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Colorado Rockies prospect rankings, mid-season 2021: numbers 59-36

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Time for the summer edition of Purple Row’s bi-annual top prospect countdown!

After a week of Purple Row Prospects (PuRPs) balloting from the Purple Row community, the tallies are in on Colorado’s top 30 prospects. The top 30 prospects will be revealed five at a time over the next couple of weeks to give Rockies fans an overview of the players who could make an impact on the next few Rockies squads. First up, an introduction to the list and then a rundown of every player to get votes from number 51 to 36. In a separate post tomorrow I’ll reveal the five honorable mention PuRPs and move to the top 30 after that.

There were 23 ballots this time around (up from 13 last time). 30 points were granted for a first place vote, 29 for second, etc. Until a player was named on eight ballots, his vote totals were modified on a sliding scale to avoid an individual ballot having too much say over the community forecast — though none of the top 30 players on this edition of the list were listed on fewer than 11 ballots.

If necessary, the first tiebreaker went to the player who was ranked on the most ballots, then to the one who ranked highest on an individual PuRPs ballot, the third tiebreaker was the mode ballot. All prospects in the system who retained their Rookie of the Year eligibility (fewer than 130 ABs, 50 IP, and 45 days on the active roster — IL and September service time are not included, except for 2020) as of August 2, 2021 were eligible for selection on this list.

Since the pre-season balloting, Colorado lost four of the 30 PuRPs due either to rookie eligibility graduation (Ben Bowden, Yonathan Daza, Dom Nuñez) or leaving the organization (Riley Pint). The Rockies did add a few strong prospects in the 2021 draft and through other avenues (including the Nolan Arenado trade), which has strengthened the system in my estimation compared to what it was pre-season.

In the 23 ballots there was room for 59 players listed in the top 30 of at least one PuRPs ballot, up from 51 in the pre-season 2021 list. There were 46 players named on multiple ballots (up from 38), while 32 were listed on at least eight ballots (down from 34) and therefore had unmodified point totals. There were 19 different prospects receiving a top 10 placement on at least one list (up from 17 in pre-season 2021). The top 23 made it on over 75% of ballots, indicating a strong consensus for that group. Here is a link to this list’s polling thread.

For each player on the PuRPs list, I’ll include a link to individual stats and contract status (via Baseball-Reference) and notes on their scouting reports, if applicable. For the sake of full disclosure, I’ll also include where I put each player on my personal ballot. With players receiving votes, I’ll provide the B-Ref link and voting stats, plus a short blurb. All ages will be as of the day the article was posted.

Remember, statistics are not the end-all be-all when evaluating these players. Context is hugely important (notably, the player’s age relative to the league’s average or the league average offensive numbers), as is the fact that injuries to prospects can affect both their tools and their stats. I’ll try to make mention of instances where this is the case as we go on. Beyond this of course is the massive disruption wrought by the pandemic in 2020, which meant the vast majority of these players didn’t play in a recorded professional game last year.

More discussion on the voting will be included in the final installment of this series, but to begin, here are the players who ranked 59 to 36 in 2021 mid-season PuRPs voting:

Single Ballot Players

T-58. José Mujica (0.1 point, 1 ballot) — despite numerous potential opportunities to bring last season’s No. 29 PuRP back to the Show and a 40-man roster slot, the Rockies have avoided doing so with Mujica in 2021. The 25-year-old right-hander has struggled this year in Triple-A (7.71 ERA, 1.49 WHIP in 58 13 IP), never making himself the obvious choice for a call-up.

T-58. Robby Martin (0.1 point, 1 ballot) — Colorado’s eighth round pick this year was Martin, a 21-year-old outfielder from Florida State University, who signed for a slightly above-slot $200k. Martin was ranked the #104 overall draft prospect by MLB.com, one spot behind Rockies third rounder McCade Brown:

The left-handed hitter has added a lot of muscle to his 6-foot-3 frame since joining the Seminoles. He’s been more hit over power to date, with more doubles pop than over-the-fence power. He does make consistent hard contact and could reach average power in the future.

Martin has only manned outfield corners during his time in college, with a slightly above-average arm that plays well in either spot. He lacks the pure speed to play center and scouts aren’t sold on his overall defense, thinking left field is likely his best spot at the next level.

57. Hunter Stovall (0.3 points, 1 ballot) — the 24-year-old utility player (2B/3B/OF) has played well this year in High-A (1.1 years older than average), putting up a 114 wRC+ line bolstered by an 11% walk rate.

T-55. Dugan Darnell (0.4 points, 1 ballot) — the 24-year-old righty reliever signed as a minor league free agent from the Indy leagues before the 2021 season and promptly dominated A-ball (0.66 ERA, 0.37 WHIP) before earning a May promotion to High-A. With Spokane, he’s continued to pitch well (2.19 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 14.6 K/9 in 24 23 IP) and has even saved six games. The Rockies just might have uncovered a diamond in the rough with Darnell.

T-55. David Hill (0.4 points, 1 ballot) — Hill was a fourth round pick way back in 2013 but the 27-year-old right-hander has had his career derailed by injuries. Back in game action for the first time since 2018, Hill was excellent in High-A and earned a promotion to Double-A in June. With Hartford, Hill has struggled a bit (5.40 ERA, 1.45 WHIP in 43 13 IP) against players who are on average 2.3 years younger.

54. Juan Brito (0.5 points, 1 ballot) — the 19-year-old switch-hitting infielder, who signed back in 2018, has played well this season for the ACL team (117 wRC+, driven by a 16% walk rate in 75 PAs) after a strong 2019 in the DSL (143 wRC+)..

51. Gavin Hollowell (0.8 points, 1 ballot) — the 6’7” 23-year-old right hurler didn’t see his season start until late June, but since getting assigned to Low-A Fresno in July he’s been dominant in relief (0.75 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, 10.5 K/9 in 12 IP). Hollowell is currently ranked 28th in the system by MLB.com:

The first thing the Rockies did with Hollowell is get the 6-foot-7 right-hander to stand up tall on the mound to create plane and leverage as he came to them with a crouched-over delivery. At instructs last fall, he was sitting 94-95 with his fastball, now with a lot better angle. He couples it with what’s best described as a power slurve. It has mid-range break with long three-quarter tilt to it, coming in at 83-84 mph. It plays very well, and misses a lot of bats, from his release point.

Hollowell is a two-pitch reliever, but one who has thrown both for strikes since joining the Rockies. He was repeating his new delivery well and there’s a chance he could start moving quickly, with his power stuff giving him the ceiling of a seventh- or eighth-inning setup type if it all clicks.

50. Jake Bird (0.9 points, 1 ballot) — the 25-year-old righty reliever emerged a stronger pitcher in 2021 than we’d seen before thanks to a big jump up in fastball effectiveness. After pitching well in Double-A, Bird got the call in early June to Triple-A. Between the two levels, he has a 3.80 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, and 8.4 K/9 in 42 23 IP this year. He’s ranked 29th in the system by MLB.com:

While at UCLA, Bird largely pitched in the 90-92 mph range with his fastball. Now he’s up to 95-98 mph with a fastball that features a lot of sink. He has three secondary offerings at his disposal, though it’s his curve that is his best option. He does have a slider and even a little feel for a changeup.

Bird is still learning to command all of his offerings as he’s struggled with his walk rate at times, but he shows no fear in going right after hitters and is very aggressive with using his heavy plus fastball. He’s getting the chance to pitch in a variety of roles now, but his upside is likely highest as a back-end reliever.

Like Lucas Gilbreath last year, Bird is a player who has emerged from obscurity to be in contention for a 40-man roster slot this off-season.

49. PJ Poulin (1.0 points, 1 ballot) — Poulin is another interesting relief arm, but he’s left-handed and throws with a “violent, low-slot delivery” per Fangraphs. The 25-year-old dominated to start off the year in High-A (14.5 K/9, 2.35 ERA in 23 IP) before earning the bump up to Double-A at the end of June. Though he’s struggled in Hartford so far (7.71 ERA in 9 13 IP), Colorado’s 11th rounder in 2018 is another intriguing arm vying for a 40-man roster assignment this off-season.

47. Mason Green (1.1 points, 1 ballot) — the 22-year-old lefty was Colorado’s 12th round pick in the 2021 draft (signed for a $125k slot bonus), where he finished his career at D2 Central Missouri with a perfect 27-0 record, 2.76 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and 10.8 K/9 rate.

46. Matt Dennis (1.3 points, 1 ballot) — the 26-year-old right-handed starter pitched well to end 2019 with Hartford, but hasn’t fared quite as well in a return engagement in 2021. In 60 IP, he has a 7.71 ERA and 1.73 WHIP.

45. Brian Serven (1.4 points, 1 ballot) — the 26-year-old catcher (Colorado’s 2016 fifth rounder) has hit just .234/.285/.476 (76 wRC+) in 158 PAs in Triple-A this season, but he is just a phone call away if the Rockies need a catcher at the MLB level.

44. Zach Kokoska (1.6 points, 1 ballot) — the 22-year-old lefty-hitting outfielder was Colorado’s 10th round pick in 2021 out of Kansas State (signed for a slightly below slot $130k bonus), where he hit .363 with a 1.119 OPS and 15 HR in the 2021 season. I expect him to put up big numbers in the lower levels, but hopefully he’ll be able to do so as he moves up the ladder.

Multi-Ballot Players

T-52. Sean Bouchard (0.5 points, 2 ballots) — the 25-year-old righty has hit well at every level. Interestingly, Bouchard actually moved up the defensive spectrum, going from largely a first baseman in his first two professional seasons to splitting his time between first and the outfield (with a little third base sprinkled in). It’s a transition that helps Bouchard’s prospect stock, as his 2021 .275/.344/.506 line with 36 extra base hits in 273 PAs (128 wRC+) in Double-A Hartford looks better when there’s some defensive utility behind it. There’s still a logjam of similar prospects in the system, but Bouchard has certainly made his case for a 40-man roster slot this off-season.

T-52. Nick Bush (0.5 points, 2 ballots) — the lefty starter is a 24-year-old who started 2021 pitching for High-A Spokane, where he posted a 2.58 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, and 10.3 K/9 in 52 13 innings before receiving the promotion to Double-A in early July. In 32 IP with Hartford, Bush has been roughed up a bit more (5.06 ERA), though his 4.35 xFIP is indicative that’s he been a bit unfortunate to get those results at 0.7 years younger than league average. Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs described Bush as, “a vertical arm slot lefty whose fringe fastball velocity plays up due to deception, and his curveball has terrific depth. He has a passable change that could help make him a spot starter.”

48. Coco Montes (1.0 points, 2 ballots) — the 24-year-old righty-hitting middle infielder dazzled us in 2018 with an awesome Pioneer League debut, but has faded from sight since then despite above league average offensive production all three years of his professional career. In 2021, Montes is hitting .264/.323/.462 (111 wRC+) over 331 PAs in Double-A Hartford at a league average age, where he’s played mostly second base with several games over at shortstop.

43. Evan Shawver (1.8 points, 2 ballots) — the 21-year-old lefty pitcher, was Colorado’s 7th rounder in 2021 out of the University of Cincinnati, signing for a slot bonus of $231.1k. In his college season, Shawver, whose arsenal includes a 97 MPH heater, strong slider, and a power change-up, had a 2.72 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and 9.5 K/9 rate in 46 13 IP.

42. Taylor Snyder (1.8 points, 2 ballots) — the 26-year-old righty-hitting shortstop has methodically worked his way up the ladder since getting drafted in the 13th round back in 2016. Starting the year in Double-A, Snyder tore it up at Hartford (139 wRC+ including 18 HR in 250 PAs) before getting the bump up to Triple-A in late July. In 59 PAs with Albuquerque, Snyder is hitting just .231/.322/.404 (78 wRC+) at a league average age, but still has a walk rate at nearly 12%.

41. Mateo Gil (3.0 points, 3 ballots) — Gil was probably the third or fourth most notable player from the Arenado trade, but he’s an interesting prospect in his own right. The 21-year-old righty infielder (he’s split time this year between second and third in A-ball) has the MLB bloodlines as the son of Benji Gil and boasts a projectable frame and toolset that led Fangraphs to rank him 24th in the system pre-season with a 40 FV designation:

Drafted by St. Louis as a polished high school defender with considerable frame projection, Gil has filled out quite a bit and with that has come more bat speed and raw power. But he is also an indiscriminate swinger, which results in strikeout issues. The Cardinals did not have Instructional League but Gil played a little bit for his dad’s Tomateros de Culiacan during the winter, and he didn’t hit well (though the team won the league). Gil’s pop is new and he hasn’t had a whole season to hone it yet, so there’s variance here, but again, I see a likely corner profile with an approach-issue trap door.

Thus far in 2021, that report has kernels of truth as Gil has a 25% K rate this year as part of his .236/.278/.365 line in 292 PAs with Fresno (66 wRC+) as a player who is a year younger than league average. Gil is also ranked 24th in the system by MLB.com:

Gil does a lot of things fairly well, even if he doesn’t have eye-popping tools, with his feel for the game helping all of it play up. He’s capable of making hard contact from the right side of the plate and added strength resulted in more extra-base authority in 2019. He’s not a burner, and won’t steal bases, but he’s a smart baserunner.

There are less questions about Gil’s defensive prowess. He has excellent actions, hands and footwork, with more than enough arm for the position, showing outstanding instincts and first-step quickness. If the bat keeps coming, he could become a big league regular, but he has a pretty high floor as a utilityman, like his dad was for parts of eight Major League seasons.

Because of that skillset, Gil is the first player appearing in PuRPs voting so far that I seriously considered adding to my list this time around — ultimately he finished four slots off my ballot.

40. Daniel Montano (5.3 points, 3 ballots) — the 22-year-old lefty-hitting outfielder has been in the organization since signing as the crown jewel of the 2015 class for $2 million. Unfortunately, thus far he’s been long on hype and short on results in his professional career. Montano is still advanced for his age, but the lefty-batting outfielder just hasn’t hit well enough or shown the plus tools that were hoped for when he signed.

With that said, Montano started off the season well in a repeat of A-ball, slashing .301/.380/.446 (118 wRC+) in 215 PAs to earn a mid-July promotion to High-A. In 72 Spokane PAs, Montano has again struggled at a year younger than league average to a .213/.300/.295 line (68 wRC+). After being left unprotected for the Rule 5 draft in 2020, I suspect the same fate will meet Montano after 2021.

39. Yanquiel Fernandez (9.0 points, 3 ballots) — Fernandez was signed for $295k out of Cuba in 2019 and the 18-year-old lefty outfielder quickly emerged as the second most notable sign from that class behind PuRP Adael Amador. Fernandez was ranked 22nd in the system in Baseball America’s 2020 ranking and stands out primarily for his strong power projection and good feel for hitting, though his poor speed (but good arm) limits him to the corner outfield positions.

In 2021, Fernandez has gotten off to a great start as a professional with a .393/.453/.625 batting line (193 wRC+) in 64 PAs for the DSL team at an age-appropriate level. He’s a name I’ll be watching closely when he makes his way stateside.

38. Bladimir Restituyo (10.0 points, 5 ballots) — the 20-year-old righty outfielder (who was described by Fangraphs as, “a 70 runner who might be an impact defender in center”) was lost a bit in the shuffle in 2021 as he drops from PuRP status this time around.

Restituyo was signed out of the Dominican Republic on July 2, 2017 (which also happened to be his 16th birthday) for $200K and immediately made a positive impression with his tools and feel for the game. The Rockies moved him quickly, where he got action as a 17-year-old in both Grand Junction and Boise in 2019, and he was assigned this year to A-ball Fresno. Unfortunately, against pitching that is on average about two years older than him, Restituyo has struggled mightily to a .249/.284/.333 line (61 wRC+) in 221 PAs while striking out 23% of the time and walking just 4% of PAs.

In Baseball America’s 2020 Digital Prospect Handbook, they had Restituyo 26th in the system:

In the NWL, Restituyo showed evaluators the quick hands to turn around high-velocity fastballs and the foot speed to play centerfield. He’s rough around the edges in the outfield but has plus speed to make up for some of the mistakes he makes running routes and chasing down balls in the gaps. He’ll need to iron out his strike-zone discipline and learn to take a few more pitches to get to ones he can drive, but there’s plenty of upside in a high-energy package. Restituyo’s future could be at second base or on the infield, but he has the profile of a player who could be pesky at the top or bottom of a lineup.

Restituyo represents a potential impact player who, though he is far away (likely at least three years), the Rockies liked enough to really challenge him. The tools, role, and age/level experience was compelling, but the lack of offensive performance was enough to keep Restituyo off my personal ballot, though he certainly remains in consideration for future lists.

37. Isaac Collins (13.1 points, 7 ballots) — the 24-year-old righty has split time defensively between 2B and the outfield since getting picked in the 9th round of the 2019 draft out of Creighton. Assigned to A-ball to start the year, Collins showed quickly in 79 PAs against pitching that was on average about two years younger than him that he was ready for a higher challenge (128 wRC+), so he got promoted to High-A at the beginning of June.

At an age appropriate level in High-A, Collins has shown his hot start was not a fluke with a .317/.401/.492 line (142 wRC+) in 233 PAs with Spokane, including a 11.6% walk rate. Thus far, Collins has eluded the gaze of the national prospect watchers, but if he keeps up this production it will be hard to ignore him.

36. Antonio Santos (24.5 points, 4 ballots) — the No. 21 PuRP in the pre-season list is right up against the cutoff for PuRPs eligibility after spending parts of the 2021 season with the big league club. Unfortunately for his prospect stock though, it appears the 23-year-old righty hurler is seen more by the Rockies as a fungible middle reliever in MLB than the innings eater starter he repeatedly proved he could be in the minors.

In 2021, Santos has played the up-and-down relief arm role, getting called up for four separate short stints with the Rockies to fill in a bullpen gap. Across those big league roster stays, Santos has a 4.76 ERA, 4.61 xFIP, 1.24 WHIP, and 7.9 K/9 rate in 11 13 IP. In 22 appearances in Albuquerque this year (only two of which were starts), Santos owns a ghastly 7.56 ERA (but more palatable 5.80 xFIP), 1.65 WHIP, and 6.2 K/9 rate in 33 13 IP.

Scouts seem to be coalescing around the idea of Santos as a low to medium leverage reliever. Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs ranked Santos 27th in the system with a 35+ FV tag back in March:

Santos’ long arm action and inconsistent secondary stuff push him toward the bullpen. He throws an awful lot of pitches (four- and two-seamers, a slider, changeup, an occasional curve), all of which are average. I think the violent deception enables a low-leverage relief role.

MLB.com also ranks Santos 27th:

Command and control have long been Santos’ calling cards, though nerves in Colorado led to a loss of the feel for pitching that got him there in the first place. Santos had walked just 1.7 per nine throughout his Minor League career, throwing strikes with all three of his pitches. He’ll typically sit in the low 90s — he averaged just over 93 mph during his big league debut – and can reach back for more, topping out at 97 mph, especially in shorter outings. His slider was up into the mid-80s and he has some feel for a changeup, but neither have characteristics that look like a future out pitch.

That, of course, limits Santos’ ceiling somewhat. He should be able to get back to his strike-throwing ways and could be a No. 5 or spot starter type. He has shown better stuff in shorter relief stints, so perhaps that’s where his future will be.

The move away from a starter role to that of a middle reliever was enough to take Santos off my personal list, but he remains a young arm with upside who can currently provide value to the Rockies bullpen or even as an emergency start candidate. It’s a good sign for the Rockies system depth that a player with big league stuff like Santos isn’t even an Honorable Mention PuRP this time around.

★ ★ ★

Thanks to all who voted this time around! Next time I’ll reveal the five Honorable Mention mid-season 2021 PuRPs, and then we’ll get into the players that will make up the top 30.