23. Robert Tyler (261 points, 28 ballots)
Robert Tyler looks like a pitching prospect straight out of central casting. He possesses a rocket right arm that flirts with triple digits, stands 6’4”, 226 pounds, and has the pedigree of a (supplemental) first round pick with a $1.7 million signing bonus. Of course, Tyler could only be accurately cast for a baseball movie like Major League in which you really only need one hellish fastball to mow down big-leaguers left and right. Okay, that’s not exactly fair: Tyler also boasts a 55 grade change-up to pair with his 75 grade fastball (which beyond heat also offers good movement).
So why isn’t Tyler higher on the PuRPs list? For one, he’s been hurt so far as a professional, losing all of 2017 to shoulder fatigue. Before that, he was hurt throughout his college career as well. More importantly, the 23-year old has been given just a 40 grade on his command, well below average for a prospect of note. Those two items combined (durability and reliability) have led the Rockies to confine Tyler to a relief role, in which his stuff certainly plays up over shorter outings.
In a full-time relief role in 2018 after a year away, Tyler showed markedly improved command (and therefore results) with Low A Asheville. In 38 1⁄3 innings over 34 appearances with Asheville, Tyler posted a 3.99 ERA (1.83 xFIP) and 8 saves with 52 strikeouts against just 7 walks — which is incredible considering he walked 16 men in just 7 innings in 2016. Those are excellent results indeed, and they came despite a short DL stint in May.
Unfortunately, the good numbers didn’t follow Tyler to High A after a late July promotion. In 12 appearances with Lancaster, Tyler only provided five outings in which he was un-scored upon, allowing 11 runs (10 earned) on 17 hits and 5 walks, striking out 5 in 9 1⁄3 innings against age appropriate competition in the hitter friendly California League. Obviously that’s a sour ending to what had up to that point been a sweet season for Tyler, but let’s hope he gets it corrected for 2019.
Here’s some tape on Tyler from June 2018 courtesy of 2080 Baseball:
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.
Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs rated Tyler the 14th best prospect in the system back in May 2018, 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.
The bottom line is that Tyler represents arguably the highest ceiling of Colorado’s bevy of relief prospects, a shut-down late inning reliever, thanks to the explosiveness of the fastball/change combo. Then again, his floor is also low for such a high octane arm due to the durability and command concerns he still presents.
Tyler’s lost 2017 put him behind the development curve, and he’ll be Rule 5 eligible after the 2019 season. With an arm like Tyler’s, he’s nearly certain to be selected if left un-protected, so the Rockies will hope Tyler shows better in Lancaster (presumably) in 2019 than he did in 2018. If things go well, Tyler could be in the 2020 bullpen conversation. On my personal ballot, Tyler’s ceiling and Asheville success slightly outweighed his Lancaster failure and flame-out risk, as I ranked him 15th (one of the highest in the electorate on Tyler) with a 40 Future Value grade.