It’s time to reveal the five players who made it the closest to the mid-season top 30 Purple Row Prospects (PuRPs) list as voted on by the Purple Row community over the last few weeks. For each player, I’ll include a link to individual stats (via Baseball-Reference), contract status (via Rockies Roster), and notes on their 2019 season to date. For the sake of full disclosure, I’ll also include where I put each player on my personal ballot. All ages are as of the day the article is posted.
35. Julio Carreras (51.1 points, 7 ballots), 2017 IFA (DR), IF at Rookie (19)
Unlike some of the other Latin American prospects that have been or will be covered in this process, Carreras was unheralded and didn’t make headlines with a big signing bonus. For players like Carreras, who spends the plurality of his time at third but also has played short and second this year, it thus becomes difficult to get any information on them besides the stat line and their playing time relative to age/level.
For Carreras, that stat line was plenty good in his debut year in the Dominican Summer League in 2018, where as an 18-year-old he hit .289/.398/.478 with 24 extra base hits in 281 PAs, good enough for a 151 wRC+. What was missing was a strong scouting report to provide some back-up for that stat line. Fortunately, FanGraphs provided just that scouting report in May when they ranked Carreras 12th in the system as a FV 40+ prospect:
Carreras’ swing needs work. His stride and bat path both have problems, but he swings hard and has promising hand-eye coordination and bat control despite his current issues. Additionally, Carreras has a lean, projectable frame, he’s a plus runner and athletic infield defender who already has experience at multiple positions, and he has above-average bat speed. Some of the mechanical components in the batters box will need to improve, but the raw material here is exciting. Most players this age are older high school or junior college draft prospects. Measured against amateur players his age, Carreras would probably go in the top 50 picks.
The Rockies backed up this report’s veracity by opting to send Carreras stateside to Grand Junction. Against pitchers who are on average 1.5 years older, Carreras has a .262/.342/.438 line in 154 plate appearances (102 wRC+), holding his own as a teenager. He seems likely to get a chance to play full-season ball next year. The combination of the age/level/performance as well as the scouting report led me to rank Carreras 21st on my personal ballot, and I expect we’ll be hearing a lot more from him in the next few years.
★ ★ ★
34. Helcris Olivarez (58.8 points, 7 ballots), 2016 IFA (DR), LHP at Rookie (18)
Like Carreras, Olivarez wasn’t the headliner of his signing class. He wasn’t even originally a pitcher, trying out instead initially as an outfielder. After spending two successful campaigns in the DSL as a 16 and 17-year-old player where he struck out more than a batter per inning with an ERA below 3, Olivarez had a short cameo in the DSL this year in which he was even more dominant, then he moved stateside to the Pioneer League. In five starts so far with Grand Junction, Olivarez has a 4.57 ERA and 10.4 K/9 rate in 21 2⁄3 innings against hitters who are on average 3.5 years older than him.
Olivarez was ranked 13th in the system by FanGraphs in May as a FV 40 prospect:
Olivarez has had trouble throwing strikes during at least a few of his Extended starts, but he has enviable stuff and physical projection for a teenage lefty. He’s been sitting in the mid-90s this spring and will flash the occasional plus curveball, though the curve has so much velocity separation from the heater that it may be easy for upper-level hitters to lay off. Though he has an ideal frame and his delivery has a beautiful finish, with his rear leg flying up toward the sky à la Cole Hamels as Olivarez follows through, he doesn’t repeat yet, and his control is quite rough as a result. There’s a sizable developmental gap between where Olivarez is now and where he’d need to be to profile as a starting pitching prospect, but he’s young and has traits (velo, spin, frame) coveted in this age group.
We’ll see if the Rockies send Olivarez to full-season ball next year or hold him back at GJ or Boise, but either way he’s obviously an organizational priority given his usage and results so far. I ranked Olivarez 24th on my personal ballot this time around and can see him moving even higher the next time around.
★ ★ ★
33. Niko Decolati (63 points, 10 ballots), 2018 6th Round, OF at Low A (21)
The Colorado native signed for just under $250k as Colorado’s 6th round pick in 2018, where after spending his college career as a shortstop he was converted as a pro to an outfielder. Decolati was assigned to Rookie Grand Junction, where in 304 PAs he had a .327/.414/.532 triple slash, buoyed by a .381 BABIP. That included 26 extra base hits (11 HR) as well as 17 steals, totaling a 142 wRC+.
His 2019 was delayed due to an injury, but since his return in early June at Low A, Decolati has a .278/.335/.411 line in 175 PAs (116 wRC+). Though those are decent numbers, Decolati’s BB% has plunged below 5% while his K% is now 29%.
Primarily a shortstop in college, the Rockies immediately moved him to the outfield and liked what they saw there. He played most of the summer in right field, and has the arm for the spot, but he could have the speed and instincts to be a solid average defender in center field. That speed also helps him on the bases, and he broke out of the gate with 17 steals in his pro debut. Everything else went well for him during his debut, from managing the strike zone and drawing walks to toning down his overly aggressive approach in order to use all fields to hit for average and power. If you saw Decolati on the right day, you might put above-average grades on him across the board.
The Rockies love Decolati’s makeup and natural leadership ability. If he can show that his summer debut is for real, he could move up this list, and the Rockies’ ladder, in a hurry.
The knock on Decolati before the draft was that his production had yet to measure up to his tools, which were highlighted by a 60 run, 55 arm, 50 power, and 50 field. The results so far have been pretty good, though the contact rate trend this season has been worrisome. Overall, Decolati’s athleticism and potential have me interested and he was one of my final cuts on my personal list.
★ ★ ★
32. Daniel Montano (77 points, 10 ballots), 2015 IFA (VZ), OF at Low A (20)
After six straight appearances on PuRPs lists, Montano falls just short this time around. The headliner of the 2015 international free agent class has been long on hype and short on stateside results since signing for $2 million back in 2015. Don’t get me wrong, Montano is still quite advanced for his age, but he just hasn’t hit well enough or shown the plus tools that were hoped for on his signing.
This year with Asheville, Montano has spent time at all three outfield positions, but most often he’s been in center. In 379 PAs against pitchers who are on average about 1.5 years older, Montano has a .231/.292/.376 line with 34 extra base hits, good for a 91 wRC+. For a 20-year-old in the South Atlantic League, those numbers are not a deal-breaker, but since coming stateside we just haven’t seen huge potential from Montano.
Montano has always had tools and he’s starting to grow into them. One of the biggest steps forward has been his ability to add man strength, with emotional maturity to match. He’s an advanced hitter with an excellent left-handed swing, one who is getting more patient and using all fields better each year. He stuck to his gameplan well in 2018, handling offspeed stuff more consistently well and using the middle of the field better. As he continues to get stronger, the Rockies think he could have average power. He played a solid center field in Grand Junction a year ago and has a chance to stay there, though he’s also seen time in right, with an arm that now plays average.
While he’s just getting started stateside, the Rockies feel Montano might be turning a corner physically and mentally. There’s an up arrow next to his name, with a chance he could make a big step forward.
That was from pre-season, and unfortunately I don’t think we’ve seen that step forward from Montano. There’s still time for him to put it together, but before you know it he’ll be Rule 5 eligible and the Rockies may be forced into a 40-man roster decision they aren’t ready to make. I’ve been ranking Montano in my top 30 since mid-2015, so I didn’t take it lightly to leave him just off my personal list. He’s certainly on the cusp and I’ll be easily swayed back into his corner with a nice offensive explosion.
★ ★ ★
31. Dom Nuñez (90 points, 14 ballots), 2013 6th Round, C at AAA (24)
It was a good run while it lasted — Nuñez had been a PuRP for a remarkable 12 straight lists, ever since he was drafted in 2013. Here he just misses number 13, in what ironically might be his best hitting season since at least 2015, and at the Triple-A level to boot. Who knows, if a trade breaks the right way in the next week he just might make it a lucky 13.
Nunez seems like he’s been around forever, but he’s still only 24 and putting up a .263/.381/.587 line with 29 extra base hits (14 HR) in just 218 PAs in Albquerque. That’s a 127 wRC+ and it led me, who had personally been out on Nuñez for a bit, to re-examine his candidacy. I ultimately left him off my list since he’s still obviously not an organizational priority given their preference for Drew Butera of all people, but it was closer than it’s been in a while.
With soft hands and more quickness than most catchers, Nuñez has steadily improved into a solid receiver. He has arm strength to match and has gotten better with his transfer and accuracy. He impresses with his leadership skills as well, and there’s no doubt that he’ll be able to catch at the big league level.
Whether he’ll be able to hit is another question after he slid to .202/.335/.354 in Double-A last year, then went 4-for-44 in the Arizona Fall League. He has a nice left-handed stroke, the raw power to hit 15 homers per year and some patience, so there’s hope. While he doesn’t swing and miss excessively, pitchers goad him into a lot of weak contact to the opposite field.
FanGraphs had a one line summary on Nunez this May: “Nuñez is crushing Triple-A. He can catch, he walks, and the rest of his tools are 40s.” That’s a reasonable summary of Nuñez — throughout his run as a prospect, Nuñez has been seen as a backstop with plus defensive ability, plate discipline, and makeup. It just has been a while since we’ve seen him mash the way he is this year.
It’s a make or break year for Nuñez, who has already been left unprotected and un-selected twice in the Rule 5 draft despite the plus defensive tools and positive intangible reports. At the end of this year, Nuñez will either be on the 40 man roster, or he will be a minor league free agent — and my bet is still on the latter.
★ ★ ★
In my opinion, the Rockies have about 30 players that have arguments for the bottom 7 slots on the PuRPs list (most notably Carreras, but see my personal list in the polling thread for the others) and many of them have been mentioned over the course of this article.
To see the players that did make the cut, check back soon as we unveil the mid-season 2019 PuRPs list!