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Colorado Rockies prospect rankings, mid-season 2018: Into the top tier with familiar names

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It’s time for PuRPs 10-6

We’re now in the top 10 of the mid-season 2018 Purple Row Prospects (PuRPs) list. the upper echelon of the system. In case you missed it, here are prospects 30-26, prospects 25-21, prospects 20-16, and prospects 15-11. 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, 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.

Important Note: Since Forrest Wall (voted as PuRP 15) and Chad Spanberger (voted as PuRP 16) were both traded to the Blue Jays for Seungwhan Oh this week, they will be removed from the final mid-season 2018 PuRPs list but will remain in place as written for posterity. Willie Abreu and Terrin Vavra become PuRPs as a result at 30 and 29 respectively, while David Hill and Jeffri Ocando take their places as HM PuRPs.

10. Ryan Vilade (681 points, 31 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: 7 — High Ballot 5, Mode Ballot 8

How did he enter the organization?

2017 Second Round, Stillwater (OK) HS

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

As Colorado’s top pick in 2017, Vilade was automatically elevated into voters’ consciousness. His excellent debut season in the Pioneer League as an 18-year-old shortstop kept him there. The 6’2” Vilade was assigned this year to Asheville, where the 19-year-old was one of the youngest players in the South Atlantic League.

After a really rough start (a .176/.263/.206 line in April), Vilade has gotten used to full season pitching against opposition who are on average 2.3 years older. In fact, in July Vilade is crushing the ball to the tune of .357/.407/.524 with eight extra base hits. In all, after the rough start Vilade has put together a solid but relatively punchless .267/.349/.368 triple slash in 377 plate appearances for the Tourists. That’s a 109 wRC+ for Vilade, who is striking out in 22% of plate appearances and walking in 10% of them.

Interestingly, Vilade has not been comfortable in hitter-friendly home park, OPSing 180 points lower there than on the road. Defensively, he has played 81 games at shortstop so far and has 27 errors, something he will need to tighten up if he wants to stick there at upper levels. Honestly, it’s a pleasant surprise that Vilade, who was drafted as a third baseman, has managed to stay at shortstop for as long as he has; I wouldn’t write off his chances of remaining there, but the errors don’t help.

What do the scouts say?

In MLB.com’s recent re-rank of the system, Vilade ranks 7th:

Vilade grew up around the game and gets universal praise for his makeup and instincts, and he also has a chance to be a dynamic offensive performer. He has a quick right-handed swing that already produces pull power and should deliver home runs to all fields once he gets stronger. He has shown the ability to make adjustments at the plate and his patience was obvious when he walked 27 times in a 33-game pro debut shortened by a lower back injury.

Most amateur scouts projected that Vilade will outgrow shortstop, though he looked a little better than expected in his debut. He’s an average runner who may slow a bit as he fills out and doesn’t have the quickest first step, but his instincts and strong arm help him make plays. Colorado plans on trying him at third base and he also could fit at second base or in the outfield, but there are no immediate plans to move him off shortstop.

Notably, Vilade’s 45 run tool is the only one ranked below average in that evaluation, with his 60 arm and 55 power leading the way.

Vilade was ranked 4th in the system by Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs this spring with a 45 FV tag:

Vilade had a hot spring before the draft and buoyed his stock into the second round, then he skipped the AZL, went to the Pioneer League, and continued to hit and hit for power while convincing some pro scouts that he could stay at short. We still consider it likely that he moves to third base but think he’ll hit enough to profile there anyway.

John Sickels of Minor League Ball labeled Vilade a B prospect, rating him 5th in the system pre-season:

Hitting instincts quite polished for his age and shows very good eye for the strike zone, combine that with plus bat speed and you have a player; not a butcher at shortstop but range would fit better at second base; his arm is strong enough for third, which is also an option if he hits as expected

Sickels also had a more in-depth profile of Vilade before the 2017 draft that’s worth reading.

Here’s some video of Vilade in Grand Junction from July 2017 courtesy of Baseball Census:

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

Vilade is probably at least three years away from the Show, but he’s been very impressive so far as a pro, especially given his hot streak of late in Asheville. If Vilade can stick at shortstop, the offensive profile makes him a much more interesting prospect than I expected when he was drafted.

I placed Vilade 7th on my list with the expectation he moves over to third base eventually, giving him a 50 FV as a MLB regular who is far away, but I expect Vilade to eventually be a top 5 PuRP, perhaps as soon as the next list if his hot streak continues.

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9. Grant Lavigne (682 points, 31 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: NR — High Ballot 4, Mode Ballot 7

How did he enter the organization?

2018 Competitive Balance Round A, Bedford (NH) HS

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

Lavigne’s position as the 42nd overall pick in this year’s draft (the highest ever prep picked from New Hampshire) and an above slot $2 million signing bonus was always going to get him consideration for this list. It’s the massive start for Grand Junction that pushed the 18-year-old lefty-hitting first baseman all the way into the top 10 for his first PuRPs list.

No doubt the 6’4” Lavigne has come out swinging against Pioneer League pitching that is 2.6 years older on average. In his first 121 plate appearances for Grand Junction, Lavigne is murdering the ball at a .358/.438/.594 rate with 13 extra base hits while walking 10% of the time and striking out another 19%. That equates to a massive 160 wRC+. Now, it’s certainly a small sample size and the splits aren’t big enough to start examining yet, but that’s one heck of a debut.

What do the scouts say?

MLB.com has Lavigne 8th in the system after rating him as the 99th best prospect in their pre-draft evaluation:

Lavigne had some of the best left-handed power potential in the 2018 Draft, with the ability to launch balls out of any part of a ballpark thanks to his quick bat and the strength and leverage in his 6-foot-4 frame. More than just a slugger, he has good feel for hitting and should be able to hit for average and power. He made an immediate impression on the Rockies with his approach, showing the ability to work counts and lay off borderline pitches against more experienced competition.

Lavigne played some third base and outfield in high school, and he has more athleticism than his burly build might indicate. Nevertheless, he projects strictly as a first baseman in pro ball because he lacks quickness and arm strength. He has worked diligently to get himself in shape and should provide average glovework at first base.

Between reports, Lavigne got a bump to his FV from 45 to 50 thanks to his strong debut.

Mike Axisa of River Avenue Blues had a pre-draft report on Lavigne as well:

At 6-foot-4 and 230 lbs., Lavigne looks the part of a power-hitting first baseman. He’s a lefty swinger with significant raw power and sneaky good contact ability. Lavigne also knows the strike zone well, so he projects as a big power/high on-base hitter who doesn’t strike out as much as you’d expect. In the field, Lavigne runs well and is a good athlete, good enough that he can also play left field. His arm is below average and his weakest tool. The biggest knocks against Lavigne are 1) the likelihood that he’s a first baseman long-term, and 2) the fact he hasn’t faced good competition as an amateur.

Here’s some pre-draft film on Lavigne courtesy of the Prospect Pipeline:

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

Lavigne is the youngest in the parade of first base prospects in Colorado’s system, many of whom we’ve already unveiled in this PuRPs list. He’s also the best of the lot, according to the electorate and the scouts. I ranked Lavigne 10th on my list with a 45 FV grade as a potential big league regular whose potential is limited somewhat by his lack of defensive utility.

Lavigne’s going to be limited to first base, so he’ll have to hit, preferably for power, to add value at the major league level. We’re a long ways from there (at least four years), but it’s hard to get a debut that is more encouraging than what we’ve seen so far out of Lavigne.

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8. Yency Almonte (691 points, 31 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: 8 — High Ballot 4, Mode Ballot 8, 10

How did he enter the organization?

2015 Trade (Chicago White Sox)

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

First of all, Almonte’s got a great nickname, “Showtime”. Secondly, he’s shown enough talent to be traded twice already, impressive for a 17th round pick. More importantly, the 24-year-old righty pitcher had some great results and possesses fantastic arm talent. Almonte consistently sits in the mid 90s with his fastball and touches the upper 90s with good life on the pitch. Beyond that, he features a power slider that sits in the 80s.

After a 2017 spent between Double A and Triple A, Showtime made it to the Show in 2018, albeit in a relief role, accumulating enough service time to use up his rookie status between late June and now — so this will be Almonte’s final appearance on a PuRPs list. In 5 13 innings out of the pen for the Rockies, Almonte has allowed three runs (one earned) on seven hits and two walks while striking out two.

Prior to his big league action this year, Almonte struggled through two DL stints for an elbow injury that cost him five weeks of action. When Almonte was healthy enough to pitch, he didn’t produce strong numbers for Triple A Albuquerque. In 36 23 frames over 10 starts for the Isotopes in a tough pitching environment against hitters who are on average 2.6 years older, Almonte has posted a 5.65 ERA with a 6.6 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 rate.

What do the scouts say?

Between pre-season and this week, MLB.com dropped Almonte from 10th to 17th in the system. Here’s the current report:

Drafted as a projectable right-hander who peaked at 92 mph in high school, Almonte has gotten stronger and now deals at 93-98 mph with some sink on his fastball. He can maintain his heat into the late innings and backs it up with a mid-80s slider that stands out more for its velocity than its bite but can be a plus pitch at its best.

As a Rockies reliever, Almonte has mainly just cut loose with his fastball and slider. To make it as a big league starter, he’ll have to show more consistency with his slider, his average changeup and his command. His control regressed last year when Triple-A hitters pounded him, so he has to do a better job of trusting his stuff

FanGraphs ranked Almonte 6th in the org this May:

Almonte lowered his arm slot a bit in 2017 and his stuff ticked up, but he was also on the DL twice and has been again already this spring. He sits 93-96, will touch 98, and has a starter’s mix. He’s a potential No. 4 starter with rising injury risk

John Sickels rated Almonte as a C+/B- prospect pre-season, 10th in the system:

Live arm with 94-96 MPH fastball, also has a solid-average slider; change-up is very erratic, decent some days and not existing on others, was able to dominate Double-A but moving up to Albuquerque and the PCL exposed his command issues; I think he’s probably a reliever long-term

Here’s some video of Almonte pitching in the AFL 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?

Almonte has now used two minor league option years and is straddling the line between starter depth and middle relief as his role over the next year or so. His ability to command his stuff against high-level hitters will ultimately push the Rockies to move him towards one path or another. I see Almonte as a potential impact major-league player, albeit one with a lower probability of hitting his mid-rotation starter ceiling, which is why I gave him a 45 Future Value grade and ranked him 9th on my list.

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7. Ryan Castellani (693 points, 31 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: 6 — High Ballot 5, Mode Ballot 9

How did he enter the organization?

2014 2nd Round, Brophy Prep (AZ) HS

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

For one thing, Castellani is 22 years old and is already repeating the Double A level. He’s a former second round pick who has been among the youngest players in the league at every stop along the way, even this year in the Eastern League he’s still 2.4 years younger than average. Of course, it’s not good enough to just be young, you have to show some promise too. The righty pitcher has done that: he’s posted a FIP hovering around or below 4 every year until this one despite his relative youth and he’s shown the ability to carry a starter’s workload, leading the league in innings pitched (and strikeouts) in both 2016 and 2017.

After cruising through a level a year in his first four professional seasons, Castellani was asked to repeat at Double A Hartford this season, where he has unexpectedly struggled. In 99 23 frames to date, the 6’4” hurler has an unsightly 6.05 ERA (5.10 FIP), while his K/9 rate has dropped to 6.1 and his BB/9 rate has risen to 5.1. Unfortunately, it’s been a downward trend as well: Castellani had a 2.05 ERA through April but in July he’s allowed over a run per inning (9.64 ERA). Something isn’t right with Castellani and we can only hope he will recover.

What do the scouts say?

Castellani has been praised through his pro career for the velocity and movement on his fastball and his probability to remain as a starter. MLB.com has him 10th in the system:

Castellani’s fastball sat around 90 mph in high school but now runs from 92-97 mph with arm-side run and sink that should help him deal with Coors Field. When he doesn’t get around his low-80s slider, he shows the ability to throw it for strikes and to back-foot it against left-handers. His fading changeup slipped a little in 2017 but can be a solid pitch when he maintains his arm speed and slot when he throws it.

Colorado officials compare his less-than-smooth mechanics to Max Scherzer’s, and like the three-time Cy Young Award winner in his younger days, Castellani’s biggest need is consistent command. He had repeated his delivery well and thrown strikes in the past, but inconsistency with his mechanics has led to his struggles in 2018. He’s still just 22, so he has plenty of time to turn things around.

None of Castellani’s attributes is rated below average in that evaluation, despite the struggles.

FanGraphs put Castellani 6th in the system with a 45 FV tag in May:

Neither Castellani’s stuff nor his command were crisp this spring, and he was knocked around in big-league games then sent to repeat Double-A, where his strike-throwing issues have continued. If he bounces back he could be a No. 4, if not he’ll be a three-pitch reliever.

John Sickels gave Castellani a B- grade and ranked him 6th in the system pre-season:

Most days works at 90-94 but can hit 96-97 at his best, while mixing in a slider and change-up; although he throws strikes both secondary pitches are erratic and he seldom had both of them working in the same game; he did finish well, throwing 14 shutout innings in his last two starts of the year with 15 strikeouts in 14 innings; potential number three starter if he finds more consistency

Courtesy of Adam McInturff, here’s some tape on Castellani from this spring:

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

Obviously this year’s step back has been discouraging for Castellani. He’s got some mechanical issues that need to be worked out, but if he does he’s a solid bet to be a starter at the Major League level, perhaps as soon as next season. Though it’s far from the certainty it seemed to be at the beginning of the year, Castellani is likely to receive a 40-man roster slot after the season to start his minor league option clock. I’m still a believer in Castellani’s potential as a starter, which is why I ranked him 8th in the system with a 45+ FV tag.

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6. Riley Pint (797 points, 31 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: 3 — High Ballot 2, Mode Ballot 5

How did he enter the organization?

2016 1st Round, St Thomas Aquinas (KS) HS

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

This one’s easy: Pint’s position as the 4th overall pick in the 2016 draft, a $4.8 million signing bonus, and a pitching arsenal that is among the best in minor league baseball. The 20-year-old righthander boasts a triple digits fastball (he’s touched 102 and sits in the mid to upper 90s), a power curveball, and a plus changeup—though evaluations vary on those offerings.

Unfortunately, the 6’4” Pint hasn’t put up the minor league results to match that stuff to date. Even more unfortunately, his 2018 season has been a lost one, as Pint lasted just one out in a repeat tour of Asheville before getting shut down with forearm stiffness. After a two month hiatus, Pint was sent to Short Season A Boise for a tuneup, but after two starts with the Hawks he strained an oblique last month and has remained out of action ever since. In all, Pint has 7 13 game innings this year, which is too small of a sample to draw any meaningful conclusions beyond the easy assertion that 10 free passes during that time is a bit much.

So those are some clouds — here’s a little sunshine. David Laurila of FanGraphs interviewed Rockies director of player development Zach Wilson about Pint last December (well worth reading in its entirety) and Wilson showed little concern with Pint’s numbers to date while providing some insight into Colorado’s development plan. Some excerpts from Wilson:

A lot of the strides [Pint made] came from adjustments we made to his delivery, trying to refine the consistency. We wanted him staying over the rubber a little bit longer. We were making sure his line was a little better and that he was getting the ball out of his glove in a more consistent and timely fashion.

...

In the same mold, we also took away some pitches. That’s probably the reason we didn’t see the strikeout numbers people were expecting — even though he did punch out his fair share [79 in 93 innings]. We made sure that he focused on his fastball command. When you do that, you don’t see the strikeout numbers that he’s certainly capable of

...

His curveball and slider both have a chance to be plus major-league pitches. In fact, the curveball is a plus pitch right now. The consistency isn’t plus, but it’s a plus pitch in terms of action and what it can do.

He’s obviously got the fastball. It’s a four-seam, but it’s a four-seamer with action. It’s actually got some natural sink to it, especially to his arm side. He would consistently sit 96-98, and he would hit triple digits.

Wilson was consistent in saying that for Pint in 2017 the numbers didn’t really matter to the Rockies as long as he was making strides developmentally. I think that’s something to keep in mind when considering that stat line. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been much of a chance to see that development in action this year.

What do the scouts say?

MLB.com dropped Pint to 5th in the system and out of their top 100 this week:

Pint’s pure stuff is exciting, as he has the potential for four plus pitches -- if he can control them. He has an electric fastball that sits at 94-98 mph and has climbed as high as 102 with life and downhill plane, though he has yet to blow pro hitters away with it because he struggles to command it. He also can make hitters look bad with his pair of power breaking balls and his fading changeup but has had trouble getting ahead in the count to set up his secondary offerings.

The Rockies have toned down what was considerable effort in Pint’s delivery, but he still has trouble repeating his mechanics and finding the strike zone. His first order of business is to locate his fastball more consistently, and then he can spend more time refining his other pitches. Youth and athleticism are on his side, and if he figures everything out, he can be a frontline starter.

Indeed, Pint gets a 75 fastball grade to go with 55s on his curveball and slider as well as a 50 change-up. It’s that pesky 40 grade on his command that places such significant risk on Pint’s profile.

The risk didn’t stop FanGraphs from ranking Pint 2nd in the system back in May with a 50 FV grade:

Pint was identified as a potential high-first-round pick as a high school underclassman, showing mid-90s velocity and a long, lanky, athletic frame in tournaments. He remained an elite arm over the next few years, going fourth overall in 2016 and continuing to show some of the best stuff on the planet, including two 70s and two 60s on some days.

Pint doesn’t have much deception and has big effort and head whack in his delivery. Also, his fastball doesn’t have much life, and he may generally just throw too hard to learn the finesse aspects of being a starting pitcher. His walk rates and contact allowed are worrisome, but the stuff and athleticism are still at the top of the scale, so the upside remains sky high, although scouts are getting less enthusiastic.

That’s despite a present 30 grade on the command; I suppose the 70 FB/60 CB/50 SL/50 CH grades help make up for that.

Baseball Prospectus placed Pint 2nd in the system before the season, slapping him with a 70 OFP and 55 Likely role tag. Here’s Greg Goldstein on Pint:

The Good: Pint has everything you want in a frontline starting pitcher. He’s got the frame, athleticism, stuff, and projectability that helps you see a future top of the rotation type guy. The fastball sits 96-98 with the ability to reach triple digits. It has considerable run to it as well, so hitters will have trouble barreling the pitch anywhere in the zone. The curveball is a legitimate plus hook, showing sharp break with quality depth. It’ll rack up a ton of swings and misses when he plays it off his double-plus fastball. The right-hander also has a changeup with nice tumble and fade that can act as another putaway pitch. He’ll flash a potential average slider that can keep hitters off balance as well. His loose arm produces elite velo and movement across the board, which gives him one of the highest ceilings of any arm in minor league baseball.

The Bad: It’s all about command and pitchability for the young flamethrower. Pint’s 6.3 BB/9 IP he accumulated during 2017 is not acceptable if he wants to develop into a starting role. He’s much more of a thrower than a pitcher at the moment, frequently allowing his mechanics to become unhinged by trying to blow his fastball by hitters. There’s considerable effort in his delivery, even though he’s got a clean arm action and excellent arm speed. He’s got little feel for the zone and acts as his own biggest enemy a lot of the time. He’s still young and inexperienced, so there’s obviously a lot of time for him to improve in these areas, especially given his plus athleticism at the position. Still, high school arms with top of the rotation stuff have failed before for similar reasons.

The Risks: Extreme. Pint’s profile is one of the riskiest around. Without even a sniff of major-league-starter command or feel for the zone currently, the Rockies have to just trust the raw ability to be able to convert as he continues to develop. The pure stuff ranks near the top as far as prospects are concerned and he should at the very least have fallback as a quality closer should the command not take the needed jump. Although, that’s certainly not what you hope for when you take an arm in the top five of the draft.

For a less sanguine take, here was John Sickels pre-season, who ranked Pint 8th in the system as a B- prospect:

Fastball reported as high as a rumored/reported 102, a definitely confirmed 99, and consistently 94-96, but very inconsistent off-speed pitches and poor command due to mechanical issues make him quite hittable at this point, even for Low-A hitters; widely regarded as best pitching prospect in the Rockies system; in my opinion he has the best arm for certain, but that’s not the same thing as being the best pitching prospect, thus his ranking here; he certainly has lots of time but another bad year as a starter will increase relief rumors

Here’s some video from 2016 of Pint courtesy of FanGraphs:

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

I’m inclined to believe Zach Wilson and not put a ton of stock in Pint’s professional numbers to date, though it’s natural to be fearful of the lack of results and the effects of a lost season on his development path. Pint is a long ways from Coors Field (let’s say late 2021 or 2022 at this point), but that shouldn’t stop Rockies fans from imagining a fully developed pitcher with Pint’s stuff and profile fronting the big league rotation.

The extreme injury and command risk with him is the reason why a potential ACE like Pint didn’t top the system (he was 4th on my list). If he were closer to the big leagues and more refined with his command, his ceiling would merit a higher placement here. As it is, Riley has a 50+ Future Value from me, splitting the difference between bust and All-Star.

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Now we’re entering serious MLB contributor territory. Stay with us next as we reveal the top 5 PuRPs!