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Colorado Rockies prospect rankings, pre-season 2022: Nos. 35 to 31

The Honorable Mentions who didn’t quite crack the Top 30

It’s time to reveal the five players who made it the closest to the pre-season 2022 top 30 Purple Row Prospects (PuRPs) list as voted on by the Purple Row community recently. 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. Bladimir Restituyo (21.4 points, 6 ballots), 2017 IFA (DR), CF at Low-A (20)

After a year or two where Restituyo appeared near the bottom of Rockies system lists compiled by national prospect gurus (he was described by Fangraphs as, “a 70 runner who might be an impact defender in center” before the 2021 season), he was lost a bit in the shuffle after a difficult 2021. Restituyo was signed out of the Dominican Republic on July 2, 2017 (which also happened to be his 16th birthday) for $200K. After performing well in the DSL in 2018 and holding his own as a 18-year-old in Rookie ball (R.I.P.) in 2019, he was assigned to Low-A Fresno in 2021.

Unfortunately, against pitching that was on average about two years older than him, Restituyo hit just .259/.288/.335 (64 wRC+) in 314 PA while striking out 23% of the time and walking in just 4% of PAs. He did steal 31 bases in 36 chances, showing off that plus speed. Defensively, Restituyo was a full-time center fielder in 2021 after spending time in the infield (mostly at second) in his two previous seasons — he made five assists against six errors in 79 games in center in 2021.

The context of Restituyo’s aggressive placement matters, as does his speed and defensive utility, showing the Rockies like Restituyo enough to challenge him. In order for Restituyo to rise to that challenge though, he’ll really have to improve his plate discipline and overall offensive performance. He was left unprotected from this year’s Rule 5 draft, but I don’t expect a player this raw to be taken. I left Restituyo off my personal ballot pending some success in full-season ball.

34. Juan Brito (27.4 points, 6 ballots), 2018 IFA (DR), 2B at ACL (20)

Brito is another Latin American signing who made waves in the organization and with scouts after a strong 2021 stateside debut. The switch-hitting infielder hit .328/.403/.491 (143 wRC+) in his debut season in the DSL in 2019, then was assigned to the complex team in 2021. Against pitching that was on average 0.8 years older, Brito hit very well in a limited 109 PA sample across 27 games. His line of .296/.406/.432, bolstered by a 13.8% walk rate, was good for a 126 wRC+ on a very impressive Rockies complex team. Defensively, Brito stayed at second (four errors) after playing shortstop and third in 2019.

That complex-level performance was enough to catch the eye of Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs. In his January system write-up, Longenhagen ranked Brito 18th in the system as a 40 FV prospect:

The compact, switch-hitting Brito is a bat-driven prospect with terrific feel for contact from both sides of the plate. He’s only a 30-grade runner but is an average overall athlete with enough control to contort his body and make timely, accurate throws to first base even though he lacks defensive range. Brito’s ability to get on top of fastballs and put the barrel on inner-third strikes is, at least in part, enabled by his super short levers, which make him tough to beat in the strike zone. He’s a compact 20-year-old without overt physical projection, and the hit tool will almost certainly have to carry his entire offensive profile. It can be precarious projecting second base-only types without much power since they lack the defensive versatility to play utility roles if they don’t make enough offensive impact to justify playing second base every day. Brito is in this danger zone, but has the most important skill in baseball. He’s also 20 and has no experience above the complex level with his 40-man roster evaluation year looming. He should be a high-priority Rule 5 evaluation for other orgs and has a shot to be a second division regular at second base.

The grades attached to the report are highlighted by a 60 future hit tool, with everything else grading below average. Basically, Brito needs to keep hitting well above league average to distinguish himself as a prospect. I ranked Brito 27th on my personal ballot as a 40 FV prospect because the hit tool is the most important one and Brito has shown great promise in that category. As the above report mentions, Brito will be Rule 5 eligible after 2022, so the Rockies will need to carefully evaluate him as he makes his way into full season ball.

33. Jameson Hannah (40.3 points, 6 ballots), 2020 Trade, CF at Double-A (24)

Hannah was the #23 PuRP at mid-season but he drops out this time around. The athletic lefty outfielder was acquired in a 2020 trade from the Reds that included Jeff Hoffman, Robert Stephenson, and the just-drafted (and now re-acquired) pitcher Case Williams. It wasn’t the first trade for the 5’9” 24-year-old 2018 second rounder (50th overall, signed for $1.8 million), who was traded from Oakland to Cincinnati for Tanner Roark during the 2019 season.

Hannah skipped over Low-A altogether in 2019 with the A’s and Reds — where he performed well enough in High-A during that season (and showed the Rockies enough during the spring) that he was assigned to Double-A Hartford for the 2021 campaign. In 339 PA with Hartford as a player about 0.9 years younger than average, Hannah performed below average offensively while playing center defensively (one error). His .255/.325/.351 line with 21 extra base hits and 11 steals in 13 attempts was only worth 87 wRC+. Hannah decreased his BB% to 9% this year (down from 11% in 2019) and his K% grew to 29% (up from 21%).

MLB.com hung a #21 system rank on Hannah during 2021:

Hannah does have some offensive upside from the left side of the plate. There’s bat speed and the ability to make hard contact, with more gap-to-gap than over-the-fence pop. He’s shown an ability to work counts and take walks, though his approach wasn’t as solid during his first full year. While he’ll record plus run times, Hannah has yet to learn how to use that speed to steal bases.

He has shown that his speed plays in the outfield, with a chance to play center field because of how much ground he can cover. He’s seen time at all three outfield spots as a pro, with perhaps a floor as a valuable fourth outfielder. But with a fringy arm, Hannah’s best chance at an everyday spot would likely be in center or left.

FanGraphs succinctly summed up Hannah’s profile when they said he had “1989 4th outfielder tools” — implying a profile with good speed and defensive utility but not much offensive impact. I subscribe more to this evaluation than the MLB Pipeline one, which is why Hannah didn’t make my personal PuRPs list. Well, that and the fact the Rockies didn’t protect Hannah from the Rule 5 draft this season, even though Hannah has the profile of a Rule 5 pick outfield contributor.

32. Julio Carreras (41 points, 7 ballots), 2017 IFA (VZ), 3B/SS at Low A (22)

Carreras didn’t make headlines with a big signing bonus, unlike some of the other Latin American prospects that have been or will be covered in this process. In fact, the 21-year-old infielder wasn’t signed until he was 18 — in February 2018 — for a $15,000 bonus. He had an excellent stat line in his debut season in the DSL and got some rave reviews from scouts before the 2019 season that put him firmly on the PuRPs radar. He followed up those accolades with a strong 2019 stateside debut and it seemed as if Carreras was heading toward the upper echelon of the system.

That still might be the case for Carreras, but 2021 was a speed bump. Assigned to Low-A Fresno — an age appropriate level — in mid-May, Carreras didn’t fare well. In 404 PA, his .254/.306/.392 line with 31 extra base hits and 15 steals in 19 attempts was only worth 82 wRC+ while his 6% BB/26% K split wasn’t encouraging either. The good news is his OPS went up each month from an anemic .497 in May to a strong .843 thus far in August before a dip to .699 in September. Defensively, Carreras (who has one of the best infield arms in the system) split most of his time between third and shortstop, where he committed 13 errors in 94 games.

Perhaps more damning than the struggles in full season ball for Carreras was the major back-up in the scouting report FanGraphs gave him in January as they moved him down into the prospects of note category:

Carreras, 22, was once in the 40+ FV tier as a bat speed/athleticism prospect exciting scouts on the backfields. Unidentified plate discipline issues were his undoing in 2021, and some of the bat speed has backed up (or was initially misevaluated).

On the brighter side, MLB.com’s mid-season evaluation placed Carreras 24th in the organization:

Carreras provides an exciting combination of size, strength and athleticism to both sides of the ball. He has plenty of bat speed with present leverage to his right-handed swing and when he grows into his 6-foot-2 frame more, there’s bound to be more power to come. Carreras is able to extend and make hard contact out front, all while showing a solid approach at the plate.

The 21-year-old infielder creates buzz with his defense as well. He has quick reactions and one of the best infield arms in the system. Carreras has shown the ability to play second, third and short capably, but given his physical and offensive projection, he might profile at third base the best in terms of a long-term home, though the Rockies love positional flexibility from their infielders.

It was a struggle for Carreras in Low-A, there’s no denying that. He’s also Rule 5 eligible after 2022 and therefore would require a 40-man roster spot despite probably not being MLB ready until at least 2024. I struggled with Carreras, a prospect I had really championed in previous lists, but the major hit tool and bat speed concerns FanGraphs had ultimately pushed him off my personal ballot entirely. He’s still a player with big league potential, but the path there seems less clear now than it did at this time last year.

31. Tony Locey (47 points, 7 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 2021. 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 came out of the bullpen initially with 15 relief appearances totaling 22 IP, a 3.68 ERA, 1.64 WHIP, 6.5 BB/9 rate, and 9.4 K/9 rate. In other words, he was pretty wild but reasonably effective. When an injury in the rotation opened up a slot for him in late July though, Locey stepped up nicely. In 10 starts to finish the year (including a couple to ramp up his innings), Locey threw 42 23 frames of 3.16 ERA ball with a 1.41 WHIP. He was still wild (5.9 BB/9), but his K/9 rate actually increase to 12.0.

The starting utility, bat-missing stuff, and draft pedigree were enough for me to sneak Locey onto the back end of my personal ballot in 30th as a 35+ FV prospect. That despite a FanGraphs evaluation that dropped Locey out of the 40 FV tier into the prospects of note section:

[Locey] was not throwing as hard as he was when he broke out at Georgia, and instead sat about 93 mph with a fringe slider/curveball combo.

We’ll see if Locey’s late season form holds and if the Rockies continue with him in a starting role to begin 2022, after which he’ll be Rule 5 eligible. Especially if Locey is back in the bullpen, expect him to be stress tested at higher levels to see if he’s worth adding to the 40 man.

★ ★ ★

In my opinion, the Rockies have about 20 players that have arguments for the bottom three slots on the PuRPs list (including four on my personal ballot that didn’t make it). To see the players that did make the cut, check back regularly as I unveil the pre-season 2022 PuRPs list!