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Colorado Rockies prospect rankings, mid-season 2018: Intro and honorable mention PuRPs

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Single vote getters and the prospects closest to make the cut

It’s time for the reveal of the 2018 mid-season Purple Row Prospects (PuRPs) list, our community’s ranking of the top 30 Colorado Rockies prospects. The top 30 prospects will be revealed over the next couple of weeks 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, 31 ballots were cast, with 30 points granted for a first place vote, 29 for second, etc. Until a player was named on 11 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 11 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 tiebreaker is the mode ballot (no ties in the top 30 were broken in this edition).

In all, 57 players received at least one vote for this PuRPs list (down from 68), 50 got mentioned on multiple ballots (down from 54), and 32 were named on at least 11 ballots (down from 33 last time) and therefore were unmodified. The top 19 players were named on over 90 percent of ballots cast, though not necessarily in the same order, while only two PuRPs 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 pre-season list, five notable players exceeded their eligibility: Ryan McMahon (2), Tom Murphy (11), Mike Tauchman (22), Noel Cuevas (HM), and Harrison Musgrave (NR).

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 2018 season to date. 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 mid-season PuRPs List:

Single Ballot Players

T-56. Matt Pierpont (0.5 points, 1 ballot) — a 27-year-old RHP in his third year in Hartford who has a 2.03 ERA and 12.4 K/9 in 40 relief innings for the Yard Goats.

T-56. Andrew Quezada (0.1, 1) — the 21-year-old RHP was Colorado’s 7th round pick in the 2018 draft, has yet to pitch due to an arm injury. Was ranked the #176 prospect in the draft by MLB.com.

55. Casey Golden (0.2, 1) - the 23-year-old OF was a 20th rounder by Colorado in the 2017 draft. He has a 149 wRC+ with 39 extra base hits this year in Asheville in 348 plate appearances.

54. Erick Julio (0.3, 1) — a 21-year-old RHP at Asheville, was a big 2013 Latin America signing; has thrown 58 innings of 4.81 ERA, 9.9 K/9 ball in a SAL repeat, bouncing between the pen and the rotation.

T-52. Shael Mendoza (0.4, 1) — the 21-year-old 2B/OF (hits lefty) came out of nowhere at Grand Junction last year, but he has fallen to earth in his full-season debut with a 73 wRC+ in 234 plate appearances with Asheville in 2018. He is currently ranked 27th in MLB.com’s Rockies system list:

Mendoza has a sound left-handed swing and a feel for making line-drive contact. He carries more than his listed 165 pounds and has some strength that could turn into double-digit home run power if he can learn to backspin the ball. He has plus speed and runs the bases aggressively.

Mendoza spent his first two pro seasons at second base, but he lacked fluid actions and had a short arm action. He also topped Pioneer League second basemen with 21 errors in just 55 games in 2017, after which the Rockies moved him to the outfield for this season. With his quickness, he should be able to develop into at least an average defender in the outfield.

T-52. Omar Carrizales (0.4, 1) — he’s a 23-year-old lefty OF and former PuRP who has a 70 wRC+ in his third season in AA.

51. Mitch Horacek (0.5, 1) — a 26-year-old LHP in Hartford who has a 2.42 ERA in 44 23 relief innings for the Yard Goats; acquired in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft.

Multi-Ballot Players

50. Sean Bouchard (1.1, 2) — a 22-year-old 1B in Asheville who was Colorado’s 9th round pick in 2017. In his full-season debut, he has a 111 wRC+ in 347 plate appearances for the Tourists.

49. Reid Humphreys (1.8, 2) - the 23-year-old RHP, a 2016 7th rounder, is enjoying a break-out year for Lancaster, with a 1.67 ERA and 13.6 K/9 in 32 13 relief innings and 20 saves in an extreme offensive environment.

48. Bret Boswell (2.7, 3) — the 23-year-old 2B (lefty hitter) was someone I strongly considered for my last PuRP slot. He was Colorado’s 8th round pick in 2017 and is hitting .304/.345/.530 (143 wRC+) in 375 plate appearances with Asheville this year. He briefly made a bit of a prospect splash, getting ranked as Colorado’s no. 30 prospect by MLB Pipeline last year:

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.

47. Garrett Schilling (4.0, 4) — the unheralded 18th rounded from 2017 made a splash this year in Asheville’s rotation. The 22-year-old RHP has a 3.55 ERA and 8.2 K/9 in 96 13 frames with the Tourists.

46. Josh Fuentes (4.9, 3) — the 25-year-old 3B at Albuquerque shares bloodlines with Nolan Arenado but is making a name for himself. The former un-drafted free agent has hit well at every stop up the minor league ladder, including a .327/.357/.503 (121 wRC+) performance this year in 398 plate appearances for the Isotopes. He’s a sneaky candidate to receive a big league call-up as soon as September.

45. Jairo Diaz (6.4, 5) — the pre-season’s #27 PuRP lands here after getting designated for assignment and released in June, then re-signed to a minor league deal a few days later. I’ve spilled plenty of digital ink over Diaz (who made my personal list at #29), a player who made his big league debut four years ago but who is still prospect eligible. The 27-year-old RHP has a massive, grade 75 fastball and an above average slider that is his ticket to a big league bullpen, but poor health over the last three years has derailed his major league hopes. He’s currently the #21 prospect in the system according to MLB.com’s pre-season list:

His heavy fastball sits at 96-98 mph and can reach triple digits, eliciting a lot of swings and misses as well as weak ground balls. He gets similar results with his upper-80s slider, which can be nasty with late bite.

Diaz does a better job of throwing strikes than he did while struggling early in his career, but he still has lapses where he overthrows. His command still needs more fine-tuning because his pair of power pitches get harder than they should. He might be a setup man if he can do a better job of locating his fastball and slider.

44. Javier Guevara (6.9, 4) — the 20-year-old catcher is repeating at Grand Junction this year. He’s hitting .310/.339/.500 (108 wRC+) in 62 plate appearances and has a strong defensive reputation - a name to follow closely through the end of the year.

43. Yolki Pena (7.3, 4) — the 18-year-old lefty OF in the DSL, who signed for $600k in 2016, did not come stateside after a strong debut campaign. In a repeat season in the DSL, Pena has a low (.226) batting average but has an excellent .438 OBP driven by walking 27% of the time. In 130 plate appearances he has a 148 wRC+ and is clearly a name to keep your eye on down south.

T-41. Jerry Vasto (8.4, 4) — the 26-year-old LHP came seemingly from nowhere in 2016 and rose all the way to a 40 man roster slot and a big league cup of coffee this year. He’s a classic taxi squad reliever, able to appear from Triple-A for a couple games and melt away thereafter. 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.

T-41. Niko Decolati (8.4, 4) — Colorado’s 6th round pick this year was this 20-year-old outfielder. He has started strong for Grand Junction with a .314/.410/.495 line (135 wRC+) in his first 122 professional plate appearances. Decolati was rated the #173 prospect in this year’s draft by MLB.com:

Decolati has a lot of potential weapons he’ll bring to the pro game. The right-handed hitter has a ton of bat speed and is capable of making very loud contact. He has outstanding raw power, but his aggressive approach has led to swing-and-miss issues that have hurt his performance this spring, which makes some wonder if he’ll hit enough to reach that power consistently. Defensively, Decolati has a strong arm and will show the ability to make tough plays, but will boot routine ones at times. Primarily a shortstop in college, he might be better suited for third base, with some thinking a corner outfield spot would work.

40. Coco Montes (10.2, 8) — Colorado’s 15th rounder this year has been a revelation in Grand Junction. The 21-year-old middle infielder is off to a scorching .414/.488/.613 start (183 wRC+) in 127 plate appearances. He won’t keep this up, but wouldn’t it be great if he did?

39. Alfredo Garcia (12.4, 4) — the 18-year-old LHP, who signed for $900k in 2016, was an older signee whom the Rockies paid a premium to wait until the 2016 class. After a strong DSL debut, Garcia jumped right to the Pioneer League this year, where he has a 5.84 ERA in 24 23 innings over six starts. It’s important to remember that player that age in a short season affiliate’s rotation has to be pretty well thought of by the organization. Garcia is another name worth monitoring through the end of the year.

38. Antonio Santos (24.2, 7) — the 21-year-old RHP at Lancaster is another young arm at a level indicating high priority by the organization. Santos started the year with Asheville in a repeat campaign but was recently promoted to High A. Across the two levels he has a 4.66 ERA and 8.8 K/9 rate in 104 13 frames. MLB.com had this to say about him last year:

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.

37. Jeffri Ocando (33.5, 8) — continuing the run on young pitchers at an advanced level, we come to the 19-year-old Ocando, who is plying his trade at short season Boise. The Venezuelan, who was signed for just $10,000 in 2016, has struggled mightily so far this year against older competition in a 20 13 inning sample size for the Hawks to the tune of a 6.64 ERA.

36. David Hill (34.9, 8) — the 24-year-old Hill has been an intriguing option as a potential starter for the Rockies since they picked him in the 4th round back in 2015, but the RHP has had his progress stymied by a series of injuries. While he’s on the DL again right now, Hill did manage to put together seven strong starts for Lancaster, in which he posted a 4.58 ERA and 8.4 K/9 rate over 35 13 innings in a tough pitching environment.

Finally, here are the five players who came closest to inclusion on this edition of the PuRPs list, the Honorable Mention PuRPs:

T-34. Rico Garcia (39.3 points, 8 ballots), 2016 30th Round, RHP at Double A (24)

I’ll admit that Garcia was not on my list of prospects to watch entering this year. The Hawaiian had pitched decently last year, but he did so by repeating at the often ignored Boise affiliate and then in a small sample at Asheville. The Rockies saw enough to move Garcia up to Lancaster to start the year, where he was a revelation as a starter. His 3.42 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 9.1 K/9 rate, and 2.0 BB/9 rate in 100 innings over 16 games was extremely impressive in that extreme offensive environment. Since a promotion to Hartford a few weeks ago, Garcia has maintained his level of success with 19 frames of 3.32 ERA, 8.5 K/9 ball.

As a pitcher, Garcia’s a little undersized but has mostly stuck as a starter thus far with a mid-90s fastball as well as a two-seamer, curveball, and change-up. The general consensus I’ve seen is that he’s a power pitcher whose stuff will play up in the bullpen and that’s the anticipated role for him at higher levels. It seems for now though that the Rockies will allow Garcia to continue to develop as a starter to see if he can out-perform that projection. Garcia didn’t make my personal ballot, but he’s a big breakout pitcher in a year that doesn’t have many in Colorado’s system and is certainly on my radar now.

T-34. Justin Lawrence (39.3, 9), 2015 12th Round, RHP at High A (23)

Lawrence was limited by injury to only 16 13 brilliant innings last year. Fortunately his form has stayed intact in a very tough California League while the injury gremlins have been kept at bay so far in 2018. In 37 23 relief frames so far, Lawrence has posted a dazzling 1.91 ERA with a 1.09 WHIP and 9.3 K/9 rate for the Jethawks. Moreover, he’s got solid scouting bonafides.

Here’s the dirt on Lawrence from MLB.com, who currently have him ranked 29th in the system:

Lawrence is thriving again thanks to his fastball. Most pitchers don’t throw harder after dropping their arm angle, but he went from a mid-80s heater when he used a more conventional three-quarters slot to working at 92-94 mph and reaching 97 while in junior college. Now he deals at 94-98 mph with premium sink that generates plenty of groundouts.

When Lawrence keeps his sinker down in the zone, hitters have a hard time putting the barrel on the ball. He also throws a short slider in the low 80s and will mix in a decent changeup to counteract left-handers. His control hasn’t been as sharp in 2018 as it was a year ago, but if he can provide more strikes he could advance quickly.

Lawrence will be Rule 5 draft eligible after this season and he represents exactly the type of arm that other teams like to gamble on in that process. Therefore, the Rockies will face a decision with him as to whether they’d like to add him to the 40 man roster despite being a year, maybe two away from the big leagues. I ultimately left Lawrence just off my PuRPs ballot in favor of a few other relievers whom you’ll see on the PuRPs list, but he’s exactly the type of arm the Rockies need to be growing on the farm (though not investing high draft capital in).

33. Eddy Diaz (52.7, 10), 2017 Amateur Free Agent (Cuba), SS at DSL (18)

Diaz represented Colorado’s first major prep signing out of Cuba when he inked a contract for $750k last year as a 17-year-old. Unlike most DSL prospects, he was thrown right into action and he immediately impressed (143 wRC+, 30 steals) to the point where he was considered by many to be a candidate to come stateside this year. The Rockies decided to have Diaz repeat in the DSL, which isn’t a surprise given the cultural and baseball adjustments necessary to make the leap.

This year, Diaz has seen a drop of almost 80 points in his BABIP but has still been effective to the tune of a .260/.389/.378 line over 158 plate appearances, which in the tough DSL hitting environment has been worth 126 wRC+. Incredibly, he has already swiped 42 bags in just 36 games this year while showing good plate discipline (25 walks vs. just 13 strikeouts). He’s far away from contributing to the Rockies, but Diaz has shown me enough so far for me to rank him 25th on my PuRPs list and I’ll be watching him closely as he moves stateside.

32. Terrin Vavra (57, 12), 2018 3rd Round, SS at Short Season A (21)

Colorado’s third round pick in this year’s draft was Vavra, a talented shortstop at Minnesota who battle through injuries until this year but emerged as an early round talent. After signing for $550k last month, Vavra was assigned to the more advanced Short Season A affiliate in Boise, not surprising for a polished college bat. In 56 plate appearances over 12 games, Vavra has walloped the ball with a .383/.473/.511 line, good in the tough Northwest League for 179 wRC+.

Here’s MLB.com’s pre-draft profile on Vavra, who was ranked #129 in the draft:

After a stress fracture in his back shortened his freshman season and still bothered him as a sophomore, Vavra is fully healthy and showing what he’s capable of at the plate. With his smooth left-handed swing and an advanced approach at the plate, he makes contact with ease. He has deceptive raw power and could hit 12-15 homers per season in pro ball.

Though he’s an average runner out of the batter’s box, Vavra is a step quicker underway and his high baseball IQ helps him make plays on the bases and in the field. He doesn’t have the range and arm teams desire in a shortstop, so he may profile better as an offensive second baseman. Scouts love his makeup and believe he’ll get everything he can out of his ability.

That sounds like a player with a big league future to me — even if that future is more Pat Valaika than Troy Tulowitzki, it’s still a nice profile at this stage in his development. Vavra has shown enough to the Rockies that he might follow the Garrett Hampson path and jump straight up to High A next year, though there’s still a lot of baseball yet to be played. I placed Vavra 27th on my personal ballot as an advanced hitter with plus make-up.

31. Willie Abreu (70, 11), 2016 6th Round, OF at High A (23)

Abreu is another pre-season PuRP (#26) who didn’t quite make the cut this time around. It’s not that he’s been bad this year, but he hasn’t stood out either. With a move up to hitter-friendly Lancaster, Abreu has a .269/.325/.420 batting line in 269 plate appearances, equating to a roughly league average 102 wRC+. After a 40 steal year in 2017, Abreu has 19 this year (albeit at a less efficient clip).

MLB.com currently has Abreu ranked 26th in the system:

Abreu’s bat speed, strength and leverage create well above-average raw power from the left side of the plate, but he’s not going to get to use all of it unless he improves as a hitter. He’s overly aggressive, which leads to swing-and-misses and a lot of weak contact on pitches he’d be better off avoiding rather than putting in play. Whether he can make adjustments and provide more consistent pop remains to be seen.

Abreu moves well for a 6-foot-4, 225-pounder but his 40 steals are as much a product of his instincts than his average speed. He has plus arm strength and showed it off by leading the South Atlantic League with 16 outfield assists in 2017. He gets the job done in right field and could fill in for short periods in center.

Baseball Prospectus listed Abreu among their top 20 Rockies prospects pre-season. Here’s Steve Givarz on Abreu:

At 6-foot-4, 225 pounds . . . you wouldn’t expect him to be a plus runner, but he glides all around and is a threat anytime he reaches base. Unfortunately, Abreu doesn’t have the instinctual reads to play center, so he will have to settle in as a right fielder, which isn’t an issue given his plus throwing arm. The raw power is plus, but the issue will still be how it will play when paired with his hit tool. The swing can be quite long and loopy, and can invoke visions of a large man chopping wood, but he spreads the ball all around and with his speed can reach base without hitting the ball hard.

Abreu looks like he should be clubbing dingers left and right, but he has yet to be able to tap into that raw power in game action. As is stated above, Abreu needs to bring it all together as a hitter to make full use of his tools to really become a player to watch moving forward. Abreu is on my watch list, but he did just miss out on my personal PuRPs ballot this time around.

***

In my opinion, the Rockies have about 20 players that have arguments for the bottom 6-7 slots on the PuRPs list and many of them have been mentioned over the course of this article.

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