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Colorado Rockies prospect rankings, mid-season 2019: numbers 15-11

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The fringe bat part of the list

We’re moving forward with the mid-season 2019 Purple Row Prospects (PuRPs) list. First we revealed prospects 30-26, then we had prospects 25-21, yesterday was prospects 20-16, and today we’ll show you 15-11. 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.

15. Yonathan Daza (408 points, 27 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: 14 — High Ballot 6, Mode Ballot 12

How did he enter the organization?

2010 IFA, Venezuela

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

Daza is an excellent defensive outfielder who is tearing up Triple-A offensively. The 25-year-old righty is also the player on this list who has by far (about 4 years) the longest tenure in the Rockies organization, having been signed way back in late 2010 out of Venezuela. It really took Daza until 2017 for his production to catch up to his tools, and since then he’s had a strong upward trajectory in the organization, including an MLB cameo this year.

After being limited by hamstring issues to just 54 games in 2018, Daza has been healthy and productive in his time in the minor leagues this year. In 400 PAs this year with Triple-A Albuquerque, Daza has an impressive .369/.409/.557 line with 44 extra base hits (11 HR), though in the supercharged offensive environment of the Pacific Coast League that’s only a 135 wRC+ (still a great number). He’s done this without big splits and while striking out only 12% of the time (walking 6%).

That combined with his strong defensive accolades should make Daza an exciting potential impact prospect to watch, but I suspect Rockies prospect watchers are also weighing Daza’s subpar big league cameo. In 19 plate appearances spread over 3 separate stints with the Rockies this year, Daza managed just one single and one walk with five strikeouts. While that’s not great, it’s not a prospect death sentence either. The Rockies just haven’t decided they need another full-time reserve outfielder since May, so Daza hasn’t had an opportunity for a good second impression.

What do the scouts say?

Daza is presently rated 10th in the system by MLB.com:

Daza has a knack for barreling up the baseball and picks up hits in bunches, and while he’s perfectly happy to shoot line drives the other way, he did start turning on pitches and driving them to his pull side more effectively in 2018, though over-the-fence power is never going to be a big part of his game. He’s not a burner, but he runs well enough to be an effective baserunner and uses his speed well in center field.

Considered the best center field prospect in the system, he has plus instincts, reads and routes to go along with excellent first-step quickness. He makes it look easy out there as a true ball hawk. How he continues to impact the baseball might determine his ultimate ceiling, but at the very least, he’s a very valuable fourth outfielder.

Baseball Prospectus has been Daza’s most prominent champions of late, and their placement of him at 9th in the system pre-season is no exception. Here’s Jeffrey Paternostro on Daza:

He’s a quick-twitch athlete, a plus runner who’s a steady defender in center field, and he shows enough arm for right. His bat needs to take a step forward to get him over the hump from fourth outfielder to starter, though.

Daza’s swing is loose—in a good way—with quick wrists. It’s bat speed over barrel control at present. He has the raw physical tools for average hit, but struggles with spin and his general aggressiveness at the plate looks ripe for exploitation by major-league arms. There’s enough strength and loft—he’ll put a charge in a mistake—to project average power, but you wonder how much of that he will get into games against elite pitching.

Here’s video of Daza from July 2018 courtesy of 2080 Baseball:

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

Daza represents a rarity in Colorado’s system — an honest to goodness right-handed hitting outfield prospect. More important than handedness is Daza’s status as likely the organization’s best defensive outfielder. If you believe MLB.com’s evaluation, he possesses a 70 arm and plus speed, as well as a 55 hit tool. Certainly there are also warts with the profile, most notably a lack of power, concerns that the hit tool won’t play as well against more advanced pitching, and the fact that he only got to Triple-A as a 25-year old.

Put it all together and you get a very likely MLB 4th outfielder with the potential to be a big league regular if the defense and hit tool both play up. Opinions vary on how valuable that is for a prospect, but for me it was valuable enough for me to rank Daza 13th on my personal list with a FV 40 grade. Even if Daza just becomes what Raimel Tapia has turned out to be thus far or even just a rich man’s Noel Cuevas, that’s a big win for a prospect who a year or two ago was on his way out of pro ball altogether.

★ ★ ★

14. Sam Hilliard (410 points, 26 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: 11 — High Ballot 7, Mode Ballot 17

How did he enter the organization?

2015 15th Round, Wichita State University

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

The main reason is that Hilliard possesses excellent athleticism in a 6’5”, 225 pound frame. That includes plus speed, a plus arm (he was a two-way player in college), and average defense to go with average power (plus raw power) and a passable hit tool — not bad for a 15th round pick! Put it together and that’s a profile that suggests a major league regular outfielder. The Rockies think the potential is there, as they protected Hilliard from the Rule 5 draft this off-season by awarding Hilliard a 40 man roster spot after a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League.

That’s not to say there aren’t concerns about the profile. Foremost among these concerns is strikeouts, as Hilliard has has consistently had a strikeout rate in the mid to upper 20s. In addition, the 25-year-old lefty only faced competition that was younger than him until Double-A and has been the beneficiary of some great hitter’s parks along the way.

Hilliard received a bump up to Triple-A this year, where his power has been accentuated by the new ball at the level. In 450 PAs with Albuquerque, Hilliard’s 28 HRs (and 57 total extra base hits) stand out, but the overall resulting .255/.318/.547 line is actually just below league average (98 wRC+). He’s showing a .939/.784 home/road OPS split but is actually relatively even against R/L pitching. Hilliard also is showing off that plus speed at the level, swiping 18 bags in 22 opportunities this year.

What do the scouts say?

Hilliard is currently ranked 9th in the system by MLB.com:

On any given day, Hilliard will show all five tools. Given that he didn’t really start focusing on his offensive game until college, he’s still learning to hit. He made some adjustments to his swing at the end of his 2018 season, adding a small leg kick to replace a toe tap with strong results, especially in the AFL. It allowed him to keep his weight back, wait on breaking balls more and lay off of ones out of the strike zone, something that has previously plagued him. It should help him tap into his easily plus raw power more consistently. He runs very well for his size and while he has seen time in all three outfield spots, he fits the profile of an athletic power-hitting right fielder with a plus arm.

Because of his size, athleticism and tools, Hilliard sometimes gets Larry Walker comps, minus the plus hit tool. That’s an unfair standard obviously, but there is ceiling for Hilliard to still grow into.

The hit tool (45) is the only one below 50 in that evaluation, with the run and arm both rated plus.

In their pre-season system overview, Hilliard was listed as a prospect of interest by Baseball Prospectus:

He’s sneaky athletic, an average runner who’s a good glove/plus arm in right and could probably even stand in center for you once a week. It is still a corner outfield profile though, and the bat may not carry it.

The power is on point. It’s plus raw and Hilliard will absolutely punish mistakes, but the stiffness in his swing and pitch recognition issues limited how much of that raw got into games against Double-A arms. Hilliard also has platoon issues, and it’s fair to mention that he benefited from Hartford’s short porch in right. He will be 25 before Opening Day. He straddles the bench outfielder/org guy line for now, but I always liked Jordan Patterson more than most too.

Keith Law of ESPN.com ranked Hilliard 9th in the system pre-season:

The former 15th-round pick still has above-average to plus power, plus speed and a plus arm, tools that would give him a long run as an extra outfielder if he could get his contact rate up, but his approach and off-speed pitch recognition aren’t there yet.

Here’s some video of Hilliard in the AFL, courtesy of 2080 Baseball:

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

No doubt there is a lot of risk in Hilliard’s profile, mostly deriving from questions about contact ability. Still, Hilliard’s athleticism and skill represents a potential big league regular if it comes together, and that’s something to be celebrated from a mid-round draft pick. If he can display the ability to adjust his approach against more advanced pitching, he could muscle his way into the big league roster picture as soon as later this year, though a 2020 debut might make more sense.

I ranked Hilliard 14th in the system with a FV 40 grade as a reserve outfielder with significant upside (and significant risk). I do think it’s an indictment of the system’s relative lack of impact prospects that a player with Hilliard’s flaws ranks so highly, but I’ll have more to say about that at the end of this series.

★ ★ ★

13. Karl Kauffmann (459 points, 27 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: NR — High Ballot 3, Mode Ballot 12, 16

How did he enter the organization?

2019 Competitive Balance Round B, University of Michigan

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

Kauffmann received a lot of exposure in June when he was one of two primary starting pitchers on a Michigan team that finished as the runner-up in the College World Series, all after getting picked with the 77th overall pick by the Rockies in the draft (an overdraft according to some of the national prospect watchers, who had him outside the top 100). He signed in early July, the last of Colorado’s draftees to do so, for slot money of just over $800k.

The 6’2”, 21-year-old right-hander threw 114 23 innings this year for Michigan with a 2.59 ERA and 1.05 WHIP, including a 7.9 K/9 rate and 2.4 BB/9 rate. Given Kauffmann’s heavy workload already this year, it’s not surprising that the Rockies are easing him into professional ball. Kauffmann was assigned directly to Low A Asheville but has yet to make his professional debut.

What do the scouts say?

Kauffmann debuted on MLB.com’s Rockies org list at #14 (he was #110 on their draft list):

Kauffmann owned one of the livelier fastballs in the college ranks, usually operating at 91-94 mph, topping out at 96 and holding his velocity deep into games. Its running and sinking action mirrors that of his solid changeup, which he sells well and has good separation from his heater. His slider ranges from 81-86 mph and can be an above-average pitch at times, though it lacks the consistency of his other two offerings.

While Kauffmann has some effort in his delivery, he repeats it well and doesn’t have any difficulty throwing strikes. He has a relatively high floor as a three-pitch starter with a track record of performance. His ability to generate ground balls will make him useful as a reliever if he can’t cut it in a pro rotation.

Kauffmann is ranked 28th on THE BOARD by FanGraphs with a FV 35+ grade:

Kauffmann is a one-seam sinker/changeup righty with a pretty firm, inconsistent mid-80s slider. A refined slider gives him a good shot to pitch in the back of a rotation.

In a pre-draft report, 2080 Baseball had this to say about Kauffmann:

At his best, Kauffman attacks with sinkers in the 92-to-94 mph range paired with an above average mid-80s slider that one National League scout said could get major leaguers out now. Seldomly, he’ll mix in a firm 85-to-87 mph changeup that has deceptive arm speed but lacks movement. Kaufmann has flashed the stuff to remain in the rotation as a professional, profiling as a back-end starter.

Here’s some video of Kauffmann from this April courtesy of 2080 Baseball:

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

Looking through the scouting reports, it seems like Kauffmann has an advanced approach that will serve him well in the lower minors — and the Rockies hope he also has success against more advanced competition. Pitching prospects that are a good bet to remain in the starting rotation are rare in Colorado’s system, so Kauffmann is certainly a player to watch moving forward. Overall, the combination of pedigree and scouting led me to rank Kauffmann 18th in the system with a FV 40 grade.

★ ★ ★

12. Rico Garcia (500 points, 28 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: 20 — High Ballot 6, Mode Ballot 12

How did he enter the organization?

2016 30th Round, Hawaii Pacific University

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

The 5’11” Garcia had humble draft origins but has distinguished himself repeatedly at higher and higher levels as a pitching prospect to watch. The 25-year-old right-hander spent 2018 breaking out in the tough High A California League and then pitching well after a mid-season promotion to Double-A. In all, he posted a 2.96 ERA and 162 strikeouts across 167 innings in 2018.

Garcia was assigned back to Double-A to start the year, and he didn’t disappoint, throwing 68 innings over 13 starts with a 1.85 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 11.5 K/9 rate, and 3.0 BB/9 rate. That was enough to earn a promotion to Triple-A in June. With Albuquerque, Garcia has found it much harder going in the Pacific Coast League. In 30 innings across 7 starts, Garcia has a 7.80 ERA and 1.73 WHIP, though his 8.7 K/9 rate and 3.0 BB/9 rate are decent. His 5.46 xFIP also suggests that Garcia has been somewhat unlucky to receive his results so far. He’s been much worse at home (11.12 ERA) vs. the road (5.79 ERA) though the sample size is small.

What do the scouts say?

Garcia is ranked 20th in the system by MLB.com:

While he is just 5-foot-11, Garcia still manages to get good downhill plane, and his fearlessness on the mound helps his stuff play up. Thanks to a structured throwing program, he’s managed to add 3-4 mph on his fastball since signing and will sit in the low-90s with the ability to reach back for more with his four-seamer on occasion, while his two-seamer has cutting action to it. His breaking ball can be a plus pitch, with late knee-buckling action to it, thrown in the 80-81 mph range. His changeup gives him what should be a solid third option.

Garcia has shown he can throw strikes, though there’s still work to be done with his command within the zone. As the Rockies have challenged him to build up innings aggressively, he’s answered the bell, with the hopes he can be a 180-200 IP back-end starter, with the knowledge that his fastball-curve might play up out of the bullpen as a solid backup plan.

The evaluation gives Garcia a 55 grade on his fastball and curveball with 50 grades on his changeup and control.

In their pre-season Rockies top 10 prospects list, Baseball Prospectus didn’t list Garcia among the top tier but he did merit an honorable mention as number 15 on the list:

There is minimal projection left for Garcia, but he’s effective filling up the zone with three averageish offerings. The fastball sits low-90s (although he has flashed higher at times) and features some sink and run from his high-three-quarters slot. His slider is pinned around 80. While it lacks consistent shape, the best are solid-average with late, tight bite. The changeup is on the fringier side of average and is a clear third pitch. Garcia is a shorter, overaged righty, but the present stuff is good enough for a backend starter or swing projection, with a middle relief fallback if he finds more velo in shorter bursts.

FanGraphs doesn’t rank Garcia among the top 34 in the system on THE BOARD, but Eric Longenhagen did provide a writeup of Garcia this May:

Garcia will sit 93-96 and touch 97 early in outings but lose command and zip later in starts. There are a variety of opinions about Garcia’s delivery, as one source thinks his deliberately paced mechanics are easy for hitters to time, while another thinks Garcia hides the ball really well. He’ll flash an above-average changeup and slider, and shows an ability to manipulate the fastball to sink and cut at various times. He’s more of a middle relief candidate than potential rotation piece, but it appears Colorado has found a big league piece in the 30th round.

There’s not much video out there on Garcia, but here’s a snippet from Wilson Karaman of Baseball Prospectus from April 2018:

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

Despite the disagreement between the three evaluations about the identity of Garcia’s secondary pitch (it’s a curveball, not a slider), the middle relief tag was consistent. The 25-year old has done quite well to go from a 30th round pick with a $1,000 signing bonus to a player who will be in strong contention for a 40 man roster slot after 2019, but the work is far from over.

Garcia joins a crowd of pitching prospects fighting for those scarce 40-man roster slots. If the Rockies do intend to protect Garcia, he could even be a call-up later this year, though a 2020 debut is much more likely. The lack of pedigree was overcome by pure performance for me on my personal list, though I was more conservative than most of the electorate as I ranked Garcia 19th with a FV 40 grade as a potential back-end starter or middle reliever.

★ ★ ★

11. Aaron Schunk (516 points, 29 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: NR — High Ballot 6, Mode Ballot 10

How did he enter the organization?

2019 2nd Round, University of Georgia

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

Schunk has the kind of draft pedigree that merits almost an automatic spot on the PuRPs list. He was picked 62nd overall this year from Georgia and signed for slot money at just over $1.1 million. Fortunately, the 22-year-old third baseman is also off to a strong start in his debut professional season to help support the draft hype.

Schunk was assigned to Short Season A Boise in the pitcher-friendly Northwest League, where he is of average age. In 169 PAs so far, Schunk has mashed to the tune of a .329/.391/.553 line with 20 extra base hits (6 HR), which equates to an excellent 161 wRC+. With that line (which does include a 1.074/.744 home/road OPS split), Schunk thus far has exceeded the high expectations that come from a high draft pick in short season ball, with a late season promotion to Asheville a possibility.

What do the scouts say?

Schunk was ranked 92nd in the draft class by MLB.com and is currently 12th in the system:

Schunk makes consistent line-drive contact from the right side of the plate and improved offensively in each of his three seasons with the Bulldogs. He has the strength and bat speed to hit for more power -- he shows at least solid raw pop in batting practice and more than tripled his career home run total as a junior -- but he’ll probably top out at 12-15 homers per year unless he adds more loft to his swing. He puts the bat on the ball so easily that he rarely walks, another adjustment he’ll have to make as he progresses in his pro career.

Schunk has fringy speed out of the batter’s box but a quicker first step that helps make him at least a solid defender at third base. He also has soft hands and a strong arm, though he needs to improve his defensive consistency. If everything comes together, he could be a .270 hitter with 20 homers who’s an asset at the hot corner.

Schunk was 42nd on the FanGraphs draft board and he slots in at 11th in the system on THE BOARD with a FV 40+ grade:

Schunk is yet another college swing change candidate. He has above average to plus defensive ability and arm strength, to the point where some scouts think he may also be able to catch. Schunk also pitched in the low-90’s in relief for a loaded Georgia squad. His offensive approach is mostly line drive/grounders to the opposite field, but he has 15-20 homer raw power if he would pull and lift the ball more. His approach is solid and may also benefit from a professional approach. He could be an everyday third baseman.

Here was David Lee of Baseball Prospectus on Schunk pre-draft:

Schunk has really come on as a slugging corner infielder with the bat to make it work as a pro, making him the biggest 2019 name at Georgia. The obvious tool is plus-potential power with over-the-fence pop to all fields. He’s a big dude with big present strength, but it’s an athletic big in a similar form as Austin Riley. The bat is quicker than you’d think and he shows a promising feel to hit that could overcome velo inside (because he’s going to get a lot of it as a pro). Like Riley, he’s athletic for his size at third base and will stick, adding a plus arm that would play anywhere.

Here’s some video of Schunk from July 2018 in the Cape Cod League courtesy of 2080 Baseball:

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

Schunk is doing everything right thus far and that could result to a promotion all the way to High A to start next year, though Low A is more likely. At that pace, he could be in contention for big league contribution within 2-3 years. Of course, Schunk’s primary defensive position is blocked at both the major league and upper minor league levels, so his path forward is somewhat dependent on how that logjam ahead of him gets resolved.

As a second rounder with good performance so far, I ranked Schunk 10th in the system with a FV 40+ grade on my personal ballot — and 7 of the players ahead of him are also infielders.

★ ★ ★

Stay tuned for the top 10 Purple Row Prospects!