It’s a new year. And, therefore, it is incumbent upon me to tally votes and write up the 2019 preseason Purple Row Prospects (PuRPs) list, our community’s ranking of the top 30 Colorado Rockies prospects. The top 30 prospects will be revealed individually beginning next week to provide some more information for Rockies fans on those little pebbles down on the farm. First though, I’ll provide an introduction to the list and a rundown of every player to get votes during this edition of balloting up to no. 36 on the list. In a separate post I’ll reveal the five honorable mention PuRPs and move to the top 30 after that.
This time around, 32 ballots were completed, 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 17 ballots. The first tiebreaker went 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, though a few outside the top 30 were).
In all, 60 players received at least one vote for this PuRPs list (up from 57), 50 got mentioned on multiple ballots (even from mid-season), and 32 were named on at least 11 ballots (same as mid-season) and therefore were unmodified. The top 23 players were named on over 80 percent of ballots cast, though not necessarily in the same order, and all 30 PuRPs appeared on over 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 midseason list, two PuRPs were no longer eligible: Yency Almonte (8, service time) and Jordan Patterson (15, no longer in org).
For each player on the PuRPs list, I’ll include a link to individual stats (via Baseball-Reference), contract status (via Rockies Roster), and notes on their 2018 season. For the sake of full disclosure, I’ll also include where I put each player on my personal ballot. With players receiving votes, I’ll provide the B-Ref link and voting stats, plus a short blurb where pertinent. All ages will be as of the day 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 ranked 60 to 36 in 2019 preseason PuRPs voting:
Single Ballot Players
T-58. Juan Guerrero (0.1 points, 1 ballot) — the 16-year-old SS was a notable 2018 July 2 signing ($650k bonus) by the Rockies. He was ranked #19 overall by Baseball America among that class.
T-58. Kleiver Osorio (0.1 points, 1 ballot) — a 17-year old LHP in the DSL who posted a 1.63 ERA in 60 2⁄3 innings while striking out 54 and walking 7.
T-58. Hunter Stovall (0.1 points, 1 ballot) — the 22-year old Stovall was a 2018 21st rounder who put up a .909 OPS and 116 wRC+ in Grand Junction as a 2B/3B/OF.
57. Lucas Gilbreath (0.2 points, 1 ballot) — this 22-year old RHP was Colorado’s 7th rounder in 2017 was mostly a starter in Asheville, where his 3.33 FIP and 9.2 K/9 rate indicated he was unlucky to receive a 5.04 ERA in 116 innings.
56. Jefri Ocando (0.4 points, 1 ballot) — the 19-year old Venezuelan RHP was a PuRP in mid-season 2017 but his results since then, including a 6.23 ERA in Boise in 2018, have sent him tumbling down ballots.
55. Nate Harris (0.8 points, 1 ballot) — the 24-year old righty struck out 81 while walking just 7 in 70 innings as a reliever for Asheville, making him yet another interesting relief arm in a system that has plenty of them in the top 30 of this poll.
53. Peyton Gray (0.9 points, 1 ballot) — much like Harris, the 23-year old righty put up gaudy rate stats as a reliever — in this case for Boise. Gray struck out 36 and walked 3 in 21 1⁄3 frames of 2.11 ERA and 0.70 WHIP ball.
52. Garrett Schilling (1.2 points, 1 ballot) — the 2017 18th rounder made his mark in 2018 as a starter. The 23-year old righty tossed 144 1⁄3 innings of 3.87 ERA ball with 8.4 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 rates.
51. Luis Castro (1.4 points, 1 ballot) — the 23-year old 1B had an abbreviated 2018 (limited to 236 plate appearances) between Boise and Lancaster, but he smacked the ball to the tune of a .351/.436/.574 line across those levels (including a 169 wRC+ at Lancaster). My guess is that he’ll get a longer look in 2019.
50. Erick Julio (1.5 points, 1 ballot) — the 22-year old RHP repeated at Asheville and saw improvements across the board. The Venezuelan struck out 103 and walked 25 across 97 frames of 3.99 ERA ball, with only 10 of his 34 appearances coming in the starting rotation.
54. Max George (0.8 points, 3 ballots) — this represents George’s best performance in a PuRPs poll since Winter 2015 and his first appearance on my personal PuRPs ballot (at #30) despite being one of my last cuts for the previous several lists. The 2014 6th round infielder and Parker native is still just 22 but now has five professional seasons under his belt. In only one of those seasons (his 2015 full season debut in Asheville) did George post a wRC+ of lower than 109, a figure boosted by a walk-heavy offensive profile. Meanwhile, George has proved himself a capable middle infielder on defense and a threat on the basepaths (27 steals in 2018). That combination isn’t flashy, but the defensive utility provided by George has prospect value and I wanted to recognize that.
49. Brian Serven (1.8 points, 2 ballots) — the 23-year old, a 2016 5th rounder, served ably as the catcher for Lancaster in 2018. Over 337 plate appearances in High A, Serven hit .268/.326/.488 (114 wRC+), though he did allow 14 passed balls and threw out just 26% of would be base stealers. In a system largely bereft of notable catching prospects, Serven is the first of a run of three in a row on Purple Row’s community ranking.
48. Javier Guevara (2.5 points, 2 ballots) — the 21-year old catcher repeated in Grand Junction in 2018, hitting .279/.316/.426 (88 wRC+) in 197 plate appearances, all improvements from his stateside debut the year prior. Though the offensive profile isn’t exciting, friend of the Row Bobby DeMuro lauded Guevara’s defensive profile back in 2017, notably his pitch framing and accurate arm. Guevara is certainly someone who I’ll be watching once he (presumably) makes his full season debut next year.
47. Willie MacIver (2.7 points, 2 ballots) — Colorado’s 9th rounder in 2018 was the primary backstop for Boise, where he proved to be up to the task offensively. The 22-year-old hit .284/.358/.443 in 218 appearances in the pitcher-friendly Northwest League, good for a 124 wRC+. On defense, MacIver was a third baseman in college but converted behind the plate upon being drafted. He threw out 31% of runners and allowed 6 passed balls in 31 games. MacIver’s placement in 2019 will be telling: will he split time with Guevara in Asheville or make the jump up to Lancaster where there may be less competition for playing time? My guess is the former, but given the offensive polish MacIver showed I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the California League for at least part of 2019.
46. Yolki Pena (3.5 points, 3 ballots) — the 18-year-old lefty OF, who signed for $600k in 2016, repeated the DSL in 2018 and was one of the strongest offensive players in the league. Pena had a lower (.257) batting average but posted a fantastic .467 OBP driven by a batting eye that resulted in walks 27.6% of the time. He wasn’t all walks either — Pena also posted a .439 SLG with 19 extra base hits in 210 plate appearances, resulting in an excellent 165 wRC+ in the pitcher-friendly DSL. Indeed, Pena received significant consideration for my list, but, though he didn’t make it this time, he’s someone whose stateside debut (hopefully) next year will be observed with great interest.
45. Bladimir Restituyo (3.5 points, 3 ballots) — born auspiciously on July 2nd, Restituyo signed in 2017 for $200k with the Rockies, then was one of the best players in the DSL as well as one of its youngest at 17-years old. Indeed, Restituyo was even transferred between Colorado’s two DSL teams to help the stronger club in its bid for the league title. Over 258 DSL plate appearances, Restituyo hit .300/.337/.456 against pitchers who were on average 1.7 years older for a 124 wRC+. Restituyo spent time all over the place defensively in 2018, splitting time between short, second, third, and center field though he signed as a shortstop. He is noted for his quick wrists and blazing speed as well. Combining Restituyo’s production with his youth and scouting profile, we get a prospect who seems likely to be a factor in future PuRPs lists (he certainly is on my watch list), especially if he were to come stateside in 2019 (I think he’ll begin in the DSL at least).
44. Alfredo Garcia (4.1 points, 3 ballots) — the most notable item about Garcia’s profile is that he was a starter full-time in the Pioneer League with Grand Junction as an 18/19-year old. 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. The lefty hurler had signed in 2016 for $900k and cruised through the DSL in 2017. In 11 appearances (10 starts) with Grand Junction, Garcia threw 48 2⁄3 innings of 4.99 ERA ball (6.96 FIP), striking out 27 and walking 21 against hitters who were on average about 3 years older. Though the numbers weren’t strong, Garcia is a candidate for full season ball in 2019, though I suspect the Rockies may hold him back again in short season ball, perhaps this time with Boise.
43. David Hill (6.2 points, 4 ballots) — I feel like I’ve been writing about Hill for forever, but in fact he’s only been in the org since he was picked in the 4th round of the 2015 draft. The 24-year old RHP has always been a tantalizing prospect — a pitcher who has a starter’s arsenal but who has been limited to just 141 innings total in four professional seasons. In 2018 Hill showed well in 7 starts for Lancaster with 33 strikeouts and 11 walks and a 4.58 ERA in 35 1⁄3 innings before he again was shut down due to injury in July. They say that health is a skill, and unfortunately Hill has not had it so far with the Rockies. A full 2019 campaign with Lancaster or Hartford would reignite Hill’s prospect flame in a system that lacks starters with upside in the middle tiers of the system.
42. Sean Bouchard (6.5 points, 3 ballots) — Colorado’s 9th rounder in 2017 crushed the ball in Boise in his debut season, then he provided above average offense for Asheville in his full season debut in 2018. In 515 plate appearances against pitchers who were a little younger than him on average, Bouchard hit .257/.324/.430 with 50 extra base hits, good for a 115 wRC+. The 22-year old split his time between 1B, OF, and 3B, with most of his time at the first two. A player with that kind of defensive profile needs to hit quite a bit to provide value, so it is important for Bouchard to take full advantage of the friendly offensive environment in the California League next year.
41. Casey Golden (6.8 points, 3 ballots) — like Bouchard, Golden has produced two consecutive strong offensive seasons to begin his professional career. The 24-year old righty OF, drafted in the 20th round in 2017, has a slightly better defensive profile (he played a little center field for Asheville in 2018) than Bouchard and he hit better as well at the same level, albeit as an older player (1.7 years older than league average) with a lower prospect pedigree. All that said, Golden’s .278/.359/.562 line with 60 extra base hits (including 34 homers) in 524 plate appearances with Asheville was hugely impressive, worth a 159 wRC+. Golden will get another offense-friendly environment in Lancaster next year, where it will be interesting to see if he maintains the elevated K% he’s sported so far (34.4% in 2018). It’s clear that Golden has tremendous power potential and fits in well with the trend in modern baseball toward Three True Outcome hitters (he was at 48% in 2018), but will that tendency fail him against more advanced pitching?
40. Will Gaddis (15.9 points, 7 ballots) — Gaddis tumbles from no. 24 in the mid-season PuRPs list all the way down to 40 this time around. The 22-year old LHP made multiple PuRPs lists on the strength of his pedigree (2017 3rd round) as well as his stuff profile, which hinted at a mid-rotation starter upside. I can’t speak for all the electorate, but I dropped Gaddis off my top 30 ballot due to a lack of performance against age appropriate competition, first in Grand Junction in 2017 and then in Asheville in 2018. In 121 1⁄3 innings spread over 23 starts, Gaddis posted a 5.04 ERA (4.40 FIP) with a blah 6.1 K/9 rate. Moreover, his stuff appears to have backed up since he was drafted, lowering his potential ceiling in the eyes of prospect watchers. MLB Pipeline still has Gaddis 28th in the system, though I suspect that may change when they release their next list. Here’s what they had to say about him mid-season:
Gaddis has heavy sink on his fastball, which sat at 88-92 mph and topped out at 94 in 2017 after reaching 96 previously. He has great feel for his changeup, a plus pitch at times but merely average for much of last year. His curveball and cutter also weren’t quite as sharp as usual but show the upside of solid offerings.
Gaddis isn’t very physical but projects as a starter because he repeats his delivery and pounds the strike zone, efficiently managing his pitching counts. He attacks hitters, even when his stuff is less than its best, and has a higher floor than most of Colorado’s starting pitching prospects.
Despite the negatively I posited above, Gaddis very much is a prospect who has an opportunity to improve his stock in 2019, even in the California League. I value his floor and likelihood to remain a starter, which is why he just missed my list this time around.
39. Matt Pierpont (19.1 points, 6 ballots) — there’s no denying that the 27-year-old RHP had a great year in 2018. The 2013 26th rounder served with distinction as the closer for Hartford, saving 32 games with a 1.95 ERA (2.61 FIP, 1.08 WHIP) and striking out 77 while walking 21 in 60 innings. Those numbers combined with the trust to serve as the Double-A closer are positive for Pierpont. That must of course be balanced against the fact that Pierpont was spending his third straight season in Double-A, will turn 28 later this month, and has twice gone unprotected and unselected in the Rule 5 draft. Players like Pierpont, relief arms in the upper levels with high leverage experience, are valuable to an organization — as DJ Johnson proved last year. Nonetheless, Pierpont still has an uphill climb ahead of him given the competition he faces from a slew of similar players in the organization (many of whom already possess 40 man roster slots).
38. Antonio Santos (19.1 points, 7 ballots) — the 22-year old Dominican RHP has been noteworthy for a couple years as a starter who has earned places in the rotations of levels where he is one of its youngest members. Santos repeated at Asheville in 2018, where over 15 starts he threw 86 1⁄3 frames of 4.48 ERA ball, including 9.0 K/9 and 1.3 BB/9 rates and a 3.20 FIP against competition that was on average about a year older. He was promoted to Lancaster in July and started an additional 12 games in that hitter’s haven as a 21-year old. In 65 2⁄3 innings against batters who were over 2 years older on average, Santos understandably saw his numbers take a step back. Still, a 5.21 ERA (4.79 xFIP), 7.7 K/9, and 2.9 BB/9 is nothing to scoff at given the context. Though Santos isn’t on their current top 30, 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.
That profile and the level/age/role combo led me to place Santos 29th on my personal ballot.
37. DJ Johnson (24.5 points, 5 ballots) — I’ll fully admit that as I filled out my PuRPs ballot this time around that Johnson slipped my mind entirely, as I’d already mentally moved him out of the prospect zone (as I imagine other voters did as well). With that said, it’s worth praising the rise Johnson enjoyed from afterthought to key cog in a playoff bullpen in 2018. The 29-year old righty reliever had spent the previous campaign in Double-A (part of a long journey that included two separate stints in independent ball) and graduated to Albuquerque in 2018, serving as a part-time closer for the Isotopes. In 55 1⁄3 innings with them, Johnson saved 18 games and posted a 3.90 ERA (2.81 FIP) in the pro-offense Pacific Coast League. That’s impressive, but even more so was his 13.7 K/9 rate (2.4 BB/9 rate as well), which offered a hint of his swing and miss stuff.
After a September call-up to the Rockies, Johnson struck out 9 and walked 2 in 6 1⁄3 innings. He made the post-season roster and notched two crucial punch-outs against one hit in the 7th inning of game 1 of the NLDS. Johnson now appears to be entrenched as a key bullpen option for the Rockies entering 2019, a fully realized version of Pierpont and the most advanced of the raft of high-level bullpen arms, many of which are ranked highly in the upcoming PuRPs list.
36. Coco Montes (32.7 points, 8 ballots) — the 22-year old Montes was one of the most pleasant surprises in Colorado’s minor league system in 2018. The infielder, who spent time at short, third, and second with Grand Junction, was an afterthought as Colorado’s 15th round pick in the 2018 draft but he quickly made a name for himself with a blistering debut. Notably, in the first half of the Pioneer League season, Montes produced a .400/.467/.615 line with 23 extra base hits in 135 at-bats. Montes did cool down in the second half to the tune of a .265/.361/.409 line, but in all his final triple slash of .333/.413/.513 with 29 extra base hits marks a fine professional debut (137 wRC+). It remains to be seen whether Montes can carry over that offense into full season ball, but he’s clearly earned an opportunity to prove himself and jump into the ranks of the PuRPs as soon as the mid-season list.
Thanks to all who voted this time around! Next time I’ll reveal the five Honorable Mention preseason 2019 PuRPs.