clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Colorado Rockies prospect rankings, mid-season 2018: You guys are so close to the top 10

New, 7 comments

It’s time to unveil the next five PuRPs.

It’s time to enter the top half of the mid-season 2018 Purple Row Prospects (PuRPs) list, including some players who were featured on every ballot. Over the last few days we’ve revealed prospects 30-26, then prospects 25-21, and yesterday we had prospects 20-16 in the Rockies system. 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 Rockies Roster), 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.

15. Forrest Wall (438 points, 31 ballots) -- Preseason Ranking: 16 — High Ballot 11, Mode Ballot 13

How did he enter the organization?

2014 Competitive Balance Round A, Orangewood Christian (FL) HS

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

Wall’s prospect pedigree has put him in consideration for PuRPs lists from Day 1 and kept him here this year. The 22-year-old lefty hitter was the rare second baseman taken in the top 40 picks in 2014, and his $2 million bonus was indicative of his potential. Notably, scouts were excited by Wall’s combo of hit and speed tools.

After a frustrating offensive and defensive 2016 in High-A though, the Rockies decided to try Wall in center field last year, but unfortunately that’s where he dislocated his shoulder diving for a ball to cut his season short at 98 plate appearances. In 2018, Wall made the third time the charm for High-A. In 230 plate appearances with Lancaster, Wall produced a .305/.382/.453 line with 19 extra base hits and 20 steals, good for a 130 wRC+, while playing center field full-time.

That performance earned Wall a promotion in late May to Double-A Hartford. In 186 plate appearances against pitching on average 2.3 years older, Wall has struggled to find traction. His .211/.296/.367 line (86 wRC+) does include 6 homers, but his BABIP has dipped down to .242 and he’s now striking out in 21% of his plate appearances. With the Yard Goats, Wall has played more center than left field, though he’s splitting time with fellow PuRP Yonathan Daza.

What do the scouts say?

Scouts still like Wall’s hit and run tool-fueled offensive profile despite his struggles to date.

Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs rated Wall as the 7th best prospect in the system with a 45 FV grade back in May:

Wall has been hurt numerous times throughout his career, and the injuries have wreaked havoc on his development and arm strength. Despite his speed, a lack of arm strength could push him to left field instead of center (he’s already had to abandon second base), but Wall is so fast that he could be plus there. His combination of patience, bat control, and nearly average power don’t look terrible in left either. His range of potential outcomes starts with a bench outfield role on the low end and looks something like Brett Gardner on the other.

John Eshleman of 2080 Baseball put Wall under a prospect spotlight back in April:

Following shoulder surgery in high school that left him without much arm strength, his throwing is stretched considerably in center field. The transition to the outfield is a work in progress, and his routes and reads off the bat don’t look like they will play at the position. Wall will likely always have the ability to fill in at second base or center in a pinch, but the only place he looks capable of playing regularly at the big league level is left field.

That, of course, requires the bat to play big, and as a hit-over-power offensive profile, it’s unlikely the future role is that of an everyday player on a corner. There is chance for an above-average hit tool however, as Wall shows the ability to work counts and spray line drives to all parts of the field. A 70-grade runner (4.0-to-4.05 seconds up the line), he’s able to stretch hits for extra bases and beat out ground balls to the infield. I believe that he’s a future big leaguer–the approach, contact, and speed have Major League utility, I just don’t see it in a regular role. He’s likely to provide value off the bench, able to put the ball in play and provide late-game speed.

MLB.com currently places Wall 13th in the organization:

Wall makes consistent contact from the left side of the plate and delivers line drives to all fields. He hasn’t shown much extra-base power yet, though Colorado still believes he can produce double-digit homer totals as he continues to add strength. His speed earned some double-plus grades when he was an amateur, but it’s more plus now and he still has much to learn as a basestealer.

Wall tore the labrum in his throwing shoulder in high school, leaving him with a below-average arm that was a liability at second base.

Baseball Census has some tape of Wall from this April in High-A:

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

It can be easy to lose sight of the fact that Wall is just 22 and now in Double-A. 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 are hesitant to rank Wall more highly than they did given 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, probably not until 2020 at this point. Before that can happen, Wall needs to convince the Rockies he’s worthy of a 40 man roster spot, as he is Rule 5 eligible after this year. 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 15th in the system with a 40+ FV as an intriguing potential major-league contributor with a lot of questions.

***

14. Daniel Montano (466 points, 31 ballots) -- Preseason Ranking: 15 — High Ballot 9, Mode Ballot 11

How did he enter the organization?

2015 Amateur Free Agent (Venezuela)

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

Montano has been on the radar for PuRPs voters since signing for a Rockies Latin America record $2 million bonus in 2015 out of Venezuela after he was rated the 12th best international prospect in that class by MLB.com. The lefty-hitting outfielder spent two full years in the Dominican Summer League, posting a 121 and 124 wRC+, as well as part of 2018 before finally making his stateside debut in Grand Junction last month. Rockies prospects who have posted those kinds of lines in the DSL, especially at that age, have tended to do very well when they do come stateside, which is why his debut was one that was much awaited by PuRPs voters.

With Grand Junction, the 19-year-old started slow but has heated up as he’s gotten used to Pioneer League pitching, which is 1.6 years older on average. Montano has a .291/.336/.480 line so far with 16 extra base hits in 138 stateside plate appearances, good for a 102 wRC+. Interestingly, Montano has heavy home/road splits, where his home OPS is just .673, over 300 points lower than his .978 road OPS so far. Montano, who has walked 6% of the time and struck out 20%, has played almost exclusively center field for the GJ Rockies

What do the scouts say?

Montano is now starting to show up on organizational top prospect lists. Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs ranked Montano 22nd in the system with a 40 FV in May:

Montano was a high-profile Latin American signee and hasn’t been seen much because the Rockies don’t have an AZL affiliate. The most looks I’ve had at him have come this spring as he hits leadoff in extended spring training, and there’s a solid all-around skillset here, but no electric tool or superlative skill, nor the kind of physical projection that indicates one is coming. He’ll have to hit a bunch to profile, but he’s a competent teenage hitter and has a fair chance to do so. Realistically, he’s an average everyday player at peak.

John Sickels of Minor League Ball placed Montano 17th as a C+ prospect pre-season:

DSL performance was quite solid although numbers at that level must be dealt with judiciously; that said, scouting reports show above-average speed with a chance for average power; already has good plate discipline; long way off of course but some observers expect a serious breakout once he gets to the United States

MLB.com ranks Montano 17th in the system right now:

Montano employed an aggressive approach in his pro debut but displayed a more controlled left-handed swing in his second tour of the DSL. He’s an advanced hitter for a teenager with the ability to recognize pitches and manage the strike zone. He uses the entire field and projects to hit for average with some gap power.

Montano spent most of his debut in center field before seeing most of his action in right field last year. He’s a solid runner with decent instincts but could slow down a step as he gets stronger. Because he has fringy arm strength, he ultimately could wind up in left field.

Montano doesn’t boast any plus tools, but he’s in the 45-55 range for all five of them, including a 50 hit and 55 run evaluation.

The best video I have from Montano is now over three years old, courtesy of FanGraphs from his amateur showcase:

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

Montano is a player who is so far away from the major leagues that providing a concrete timeline would be foolhardy, but a major league debut is at least four more seasons away for him. Montano’s a very projectable outfield prospect whose carrying tool may be his power once he grows into his frame.

I was the high man on Montano for a while, but the electorate caught up to me a bit on his profile. I ranked Montano 12th on my personal list with a 40+ FV and I think he’s the first prospect of the PuRPs revealed so far who may profile outside of an emergency, bench, or relief role for the Rockies.

***

13. Sam Hilliard (483 points, 30 ballots) -- Preseason Ranking: 17 — High Ballot 8, Mode Ballot 15

How did he enter the organization?

2015 15th Round, Wichita State University

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

Hilliard is interesting for a number of reasons. The 24-year-old lefty outfielder has an interesting story as a former two-way player who was drafted by the Rockies as a hitter. A natural athlete, he’s a 6’5”, 220 lb. player built like a small forward with plus speed and arm grades. In other words, Hilliard has potential five-tool impact, rare for a player with his draft position. Though he’s been a little old for his level until this year in Double-A, Hilliard has consistently put up strong offensive numbers, albeit in friendly offensive environments.

In the proving ground that is Double-A, Hilliard has once again produced an above average offensive line with a 109 wRC+. In 340 plate appearances for Hartford, Hilliard is hitting .270/.335/.401 with 25 extra base hits and 21 steals in 30 attempts. He has walked 9% of the time while striking out in an unfortunate 31% of his plate appearances. Hilliard has a big home/road split in Hartford, OPSing .839 at home and just .630 on the road. He’s also displayed a platoon split, OPSing about 130 points lower against lefties this year.

What do the scouts say?

FanGraphs rated Hilliard 16th in the system in May:

Hilliard has a pretty standard right-field profile grounded in big raw power and surprising straight-line speed for his size. He also has swing-and-miss issues, and concern regarding them is compounded by his age considering he has been old for every level at which he’s had success. There are several ways for Hilliard to move up this list even if the strikeouts continue, and one of them is getting to more of his power, which, given that his ground-ball rate is way down early this year, might be happening.

John Sickels also had Hilliard 16th in his pre-season list:

Legit power/speed combination and a strong throwing arm, too, all physical tools at least average or a notch above; sometimes patient but strikes out a lot; has to prove he can hit outside of Lancaster, batted .336/.399/.572 at home but just .261/.315/.391 on the road; the splits mean we must be grade-cautious, but there are real tools here; watch him closely in Double-A

MLB.com places Hilliard all the way up to 10th in the system currently:

He’s a tooled-up, left-handed-hitting right fielder, prompting one club official to compare him to Larry Walker, though Hilliard isn’t nearly as polished at the plate as the greatest hitter in franchise history. His extra-large frame gives him an extra-long swing that resulted in 359 strikeouts in his first 320 pro games. He has 20-20 potential, with plus raw power that he began to tap into more last year when he began hitting more fly balls and the speed to match.

Though he runs well enough to at least fill in as a center fielder, Hilliard fits better in right. His arm delivered 88-92 mph fastballs in college and gives him a third plus tool.

OK, I won’t compare Hilliard to a should-be Hall of Famer, but in MLB.com’s evaluation his 45 hit tool is the only one that falls below average, with 60s slapped on Run and Arm.

Baseball Census has video of Howard from September of last year:

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

Hilliard certainly has his adherents among the scouting community and some decent offensive numbers to back up the high tool evaluations, though the elevated strikeouts and contact concerns against quality off-speed offerings are mitigating factors.

Hilliard is Rule 5 eligible after this year and is competing with a number of similar prospects for that precious 40-man roster spot this off-season. If he’s still in the organization next year, he very well could be a 2019 call-up if the 10 other left-handed outfielders in front of him don’t cut it. In the end, I ranked Hilliard 17th in the org. with a 40 FV grade on my list.

***

12. Tyler Nevin (506 points, 30 ballots) -- Preseason Ranking: 12 — High Ballot 6, Mode Ballot 12

How did he enter the organization?

2015 Competitive Balance Round A, Poway (CA) HS

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

Nevin has the triple threat of Major League bloodlines (son of Phil Nevin), high draft position (38th overall with a $2 million signing bonus), and minor league production. The 21-year-old righty corner infielder also supplements that package with reports of plus make-up, which in theory provides a higher likelihood of a player maxing out his potential and raising his floor.

The 6’4” slugger has been ranked more on pedigree than on production because he has been limited in his minor league experience by a series of injuries, including a hamstring injury that wiped out 2016 and a broken hand that lost him two months in 2017, not to mention the Tommy John surgery he had in high school. In 2018, he’s already lost five weeks to injury over two separate DL stints as well, which gets a man a reputation as injury-prone.

Nonetheless, Nevin has been healthy enough over the last two seasons to produce some nice numbers against older pitching, first in Asheville and then in Lancaster this year. In Asheville, Nevin hurt his hand right before the season but tried to play through it. If you look only at his post injury numbers last year, Nevin had a .336/.381/.523 triple slash in 220 ABs. This year in High-A, Nevin has again posted better numbers in the second half.

In 107 second half ABs, Nevin is mashing at a .346/.397/.523 rate with 13 extra base hits. That has raised his season line to .306/.354/.472 in 268 plate appearances with 26 extra base hits, which represents a 125 wRC+ against pitchers who are on average 1.5 years older in the California League. He has struck out in 18% of plate appearances and walked in 6% of them. Nevin has a big platoon split, crushing lefties at .381/.420/.587 while hitting a more pedestrian .281/.332/.432 against righties. On defense, Nevin has spent most of his time at first base; while the prep third baseman has also seen some action at the hot corner, he’s been making a home at first more and more as his career has progressed.

What do the scouts say?

The scouts are fans of Nevin’s power and overall offensive projection. Eric Longenhagen ranked Nevin 9th in the system with a 45 FV tag for FanGraphs in May:

He has big, all-fields raw power and is adept at taking the ball the other way. He’s also likely to move from third to first, and he’s already seeing most of his playing time there because he and Welker are sharing an infield. Right/right first-base profiles are tough. Nevin has the pop to make it work, but he needs to keep hitting and show, over a larger sample, that he has the plate discipline to profile at first as well.

John Eshleman of 2080 Baseball wrote up Nevin in May and gave him a 45 FV grade as well. Here was his conclusion:

Limited to 1B, bat-only prospect, offense has to carry profile. Falls short of everyday role as a right-handed bat without prototype corner power. Ceiling of bench bat on the short side of a platoon.

John Sickels of Minor League Ball placed him 9th in the system pre-season:

Bat speed and power are real and he didn’t show much rust as a hitter despite the long injury layoff; on the other hand his defense at both third base and first base was poor, leading to positional questions, although the lack of repetitions with the glove as well as his youth could be mitigating factors

MLB.com currently has Nevin 8th in the system with a 50 FV:

Growing up around the game helped Nevin develop advanced hitting skills for his age. He already works counts well and focuses on driving balls from gap to gap rather than worrying about home runs. He has a quality right-handed swing with bat speed and should develop plenty of natural power once he gets stronger and adds some loft to his stroke.

Nevin broke into pro ball at third base but given the organization’s depth at the position (beginning with superstar Nolan Arenado), he saw more action at first base in 2017. The Rockies like his actions and hands at third base, but his below-average speed and average arm fit better at the opposite corner.

Bobby DeMuro of Baseball Census also had a scouting profile on Nevin from this April, with this as his conclusion:

Certainly a shot to reach an everyday corner infield ceiling considering his age at High-A, but Tyler Nevin will really have to hit for power to keep an everyday gig at higher levels, particularly if he’s destined to be a full-time first baseman.

Here’s some video on Nevin from that profile:

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

Thanks to his rebound this year and last, Nevin has gotten himself back on a reasonable development curve as a 21-year-old in High-A. He’s a potential big league regular (probably at first base) but more likely he becomes an interesting bench bat or weak-side platoon partner, perhaps as soon as 2020 if he can stay healthy.

Nevin’s prospect pedigree, tools, and performance when healthy bump up against the cumulative injury history and his receding defensive utility. In a thinner Rockies system, the pros outweighed the cons enough for me to rank Nevin 11th in the system with a 45 FV grade.

***

11. Sam Howard (571 points, 31 ballots) -- Preseason Ranking: 10 — High Ballot 8, Mode Ballot 12

How did he enter the organization?

2014 3rd Round, Georgia Southern University

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

Howard represents valuable starting pitcher depth for the Rockies just a phone call away. The 25-year-old lefty has been called up twice already to the big league club, though he’s thrown just one inning with the Rockies this season. When he hasn’t been with the Rockies, Howard has been holding down a spot in the Albuquerque rotation, where he also pitched for most of 2017.

In 14 starts with the Isotopes this year, Howard’s results haven’t been strong, though they do come in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League against hitters who are on average 1.6 years older. Over 68 innings there, the 6’3” southpaw has a 5.43 ERA (5.02 FIP) with a 1.59 WHIP, 7.3 K/9 rate and 3.4 BB/9 rate.

What do the scouts say?

FanGraphs ranked Howard 19th in the system as a 40 FV prospect in May:

Triple-A Albuquerque isn’t going to be kind to Howard’s stuff. He has a strange arm slot that helps his fringe stuff play a little better. He was 90-92 this spring with an average change and a fringe cutter. He projects as a fifth starter.

MLB.com has Howard 15th right now in the org:

Howard works at 91-94 mph and can hit 96 with his fastball, though with less sink than he showed early in his pro career. His groundout/airout ratio shrunk from 1.6 in his first two seasons to 0.7 in his next two. There are nights when his deceptive changeup is his best pitch and it’s the main reason he has been more successful against right-handers than left-handers.

Howard’s slider gives him an average third offering. While he provides consistent strikes, his lack of a true plus pitch means he has to be precise with his location. He could be a No. 4 starter if he can improve his slider and command.

Notably, Howard received average or above grades on his fastball, change-up, slider, and control in that report.

Howard was ranked 9th in the system by Baseball Prospectus pre-season, receiving a likely 45 role grade as a back-end starter:

The Good: Pitchability lefty, thy name is Sam Howard. His stuff probably shouldn’t have worked as well as it has, given the environs he’s pitched in, but Howard wrings a lot out of a low-90s fastball, and an average slider and change. The fastball has some deception and natural cut to it, and he’s good at keeping it down in the zone to both sides of the plate. The slider plays well off the fastball—although it will act more like a cutter at times—and makes Howard a tough match-up for lefties.

The Bad: Pitchability lefty, thy name is Sam Howard. This stuff has its limitations. This profile usually has a better changeup. There’s enough change here to start—or be an effective crossover pen arm—but the overall stuff profile is just average, and if he isn’t keeping the fastball down, he’s very hittable.

...

The Risks: The stuff has worked everywhere so far, but it’s not overwhelming and his home games are going to be in Coors Field.

John Sickels ranked Howard 12th in the system as a C+/B- prospect pre-season:

Looks like a finesse lefty on paper but fastball can get up to 95, also has a good changeup; slider is generally average and can get flat; potential fourth starter who might be more dominant on per-inning basis if used in bullpen

Here’s some video of Howard in 2016 in Hartford courtesy of 2080 Baseball:

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

A polished back-end starter prospect like Howard who is knocking at the door of the Show is definitely a valuable asset for this system, worthy of being placed 13th on my personal ballot with a 40+ FV grade. He currently represents Colorado’s 8th or 9th best rotation option, but his ceiling doesn’t appear to be high enough right now to be considered a full-time option unless he takes a developmental step forward.

***

Stay tuned for the top 10 Purple Row Prospects!