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Colorado Rockies prospect rankings, mid-season 2018: Mashers and throwers

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2018 mid-season PuRPs, 25-21

Let’s keep the mid-season 2018 Purple Row Prospects (PuRPs) list reveal rolling! Friday we revealed prospects 30-26 and today we go with prospects 25-21. As a reminder, in this edition of the PuRPs poll, 31 ballots were cast, with 30 points granted for a first place vote, 29 for second, etc.

For each player on the PuRPs list, I’ll include a link to individual stats (via Baseball-Reference), PuRPs voting stats, contract status (via RockiesRoster.com), a note on the 2018 season to date, and a scouting report from a national prospect writer. For what it’s worth, I’ll also include where I put each player on my personal ballot. All ages are as of the time the article was posted.

25. Roberto Ramos (158 points, 23 ballots) -- Preseason Ranking: NR — High Ballot 17, Mode Ballot 24

How did he enter the organization?

2014 16th Round, College of the Canyons

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

It’s pretty simple really: Ramos is absolutely crushing the ball this year, first for High A Lancaster and now for Double-A Hartford. The 6’5”, 220 pound first baseman bounced around between Rookie ball Grand Junction and A ball between 2014 and 2016 due in large part to injuries. He finally stuck in full-season ball last year with Lancaster, where he posted a .297/.351/.444 line (114 wRC+) in 524 plate appearances.

The Rockies had Ramos repeat the level this year, and the 23-year-old Mexico native emphatically proved he had mastered the hitter-friendly California League. In 255 plate appearances with the Jethawks, Ramos earned a .304/.411/.640 triple slash (178 wRC+) with 17 homers and 35 extra base hits in all. After his promotion to Hartford in June, Ramos has continued his torrid pace. He has hit .241/.365/.595 with 8 homers in just 96 plate appearances (159 wRC+) against pitchers in the Eastern League who are on average 1.4 years older.

Ramos has very much been a Three True Outcomes hitter this year, with 59 of his 96 Hartford plate appearances ending in a walk (15), strikeout (36), or homer (8) — that’s about 61% of the time! In Lancaster, Ramos had a TTO in 45% of his plate appearances.

What do the scouts say?

Ramos had until recently largely eluded the eye of national prospect writers, but John Sickels of Minor League Ball had a blurb on Ramos earlier this month:

Ramos is a left-handed hitter and right-handed thrower born December 28, 1994. He has legitimate 60-grade power and has refined his swing enough to get the power frequently in games.

He has a reputation as a fastball hitter with some contact problems against breaking stuff. The concern pre-season was that this issue was masked by his friendly hitting environments at the lower levels of the Rockies system but so far he’s held his own after moving up to the more balanced environs of the Eastern League.

Defensively, he’s made progress cutting down errors at first base but lacks the speed and mobility to handle another position. He has to hit.

Ultimately, Sickels rated Ramos a C+ prospect — a grade that typically would put him in contention for a top 20 spot in the system.

Furthermore, Bobby DeMuro profiled Ramos in Baseball Census back in April:

Raw power is there, and he’ll have fun in Lancaster, but relatively limited elsewhere and will need power bat to be carrying tool without real hit tool or any defensive/speed skills of significant note … Behind schedule a little bit having to repeat in Lancaster after a decent enough season there in 2017; power profile plays well for him and that’ll have to be his carrying tool moving forward. Not a ton here to write home about defensively, on the bases, etc.; one-tool guy who must produce pop to advance, and even then he’s blocked in an organization relatively deep with power bats. Margin for error isn’t great; we’ll see how Roberto Ramos fares as 2018 wears on; feels like most realistic long-term projection is as organizational depth for the Colorado Rockies.

Here’s the accompanying video to the Baseball Census report:

When’s he going to get to the Rockies and how good will he be once he’s there?

I lean toward Bobby’s opinion here, that Ramos is (good) organizational depth, which is why he didn’t quite make my list, with a 35+ FV grade. With that said, Ramos has continued his torrid 2018 pace in Hartford and maybe, just maybe, the power will continue to manifest itself enough to compensate for the strikeouts in the aim of a 2020 MLB debut.

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24. Robert Tyler (183 points, 21 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: 24 — High Ballot 16, Mode Ballot 22, 23

How did he enter the organization?

2016 Competitive Balance Round A, University of Georgia

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

Tyler has a fastball that touches 100 and a plus secondary pitch in his change-up. That’s a pretty good start. The 23-year-old righty was Colorado’s second pick in the 2016 draft and was given a $1.7 million bonus as a high octane arm with the potential to stick in the starting rotation. After a rough 2016 debut season though, Tyler lost 2017 to shoulder fatigue and with that the Rockies seemed to give up on the idea of him in the rotation.

So far in 37 1⁄3 innings for Asheville, the decision to move the 6’4” hurler to the pen has paid off. Tyler has a 4.10 ERA, but his 1.88 xFIP indicates that he’s been somewhat unlucky with his results. Instead, look to his 51 strikeouts (12.3 K/9 rate) and only 7 walks (1.7 BB/9 rate) as measures of his dominance. For context, in his debut season Tyler allowed 16 walks...in only 7 innings pitched (not a typo)! He’s not even halfway there this year in over five times the innings. For a player who was dinged in the draft process for his poor control, this is an excellent sign for Tyler’s future.

What do the scouts say?

Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs rated Tyler the 14th best prospect in the system back in May, slapping Tyler with a 40 FV grade:

Tyler did not pitch in 2017 due to a shoulder injury but has been 93-96 this spring with his signature changeup. The reps needed to develop his breaking ball and command enough for him to start are gone, and he has moved into the bullpen. Tyler’s long arm action and recent severe injury make him riskier than typical pitching prospects, but he has late-inning stuff if he can stay healthy.

MLB.com currently has Tyler ranked 23rd in the system:

Tyler could sit in the mid-90s with his fastball while working in the rotation and pitches at 96-99 mph coming out of the bullpen. Besides its overpowering velocity, his heater also features run, sink and downhill plane that make it tough to square up. His second-best pitch is a changeup with sink and fade that’s a plus offering at times.

Tyler has struggled to come up with a reliable breaking ball and currently employs a knuckle-curve. Given his inconsistent track record of throwing strikes and staying healthy, he was destined to end up in the bullpen. If he can continue to find the strike zone as easily as he has in the first part of 2018, he could develop into a high-leverage reliever.

If he does make it to the Show, it’s Tyler’s 75 grade fastball (or 60 if you prefer Longenhagen’s take) that will carry him there, with the 55 grade change-up in tow. To be successful at the big league level though, Tyler will need to improve his 40 grade control.

Here’s some video of Tyler from June, courtesy of 2080 baseball:

When’s he going to get to the Rockies and how good will he be once he’s there?

As a reliever, a player with Tyler’s talent and experience should move quickly through the minor leagues if he displays the ability to master a level. I would argue that has occurred now with Asheville and that Tyler may be in Lancaster before the year is out, with a 2020 MLB debut not out of the question.

Make no mistake: there’s still quite a bit of risk and volatility for Tyler as a prospect, given his historic struggle with free passes and his injury history. With that said, Tyler’s ceiling is a shutdown, high leverage reliever or even a MLB starter if the Rockies change course on his development. I ranked Tyler 23rd on my list with a 40 FV, splitting the difference between stud and dud.

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23. Jesus Tinoco (217 points, 21 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: NR — High Ballot 12, Mode Ballot 21

How did he enter the organization?

2015 Trade (Toronto)

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

Tinoco’s position as the third piece of the return in the 2015 Troy Tulowitzki trade almost three years ago cemented himself in the minds of PuRPs voters. More recently, Tinoco’s 40 man roster appointment this past off-season and Futures Game nod were strong indicators that the 23-year-old Venezuelan is a pitcher to watch in Colorado’s system. After a two year hiatus, the 6’4” RHP has indeed returned to the PuRPs list.

The precursor to this return to prospect relevance for the righthander appears to be a change to his mechanics toward the later portion of last year — from August on, Tinoco had a 3.03 ERA with 43 strikeouts in 38 23 innings. This season, Tinoco hasn’t had quite the same level of success in Double A Hartford as he did towards the end of 2017.

Still, in 97 23 innings over 18 starts so far for the Yard Goats against batters who are on average 1.4 years older than him, Tinoco has posted his best K/9 rate since rookie ball (8.1 K/9). His 5.44 ERA isn’t pretty, but the accompanying 3.95 xFIP would suggest that Tinoco’s deserved better results.

What do the scouts say?

Tinoco is currently ranked 12th in the system by MLB.com:

Tinoco’s best pitch is his fastball that usually ranges from 93-95 mph and tops out at 97 with sink. He has a pair of power breaking balls, with his curveball and slider both plus pitches at their best but also inconsistent. He’s making strides with his changeup though it still ranks as his fourth-best pitch.

Tinoco’s downturn came when his delivery became too violent, causing him to fall off toward first base and lose any semblance of command. He has cleaned up his mechanics, taking a more direct route to the plate and doing a better job of locating his pitches. Though the Rockies will continue to develop him as a starter, he could have success as a late-inning reliever with a power arsenal.

Notably, the MLB.com write-up saw Tinoco with three above average offerings (60 FB, 55 CU, 55 SL).

Bobby DeMuro of Baseball Census wrote up Tinoco in June of last year. The full write-up is worth a read, but here’s the summary:

Hittable now with an average slider and a below average changeup, I don’t think there’s a significant long-term projection in keeping Tinoco in the starting rotation. Sure, at his age, he may be best served starting games the rest of this year—and maybe ever next year, too—but down the line he ought to be ticketed for the bullpen. His arm strength is far better now compared to early last year, though, and if he eventually starts seeing time in shorter stints, that will play up his velocity on both the fastball and slider. It’s easy to imagine him a middle reliever with an outside shot at being a set-up man if he can eventually add a tick to his velocity out of the ‘pen and work in the mid-90s with an upper 80s slider.

Here’s video of Tinoco in action late last year, courtesy of Baseball Census:

When’s he going to get to the Rockies and how good will he be once he’s there?

In the crowded field of potential starters in or near the Colorado rotation, Tinoco falls near the bottom at present. His 40 man roster spot makes a call-up an easier procedural move, but Tinoco is still on the fringes of that picture, a candidate for DFA should a better option come along.

Since his option clock is ticking, I would guess Tinoco gets a shot sometime next year as a power arm out of the bullpen, where his stuff could play anywhere from long relief to set-up duties. There’s just enough starter potential, stuff, and proximity to the Show with Tinoco for me to rank him 21st on my personal list with a 40 FV grade.

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22. Vince Fernandez (237 points, 24 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: 28 — High Ballot 6, Mode Ballot 18, 19, 21, 28

How did he enter the organization?

2016 10th Round, UC Riverside

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

Fernandez has knocked the stuffing out of the ball in each of his three professional seasons to date. The almost 23-year-old lefty outfielder in fact has improved his wRC+ at every level he has faced so far, with the most recent being High A Lancaster. In 353 plate appearances to date with the Jethawks, Fernandez is hitting .283/.389/.532 with 14 homers and 40 extra base hits overall, worth 149 wRC+.

Of course, some context applies here. Fernandez is only slightly younger than league average (most top prospects are markedly below), he has struck out in over a third of his plate appearances, and he’s playing in one of the friendliest hitting environments in the minors. To wit, at home the 6’4” slugger is smashing the ball to the tune of .336/.439/.648 while on the road he has a less impressive .241/.345/.429 line. He’s also displayed a profound platoon split, posting a .960 OPS against right-handers vs. a .703 OPS against southpaws (albeit in a much smaller sample).

Like Ramos, Fernandez is a Three True Outcomes hitter, with just over half of his plate appearances ending in a homer (4%), walk (13%), or strikeout (33%).

What do the scouts say?

Fernandez has now started to get some love from national prospect writers after doing this for three years in a row. FanGraphs ranked him 18th in the organization with a 40 FV in May:

Fernandez was one of the options available to Texas as the PTNBL in the Jonathan Lucroy trade. He’s much like [Sam] Hilliard, just a few levels behind him, and has enough power and patience to counteract otherwise concerning rates of contact.

Most notably, Fernandez was tagged with 60 raw power and a 50 arm by Longenhagen.

MLB.com now has Fernandez 28th:

Though Fernandez has enough raw power to hit at least 20 homers per season, he’ll have to tone down his approach at the plate to get there. His left-handed swing is relatively sound but he’s overly aggressive, resulting in a 29 percent strikeout rate last year. He could have a huge year in 2018 at high Class A Lancaster, perhaps the best hitting environment in the Minors, but his all-out mentality may lead to struggles at higher levels.

Fernandez possesses average speed out of the box, is a little quicker once he gets going and can steal an occasional base.

Baseball Census posted some video of Fernandez from this April:

When’s he going to get to the Rockies and how good will he be once he’s there?

There’s no denying that Fernandez has hit well since being drafted. With that said, the poor defensive profile (he’s a corner OF prospect defensively at best), lower draft position, home heavy production, and the big platoon split dropped Fernandez on my list down to 24th — with a 35+ FV grade. If Fernandez can show this offensive prowess at higher levels I shall be forced (and pleased) to reconsider his case.

Given his production, Fernandez should get a chance to do just that next year in the more hitter-neutral Eastern League (if not this year). If it all works out nicely, Fernandez would be on pace for a late 2020 debut in the big leagues among a throng of similar lefty outfielders.

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21. Ben Bowden (249 points, 26 ballots) -- Preseason Ranking: 20 — High Ballot 16, Mode Ballot 17

How did he enter the organization?

2016 2nd Round, Vanderbilt University

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

Bowden is a polished reliever with a deep arsenal who some (myself included) would like the Rockies to try out as a starter. When he was picked in the second round and given a $1.6 million bonus, I had projected him to be the first player from the 2016 draft to make the Show (an honor instead claimed by Garrett Hampson over the weekend). Unfortunately, a bulging disc in his back kept Bowden out of action altogether and perhaps shelved any thought the Rockies had of trying him in the rotation.

After his lost year, the 23-year-old lefty was initially assigned to Asheville, where he had pitched well in 2016. In 15 13 innings with the Tourists, Bowden proved he was back with 25 strikeouts vs. 5 walks and a 2.31 xFIP in 15 appearances. Promoted to High A Lancaster in mid-May, Bowden has continued to miss a lot of bats. In 21 13 frames with the Jethawks, Bowden has punched out 35 hitters with a 3.07 xFIP.

Between the two affiliates, Bowden has an elite 14.7 K/9 rate against a 3.7 BB/9 rate and 3.93 ERA (even as his BABIP has hovered around .400) in his 36 23 innings of work before going on the 7-day DL over this past weekend.

What do the scouts say?

Bowden has three pitches that grade out average or better (FB, CH, SL) with above average control, which will get the scouts excited.

MLB.com places Bowden 22nd in the organization:

Bowden operates with a 92-95 mph fastball that peaks at 97 and features late life and steep downhill plane. He has full trust in his changeup, which tumbles and shows flashes of becoming a plus pitch. His breaking ball is a slurvy hybrid but does have some power and could become a solid slider.

With three pitches, control and a durable frame, Bowden is equipped to start and got a brief look in the rotation from the Commodores before they decided he was more valuable in the bullpen. The Rockies also value him more as a reliever who still could rush to the Majors despite losing what would have been his first full pro season. There’s a good chance that he’ll become a setup man, with closer a possibility if he refines his slider and command.

See below for video of Bowden in spring training last year courtesy of FanGraphs:

When’s he going to get to the Rockies and how good will he be once he’s there?

In his current relief role, Bowden is a potential late-inning option out of the pen. Given his polish and stuff, he could still be on the fast track to the majors as soon as next year, though much of that will be opportunity-dependent. I ranked Bowden 22nd on my ballot with a 40 FV, which will improve as he proves he can maintain this strikeout ability at higher levels.

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Next, we’ll crack the top 20 of the mid-season 2018 PuRPs list!