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Colorado Rockies prospect rankings, mid-season 2021: numbers 30-26

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Some old friends and new faces kick off the full PuRPs list!

Now that we’ve taken a look at the players who received votes and the Honorable Mention PuRPs for mid-season 2021, it’s time to examine the players that did make the cut. As a reminder, in this edition of the PuRPs poll, 23 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 and contract status (via Baseball-Reference), PuRPs voting stats, a note on the 2021 season to date, and a scouting report from a national prospect writer where possible. For what it’s worth, I’ll also include where I put each player on my personal ballot. All ages are as of the date the article is posted.

Remember that the statistics pages are not the end-all be-all when evaluating these players. Context is hugely important (such as 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 make sure and make mention of instances where this is the case. And so we go...

30. Will Ethridge (67 points, 12 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: 23 — High Ballot 14, Mode Ballot 26

How did he enter the organization?

2019 5th Round, University of Mississippi

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

The 6’5” right-hander was only a full-time starter during his junior (draft) year at Ole Miss, in which he threw 93 innings over 17 appearances with a 3.39 ERA and 7.1 K/9 rate in the SEC. After signing for a slot bonus of $327.2k, Ethridge was assigned to Short-Season Boise, where his usage was metered and none of his appearances lasted longer than five innings or 80 pitches. In all, Ethridge made nine starts for Boise, throwing 30 2⁄3 innings with a 3.82 ERA, 6.2 K/9, and 1.14 WHIP.

After a lost 2020, Ethridge was assigned to A-ball Fresno to begin 2021, where he put up six strong starts (31 23 IP, 2.56 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, 9.1 K/9 rate) to earn a quick promotion to High-A Spokane in early June. In eight starts with Spokane, the 23-year-old has seen a dip in performance, with a 5.98 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 7.6 K/9 rate in 43 23 IP — though three of his last four starts have been quality starts, including a 7 IP, 7 K, 3 H, 2 ER start last week.

Here’s some video of Ethridge from 2019 at Ole Miss courtesy of Perfect Game Baseball:

What do the scouts say?

Ethridge was ranked 26th in the system in March by Fangraphs:

Aside from the one outing in 2019 during which Ethridge was 92-96, he’s long been a low-90s sinker/slider/changeup backend starter prospect, and that was once again true during 2020 instructs. Ethridge fills the zone with vanilla stuff and has a giant, innings-eating frame. He projects as a fifth or sixth starter.

He’s ranked 27th by Baseball America’s 2021 Prospect Handbook:

[Ethridge] doesn’t have standout stuff and that limits his ceiling, but has a solid, well-rounded pitch mix that includes a fastball that sits in the low-90s, and an average slider and changeup that can both generate swings and misses. The Rockies see particular upside in refining his slider. Ethridge locates everything well with average control, understands how to mix his pitches, and is always in attack mode on the mound.

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

In prospect circles, prospects like Ethridge are known as “pitchability righties” — high-probability starter prospects with questions as to whether their lack of a plus out pitch will be successful against more advanced hitting. With that profile, it’s been good to see Ethridge hold his own in High-A after showing he’d mastered A-ball this year. For me, it will be Double-A and above, when the hitters get more dangerous and disciplined, that are the bigger questions for Ethridge.

In a system where the potential starter depth is improving but still a little thin, Ethridge is a player worth ranking. He was 27th on my ballot with a 35+ FV grade as a player whose likely big league role would be as rotational depth or long relief with a possible 2023 MLB ETA.

★ ★ ★

29. Warming Bernabel (81 points, 11 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: NR — High Ballot 6, Mode Ballot 26, 29

How did he enter the organization?

2018 IFA, Dominican Republic

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

Bernabel was listed as Baseball America’s 33rd best prospect of the 2018 July 2 period, ultimately signing for $900k. After a decent professional debut season in the DSL in 2019, Bernabel was a player to watch coming into 2021 as he made his stateside debut.

The 19-year-old third baseman certainly didn’t disappoint in his play with Colorado’s complex level team. In 86 PAs, Bernabel hit a scorching .432/.453/.743 with 6 HR and 5 2B (182 wRC+). That was enough for him to get an unexpected call up to full season ball in early August. Though returns from Fresno thus far haven’t been as positive (.200/.242/.333 in 33 PAs, a 46 wRC+), Bernabel is about two years younger than league average. It’s a really positive sign that he’s even getting these reps this season, which should provide confidence for the future.

Here’s some video of Bernabel back in 2018 at a showcase event when he was 15, courtesy of Baseball America:

What do the scouts say?

Baseball Prospectus named Bernabel as a prospect to dream on in their system write-up last December:

Bernabel isn’t selling jeans but also isn’t selling out for the kind of bat speed and barrel control that can handle plus major league velocity. I don’t know if he will be ready for a full-season ball assignment in 2021, but I’ll be asking around the AZ complex about him.

Given his strong results this year, I’d expect Bernabel to be more on the radar the next prospect cycle.

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

Though the arrow on Bernabel is certainly pointing up, there’s no denying he’s still got a long road ahead of him before he’s a major league contributor, probably 2024 or 2025. So far, he appears to have strong bat to ball skills that have done well against lower level pitching (~12% K rate so far), we’ll see if he can maintain that success against pitchers with more advanced arsenals. The profile and potential were enough for me to rank Bernabel 29th on my personal list with a 35+ FV grade.

★ ★ ★

28. Noah Davis (89 points, 14 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: NR — High Ballot 13, Mode Ballot 29

How did he enter the organization?

2021 Trade (Cincinnati)

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

Davis, along with Case Williams, was acquired near the trade deadline from the Reds in exchange for reliever Mychal Givens. Now would I rather have Davis and Williams or Terrin Vavra and Tyler Nevin, who the Rockies traded for Givens last year? Obviously the latter two (the extra year of Givens plays a role in that of course), but Davis is a decent prospect in his own right.

The 24-year-old righty starter was a 2018 11th round pick who had recently required Tommy John surgery. As such, Davis hadn’t yet made his way out of Rookie ball before the 2021 season, but he got slotted in High-A to start the year by the Reds. In 13 starts with Dayton, Davis threw 65 innings of 3.60 ERA ball with a 1.21 WHIP and 10.7 K/9 rate against hitters who were on average about 0.7 years younger. He’s had two starts for Spokane since the trade, in which he’s thrown 12 13 innings, allowing four runs on 12 hits while striking out nine and walking four. It’s early, but I’d say that Davis is fitting in so far.

The most recent video I could find on Davis is from way back in 2016 while he was in college (via the Prospect Pipeline), so take this with a grain of salt:

What do the scouts say?

On their Reds write-up back in December, Fangraphs ranked Davis 32nd in Cincinnati’s system (he’s now ranked 26th on Colorado’s list) with a 35+ FV tag, highlighted by 50 grades on the slider and curve:

Davis had a big pre-draft summer on Cape Cod but blew out just a few starts into his junior year at Santa Barbara. The Reds drafted him and finished his TJ rehab in 2019, then sent him to Billings. Most of his pre-surgery velocity returned and Davis was sitting 91-94 in his first few appearances before touching some 95s later in the summer. More importantly, he returned with two quality breaking balls (he was slider/changeup as an amateur) that have fairly significant projection since one of them is new, and Davis missed a huge chunk of time rehabbing from the TJ. He held that velo into 2020 instructs but had to be shut down early due to an upper back issue. I slid him into the 35+ tier based on him having another health hiccup, and the 40 FV pitching just has better, more defined stuff than Davis, who is almost 24, does. I now have him projected more in the sixth/spot starter realm.

Davis slots in at 25 in MLB.com’s system rankings:

Davis has the chance to have a usable four-pitch mix. His fastball typically sits around 92-93 mph with decent sink and tail to it, and he can reach back for 94-95 mph on occasion. He throws both a slider, 83-85 mph, and a curve, 73-77 mph, with the former a touch ahead of the latter. He has feel for a changeup with fade and deception, giving him a fourth potentially average offering.

In the past Davis has been around the plate, both before and after the surgery, though his walk rate spiked in 2021. It’s been more control over command, something that will have to be refined for him to reach his ceiling as a back-end starter.

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

Like Ethridge, Davis profiles as more of a pitchability righty than a true impact starter, but he certainly has utility as starter depth with multiple strong secondary offerings. As a 2018 draft pick, the Rockies will need to decide if he belongs on the 40-man roster this off-season or if he will be available in the Rule 5 draft. Assuming no Rule 5 pick, Davis would have a 2023 MLB ETA. Davis presented enough of a potential back-end starter profile that I ranked him 30th on my personal ballot with a 35+ FV grade.

★ ★ ★

27. Eddy Diaz (94 points, 13 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: 14 — High Ballot 11, Mode Ballot 26

How did he enter the organization?

2017 IFA, Cuba

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

Eddy Diaz was Colorado’s first amateur free agent signing out of Cuba when he inked a contract for $750K in 2017 as a 17-year-old. From there, “Fast Eddy” stole our hearts (and 84 bases) with two strong debut years in the Dominican Summer League, then solidified that feeling with an excellent stateside debut in Grand Junction in 2019. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been that easy this year for the 21-year-old middle infielder, who has spent most of his time at second base in deference to fellow PuRP Ezequiel Tovar.

The Rockies challenged Diaz with an aggressive assignment to High-A Spokane to begin the year, but he struggled to the tune of a .192/.284/.231 line (51 wRC+) in 89 PAs (and 11 SB, it must be said) against pitching that was on average 1.9 years older than him. Since being sent down to Low-A Fresno in early June, Diaz’s struggles have continued (this time at an age-appropriate level). In 246 PAs with Fresno, Diaz is hitting .255/.342/.307 (80 wRC+) with 32 steals in 38 attempts but not much else to show for it besides his first professional homer.

Here’s some video of Diaz from some game action in July courtesy of Prospects Live:

What do the scouts say?

Diaz was ranked 19th by Fangraphs in March as a 40 FV prospect, highlighted by a 60 run and 55 future hit tools:

[Diaz is] an athletic, instinctive middle infield prospect with modest physical projection and promising bat to ball skills. For now those skills manifest as modest, all-fields line drive contact, and Diaz is likely a hit-only offensive player in the long run. He’s seen action all over the infield but I have him projected to second base, where he has a fair chance to profile because of the bat. It’s more likely he ends up in a utility role.

He also ranks 19th in Baseball America’s pre-season look at the system:

A proven fastball hitter, Diaz has work to do against good breaking balls.

...

Diaz is a contact hitter and doesn’t have a home run in his career yet, but the Rockies believe he has some gap power that will fit in with his middle infield profile. His plus speed makes him a weapon on the bases. The Rockies plan to play Diaz all around the infield. He has the athleticism to stay up the middle, even if that ends up meaning second base.

...

Diaz is a developing table-setter who can also provide defensive versatility. He’s a better in-game player than he is a practice or showcase player, and that bodes well for his ability to compete as he moves up.

Diaz slots in at 20 in the MLB.com system rank:

The right-handed hitting infielder is a gamer who plays hard and at a high speed at all times. Outside of his speed, his tools don’t jump off the page, but he’s the kind of player who helps a team win games. He has a knack for contact and while he has a very aggressive approach, he doesn’t strike out much, though his K rate did go up a bit while his walk rate dropped with his move to the United States in 2019. He has added some strength, but will need more to impact the ball consistently, with a ceiling likely as a gap-to-gap doubles hitter rather than one who clears fences often.

If Diaz is going to be a big league regular at one position, it’s likely going to be at second base, though he can handle shortstop as well. He likely profiles best as a super-utility guy who finds ways to help his team win from a number of positions.

That evaluation is highlighted by a 65 speed grade along with 50/55s for hit, field, and arm against a 35 power grade.

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

Diaz is a few years away from contributing to the Rockies (2024 MLB ETA), but he’s already one of my favorite prospects thanks to his plus speed/good contact profile — if nothing else, he’s a fun player to watch and different than the typical major league profile.

The big knock I see on Diaz is a lack of power and of power potential, which could limit his ceiling to that of a utility player. He’s also struggled this year in full season ball, which makes his ceiling less likely. With that said, I still like the profile, ranking Diaz 28th on my personal list with a 35+ FV grade. We’ll see if the Rockies agree with a 40-man roster spot this off-season.

★ ★ ★

26. McCade Brown (105 points, 13 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: NR — High Ballot 19, Mode Ballot 19

How did he enter the organization?

2021 3rd Round, Indiana University

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

The 21-year-old 6’6” right-hander was the 79th overall pick in this year’s draft and was signed to a slot bonus of $780.4k. This came after a year at IU where he threw 61 innings across 12 starts with a 3.39 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, and an impressive 14.3 K/9 rate against a less impressive 6.3 BB/9 rate. It was the first major action for Brown, who barely pitched in both 2019 and 2020 for the Hoosiers (due to a back injury and the coronavirus respectively) after starting out as a walk-on.

Though he hasn’t yet made his professional debut, it’s clear that Brown’s draft pedigree and stuff profile make him a worthy inclusion on this list.

Here’s some video of Brown via 2080 Baseball from last fall’s IU scrimmage:

What do the scouts say?

MLB.com ranked Brown 103rd overall among 2021 draft prospects:

Brown pitched at 92-95 mph and topped out at 97 during the summer and fall, with strong fastball metrics that give his heater late hop and get it on hitters quicker than they can anticipate, and he opened 2021 with similar velocity before tailing off a bit in April. He generates power and high spin rates on a curveball that sits around 80 mph, and he also will show a harder slider. His changeup lags behind his other offerings in part because he has had little opportunity to use it.

Even more than developing a changeup, improving his control and command is the key to determining whether Brown can make it as a starter. He threw more strikes in the Kernels League but was erratic again this spring, when he fanned 28 and walked two in his first two starts before his control and command deteriorated because he’s still learning to repeat his delivery and release point on a consistent basis. His lack of experience and the projection remaining in his 6-foot-6 frame give him more room for improvement than a typical third-year college arm.

Fangraphs ranked Brown as a 40 FV prospect before the draft and now slots him in 25th in the organization:

Brown enjoyed a velocity uptick between his freshman and sophomore year and has retained it, sitting 92-96 in the Fall of 2020. He has a viable four-pitch mix and starter’s control despite some mechanical violence.

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

We’ll have to see how Brown adjusts to pro ball next year, presumably with an assignment to Low-A to start 2022. From there, it’s probably a 2024 or 2025 MLB ETA for Brown if all goes well. Brown’s stuff is good, but he hasn’t had the reps over the last couple years to refine it and repeat his delivery well. He’s a high potential arm with mid-rotation upside, which is why I ranked Brown 25th on my personal ballot with a 40 FV grade.

★ ★ ★

Stay tuned for the next installment of the mid-season 2021 PuRPs list!