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Colorado Rockies prospect rankings, mid-season 2019: numbers 20 to 16

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Fast Eddy and volatile pitchers

We’re moving forward with the mid-season 2019 Purple Row Prospects (PuRPs) list. Friday we revealed prospects 30-26, yesterday we had prospects 25-21, and today we’ll show you 20-16. This is the first portion of the reveal in which we’ll see some players who made the vast majority of PuRPs ballots. As a reminder, in this edition of the PuRPs poll, 29 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 2019 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.

20. Jesus Tinoco (273 points, 23 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: 12 — High Ballot 8, Mode Ballot 20, 25

How did he enter the organization?

2015 Trade (TOR)

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

Tinoco’s position as the third piece of the return in the 2015 Troy Tulowitzki trade almost four years ago cemented himself in the minds of PuRPs voters. More recently, Tinoco worked his way into the 40 man roster and then into the big leagues this year to solidify the fact that the 24-year-old Venezuelan righthander is someone to watch in Colorado’s system.

Tinoco is now a full-time reliever after looking strong in the 2018 Arizona Fall League in that role. He began the year in Triple-A Albuquerque where he managed to escape the worst of the hell the Pacific Coast League has unleashed on pitchers this year, posting a respectable 4.22 ERA at the level. With that said, his mediocre rate stats (6.5 K/9, 4.8 BB/9) in 32 innings at the level suggest he was fortunate to receive the results he got, as does his 5.58 FIP.

Whatever the reason, results or convenience, Tinoco got the call to the Show and has spent 32 days there this year. During that time, Tinoco has appeared in 7 games, throwing 13 innings with mediocre to poor results: 5.54 ERA, 8.07 FIP, 4.8 K/9, 2.8 BB/9. Currently back in the minors, it’s a toss-up whether Tinoco will earn enough service time to graduate off this list by the end of the year.

What do the scouts say?

Tinoco ranks 17th on THE BOARD for FanGraphs with a FV 40 grade:

Tinoco has taken his four-pitch mix to the bullpen. His fastball is hard and comes in at a very tough angle while his slider and curveball each flash plus, though they’re sometimes (especially the curve) easy to identify out of his hand, and he doesn’t miss as many bats as is typical for someone with this kind of power stuff. Tinoco has had some injury issues, but the relief role may help keep him healthier moving forward.

He’s ranked 26th in the system in MLB.com’s recent re-rank:

The Rockies are still very much bullish on Tinoco’s stuff and upside. He’ll throw his plus fastball up to 97 mph, sitting in the 93-95 mph range and he backs it up with a pair of breaking balls. It’s actually at its best when it’s between a curve and slider, as he can cast the true curve at times and the slurvy version is a swing-and-miss pitch. He flashes a changeup that’s average and his command could be Major League average as well.

Tinoco has improved his delivery, staying much more in control and in line with his follow through, with more leverage over the rubber.

Finally, Adam McInturff of 2080 Baseball had a write-up on Tinoco after the 2018 AFL (good granular info in the full report):

Physical power arm, chance to miss bats w/ FB and SL in short stints. He will get chances to develop as a SP, but don’t see delivery or approach holding up in rotation. Raw stuff fits better in the ‘pen for me, ceiling of a setup reliever if he takes to a late-innings role.

Here’s some video of Tinoco in last year’s AFL courtesy of FanGraphs:

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

Tinoco is “ready” now for the role he’s able to play in MLB. The question is more around whether he’ll be able to turn that plus fastball and decent off-speed stuff into something that misses a lot of bats at the big league level. If he can, that’s a useful roster piece whose presence maybe could curb some of Jeff Bridich’s worst free agent tendencies in terms of acquiring expensive, volatile relievers.

If he can’t, Tinoco stays where he is now: somewhere in the morass of the numerous relievers on the 40 man roster (and in the high minors) who struggle to distinguish themselves at the big league level. I’m betting on Tinoco unlocking his potential, ranking him 16th in the system on my personal ballot with a FV 40 grade, but if he’s still eligible for this list next winter, I’ll probably be dropping him at least a tier.

★ ★ ★

19. Mitchell Kilkenny (283 points, 26 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: HM — High Ballot 8, Mode Ballot 29

How did he enter the organization?

2018 2nd Round, Texas A&M

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

It’s mostly draft pedigree for Kilkenny, as the 22-year-old righty pitcher only recently began his professional career after having Tommy John surgery a year ago when his post-draft physical revealed issues. That info led to an under-slot $550k signing bonus and a year of rehab for the 6’3” hurler, who worked his way up from a walk-on to the number one starter of a SEC school.

Fortunately, the rehab process has been pretty quick for a TJ surgery and Kilkenny made his professional debut last month for Rookie Grand Junction. In 23 13 innings over 7 starts (68 pitches is his high water mark), Kilkenny has shown well (albeit at an age that is slightly above average for the league) with a 1.93 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 7.7 K/9 rate, and 1.9 BB/9 rate. It’s encouraging to see him getting positive results, especially considering that many prospects in his situation might not have even returned to the mound by now.

What do the scouts say?

MLB.com ranked Kilkenny 83rd in his draft class:

Kilkenny lacks a plus pitch in his arsenal but is pretty solid across the board with control to match. His fastball operates in the low 90s and tops out at 94 mph, and his sink and downhill plane allow him to pound the bottom of the strike zone. He can throw his low-80s slider for strikes or entice hitters to chase it off the plate, and he does a nice job of locating his average changeup to keep left-handers honest.

Kilkenny has an easy delivery and no trouble repeating it, allowing him to steadily improve his control throughout his college career. He doesn’t have the sexiest ceiling, but he has a high floor as a safe bet to start.

All Kilkenny’s ratings are between 50 and 55 (with the fastball, slider, and control the 55 grades), which in the aggregate for MLB.com translated to a 45 grade prospect, though Kilkenny notably wasn’t on the org’s top 30 this time around.

Here’s some pre-draft video of Kilkenny courtesy of Perfect Game Baseball:

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

It’s always tricky to rank players who haven’t had a lot of professional experience. We’ll see if Kilkenny stays in Grand Junction all year or if perhaps an advanced arm like his is given a cameo in Asheville. As a prospect, he’s a high-floor/lower ceiling type but his injury put him behind the developmental 8 ball and makes him less probable as a big league contributor. Ultimately I’m a fan of what I see from the tape, Kilkenny’s potential as a back-end starter prospect, and the pedigree of him being a second rounder. That’s why I gave Kilkenny a 40 FV grade and ranked him 17th on my personal ballot.

★ ★ ★

18. Eddy Diaz (295 points, 22 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: HM — High Ballot 7, Mode Ballot 14

How did he enter the organization?

2017 IFA, Cuba

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

Diaz was Colorado’s first major prep signing out of Cuba when he inked a contract for $750k in 2017 as a 17-year-old. From there, Fast Eddy stole our hearts (and 84 bases) with two strong debut years in the Dominican Summer League, then solidified that feeling with an excellent stateside debut in Grand Junction this season.

The 19-year-old middle infielder, who has split his time between second and short this year, is 1.5 years younger than the average Pioneer League pitcher, but he hasn’t let that slow him down. In 140 PAs, Diaz is hitting a robust .336/.370/.450 with 12 extra base hits and 16 steals (6 CS), good for a 114 wRC+. He’s done that while striking out 21% of the time against 4% walks, so there’s some warts on the profile, but the production at his age is encouraging.

What do the scouts say?

Diaz is ranked 33rd on THE BOARD by FanGraphs with a FV 35+ grade:

He’s an athletic, instinctive middle infield prospect with modest physical projection and promising bat to ball skills. He has all-fields feel for contact and will likely be a hit-over-power offensive player by a good margin. He’s seen action all over the infield but the bat might only profile at shortstop in an everyday capacity. He’s more likely a utility type.

Ben Badler of Baseball America had this to say about Diaz in an overview of Colorado’s 2017 IFA class:

Diaz is 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, with a good blend of hitting ability and quick-twitch athleticism. He’s an explosive runner with plus-plus speed, which helped him steal 30 bases in 36 attempts over just 36 games in the DSL last year. Diaz has a good hitting approach for his age and makes consistent contact in games with a line-drive swing and gap power. He has a chance to stick at shortstop, though some scouts think he might fit better at second base.

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

Diaz is several years away from contributing to the Rockies, but he’s already one of my favorites thanks to his plus-plus speed/good contact profile. Diaz might end up a utility player, but he’s one heck of an exciting prospect nonetheless. He has shown me enough for me to rank him 20th on my PuRPs list with a FV 40 grade and I’ll be watching him closely in his full season debut, presumably at Asheville next year.

★ ★ ★

17. Riley Pint (305 points, 28 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: 8 — High Ballot 6, Mode Ballot 21, 23

How did he enter the organization?

2016 1st Round, St. Thomas Aquinas (KS) High School

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 (minus one important ingredient) that is among the best in minor league baseball. The 21-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. He’s easily the highest ceiling pitcher in the system.

And yet...it seems like Pint won’t make it. There is so much potential and stuff here, but it doesn’t matter much when you’ve been described by national prospect watchers as having 20 Command. That’s the very bottom of the scouting scale, folks. What a shame.

Pint lost almost all of 2018 to forearm stiffness and a strained oblique, but unfortunately in his return to Low A Asheville his command has gone from bad to awful. Operating mostly out of the bullpen, Pint has thrown 17 23 innings in 21 appearances, allowing 17 runs on 12 hits and an incredible 31 walks (15.8 BB/9 rate). He’s also hit 6 batters. At least he’s striking out 11.7 per 9, but that’s just not tenable at the professional level. Pint went on the IL in June and I don’t know if we’ll see him again this year — if so, it’s another lost campaign.

What do the scouts say?

It depends on when the report was written, of course, as reports have grown more dire with each new month. The aforementioned 20 Command grade on Pint came from FanGraphs back in May, who still nonetheless have Pint ranked 12th on THE BOARD with a FV 40+ grade:

It is not enough to say that Pint is having issues with control. Even pitchers walking guys at a 10% clip or worse face legitimate questions about their ability to start, and sometimes their ability to pitch in the big leagues at all. Pint is walking more than 30% of the hitters he faces right now, and has been moved to the Low-A bullpen. He simply can’t be a big leaguer with this kind of wildness, but his stuff remains incredible, among the best in the minors. Through these struggles, Pint has continued to throw in the upper-90s with one of the harder power curveballs on the planet. He has top of the rotation stuff, but even those in amateur scouting who thought his delivery was too violent to repeat (which would make it tough to start) did not think Pint’s strike-throwing issues would be this much of a problem. We’d still take him ahead of relief-only types in this class because the stuff is so good, teams felt good about his makeup before the draft, and Pint is still pretty young. With time, he’s pretty likely to figure something out, though it’s suddenly very likely to be in some kind of bullpen role.

MLB.com’s report, from the beginning of the year, is more sanguine, though they dropped him to 16th in the system:

The 6-foot-4 righty still cranks his fastball up to 97-100 mph consistently. The Rockies feel he has the best curve in the system, one that flashes as a 70 pitch, though not consistently. His above-average slider also can buckle knees and his fading changeup gives him a fourth pitch that grades out as at least above-average.

The one thing, other than health, that has held him back has been his ability to command the baseball. It will come down to him finding a way to control his effort and body, which will allow him to repeat his delivery and find the strike zone more consistently.

This video from 2017 courtesy of Ryan Sullivan shows a reasonably representative Riley Pint plate appearance:

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

[This space intentionally left blank]

Seriously though, Pint still has a massive range of outcomes, but his most likely path to big league success is in relief given the sheer potency of the arsenal. Despite some of the pessimism induced by his numbers and injury history, I still harbor some optimism for Pint’s prospects, just not this year, and less and less as a starter. After 2020, Pint will be Rule 5 eligible, and my sincere hope is that he’ll be good enough next year to need protecting.

I placed Pint 12th on my PuRPs ballot with a FV 40 grade, but that’s wrong, as if Pint figures it out he’s much more valuable than that, while it’s quite unlikely he settles in as a below average MLB pitcher. There’s All-Star potential here just waiting to erupt. Annnnnnnnnnny day now.

★ ★ ★

16. Ryan Castellani (381 points, 26 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: 10 — High Ballot 6, Mode Ballot 10, 11, 20, 21

How did he enter the organization?

2014 2nd Round, Brophy Prep (AZ) HS

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

Castellani has for years now been seen as a future mid-rotation starter, rising up the minor league ladder and eating innings along the way. The 23-year-old right-hander encountered some difficulties in 2018, repeating Double-A and posting sub-par numbers before finding his footing in the Arizona Fall League.

According to Tracy Ringolsby, Castellani tried to make his delivery more “mainstream” and in so doing lost some of the deception that made him successful. The Rockies used data and intensive instruction in the AFL to show Castellani the adjustments he needed to make to find his original delivery. His performance in the AFL (and the years that led up to it) was enough to earn a 40 man roster slot and a promotion to Triple-A entering 2019.

Unfortunately, the results in the pitcher’s nightmare of the Pacific Coast League didn’t reinforce those good habits with positive feedback. In 43 13 innings with Albuquerque, Castellani got knocked around to the tune of a 8.31 ERA, 6.2 BB/9 rate, and 1.94 WHIP. He did have a 9.8 K/9 rate during that time, but it’s not much of a trade-off considering he allowed 14 homers in that time (almost 3 per 9 innings).

After a two week IL stint in May, Castellani returned briefly but then underwent surgery to remove “particulates” in his right elbow, which would seem to have ended his 2019.

What do the scouts say?

FanGraphs has Castellani 10th in the org on THE BOARD with a FV 40+ grade:

At times Castellani looks like a mid-rotation starter, and at others he’s too wild to be effective. His tailing low-90s fastball has movement that mimics that of his well-located changeups, and Castellani’s slider has good length and bite away from right-handed hitters. He could garner whiffs with any of those pitches throughout a start. He doesn’t often get into counts where the changeup can be used, and he’s more likely to work back into counts with breaking stuff, often with his curveball.

MLB.com ranks Castellani 15th in the system:

When healthy,Castellani still has the kind of stuff to fit well in a big league rotation. He’ll throw his fastball up to 97 mph with good life to it and backs it up with an above-average low-80s slider. His changeup is behind the other two, but he has more than enough feel for it to be a third Major League average offering. He’s proven to be an innings-eater, with his 134 1/3 IP in 2018 by far his low-water mark the last three seasons. Last year, he saw his walk rate spike and his strike out rate plummet and it’s mostly because he got out of whack with his delivery. Castellani got out of his natural, three-quarters slot and climbed higher and higher, sapping the right-hander of velocity and control.

Castellani had started to re-find that arm slot in the Arizona Fall League, where he threw well down the stretch, especially in three of his final four outings.

The above evaluation is highlighted by 60 fastball and 55 slider grades, accompanied by 50 change-up and 50 control evaluations.

Adam McInturff of 2080 Baseball reported on Castellani as a role 45 player during the 2018 AFL (more detail in full report):

Physical frame and flashes of hard sinker/slider combo give raw ingredients of 7th inning setup reliever, but has a ways to go w/ control and overall pitchability to make an impact at ML level.

Here’s video accompanying the 2080 report of Castellani in the AFL:

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

Castellani has been young at every level on his way up the minor league ladder, usually by over 3 years than average, and he’s succeeded at each place until recently. I honestly don’t know what to think of pitching stats in Triple-A right now, but I know that Castellani’s were far from auspicious. The elbow surgery is hardly a good sign either and introduces injury risk into what was already an arrow pointing down.

Still, Castellani has that mid-rotation stuff and might be the calvary for the Rockies in the rotation next year, whether they like it or not. Realistically, the system is thin enough that a player with Castellani’s pedigree, stuff, and proximity needs to be in the top half of this list. To me, he’s the 2nd best starting prospect in the system with rookie eligibility remaining (feel free to say yikes). I ranked Castellani 11th in the system with a FV 40+ grade because a) he’s not as bad as 2019 made him look and b) I didn’t like anyone else much better in that tier. We’ll see if the mechanical adjustments stick when he comes back in 2020.

★ ★ ★

Tomorrow, we’ll begin our look at the top half of the mid-season 2019 PuRPs list!