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Colorado Rockies prospect rankings, mid-season 2022: numbers 20 to 16

We’ve officially hit the midway point

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We’re entering the mid-point of the mid-season 2022 Purple Row Prospects (PuRPs) list. Previously we had PuRPs 30-26 and 25-21, today we head into the top 20. As a reminder, in this edition of the PuRPs poll, 28 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 2022 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.

20. Helcris Olivarez (313 points, 25 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: 13 — High Ballot 9, Mode Ballot 25

How did he enter the organization?

2016 International Free Agent, Dominican Republic

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

The 22-year-old lefty starter possesses one of the higher ceilings among Rockies pitching prospects. In fact, the 6’3”, 200-pound hurler was protected on the 40-man roster after excelling in fall instructs in 2020 despite never pitching above rookie ball at that point. Olivarez boasts a bat-missing repertoire that includes a mid-90s fastball from the left side and an above-average curve, as well as his smooth delivery. When healthy, that is.

However, health hasn’t been in the cards for Olivarez this year, who has just one two-inning rehab start about a month ago in the Arizona Complex League this year after suffering a scapula strain in his left shoulder. Since that outing in mid-July, Olivarez hasn’t pitched again and it’s unlikely we’ll see him in a competitive situation until next spring. Beyond the obvious sympathy for a lost season to a young prospect, it’s frustrating as a Rockies fan as Olivarez has already burned through two minor league option years without so much as pitching above A-ball.

If he remains on the 40-man this off-season, Olivarez could be facing down a role change to the bullpen to get him moving to the upper levels of the system, or he could remain a starter, probably in Double- or even Triple-A. Olivarez is coming off a year in 2021 where he struggled in High-A, so that sounds like a tough ask if he hasn’t refined his command in the meantime.

Here’s some video of Olivarez from extended spring training in 2019 courtesy of FanGraphs, including some slo-mo looks at his delivery:

What do the scouts say?

In the scouting report accompanying the above video, FanGraphs ranks Olivarez 27th in the system with a 40 FV grade, albeit as a as a relief pitcher (highlighted by a 70 future grade on the fastball):

Olivarez has yet to develop cogent strike-throwing ability even though his silky smooth mechanics bear some resemblance to Cole Hamels‘, especially the way his rear leg finishes. Olivarez does have tremendous stuff for a 21-year-old. He already sits 96 mph, maintains his arm speed while throwing his changeup, and flashes a plus curveball. There’s arguably too much velocity separation between the heater and curveball for the latter to be effective right now (on average, there’s a 20 mph difference), but it has bat-missing depth and shape on occasion. Olivarez began throwing more changeups than breaking balls in 2021, and while he sells it as a fastball out of the hand, he doesn’t have great feel for location right now. Colorado has already used one of his option years, and it’s unlikely that Olivarez will suddenly look ready for a big league roster spot in 2022, which means they’ll likely use another. A looming lack of roster flexibility makes it more likely he winds up in the bullpen. Many things — holding the velo deep into games, mechanical consistency, a sharper curveball, a much better changeup — need to progress for Olivarez to actualize what appears to be massive potential when you consider his arm strength, frame, and proclivity for spin.

Keith Law of the Athletic placed Olivarez 10th in his February system rank:

Olivarez has huge stuff, getting up to the upper 90s, but he’s a long-levered player who has a hard time syncing up his delivery to get to strikes, and he walked 68 batters in 99 innings last year in High-A Spokane. He’s just 21, however, with limited pitching experience and can spin a curveball in addition to pumping gas, so there’s still time for the Rockies to try to get him to slow down his tempo and get the delivery more consistent. ranks Olivarez 30th in the system currently as a 40 FV player, highlighted by a 65 grade on the fastball and a 55 on the curve:

There’s nothing wrong with the 6-foot-3 southpaw’s stuff. His fastball easily sits in the mid-90s and he couples it with a power curve that might be a plus out pitch in time. He throws his changeup with good arm speed, and it should be a solid third pitch for him. All of his pitches come from a strong, physical frame.

As Olivarez grew into that frame quickly, he developed a delivery that was tough to repeat and he would cross over one time and fly open the next. He spent last fall at instructs not pitching in any games, but working on his delivery, his timing and his direction to the plate. If he can harness that and his arm slot, he has the chance to head back in the right direction.

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

Olivarez clearly has the stuff to excite scouts and to pitch in the front half of a rotation, but will he have the time he needs to develop into that kind of pitcher? The injury wiped out a crucial development season for him and he has just one more campaign before the Rockies need him on the active roster. Beyond the injury situation though, Olivarez was hardly on a smooth path beforehand in High-A last year.

Bottom line: the Rockies need to figure out if Olivarez can get big league hitters out, and they probably need to do it as soon as next year. The mid- to front-of-rotation profile presented by Olivarez (despite the injury, command, and timeline issues) was enough for me to rank him 24th on my list with a 40 FV grade.

★ ★ ★

19. Grant Lavigne (333 points, 26 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: 22 — High Ballot 9, Mode Ballot 17

How did he enter the organization?

2018 Competitive Balance Round A, Bedford HS (NH)

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

The nearly-23-year-old’s profile is buoyed by draft pedigree (42nd pick overall in the 2018 draft, over-slot $2 million bonus) and plate discipline (career 14% walk rate). The 6’4”, 220-pound, righty-throwing, lefty-hitting first baseman had a tremendous debut offensive season in 2018 (160 wRC+) but only in 2022 while repeating in High-A did Lavigne approach that performance in full-season ball.

That written, Lavigne was at or above league average offensively each season. He just hasn’t done it in the way you’d expect a first baseman his size to compile that kind of stat line. It’s not quite a Three True Outcomes profile, because while you’re quite likely to see a strikeout (23% of PA) or walk (14%) from Lavigne, in three seasons’ worth of plate appearances, he’s only managed 30 home runs and a .408 slugging percentage.

As mentioned above, Lavigne began 2022 repeating in High-A Spokane as a player about 0.5 years younger than league average. In 282 plate appearances, Lavigne hit an excellent .315/.406/.469 (147 wRC+) with five homers among his 24 extra-base hits to earn a July promotion to Double-A. With Hartford, Lavigne split defensive time at first with fellow PuRP Michael Toglia until Toglia’s recent promotion to Triple-A. Offensively, in 134 PA against pitchers who are about 1.9 years older on average, Lavigne is hitting .257/.373/.372 with three homers but only six extra-base hits altogether — still it’s an above average 112 wRC+.

Here is some video of Lavigne from April 2019 courtesy of 2080 Baseball:

What do the scouts say? is high on Lavigne, ranking him 13th as a 45 FV player:

When he was struggling, Lavigne was getting caught between the hitter he’d always been, one focused on contact with excellent plate discipline, and the one he thought he had to be, a power-hitting first baseman. He sold out for power too much in 2019 and got out of his approach. He’s still learning to catch the ball out front and let his natural strength do its thing. In 2021, he started getting much more comfortable with his swing and was adjusting to velocity more consistently.

Lavigne is going to have to hit to keep moving up, as he’s a fringy defender at first base with a below-average arm.

Keith Law of the Athletic placed Lavigne in the “others of note” section in his top 20 system rank back in February:

First baseman Grant Lavigne salvaged his prospect status by hitting well while repeating Low-A, but scuffled in a month in High-A without power. He has to go back there and mash again to get back on track to the majors in his age-22 season

As was the case for Aaron Schunk (HM PuRP), Lavigne plunged into the “prospect of note” category for FanGraphs after residing previously in the 40 FV area. The lone note was that “Schunk and Lavigne are corner-only types who have needed to perform consistently to stay afloat, which hasn’t happened”.

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

Lavigne has a similar type of hit over power approach to fellow PuRP Ryan Vilade, though Lavigne both walks and strikes out a bit more. Neither player possesses elite tools or much defensive utility, and therefore appear buried in their quest for a consistent MLB role. Lavigne’s strong offensive season propelled him back onto my PuRPs list in 27th as a 40 FV player, but it’s safe to say I’m less of a fan of this type of profile compared with other PuRPs voters.

Lavigne’s a first-base-only bat who hasn’t shown much in the way of loud (or frequent) contact even against A-ball lower minors pitching until recently. Though the high walk rates are good, at the upper levels prospects need to show the ability to do damage to pitches over the heart of the plate to keep pitchers nibbling on the corners. Lavigne is clearly behind Toglia, Elehuris Montero, Connor Joe, and possibly even Sean Bouchard in the first base playing time pecking order even if the Rockies decide to trade incumbent C.J. Cron. Lavigne is Rule 5 eligible after this season and needs to finish strong to give the Rockies or another club a reason to add him to their 40-man this off-season.

★ ★ ★

18. Karl Kauffmann (342 points, 26 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: 20 — High Ballot 5, Mode Ballot 22

How did he enter the organization?

2019 2nd Round, University of Michigan

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

Despite the draft date and his ability to get a rental car for cheaper as a 25-year-old, this is only the second professional season for Kauffmann and he’s already a starter in Triple-A. The 6’2” right-hander was delayed getting his pro debut by an extended run in the College World Series and then the lost Covid year (and a shoulder injury) in 2020. Last year, the Rockies assigned Kauffmann straight to High-A, where he had only two starts before moving up to Double-A. Though he got knocked around quite a bit in Hartford, it was clear by way of the aggressive assignment how highly thought of he was by the Rockies.

This season, Kauffmann went back to Hartford and it was a different story. He threw 77 23 innings across 15 starts with a 4.06 ERA (3.86 xFIP), a 9.7 K/9 rate, and a 3.9 BB/9 rate. That was enough for the Rockies to promote Kauffmann to Triple-A Albuquerque in early July. Facing hitters who are on average 3.3 years older in one of the most intimidating offensive environments a pitcher can face, he has been...okay. He’s got a 5.60 ERA (6.46 xFIP) in 27 13 innings and six starts for Albuquerque, but he’s living dangerously with a 1.94 WHIP and 7.2 BB/9 rate against just a 6.9 K/9 rate. All told, it’s a good sign Kauffmann is pitching in Albuquerque already, but he hasn’t shown he’s ready for the next challenge just yet.

Here’s some video of Kauffmann from April 2019 with UM courtesy of 2080 Baseball:

What do the scouts say?

Fangraphs ranks Kauffmann 31st in the system with a 40 FV grade:

Kauffmann is a one-seam sinker/changeup righty with a pretty firm, inconsistent mid-80s slider. That refined slider gives him a good shot to pitch in the back of a rotation. ... [In his debut season] Kauffmann threw an above-average rate of strikes, got an above-average rate of groundballs, and missed a below-average rate of bats with his low-90s sinker. He mixes in two- and four-seam variants with his mid-80s sliders and changeups. He’s tracking like a backend starter fit for Coors.

Keith Law of the Athletic listed Kauffmann as one of his others of note in his February top 20 Rockies overview:

Right-hander Karl Kauffmann is a sinker/slider guy who hadn’t pitched since he was drafted in 2019, between his huge workload at Michigan (130 innings that spring) and the pandemic. He went to Double-A after two starts and got hammered, as his slider backed up and he didn’t use his changeup much. I’d like to see him repeat that level after a normal offseason to see if the stuff comes back to where it was in college

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

Kauffmann is in the upper minors and on the doorstep to the Show because of his advanced approach, though he hasn’t fared all that well in Triple-A so far. He’s another player looking to snag a 40-man roster spot this off-season, and given Colorado’s handling of him so far, I’d say it’s a good bet he’s the recipient of one and therefore a strong contender for 2023 rotation depth. Overall, the combination of pedigree, likely starting role, and proximity to MLB led me to rank Kauffmann 23rd in the system with a 40 FV grade.

★ ★ ★

17. Sterlin Thompson (396 points, 26 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: NR — High Ballot 7, Mode Ballot 13

How did he enter the organization?

2022 Supplemental First Round, University of Florida

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

Colorado’s second first round pick of the draft this year, 31st overall, was received as compensation for Trevor Story leaving in free agency. Fair or not, that will be a factoid and comparison that follows the 21-year-old Thompson as he moves up the minor league ladder. The 6’4” lefty hitter and righty thrower, who split time between second base and the outfield at Florida, signed for a slot bonus of just over $2.43 million as a productive college hitter from the toughest conference at the level.

Indeed, Thompson hit .354/.443/.563 in his draft year in 305 PA with 11 homers. The Rockies have already assigned Thompson to the complex league team, where in 10 games and 42 PA so far, he’s hitting an encouraging .306/.381/.472 (132 wRC+) with a homer and three doubles. Defensively, he’s played exclusively in right field so far. A player with Thompson’s pedigree and hit tool is expected to dominate younger pitching, so we’ll know much more once he enters full season ball. We’ll see if the Rockies challenge Thompson to start 2022 in High-A or if they assign him to Low-A.

Here’s some video of Thompson this year at Florida courtesy of Prospects Worldwide:

What do the scouts say? had Thompson ranked 29th in the draft as a 50 FV player and place him 7th in the system:

Thompson has long shown a good feel for hitting from the left side of the plate with a very good approach. He can use the whole field and drive the ball to the gaps, rarely missing a fastball, though he struggles a bit more with softer stuff. The question in terms of his offensive profile comes in trying to project how much power he’ll have. There’s plenty of raw pop there and a sense he’ll gain strength with his 6-foot-3 frame, but he has more of a hit-over-power approach.

A shortstop in high school, Thompson played right field with Florida as a freshman and saw time there and at third this past fall, then played right and second base last spring. Most scouts feel an outfield corner is his best long-term home at the next level. Wherever he plays, it’s his left-handed bat that will carry him up the Rockies’ ladder.

FanGraphs ranked Thompson 46th among draft prospects and slot him at 12th in the system as a 40+ FV player:

Thompson has a sweet lefty swing and is adept at barrelling fastballs and sending them to all fields. He slugged .675 against them in 2022, per Synergy, and rarely ever misses an in-zone heater. He can drop the bat head and hit ones down-and-in, or flatten his path and drive heaters at the letters the other way. The same is not true against offspeed stuff, against which Thompson struggled (more whiffs than balls in play), though as a draft-eligible sophomore who also missed a ton of reps during his senior year of high school, it’s possible his pitch recognition will still improve. His frame is already quite physical, and Thompson has at least average raw power right now, but he still has room for more mass and could have plus raw at peak. He’s played second base and right field, and while it might be worth a shot to send him out at the keystone, he looked unplayable there at Florida. He’s also not a great right field defender and needs reps out there just to be average. He looks like the larger half of a corner outfield platoon (typically a 45 FV) with some yellow flags because of the defense and issues against non-fastballs.

Kiley McDaniel of ranked Thompson 36th among 2022 draft prospects as a 45 FV player:

Thompson would’ve likely been paid in 2020 had the pandemic allowed his season to go a month or two longer, but he raked for two years in the SEC. He has some chance to play a passable second base, but I wonder a bit about his pitch selection, especially identifying spin.

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

In Thompson, I see another hit over power prospect with likely limited defensive utility where the hit tool will need to carry him up the prospect ladder. Thompson appears to be a particularly good version of this prospect profile (he’s got decent raw power) and the hit tool is the most important one, but it certainly is a narrower path to success than I would like. Still, the pedigree and production were enough to rank Thompson 12th on my list as a 45 FV player.

★ ★ ★

16. Yanquiel Fernandez (399 points, 26 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: 25 — High Ballot 7, Mode Ballot 12

How did he enter the organization?

2019 International Free Agent, Cuba

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

The ball just sounds different coming off Fernandez’s bat. The 19-year-old lefty outfielder (who signed for $295k in 2019 out of Cuba) is well-known for making loud contact, and he’s been doing a lot of that this season in Low-A Fresno as one of the youngest players in the league. Fernandez hit the ball a ton in his Dominican Summer League debut in 2021 (154 wRC+), then followed that up with a virtuoso hitting performance in fall instructs that got him on the radar of national scouts everywhere. Fernandez is lauded for his plus power projection and good feel for hitting, though his poor speed limits him to the corner outfield positions.

In 2022, Fernandez skipped the complex league entirely and became a mainstay in the Low-A California League at an age that is 2.1 years younger than average. In 449 plate appearances, Fernandez has displayed his power early and often, launching 17 home runs among his 53 extra-base hits and earning a league-leading (and sixth in all of MiLB) 91 RBI. Fernandez has a .277/.341/.504 line (113 wRC+), walking 8% and striking out 22% of the time. Defensively, Fernandez has been limited to right field, where he’s made nine errors in 79 games there. All told, it’s a strong showing, especially considering the age to level context.

Here’s some video of Fernandez hitting in fall instructs, courtesy of FanGraphs:

What do the scouts say?

In the report accompanying the above video, FanGraphs ranks Fernandez 9th as a 40+ FV prospect (emphasis mine):

[Fernandez] came stateside for instructs and hit a bunch of balls much harder than is typical for a player his age, sizzling balls into the outfield gaps. Fernandez also looked over-eager at the plate and offered at too many non-competitive pitches. His DSL line didn’t have any plate discipline red flags, but strike-throwing in the DSL is so poor that it’s hard not to walk at least 10% of the time. We don’t have data for his instructs run and it would probably be too small a sample to matter anyway. Plus, Fernandez was facing a lot of recently-drafted college pitchers who are three and four years older than him. The ball/strike recognition piece of the puzzle is simply not a thing we really know about right now, but because Fernandez is a corner-only prospect, it’s a very important component of his future. He’s a strapping, broad-shouldered young man with considerable thunder in his hands and a more muscular physique than is typical for a hitter this age, and Fernandez can do real damage without taking out-of-control swings, giving him the look of a dangerous lefty stick with a contact and power blend. He has a much more obvious path toward being a 50 FV prospect or better than most of the other young hitters in this system, but his big league timeline and our inability to truly understand the plate discipline piece of Fernandez’s skill set makes him quite volatile at this stage.

Kiley McDaniel of slotted Fernandez 8th in the system pre-season as a 45 FV player:

Fernandez has plus lefty raw power and showed it in the DSL, along with a solid contact rate. It seems to me to be more of a “more talented than my opposition” than a “I have power, know how to use it, but also contact skills and good pitch selection as an 18-year-old.” But also, we don’t really have any bad information here other than he’s definitely a corner outfielder.

Keith Law of the Athletic ranked Fernandez 9th in the system in February:

[Fernandez] debuted in the DSL last summer at age 18 and hit .333/.406/.531 with good feel for the zone. He’s all bat, a corner outfielder who doesn’t run and isn’t twitchy, but he already shows a good approach with some hard contact and flashes power in batting practice. He’ll play at 19 this year and should go right to Low-A, where we’ll get a better read on how advanced his bat is now.

Fernandez is 12th in the system as a 45 FV player for

Fernandez has the chance to hit for both average and power from the left side of the plate. Both in the DSL and at instructs last fall, Fernandez showed a knack for barreling up the baseball with hard contact. It’s a small sample, but he’s shown he can turn around premium velocity with plus bat speed while displaying strong strike zone knowledge. He’ll take a walk, work counts and doesn’t strike out much, all while having raw power to all fields.

Strong and physical, Fernandez will hit his way up the ladder. He has a strong arm, but he will be limited to an outfield corner, playing right field almost exclusively during his debut. He reminds some of the Astros’ Yordan Alvarez in terms of his offensive profile as he makes his United States debut this season at age 19.

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

Clearly Fernandez is being evaluated as a bat-first prospect with limited defensive utility, which lowers his floor considerably. He’s also far away from the big leagues and will need 40-man protection after next season. The good news is the offensive profile is quite exciting, boasting both plus power and decent contact ability so far. In a system that is short on true potential impact players, someone with Fernandez’s skillset jumps out. I ranked him 17th on my ballot with a 40+ FV designation, which honestly could be light considering his 2022 season.

★ ★ ★

Next week we’ll enter the top half of the mid-season 2022 PuRPs list!