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Colorado Rockies prospects: No. 16, Julio Carreras

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The infielder wasn’t a flashy signing in 2017, but is quietly making waves in the Rockies’ system

16. Julio Carreras (148 points, 10 ballots)

Unlike some of the other Latin American prospects that have been or will be covered in this process, Julio Carreras didn’t make headlines with a big signing bonus. In fact, the just turned 21-year-old infielder wasn’t signed until he was 17 — in February 2017 — for a $15,000 bonus. For players who came without that initial scouting report upon signing, it’s 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+. Defensively, he spent the plurality of his time at third base, but also played at shortstop and second base (22 errors in 68 games). 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.

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. The righty hitter showed some curious platoon splits, posting a .889 OPS against right-handers vs. just .614 against lefties. We’ll see if that carries over into full-season ball in 2021.

Here’s some video of him from Extended Spring Training in 2019 courtesy of FanGraphs:

After that strong 2019, the scouting accolades continued to roll in for Carreras. FanGraphs ranked him 14th in the system in their pre-2020 list 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 in their pre-2020 list. 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 amateur pedigree, but he’s already started to get results on the field and the tools aren’t too shabby either.

Baseball America ranked Carrera 20th on their pre-2020 Rockies list:

Carreras has performed well at both stops since signing, with quick hands and a strong frame that gives him a chance for 20-plus home run power. Carreras’ swing gets long and it’s not the prettiest stroke, but despite some mechanical flaws, he has good hand-eye coordination, so he doesn’t strike out excessively, though that might get challenged as he faces better competition. He moves surprisingly well for his size, with above average speed underway. Carreras spent most of his time at third base, with exposure to shortstop and second base as well, but he profiles best at third. There’s some stiffness to his actions that he will need to smooth out, but he has enough athleticism to stay at third base with a quick first step and an average arm.

Carreras is ranked 24th on the MLB Pipeline list with 50 or 55 grades on all his tools:

Of all the young players from Latin America in the system, Carreras might have the most upside in terms of his hit and power tools. He has long levers and bat speed, with leverage to his swing. Though he’s not overly physical and hasn’t grown into his man strength, his power is already showing up. He gets good extension and makes hard contact out front, creating good whip with this swing.

An average runner who is aggressive on the basepaths, Carreras has played all over the infield. He’ll continue to play all three spots for now, but as he fills out, finding a home at the hot corner could make a lot of sense.

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 12th 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 (as I did last time). We’ll see if Carreras sinks or swims in full-season ball this year — if he does, he could jump into the top 10 and the Rockies might need to add him to the 40-man roster (if my math is right, he’ll be Rule 5 eligible after this season).