He carves them up with a mid-80s slider/cutter and throws them off with his deceptive delivery. He sets up his slider with a fastball that sits around 91-93 mph and tops out at 95 with late sink.

Vasto hasn't dominated right-handed hitters but has been effective against them. He'll mix in a changeup against them but it's usually fringy at best. His control and command lack consistency at times, and his stuff flattens out and gets hit hard when he leaves the ball up in the strike zone.

57. Rayan González (0.6, 1) — 27-year-old RHP; was another player I considered for my PuRPs list given the strength of his live relief arm and 40 man roster slot; missed 2017 with TJ surgery, but perhaps he’ll be a part of the 2018 bullpen discussion when he returns. MLB.com described Gonzalez’s arsenal as follows:

Gonzalez's 93-98 mph fastball has a combination of natural cutting action and some sink, helping him post an outstanding 2.5 groundout/airout ratio through his first five pro seasons. He found more success last year when he improved his ability to control how much his heater cuts. He gets good depth on his curveball and also employs a decent changeup to keep left-handers honest.

The life on Gonzalez's fastball can make it difficult to command, though it moves so much that it can be tough to hit even when he leaves it over the plate.

55. Erick Julio (1.3, 1) — 21-year-old RHP at Asheville, was a big 2013 Latin America signing; threw 14813 innings of 4.98 ERA, 6.4 K/9 ball in his full season debut.

54. Javier Medina (1.3, 1) — 21-year-old RHP who lost all of 2017 to injury; was Colorado’s 3rd round pick in 2015.

Multi-Ballot Players

56. Bret Boswell (1.0, 3) — 23-year-old 2B (lefty hitter) at Boise; was Colorado’s 8th round pick in 2017; put up a .293/.339/.515 line (136 wRC+) in a tough NW League hitting environment and was placed as Colorado’s no. 30 prospect by MLB Pipeline:

Boswell possesses more raw power than the typical middle infielder. He may strike out too much to ever hit for a high average, but he could deliver 15 homers per season from the left side of the plate. He'll flash above-average speed but it plays more as average on the bases. ... He has the solid arm strength and enough range to play on the left side of the infield, enhancing his utility value if he can't make it as a regular.

53. Anderson Amarista (1.3, 2) — the 19-year-old RHP was a big bonus Latin American signing in 2015 who made his stateside debut in 2017; hit hard (8.20 ERA, 1.73 WHIP) in 56 innings for Grand Junction.

52. Shane Broyles (2.0, 2) — 26-year-old RHP had a 1.81 ERA, 12.8 K/9 rate, and 0.95 WHIP in 2017 across 5423 relief innings for Hartford and Albuquerque; could be a bullpen relief option in 2018 for the MLB club.

51. Zach Jemiola (2.0, 3) — 23-year-old RHP, the former PuRP was added to the 40-man roster last off-season but struggled in Albuquerque’s rotation in 2017 (6.83 ERA, 4.4 K/9).

50. David Hill (2.7, 2) — 23-year-old RHP who lost all of 2017 to injury, but the former 4th rounder remains a viable potential starter option who I’m very interested to see against more advanced hitting.

49. Chris Rabago (2.7, 2) — 24-year-old C at Lancaster who became a prospect to watch in my eyes when the Rockies surprisingly added him (and not PuRP Dom Nuñez) to the 40-man roster this off-season. Rabago threw out 36% of basestealers last year and even swiped 25 of his own en route to a 102 wRC+.

48. Antonio Santos (3.0, 3) — 21-year-old RHP at Asheville; was a rotation mainstay though he was almost two years younger than league average; had a 5.39 ERA and 6.5 K/9 across 147 innings for the Tourists. MLB.com had this to say about him:

Santos' fastball topped out at 92 mph when he turned pro and now operates at 92-95 with a peak of 97. He also has good feel for his curveball and changeup. Both of his secondary pitches could be solid once he improves their consistency.

Though he throws a lot of strikes and does a good job of keeping the ball down, Santos can get hittable because he's around the zone too much at times. He's advanced for a 20-year-old pitcher and could develop into a No. 3 or 4 starter.

47. Justin Lawrence (3.3, 4) — 23-year-old RHP at Asheville who posted a 1.65 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, and 11.0 K/9 rate over 1613 relief innings for the Tourists. That’s a limited sample due to a torn trapezius muscle he suffered in May, but it was enough for MLB Pipeline to rank Lawrence 27th in the system. They had this to say about Lawrence:

In his third pro season, he was operating at 94-98 mph with quality sink that yields a lot of groundouts ... Hitters have trouble squaring up Lawrence's sinker when he keeps it down in the zone. He backs it up with a hard, sweeping slider that is quite effective against right-handers.

46. Austin House (3.8, 3) — 26-year-old righty reliever at Albuquerque who was quite successful in the Isotopes bullpen pitching in his hometown. In 68 innings in the notorious hitter’s paradise that is the PCL, House had a 1.85 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 7.0 K/9 rate.

45. Sean Bouchard (4.0, 4) — 21-year-old 1B at Boise; was Colorado’s 9th round pick in 2017. The lefty crushed the ball in a tough NW League hitting environment to the tune of .290/.390/.477 (146 wRC+) in his professional debut.

44. Josh Fuentes (4.8, 3) — 24-year-old 3B at Hartford; shares bloodlines with Nolan Arenado but is making a name for himself. Fuentes hit .307/.352/.517 (137 wRC+) with 50 extra base hits for the Yard Goats in 2017.

43. Matt Pierpont (5.2, 2) — 26-year-old RHP at Hartford who posted a fine relief season for the Yard Goats in 2017. He threw 6213 innings with a 2.02 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, and 7.9 K/9.

42. Jack Wynkoop (6.5, 3) — 24-year-old LHP at Hartford, the HM PuRP from last year’s list produced mediocre numbers (4.44 ERA) and a tiny strikeout rate (4.8 K/9) with Hartford in 2017 after a very successful 2016 across Low and High A, but at least he retained a semblance of his legendary control (1.3 BB/9).

41. Parker French (8.3, 3) — 24-year-old RHP at Hartford who had a disappointing follow-up to a strong 2016. Across 12823 innings for the Yard Goats, French put up a 6.37 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, and 4.8 K/9 rate (I’m removing him from my prospect radar for now). MLB.com gave the following scouting report on French entering 2017:

He relies mostly on his two-seam fastball, which he can spot on either side of the plate with late, heavy sink. It usually arrives at 89-92 mph, though French has picked up some velocity in pro ball and is touching 94 more frequently than he did with the Longhorns. He doesn't miss a lot of bats but resolves a lot of at-bats with early-count groundouts.

French maintains his arm speed while throwing his changeup, which also features sink and shows flashes of becoming a solid pitch. He also works in an average slider that he throws for strikes. He doesn't have a huge ceiling, but his efficiency gives him a high floor as a back-of-the-rotation starter.

40. Harrison Musgrave (8.3, 4) — 25-year-old LHP at Albuquerque who, like French, was a preseason 2017 PuRP but did not pitch well in an injury-filled second tour in Albuquerque (6.79 ERA, 1.66 WHIP, 6.5 K/9 rate in 54 13 innings). Nonetheless, he provides insurance should disaster strike for the major league rotation. MLB.com had this to say about Musgrave before the 2017 season:

Musgrave's best offering unquestionably is his changeup, a plus offering at times that tumbles at the plate. His fastball sits around 90 mph but he makes it work thanks to command and deception. He never has had much of a breaking ball and his slider remains fringy.

He may have just one pitch that qualifies as even average, but that doesn't stop Musgrave from challenging hitters and pounding the strike zone.

39. Eddy Diaz (13.3, 4) — 17-year-old SS in the DSL who represents Colorado’s first notable signing out of Cuba (for 750k). He is one of the few Cubans who were allowed to sign as a free agent instead of defecting. Unlike most July 2 signees (who generally sit the first year), Diaz was plugged directly into the lineup for the DSL Rockies.

In his professional debut Diaz flashed plus speed (30 SB in 36 games) and talent with the stick (a .311/.403/.424 line across 155 plate appearances, good for a 143 wRC+). Diaz is a name I’ll be watching very closely in 2018. Hopefully he makes a successful stateside debut.

38. Yolki Pena (22.5, 6) — 17-year-old lefty OF in the DSL who signed for $600k in 2016 and absolutely stood out offensively in a tough DSL environment (.302/.411/.387 line, 138 wRC+) at an age where other top signings have struggled.

37. Shael Mendoza (27.4, 7) — 21-year-old 2B (hits lefty) at Grand Junction who came out of nowhere. Mendoza was an unheralded Latin signing in 2016 who set the Pioneer League afire in 2017 with Grand Junction. His batting line was .364/.412/.519 over 259 plate appearances (plus 25 SB), good for a 126 wRC+. FanGraphs’ prospect guru Eric Longenhagen had this to say about Mendoza in October:

While Mendoza has strong hands and wrists that lead to loud contact when he squares a ball up, he has some issues that dilute the quality and amount of contact he makes. He’s often out on his front foot early or excessively and his bat isn’t in the hitting zone for very long. He’s also a fringe athlete without great actions at second base. I do think there’s some physical ability with which to work, evident in Mendoza’s power on contact, but I think there’s significant risk that his 2017 on-paper performance was a bit of a mirage.

36. Alfredo Jose Garcia (32.7, 7) — 18-year-old LHP whosigned for $900k in 2016. Garcia was an older signee whom the Rockies paid a premium to wait until the 2016 class. Early returns on that gamble are strong, as Garcia threw 4623 innings in the DSL with a 2.12 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and 7.9 K/9 rate. He’s a strong candidate to come stateside next year.

Finally, here are the five players who came closest, the Honorable Mention PuRPs:

35. James Farris (64.2, 11 ballots), 2017 Trade, RHP at Triple A (25)

Farris was the return from the Cubs in last winter’s Eddie Butler trade. The righty reliever pitched well enoughin Hartford to earn a promotion to Triple-A, where for Albuquerque he produced acceptable results (4.62 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 9.5 K/9 rate) in a tough league.

Here’s the dirt on Farris from MLB.com, who have him ranked 21st in the system:

Now that he's pitching in shorter stints, he's operating at 92-94 mph and peaking at 96 without losing any of the cutting action that keeps his heater off barrels. After mainly utilizing a below-average curveball with the Wildcats, he has developed a solid slider as a reliever.

Though his changeup was his best pitch at times at Arizona, Farris doesn't use it much in his current role. One thing that hasn't changed from college to pro ball is his ability to throw strikes and keep the ball down in the zone. He has a ceiling as a seventh-inning reliever and could surface in Colorado in the near future.

Farris was eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this year but went un-selected, an indication that Farris isn’t a top organizational priority despite his proximity to MLB and role as relief depth. That’s a factor that ultimately led me to leave Farris off my PuRPs ballot, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see him appear in relief for the Rockies in 2018 despite the crowded bullpen situation.

34. Noel Cuevas (71.5, 11), 2014 Trade, OF at Triple A (26)

Cuevas originally entered the organization in late 2014 as the player to be named later in the Juan Nicasio trade from the Dodgers organization. After the trade, the righty outfielder spent two seasons in the upper levels of the system before re-signing prior to the 2017 as a minor league free agent.

In 2017, given a full season in Triple-A for the first time, Cuevas was an everyday player for Albuquerque, playing all three outfield positions. In 528 plate appearances, Cuevas slashed .312/.353/.487 with 44 extra base hits and 16 SB, good for a 115 wRC+ in the PCL. He was able to parlay that success into a 40 man roster addition this off-season, boosting him back onto the prospect radar for many.

MLB.com recently ranked Cuevas 28th in the system:

Los Angeles drafted Cuevas in large part because it was intrigued by his raw power, but it rarely translated into game production before 2017. While he has been helped by Albuquerque's hitter-friendly park, he's now doing enough damage for scouts to believe he can hold his own against big league pitching. A right-handed hitter, he still gets overly aggressive at the plate at times.

A solid runner, Cuevas knows how to use his speed on the basepaths and in the outfield. With his range and his strong arm, he's capable of playing all three outfield spots.

Cuevas represents an above average defensive outfielder with decent speed who is coming off a strong year at the plate. He also hits from the right side, joining Ian Desmond as the only 40 man roster outfielder with that distinction. With that said, Cuevas is likely the 8th option out of 9 on the 40 man roster for playing time (ahead of only Yonathan Daza).

Cuevas has a utility outfield ceiling and boasts proximity but not much of a path to a major league role despite the 40 man roster slot, which is a reason why I ultimately left him off my personal list.

33. Jeffri Ocando (84, 13), 2016 Amateur Free Agent (VZ), RHP at Rookie Ball (18)

Ocando could very well be a diamond in the rough. The 18-year-old Venezuelan righty was an afterthought until recently, signing just before the 2016 DSL season began last May as a 17-year-old for just $10,000. Ocando’s first professional season was limited to just 23 innings — but what a 23 innings! The 6’1” starter posted a 0.39 ERA and 0.65 WHIP while striking out 29 and walking just one hitter against older players in the DSL.

Ocando made his stateside debut with Grand Junction in 2017, staying in the starting rotation the entire season as an 18-year-old. Unfortunately, the Pioneer League was much more of a challenge, as Ocando’s ERA swelled to 7.12 with a 1.71 WHIP and 5.3 K/9 rate in 6023 frames. He will likely repeat the level or move to Boise next season.

Ocando isn’t yet on the radar of national prospect writers given his lack of pedigree, but he just snuck onto my personal PuRPs list at #30 as a young player being given an opportunity at an advanced level. He’s a lottery ticket at this point, but he could be a major developmental success for the Rockies if he pops.

32. Jesus Tinoco (102, 17), 2015 Trade, RHP at High A (22)

Tinoco may always be known by Rockies fans as the Third Guy in the Tulo trade in 2015, but he had himself a bounceback year for Lancaster in 2017 that put him back on the prospect map. The numbers themselves weren’t outstanding for the 22-year-old — 14023 frames of 4.67 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, and 6.8 K/9 rate ball — but the fact is that Tinoco was still a year younger than the California League average (it’s a difficult league for pitchers).

Better news was Tinoco’s stuff re-emerging after some command troubles. Baseball Prospectus had Tinoco as one of the top 20 Rockies prospects in their writeup last month:

Tinoco saw and maintained a significant velo boost this year, bumping from the range around 90 to a pretty consistent 93-95. He draws out some sink on the pitch, and it plays with reasonable effectiveness down in the zone. His placement among these ranks reflects some late-game optimism on our part off the admittedly small sample size of his final half-dozen starts of the season, when he refined his slider to dramatic effect, giving him the nascent swing-and-miss secondary he’d lacked for much of the year. His change will flash average too, giving him the building blocks of a workable three-pitch mix that should keep him on a starting trajectory for the time being despite mechanics that can get clunky for spells. At the least, he’s emerged as another intriguing live arm in Colorado’s system.

Tinoco’s improvement in stuff was recognized by the Rockies, who added him to the 40 man roster earlier in the offseason. I’ve been in and out on Tinoco over the past two-plus years, but in the end the Baseball Prospectus writeup was convincing enough for me to place Tinoco 28th on my personal ballot. I have him as an intriguing depth prospect for now (FV 35+), but he has major league potential.

31. Wes Rogers (112, 17), 2014 4th round, OF at High A (23)

Rogers has flown under the prospect radar since getting drafted in the 4th round in 2014, but his speed has consistently stood out as a carrying tool. The righty OF had 55 steals in 2015, 43 in 2016, and an astounding 70 bags (getting caught 12 times) for High A Lancaster. Moreover, in his second chance at the hitter friendly California League Rogers was an offensive weapon, putting up a .319/.377/.488 slash line with 55 extra base hits (132 wRC+) over 521 plate appearances.

Before the season, Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs listed Rogers as a “Prospect of Note”:

Rogers possesses excellent secondary skills, is a plus runner with a projectable frame and a chance to play center field, but his hitting actions are very raw. He has substantial upside but the feel to hit is raw, especially for a 22-year-old. He projects as a fourth outfielder, but if the swing comes together he has a chance for more.

Wilson Karaman of Baseball Prospectus had this to say about Rogers:

His 1st-to-3rd speed, and certainly his three-base speed, is true 80-grade. ... He's got an idea of the zone...he has that going for him as a hitter. He got a little excited by Lancaster for part of the year and tried to play power hitter, but when he's beating the ball into the ground he can play a little Dee Gordon game. Problem is, he's much longer'n Dee, and he's just not a great contact hitter. MLB velo & sliders're gonna eat him up. The defense is okay, not great, so what you're left with is basically just the run tool as an asset (a huge one, but a lonely one). The speed foundation of the game's enough to give him a puncher's chance, and who knows what a future hitting coach might try with him. But he's not a high-probability guy.

Rogers’s 2017 is a piece of evidence showing that his approach has gotten more refined, though California League numbers need to be context-adjusted. Rogers should spend 2018 in Double-A, where we will see if he can consolidate his gains as a hitter — and secure a 40 man roster slot (he went un-protected and un-selected in the Rule 5 draft recently). Rogers just missed out on my personal ballot due to the concerns about the hit tool at an advanced level, but he’ll have the chance to allay those concerns soon.

★ ★ ★

In my opinion, the Rockies have about 25-30 players that have arguments for the bottom 3-4 slots on the PuRPs list, and many of them have been mentioned over the course of this article. Beyond the two mid-season PuRPs who were ineligible for this list due to MLB graduation or other transaction, there were two more who fell off (both pitchers) because of that level of competition the system has generated this year.

To see some players that did make the cut, check back soon as we unveil the preseason 2018 PuRPs list!