23. Julio Carreras (148 points, 11 ballots)
Unlike some of the other Latin American prospects that have been or will be covered in this process, Julio Carreras was unheralded and didn’t make headlines with a big signing bonus. In fact, the just turned 20-year-old infielder wasn’t signed until he was 17, in February 2017, for a $15,000 bonus. For players like Carreras, who spent the plurality of his time at third but also played short and second in 2019, 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 2019 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 the report’s veracity by opting to send Carreras stateside to Grand Junction in 2019. Against pitchers who were on average 1.6 years older, Carreras posted a .294/.369/.466 line with 27 extra-base hits (5 HR) and 14 steals in 307 plate appearances, representing a strong 120 wRC+. Carreras walked 8.1% and struck out 20.5% of the time while hitting in the top three spots of the lineup. Carreras seems likely to play full-season ball next year, a stiffer test for the helium prospect.
Here’s some video of him from Extended Spring Training in 2019 courtesy of FanGraphs:
After his performance in 2019, the scouting accolades continued to roll in for Carreras. FanGraphs ranked him 14th in the system with a 40+ FV grade:
All of the teenage hitters who began 2019 in Extended Spring Training before moving on to the Pioneer League get compared to one another by scouts, and Carreras is universally considered to have the greatest upside because he has the most realistic chance to grow into impact power. His swing has leverage and real bat speed already, and his wiry frame portends more, and though his bat path and stride are both kind of a mess, Carreras’ hand-eye coordination and bat control enabled him to succeed against mostly college-level pitching last year at age 19. He’s a plus runner and athletic infield defender who will probably only fit at third base once he’s done filling out. Because so much of the offensive competency is still messy, this is a high risk prospect, but unquestionably one of the more exciting talents in the system.
Baseball Prospectus ranked Carreras 12th in the org last month. Here’s Jeffrey Paternostro on Carreras, comparing him to fellow PuRP Colton Welker at the plate:
The swing features a big leg kick and a violent uppercut, coupled with plus bat speed. Carreras is rawer at the plate than Welker—not that it should be surprising given their relative experience levels—and struggles with spin both in and out of the zone. It may look a lot like Colton Welker in a few years if he makes it to Double-A. He may not make it to Double-A. I think Carreras does though.
I’m more willing to bet on this swing when it’s attached to this kind of athletic, projectable frame. Carreras is quick-twitch and an above-average runner. Despite the rawness at the plate, he’s a smooth infielder with the arm for the left side. The variance is extreme here given his lack of pro reps or amatuer pedigree, but he’s already started to get results on the field and the tools aren’t too shabby either.
Carreras is ranked 30th on the MLB Pipeline list with 50 or 55 grades on all his tools:
Carreras has already shown an advanced approach at the plate with the ability to draw walks and hit for average, using a loose swing with leverage effectively that points to the chance to have future above-average power. A solid-to-average runner, Carreras isn’t afraid to steal a base and is aggressive on the basepaths. Signed as a shortstop, he’s played all three infield positions capably, though he’s likely to settle in as a third baseman with the chance to have a plus arm.
Carreras has a good projectable body with room to add strength and solid weight to his 6-foot-2 frame. That, along with his hard-nosed mentality on the field, gives him considerable upside with the chance to reach his potential.
I’ve been impressed with Carreras and his combination of age/level performance, defensive utility, and very strong scouting reports. In fact, in ranking Carreras 9th in the system on my personal ballot with a 40+ FV grade, I represent the high vote on him in this edition of the PuRPs list. My guess is that next year around this time the rest of the electorate will have caught up to me on Carreras.