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Colorado Rockies prospect rankings, mid-season 2019: numbers 10-6

The future infielders conglomerate

It’s time to enter the top 10 of the mid-season 2019 Purple Row Prospects (PuRPs) list. First we revealed prospects 30-26, then we had prospects 25-21, next was prospects 20-16, yesterday was prospects 15-11, and today we’ll reveal prospects 10-6. 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.

10. Ben Bowden (519 points, 27 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: 17 — High Ballot 4, Mode Ballot 11

How did he enter the organization?

2016 2nd Round, Vanderbilt University

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

Bowden represents a reliever who has both a strong prospect pedigree and strong results this year. The 24-year-old lefty hasn’t had the smooth ride to the Show that was anticipated when he was picked in the second round three years ago, mostly due to injury. With that said, he’s put up good numbers to match the scouting reports when he has been healthy.

This year, Bowden started out in Double-A Hartford, where he was dominant. In 25 23 innings, Bowden saved 20 games with a 1.05 ERA and 14.7 K/9 rate with a 2.5 BB/9 rate and 0.58 WHIP. That was enough to earn him a promotion to Triple-A in late June and a selection to the prestigious Futures Game which, uh, didn’t go well.

Albuquerque hasn’t been easy either, as Bowden has a 7.30 ERA in 12 13 innings, in which he’s struck out 15 and walked 7. Much of that is due to one rough outing though and the Pacific Coast League is crazy this year. Still, I’d like to see Bowden find some success at the level before he makes his way into Colorado’s bullpen.

What do the scouts say?

Bowden is ranked 8th in the system by

He’ll aggressively go right after hitters with his three-pitch mix with an ability to challenge in all areas of the strike zone. He throws his fastball up to 97 mph downhill with good late life and his tumbling changeup is at least above-average. His breaking ball has been improving and is looking more and more like a tight slider.

That breaking ball will be a focus for Bowden and the Rockies think that once it clicks, he has the chance to be a true impact reliever. With his demeanor and ability to miss bats, he could be a valuable left-handed setup man when all is said and done.

The profile is highlighted by a 60 fastball grade, paired with average to slightly above control, slider, and change-up grades.

FanGraphs is less sanguine about Bowden, ranking him 23rd in the system on THE BOARD with a FV 40 grade:

Some teams thought Bowden had been buried by the pitching depth at Vanderbilt and might be able to start in pro ball. A second round pick and $1.6 million bonus were indicators that the Rockies might be one of them but, perhaps in part due to injury, he’s only pitched in relief as a pro. He has a mid-90s sinker and plus changeup, which should enable him to pitch in middle relief.

Baseball Prospectus ranked Bowden 13th in the system pre-season (comments are in concert with Robert Tyler, who ranked 14th on their list):

Both have fast-track potential if they show well [in AA]. Tyler was gassed at the end of the season, while Bowden held up better and flashed a slightly higher-end ceiling. Tyler throws a bit harder and Bowden offers a quality pitch mix from the left side. Neither looks like a budding relief ace but they could both wind up as valuable bullpen contributors.

Here’s video of Bowden from an outing last month in Hartford, where you can really see the late arm side run on his fastball:

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

In a year in which many of Colorado’s relief arms haven’t gotten the job done, Bowden has stood out as a likely MLB contributor as soon as next year. He’s Rule 5 eligible this off-season, but in my opinion the decision to add him to the 40 man roster will be an easy one, as I see Bowden as having the edge on every other relief arm in the system.

I value Bowden’s ability to miss bats, get batters out from both the left and the right side as a southpaw, and handle more than an inning if necessary. The combination of pedigree, production, and scouting reports led me to rank him 15th on my personal ballot with a FV 40 grade as a likely middle reliever.

★ ★ ★

9. Tyler Nevin (547 points, 29 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: 7 — High Ballot 6, Mode Ballot 9, 11

How did he enter the organization?

2015 Competitive Balance Round A, Poway (CA) HS

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

The injury-plagued corner infielder with stellar major league bloodlines, plus makeup, and a strong feel for hitting ended 2018 on a positive note, winning the Arizona Fall League batting title, putting him back on scouting radars after effects from injuries sapped enthusiasm for his prospect candidacy. Fortunately, the 22-year-old righty has avoided the injury bug this year in Double-A. Unfortunately, he just hasn’t hit the way his talent suggests he can at the level.

In 403 PAs in Hartford against pitchers who are on average about 2 years older, Nevin has a .239/.342/.334 line with just 21 extra base hits (5 HR). On the plus side, he’s walking 13% of the time and striking out 18% of the time, good plate discipline numbers in today’s baseball, and overall the line is still slightly above league average (101 wRC+). Still, much more was expected out of Nevin offensively, who has spent most of his time at first base in deference to Colton Welker but who also has experimented in left field as well.

What do the scouts say?

Nevin is ranked 11th by

Nevin has always shown the ability to hit for average. He has an advanced approach at the plate, showing a willingness to see pitches and a knack for barreling up the baseball. He drives the ball to the gaps and started to show his raw power in games more in 2018, though he’s never one to sell out for home runs. A third baseman in high school and at the outset of his career, Nevin has seen more time at first than the hot corner, though he continues to get reps at both, including during his AFL stint. He has good hands and actions that point to being a solid defender at first.

The report gives him average tools everywhere except a 40 run grade.

FanGraphs ranks Nevin 6th in the system on THE BOARD with a FV 45 grade:

It’s hard to find scouts and teams who are all in on Nevin because a) he’s been hurt a lot and b) he profiles as a hit-over-power first baseman. Lean but big-framed, Nevin lacks the lateral agility to be anything more than a 40 or 45 defender at third base. We’ve seen him hit oppo homers but it comes from quality, barreled contact rather than raw strength and power. It’s an atypical offensive recipe for a first base prospect, and it’s rare for contact-centric first baseman to work out, especially when they hit right-handed. Teams have him evaluated as a corner infield tweener who either hits enough to be a regular or ends up on a bench.

Adam McInturff of 2080 Baseball had a full writeup of Nevin after the AFL, including granular tool evaluations. Here’s his summary:

Pressure on the bat given 1B-only profile, but has the tools to mash enough for an everyday role in the best-case scenario. Will need to grow into at least avg game power to reach his ceiling. Feel for the barrel is a real separator, has what it takes to be a longtime big leaguer.

In their pre-season system evaluation, Baseball Prospectus ranked Nevin 8th in the system with a 55 OFP/45 Likely role evaluation:

Health has been a limiting factor for Nevin since he was knee-high to a baseball-playing grasshopper. But he finally showed flashes of what he’s capable of with the bat last season. He wears the standard Lancaster caveat for last year’s when-healthy production, but he attacks hittable pitches in the zone well and he can hit balls that’ll get out of any stadium. He’s built long, square, and powerful, and the swing stays fluid off a long stride into the attack. He sprayed balls all over the place in Arizona in a rousing fall campaign, and has at least enough physicality and arm strength to keep giving him reps at third base.

Finally, Keith Law of had this to say pre-season about Nevin when he ranked him 8th in the system:

Tyler Nevin had a modest breakout last year that needs a little skepticism since it came at hitter-friendly Lancaster, but he hit for a higher average on the road and made a lot of contact everywhere. The right-right bats/throws first-base profile is an unusual one but he has a really good, efficient swing, looks like he’ll have above-average power, and is fine around the bag; he has played some third but that seems unlikely on more than an emergency basis. The biggest issue for Nevin will be staying healthy; last year was his first season hitting 400 plate appearances, and he still missed several weeks with quadriceps injuries.

Here’s some video of Nevin 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?

Nevin has a bat-first profile for certain, carried by what the evaluators agree is an advanced approach with good barrel control. Despite the work he’s put in at the hot corner, Nevin seems destined for a first base role in the majors, which of course raises the pressure on the hit tool (and power to an extent) to come through. He’ll have quite a bit of competition for opportunity in that role from the players already above him on the ladder in Triple-A and MLB, not to mention Welker and some players in the lower rungs of the system.

Nevin will be Rule 5 eligible this off-season and I think it’s quite likely that he is protected with a 40 man roster slot. With that said, he really needs to differentiate himself from those candidates to get the opportunity to mash at the big league level. I believe in the bat’s potential and think he can fake it at third base enough, which is why I ranked Nevin 8th in the system with a FV 40+ grade on my personal ballot.

★ ★ ★

8. Ryan Vilade (605 points, 28 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: 9 — High Ballot 4, Mode Ballot 6

How did he enter the organization?

2017 2nd Round, Stillwater (OK) HS

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

Vilade has a strong draft pedigree, plus he is hitting at an above average level in High A ball this year as a 20-year-old playing mostly shortstop (despite most assuming he’d play third in pro ball). That’s a strong trajectory toward becoming a big league regular.

In 445 PAs with High A Lancaster as one of the youngest players in the California League (2.5 years younger than average), Vilade has a .282/.353/.421 line with 36 extra base hits (5 HR) and 15 steals out of 19 attempts. While you’d like to see more power out of a player in one of the most hitter-friendly home parks in baseball, that line is still good for a 113 wRC+. Of course, Vilade shows a big .935/.632 home/road OPS split, so there are some concerns about how “real” his numbers are, but honestly that’s going to almost always be the case for a Rockies prospect, fair or not.

What do the scouts say?

Vilade is ranked 5th in the system by FanGraphs, with a FV 45 grade on THE BOARD:

Vilade has not developed as expected to this point. We anticipated he’d move quickly to third base in pro ball, but hit for enough power to overcome it. Instead, he has held serve a shortstop and only just begun to see time at third, but has struggled to get to his considerable raw power in games. His lower half usage has improved, but Vilade’s bat still has downward entry into the hitting zone and he doesn’t extend well through contact. He has a nearly 50% groundball rate as a pro and ends up pushing a lot of contact the other way. There’s ceiling here because of Vilade’s shot to stay at short and adjust his way into game power, but there’s a low floor if he moves to third and can’t make tweaks. ranks Vilade 6th in the org:

Vilade’s ability to shake off a terrible start in the South Atlantic League as a teenager speaks volumes about his ability to learn and make adjustments as a hitter. He has a tremendous feel to hit with excellent bat speed and a quick swing from the right side of the plate. There’s a lot of raw power to tap into, with the chance for Vilade to eventually have plus pop that he’ll get to thanks to his approach. While few doubt he’ll hit, there is more question about what position he ultimately plays. The Rockies like moving infielders around during development, doing it with top prospect Brendan Rodgers, for example, and Vilade will do the same moving forward after only playing shortstop in his first year-plus as a pro.

Vilade will have the opportunity to stay at shortstop, but given that he’s already bigger and stronger than he was when last season ended, it’s easy to see him outgrowing the position. He could slide over to third or across to second full-time in the future. One thing the Rockies love about positional flexibility is that it will be easier to get Vilade’s potent bat into a big league lineup once he’s ready.

The report rates Vilade’s arm as plus, with only a 45 run grade coming in below average.

Wilson Karaman of Baseball Prospectus had a look at Vilade in April:

Long and lean, his athletic frame can and should wear a bunch of additional strength through maturity, especially if he eventually moves off of his current assignment at the six. Right now, it looks like an even-odds proposition; he’s not a quick-twitch guy, the feet are a little heavy when he runs and changes direction, and he lacks for that lateral quickness and explosion to the ball you want to see in a true shortstop. But he’s a fluid defender with smooth physicality, and he showed the ability to make strong, accurate throws on the move. He favors a drop-down throwing style on even routine plays, and the mechanics give pause as to just how consistent that accuracy can be. He made all his throws in my first look, showing a solid internal clock and pace in so doing. He’s an aggressive base runner despite speed that looks to be more average, and he has thus far picked his spots well to break and attempt thieve.

I really like the offensive building blocks. The swing is short and compact, with a toe-tap timing mechanism that helps him stay back and make advanced in-swing adjustments to stay on off-speed stuff. The hips fire strong and efficient, and he’s able to trigger quickly to generate quality bat speed that proved capable of catching elevated velocity. He already shows some ability to attack the ball with plane, and it sure looks like there should be plus power there as he fills out. How soon he’ll be able to get to it and bring it into games on the regular remains to be seen, but there’s enough raw hitting talent here that some optimism is warranted.

2080 Baseball has some video of Vilade from July 2018:

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

I’m a believer in the profile, more so than most of the electorate in fact, placing Vilade 5th on my personal ballot with the expectation he moves over to third base eventually but still giving him a FV 45+ grade as a second division major league regular. I expect Vilade to eventually be a top 5 PuRP as he moves up the ladder, especially in a system this thin.

The 20-year old is probably about two years away from the Show, but he’s been impressive so far as a pro, especially given his youth and the way he’s made in-season adjustments against advanced competition. If Vilade can stick at shortstop (the scouts are leery), the offensive profile makes him a much more interesting prospect than I expected when he was drafted. He’ll continue his prospect journey next year in a more neutral environment in the Double-A Eastern League, where we’ll see if Vilade can hit advanced pitching and if he stays at shortstop or moves off it in favor of a prospect like Terrin Vavra.

★ ★ ★

7. Terrin Vavra (637 points, 29 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: 13 — High Ballot 5, Mode Ballot 9

How did he enter the organization?

2018 3rd Round, University of Minnesota

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

Vavra is having an excellent offensive campaign at a level which he has clearly mastered. The 22-year-old infielder is the third prospect in a row on this list who has baseball in his blood, strong make-up, and a good feel for hitting. The lefty hitter has split his time this year between second and shortstop, though the former seems like a more likely place for him to stick in the upper minors.

In 436 PAs for Low A Asheville, where he is 0.5 years older than average, Vavra is mashing to the tune of a .319/.409/.486 line with 40 extra base hits (10 HR) and is 18/27 stealing bases, equating to a 155 wRC+ at the level. It’s curious that the Rockies haven’t moved him up with those kinds of numbers, but there certainly is stuff for Vavra to work on. He has a massive home/road OPS split of 1.129/.636 while he is also struggling vs. lefties, carrying a .641/.967 L/R OPS split. He as also committed 24 errors at the level this year, indicating some things that need to be cleaned up on that side as well. Still, we can celebrate a player like Vavra who has been a strong offensive performer this year at a premium defensive position.

What do the scouts say?

Vavra is ranked 7th by

Put simply, Vavra just hits wherever he goes. Utilizing a short stroke from the left side of the plate, he always stays within himself, focusing on using the middle of the field. The result is line drives to all fields, consistently professional at-bats with a strong strikeout-to-walk ratio, and some sneaky extra-base authority. On the other side of the ball, Vavra is a steady, but not flashy, defender who makes all the plays from multiple positions. He can handle shortstop, but his arm and range might not be a fit to be a regular there. He plays a very good second base as well.

The Rockies love infielders with positional flexibility, and Vavra will mix some third base in as he moves forward. Some in the organization compare him favorably to fellow infield prospect Garrett Hampson, without as much speed, with the competitiveness and makeup similar to, but with more offensive potential, another Rockie infielder, Pat Valaika.

Vavra’s only above average tool in that report is his 55 hit tool and the only below average one is the 45 power.

Vavra is 9th on THE BOARD, getting a FV 40+ grade from FanGraphs:

He’s a patient hitter with an athletic swing who gets the most out of his slight build without often compromising his feel for contact. One source we spoke with thinks his swing is kind of grooved, but everyone else thinks he’s going to hit, have doubles power, and reach base at an above-average clip. That could play everyday if Vavra sticks at either shortstop or second base, which is where he’s seen time thus far in pro ball, but amateur evaluators thought he may ultimately end up at third base. A realistic outcome, should he shift to third, is that of a versatile lefty utility bat, but Vavra has a shot to be an everyday player.

Forrest Stulting of Baseball Prospectus had a write-up of Vavra in May:

He’s not an intimidating presence in the box, standing 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, but the lefty has sneaky power. He can hit it hard to all fields, though his home run pop is currently to the pull side. In my two looks he was able to handle velocity in and out, and he controlled the zone pretty well. A flatter swing and simple load help him find the barrel. With the glove, Vavra has good range and footwork at shortstop. However, I question if his arm strength will be able to play there at higher levels. His throws did not carry well and started to sink three-quarters of the way to the bag. He did show good accuracy, though.

Adam McInturff of 2080 Baseball profiled Vavra this April and gave him a FV 40 grade — here was his conclusion (really good granular detail at the link):

Fundamental, high-instincts player that’s light on raw tools. Well-rounded game gives ceiling of a bench player; risk he blends in at higher levels and winds up a 4A type.

Here’s some video of Vavra from this April accompanying the 2080 Baseball report:

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

The profile is encouraging and, given Vavra’s baseball upbringing, he seems to have a higher likelihood of maximizing his potential. That sounds like a player with a big league future to me, even if that future is more Pat Valaika than Troy Tulowitzki. It’s still a nice profile at this stage in his development, and it’s a good outlook for a 3rd round pick.

At this point, it seems like Vavra seems primed to follow the Garrett Hampson fast track to the major leagues (both the position and draft round are identical, though the profile is not), with an assignment at High A to begin 2020 or even a bump up to Double-A a possibility. He’ll be racing against first round pick Ryan Rolison to be the first from the 2018 draft class to the big leagues. I placed Vavra 9th on my personal ballot with a FV 40+ grade as an advanced hitter with plus make-up who has a high floor.

★ ★ ★

6. Michael Toglia (677 points, 29 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: NR — High Ballot 4, Mode Ballot 5

How did he enter the organization?

2019 1st Round, UCLA

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

Colorado’s first round pick is a switch-hitter with power who should provide good defense at first base. Though he was ranked more in the pick 40-50 range by and FanGraphs, the Rockies couldn’t pass up drafting a player 23rd overall that they had selected three years earlier when Toglia was in high school.

The 20-year-old signed in mid-June for about $2.7 million, just under slot, and was assigned to Short Season A Boise. Against pitchers who are aon average about 0.7 years older in a pitching-heavy Northwest League, Toglia has a .241/.356/.451 line with 14 extra base hits (7 HR) in 156 PAs. Though he is striking out 28% of the time (walking 14%), Toglia has produced a 125 wRC+ at the level. He’s struggling at home (.738 vs. .906 road OPS) and against lefties (.521 vs. .887 OPS against righties) in what admittedly is still a small sample. The swing and miss is something that prospect watchers will certainly be keeping an eye on as he moves up to higher levels.

What do the scouts say?

Toglia is 8th on THE BOARD for FanGraphs with a FV 40+ grade:

He didn’t have the junior season we hoped/anticipated he would, but Toglia remains a rare sort of prospect. He’s a switch-hitter with power from both sides of the plate, who is also a plus defender at first base. He got hot late during UCLA’s season. He’s a high-probability big leaguer, especially because he’s athletically viable in the outfield, too. But because he’s primarily a 1B, he needs to perform as he climbs to retain prospect/trade value.

He is rated 5th in the system (and 10th among all 1B prospects) by

Toglia is a solid athlete, especially given his 6-foot-5 frame that he’s still growing into. And as a kid from the Northwest, he’s still growing into the game. He’s shown huge raw power from both sides of the plate, with some scouts putting a 70 on his raw power, but there are some questions about his ability to make enough contact to tap into it consistently. He was streaky during his junior year, but showed what he can do when he’s locked in. Athletic enough to handle an outfield corner, he’s a plus defender at first who can save runs at the infield corner and that’s where he played exclusively during his pro debut in the short-season Northwest League.

Just 20 years old when he was drafted, Toglia was one of the youngest college juniors in the country. It’s rare to find a college bat with projection, but Toglia does have a pretty high ceiling as a middle-of-the-order run producer if he can continue to refine his approach.

That evaluation includes plus grades for power and fielding with a 55 arm grade as well but is hampered by 45s on hit and run tools.

Here’s the analysis MLB Network had when Toglia was drafted, including a look at both his left and right-handed swings:

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

Toglia was a younger junior-eligible player who won’t look out of place in Low A next year, putting him at least 2-3 years out from a Major League debut. I hope, with his pedigree, that Toglia is at least knocking down the door to High A at this time next year as Vavra has done this season.

The offensive profile is certainly an enticing one, and we’ll see if the Rockies end up trying Toglia in an outside corner as he moves up the minor league ladder, as there are all of a sudden quite a few first base mashers in the system. I ranked Toglia 7th on my personal PuRPs ballot with a FV 45 grade as an offense-first player with tremendous, middle of the order potential, though I worry about whether he’ll be able to handle advanced pitching.

★ ★ ★

Next time we’ll get to the top five of the mid-season 2019 PuRPs list.