10. Brent Doyle (405 points, 20 ballots)
Brent Doyle sure looks the part of a future impact major leaguer. The 6’3”, 200-pound righty outfielder, who turns 24 next month, has bulk and athleticism that evokes a football player. Doyle signed for an above-slot $500k out of D-2 Shepherd University as a fourth-rounder in 2019 and immediately won the rookie-level Pioneer League batting title with a 185 wRC+, showing substance in support of his gaudy college stats (.380/.438/.647 with 90 extra-base hits in 699 plate appearances).
Thomas Harding’s profile of Doyle at MLB.com explains more about how a five-tool prospect found himself in D-2 and then ultimately with the Rockies. It’s worth reading in its entirety, but in summary, Doyle dreamed of entering the military and committed initially to Virginia Military Institute. By the time he’d de-committed to pursue baseball, D-2 was all that was available to him. After excelling there and getting drafted, Doyle found himself with some extra time to work on his game after getting hit in the face with a line drive in the on-deck circle. He made some adjustments to his stance and then excelled in the Pioneer League.
During a 2020 season limited only to fall instructs, Doyle again dazzled. Former AGM of Player Development Zach Wilson had this to say about Doyle at the time:
“His body is in great shape and it’s playing out that way on the field. He’s spraying the ball all over the place, he has easy raw power. It’s a different sound off of his bat. He’s a 55-60 runner, he can play every outfield position — he’s played mostly right field here — and he easily has a 65 arm. He’s screaming Major League player.”
Doyle was assigned straight to High-A entering 2021, where he was about league average age. With Spokane, Doyle showed flashes of the elite athleticism and tools which get scouts excited, but he also struggled with swing and miss, especially against breaking balls. Some of these struggles have been attributed (by scouts) to concerns about the birth of his first daughter in late July. Maybe there’s something to that: Doyle had a .762 OPS before his daughter was born and a .912 OPS in August.
In 424 plate appearances for Spokane, Doyle was fourth in the league in hits and second in strikeouts (31.6% of PA) while walking just 7% of the time. He hit .280/.336/.454 with 16 homers, 34 extra-base hits, and stole 21 bags in 27 attempts for a 110 wRC+. Defensively, Doyle excelled as the regular center fielder and won a Gold Glove for his efforts there, using his plus speed and arm to record 13 outfield assists.
Here’s a couple of Doyle’s 2021 homers in Spokane, courtesy of MLB.com:
Baseball Prospectus provided a July 2021 dispatch on Doyle via Kevin Johnson:
[Doyle] has a balanced, solid, athletic build with room for good growth and shows average or better tools across the board, highlighted by his plus raw power and plus speed. In my recent viewings, the right hander stands upright and relaxed with a slightly open stance. He has a short load with some lift to his swing, which has created some swing-and-miss, specifically with breaking pitches down in the zone.
The strong and agile outfielder has been making slight adjustments with his stance throughout the year, opening or closing his front side a bit in an effort to better free up his hands and barrel pitches to all fields. His plus athleticism and strong hands should allow him to continue making the necessary adjustments to keep his bat path in the zone longer and reduce his strikeout rate below 30 percent.
Defensively, Doyle profiles nicely in center field; however, his plus speed, plus arm, easy actions and efficient routes allow him to fit well at any outfield position.
In November, BP listed Doyle as a Prospect on the Rise in their system write-up:
“Defense never slumps” is an old canard, but Doyle’s plus speed and arm lets him man any spot on the grass, and his advanced tracking and routes give him a potential above-average center field projection. At the plate it was a year of swing tweaks for Doyle, and he went through fallow stretches at the plate. Even when he was hitting, the swing-and-miss was at concerning levels for a 23-year-old college bat in High-A. There’s a chance for an average hit tool with the right swing tweak, which would give him enough offensive value given the average pop to be a starter in center, but we are a ways away from that future at present.
ESPN.com’s Kiley McDaniel ranked Doyle 5th in the system as a 45 FV prospect last month:
[Doyle] had a great post-draft debut in 2019, then came back in 2021 with a solid season but one that shows where his floor/ceiling will be. Doyle is the somewhat familiar lower-contact rate center fielder with big raw power — with those types ranging from Drew Stubbs to Mike Cameron. Doyle will be 24 in May and should spend most of the year in Double-A, letting us know if he’s more of a low-end starter or role player.
Fangraphs ranked Doyle 9th in their January system ranking as a 45 FV prospect:
Even though he’s approaching 24, Doyle remains a high-variance prospect because the hit tool quality is going to heavily influence his overall performance, and it’s harder to get a grip on projecting that because the context for his development is unique (tiny school, abnormal 2020, a fast-approaching 40-man decision later this year). It’s easy to envision him striking out so much in 2022 that Colorado struggles to justify adding him to the 40-man next offseason, but he has the tools to enjoy a big mid-20s breakout à la Mitch Haniger. Valuing this profile in the 45 FV tier, where we had him last year, feels too rich at this point, but there is sizable long-term upside here.
Doyle’s premium athleticism and conditioning were still on full display in 2021, despite the inconsistency of his results. With an upright stance that helps him leverage the ball more, he’s still learning to tap into his plus raw power on a regular basis. He gets over-aggressive at the plate and expands the zone too much, rarely drawing walks (7.1 percent rate in 2021). That, in turn, led to a spike in his strikeout rate (31.6 pct), and while there’s work to be done to find a sustainable approach, it should be noted he was much more productive after he returned from home and the pressure of impending fatherhood was lifted.
Doyle won a Rawlings Gold Glove for his defensive work in center field, and his plus speed will allow him to stay there, with a plus arm to boot, for a very long time. If he can refine his approach, he has the chance to bring an exciting power-speed combination to Colorado.
That evaluation is headlined by a plus (60) speed, arm, and field evaluation, with power at 55 and hit at 45. The Fangraphs evaluation also gives him 60 raw power and speed grades. It’s the hit tool that matters most though, and in that category Doyle lags a bit behind.
Doyle’s athleticism and tools make him an exciting prospect, though the approach’s deficiencies started to appear against higher level pitching. His ability to play center field or a strong right field as a MLB regular raises his ceiling quite a bit, and if he can make adjustments to keep the swing and miss in his game down against better spin, Doyle will get to the Show by 2023 or 2024.
Doyle will begin 2022 in Double-A, where he hopefully will continue to make progress in his hitting approach and secure a 40-man roster spot at the end of the year. I ranked Doyle 7th on my list with a 45 FV designation because I’m a believer in the tools/production combo and because he is one of the few prospects in this system who has star potential.