It’s time to reveal the five players who made it the closest to the mid-season 2021 top 30 Purple Row Prospects (PuRPs) list as voted on by the Purple Row community over the last few weeks. For each player, I’ll include a link to individual stats and contract status (via Baseball-Reference), as well as notes on their 2021 season if applicable. For the sake of full disclosure, I’ll also include where I put each player on my personal ballot. All ages are as of the day the article is posted.
35. Tony Locey (28.5 points, 6 ballots), 2021 Trade, RHP at Low-A (23)
Locey was probably the third or fourth name mentioned in the return on the Nolan Arenado trade back in February. The 6’3” hurler was well thought of for his power stuff in the Cardinals organization (he was their third rounder in 2019) but was seen as a likely reliever. In 2021 for A-ball Fresno, Locey indeed has primarily come out of the bullpen (four starts out of 19 appearances). In 34 IP with Fresno, Locey has a 3.71 ERA and 9.5 K/9 rate but his 6.46 xFIP, 7.1 BB/9 rate, and 1.65 WHIP indicates he’s been fortunate to get those results.
Locey was ranked 22nd in the system as a 40 FV prospect by Fangraphs back in March:
Locey would hold mid-90s velo late into games, hitting 97 regularly and landing a solid average breaking ball that dev-minded folks in baseball think has more ceiling. His control is fine, but the command and changeup were both weaker points in a starting role, so relief is a natural fit without a change to that profile. His aggressive, bulldog approach is also conducive to shorter stints.
Locey’s best pitch is clearly his plus fastball, one that touches 98 mph coming from a high three-quarters slot that creates good angle. The velocity doesn’t wane, helping his chances to remain a starter, but most feel triple digits are in his future if he were to shorten up in the bullpen. He’ll throw both a sharp low-80s slider, which can be an out pitch at times, and can toss in an average curve. He didn’t use his changeup much in college.
Strong and durable, the biggest thing holding Locey back from sticking in a rotation is his command. Even in his strong junior season, he walked 4.6 per nine, and he’ll need to find the strike zone more consistently to start. The good news is that the fastball-slider combination could be pretty nasty late in games out of the bullpen.
The stuff is enticing of course, but the struggles for Locey to command his arsenal as well as his relief role this year soured me on his PuRP prospects in a system which has improved starter depth this cycle.
34. Breiling Eusebio (34.1 points, 7 ballots), 2013 IFA (DR), LHP at High-A (24)
Eusebio’s case as a prospect rests on scouting reports, which have in the past said he clearly had the best stuff in the system among left-handed starting pitching prospects. Unfortunately, the 24-year-old hurler is only now pitching in High-A ball, due largely to injuries (most notably Tommy John surgery early in 2018) and a long stint in the DSL after signing for $100K back in 2013.
In 2021, Eusebio was assigned to start off in A-ball Fresno, where he was decent enough in 59 1⁄3 IP (3.19 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 9.7 K/9 rate) to earn a promotion to High-A Spokane in early July. With Spokane he’s struggled so far, with a 10.98 ERA (6.27 xFIP), 2.14 WHIP, and 5.0 BB/9 rate in 19 2⁄3 IP over five starts — but it’s good to see Eusebio healthy and at a reasonably age-appropriate level.
Eusebio was ranked 29th in the system by FanGraphs in March with a 35+ FV tag:
Eusebio was flashing three above-average pitches in 2017, then blew out his elbow early in 2018. Due to injury, he’s never thrown more than 72 innings in a single season, and that was back in 2015. Now 23, Eusebio is officially behind, but his stuff was only down a bit beneath it’s usual level when he pitched late last summer, so there’s still a shot this guy breaks out and gets pushed quickly, especially if he just gets ‘penned.
We’re eight years in with Eusebio and he’s yet to make it above High-A, so at this point it’s hard to see the finish line. Eusebio’s long road back from TJ surgery meant that he was left unprotected and wasn’t selected in the Rule 5 draft in either 2019 or 2020. If the Rockies don’t add him to the 40-man roster after this year, he’ll be eligible to leave in minor league free agency. If he is added, Colorado runs the risk of Eusebio, who was the last player left off my personal ballot, not even having any minor league options when he is ready for action on the big league club in a few years.
33. Tommy Doyle (37.5 points, 6 ballots), 2017 2nd Round, RHP at Double-A (25)
It’s been an injury-abbreviated campaign for Doyle in 2021 after he made his big league debut with three appearances in 2020. Assigned to Double-A Hartford, the 6’6” pitcher was on the IL until mid-June and went back on it in late June, where he sits today. When he was active, Doyle got knocked around with a 9.64 ERA and 2.14 WHIP in 9 1⁄3 IP.
Certainly it’s difficult to cast aspersions at a player in such circumstances, but when a player stays still or takes a step back as the system overall improves, it’s possible for the pre-season No. 20 PuRP to miss the list entirely the next go around.
Doyle boasts a mid to upper-90s fastball paired with an above average slider—in other words, the prototypical baseball reliever profile these days. That was enough for Fangraphs to rank him 20th in the system back in March with a 40 FV designation:
[Doyle has] now exhibited some velocity yo-yo’ing. It was way down just after his draft, then was back into the mid-90s for a while, including during his 2020 big league debut (sitting 94-95) but he’s come out of the 2021 gate extremely slowly, sitting 90-92 in his first spring outing, and didn’t get back into a big league game before he was optioned two weeks later. It’s something to watch, but a healthy Doyle sits 93-96 with a plus slider and is a foundational middle-relief piece.
The stuff coming from the 6-foot-6 reliever was just fine in the big leagues and there’s hope he can go back to using it to get hitters out with the nerves of his debut behind him. Doyle uses a fastball-slider combination to baffle hitters. His heater will touch 98 mph and sit in the mid-90s, using his frame for excellent downhill plane. His breaking ball is a hard, slurvy pitch, up to 87 mph during his big league debut that is effective against hitters from both sides of the plate. He has a below-average changeup that he only uses occasionally.
Doyle has done a good job of missing bats and getting ground ball outs in his career thus far and his small sample size of his big league debut aside, he’s been a consistent strike-thrower since joining the Rockies. He should be ready to truly impact the Rockies big league bullpen long-term soon.
Doyle has the frame, power fastball with movement, and good enough secondary pitch to be an intimidating relief option for Colorado in the near future if he can return to health and form. Though I don’t love the ceiling or the limited role utility, Doyle’s proximity and likelihood of contributing major league value put him on my honorable mention list this time around.
32. Case Williams (50 points, 8 ballots), 2021 Trade, RHP at Low-A (19)
Williams was famously the fourth round pick of the Rockies out of Douglas County High School in the abbreviated 2020 draft but got traded before he could play for the Rockies in the trade that sent Jeff Hoffman to the Reds, returning Robert Stephenson and Jameson Hannah. The Rockies couldn’t quit Williams though, re-acquiring him from the Reds at the trade deadline along with Noah Davis for Mychal Givens.
Williams began 2021 with Cincinnati’s A-ball affiliate as one of the younger players in the league (about 2.9 years younger than average). With that context, it’s easier to be sanguine about Williams despite his 5.73 ERA, 1.64 WHIP, 6.1 BB/9 rate, and 6.5 K/9 rate in 55 IP between the two orgs so far. Even if Williams repeats the level next year he’ll still be one of the younger players in A-ball in 2022.
Williams is a prototypical prep right-hander, especially one from a cold-weather state, full of projection and raw tools on the mound. There’s plenty of arm strength and velocity coming from his 6-foot-3 frame, with a fastball that has been in the 92-95 mph range. He knows how to spin a breaking ball, with a curve that could be a plus pitch eventually. He’ll need to work on his changeup, something he didn’t need much in high school. Both secondary pitches are inconsistent and he’ll have to focus on their refinement as he begins his pro career.
There’s enough athleticism to believe Williams should have solid control and repeat his delivery well. It’s likely going to take time for him to get there, but the reward for developmental patience could be a big league starter in the future.
Williams was listed as a player of note in the Fangraphs Reds system write-up, saying that “[Williams] was in the 88-92 range with middling projection as an underclassman, then was up to 95 in a indoor bullpen environment.”
Williams has been thrown into the fire not only in games but with his professional circumstances so far in his career. Let’s hope some stability and coaching can coax out a strong starting pitcher out of him in the near future — right now the package falls a bit short for my personal ballot.
31. Niko Decolati (55 points, 10 ballots), 2018 6th Round, OF at High-A (23)
The Colorado native signed for just under $250K as Colorado’s sixth round pick in 2018, where he was converted to an outfielder as a pro after spending his college career as a shortstop. In his three professional years, Decolati has produced at an above average offensive clip each season. This year for High-A Spokane, Decolati is playing at an age-appropriate level and slashing .250/.339/.414 with 10 HR in 296 PA (105 wRC+, 11.5 BB%).
Decolati might have been one of the players in the Rockies system to suffer the most from the shutdown as he needs reps to turn his athleticism into consistent performance. He was rusty during instructional league play, though it started to come together by the end of the fall. The right-handed hitter can make loud contact and has plenty of raw power, but his overly aggressive approach was exposed in 2019 and led to a high strikeout rate.
With plus speed, Decolati can steal a base and cover a lot of ground in the outfield. He’s shown he can handle center field and his above-average arm works well from right field. He might settle in as a fourth outfielder type, but more than anything, he just needs to go out and play.
The knock on Decolati before the draft was that his production had yet to measure up to his tools, which are highlighted by 60 run, 55 arm, 50 power, and 50 field grades according to MLB Pipeline. Well, the production has thus far been decent and he’s shown some offensive approach adjustments this year with consistent playing time, leaving him on the cusp of my personal PuRPs list as perhaps the best athlete in the system. Decolati will be Rule 5 eligible after the season, making him yet another player the Rockies will consider protecting with a 40-man roster spot.
★ ★ ★
In my opinion, the Rockies have about 25-30 players that have arguments for the bottom five slots on the PuRPs list (though my entire top 30 made the list in this edition, perhaps a first for me). To see the players that did make the cut, check back soon as we unveil the mid-season 2021 PuRPs list five at a time!