Now that the pre-season Purple Row Prospects (PuRPs) balloting period has concluded, it’s time to reveal the community’s top 30 prospects in the Colorado system. These prospects will be revealed over the next several weeks to give fans an overview of players who could make an impact on the Rockies soon.
First up: an introduction to the list and then a rundown of every player to get votes from number 51 to 36. In a separate post tomorrow I’ll reveal the five honorable mention PuRPs and move to the top 30 after that, one at a time. I’ll conclude the series with a voting summary and a state of the system post.
There were 24 ballots this time around (down from 28 last time). 30 points were granted for a first place vote, 29 for second, etc. Until a player was named on eight ballots, his vote totals were modified on a sliding scale to avoid an individual ballot having too much say over the community forecast — though none of the top 30 players on this edition of the list were listed on fewer than 12 ballots.
If necessary, the first tiebreaker went to the player who was ranked on the most ballots, then to the one who ranked highest on an individual PuRPs ballot, the third tiebreaker was the mode ballot. All prospects in the system who retained their Rookie of the Year eligibility (fewer than 130 ABs, 50 IP, and 45 days on the active roster — IL time is not included) were eligible for selection on this list.
Since the mid-season 2022 balloting, two PuRPs lost eligibility (No. 5 PuRP Elehuris Montero and No. 24 PuRP Ryan Vilade), but the Rockies added some prospects via trades and additionally several players had both hot and cold finishes to their 2022 system that shook up the ranks.
In the 24 ballots there was room for 51 players listed in the top 30 of at least one PuRPs ballot, down from 56 in the mid-season 2022 list. There were 44 players named on multiple ballots (down from 48), while 33 were listed on at least eight ballots (down from 35) and therefore had unmodified point totals. There were 20 different prospects receiving a top 10 placement on at least one list (down from 27). The top 21 made it on over 91% of ballots, indicating a strong consensus for that group. Here is a link to this list’s polling thread.
For each player on the PuRPs list, I’ll include a link to individual stats and contract status (via Baseball-Reference) and notes on their scouting reports, if applicable. For the sake of full disclosure, I’ll also include where I put each player on my personal ballot. With players receiving votes, I’ll provide the B-Ref link and voting stats, plus a short blurb. All ages will be as of the day the article was posted.
Remember, statistics are not the end-all, be-all when evaluating these players. Context is hugely important (notably, the player’s age relative to the league’s average, the league’s average offensive numbers, or the player’s 40-man roster calendar), as is the fact that injuries to prospects can affect both their tools and their stats. I’ll try to make mention of instances where this is the case as we go on.
Without further ado, here are the players who ranked 51 to 36 in 2023 pre-season PuRPs voting:
Single Ballot Players
51. Nick Bush (0.1 points, 1 ballot) — the lefty starter is a 26-year-old who repeated at Double-A Hartford in 2022. In 19 starts, the 2018 8th rounder threw 100 1⁄3 frames with a 3.68 ERA (3.61 xFIP), 1.4 BB/9, and 8.8 K/9 at a league average age. Bush, who was exposed to the Rule 5 draft but was unselected, represents back-end starter depth for 2023.
Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs described Bush in mid-season 2021 as, “a vertical arm slot lefty whose fringe fastball velocity plays up due to deception, and his curveball has terrific depth. He has a passable change that could help make him a spot starter.”
50. Angel Chivilli (0.3 points, 1 ballot) — the 20-year-old righty reliever has been highlighted by prospect watchers as a potential late inning arm for the Rockies. In 2022 as a 19-year-old against players who were on average 2.2 years (complex league) and 2.8 years (A-ball), Chivilli put up excellent numbers in 40 2⁄3 innings across 32 appearances. He posted a 2.21 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and a 11.3 K/9 rate against a 2.2 BB/9 rate with 10 saves.
Chivilli came in in relief and worked a couple of innings sitting 95-98 mph. He is super loose and projectable and might still throw harder, but his secondary stuff (a mid-80s slider and changeup) is currently below average. There’s one obvious impact pitch here in the fastball, and Chivilli only needs to develop one other offering to project in relief. Because he signed in 2018, the 2022 season is technically his 40-man evaluation year. He’s a developmental prospect at this stage, likely too far from the big leagues to be added to the 40-man after the season, and also too raw to be taken (and stick) via the Rule 5 Draft. We’re looking at a two-to-three year timeline for Chivilli to work towards a 40-man spot, probably still in relief.
Chivilli was indeed not protected and not selected in the Rule 5 draft, but if he continues to impress in full season ball in 2023 he’ll be a potential 40 man roster spot earner for the Rockies.
49. Bladimir Restituyo (0.4 points, 1 ballot) — the 21-year-old righty outfielder (mostly in center) is another player who didn’t get protected in the Rule 5 draft. The former PuRP had a bit of a bounce-back campaign in 2022, hitting .280/.301/.407 (94 wRC+) in 423 PA in High-A against pitchers who were on average 2.5 years older. It’s a good step forward for Restituyo, but he’ll need to take another big step forward if he hopes to claim a 40 man spot after 2023.
48. Blair Calvo (0.6 points, 1 ballot) — Calvo is a 2019 late-round pick who just got added to the 40 man roster. The 26-year-old right-handed reliever showed nasty stuff in 2022, striking out 47 in 35 innings with Double-A Hartford (12.1 K/9), though he got knocked around a bit in the prestigious Arizona Fall League (14 ER on 18 H and 7 BB in 9 IP). After ranking Calvo 29th in the system as a 35+ FV arm pre-season, Fangraphs’ Longenhagen bumped Calvo up to a 40 FV evaluation in November in comparing him to fellow PuRP vote getter Riley Pint:
Calvo is not as famous as Pint, but his stuff and command are both better. Like Pint, his fastball doesn’t always play like a mid-90s pitch because of its tailing shape, but his slider (which looked incredible in the Fall League) has so much length that it might be a 70-grade pitch. He’s definitely a consistent on-roster reliever. I typically won’t 40+ (or better) a pure reliever unless they have multiple bat-missing weapons, but perhaps I’m underrating the impact of Calvo’s slider quality here.
I too ranked Calvo as a 40 FV pitcher, though he ended up below Pint on my personal ballot, off the top 30 but deserving of a PuRPs slot in a thinner version of the system.
47. Adam McKillican (0.8 points, 1 ballot) — the 25-year-old Canadian right-handed reliever was a non-drafted FA in 2021 for Texas (and several independent leagues), then he came to Colorado’s system for 2022 and pitched well in High-A Spokane when he was 0.8 years older than league average. In 44 innings across 32 appearances, McKillican posted a 1.64 ERA (4.06 xFIP) with a 9.8 K/9 rate against a 3.7 BB/9 rate. We’ll see how the Rockies treat him in 2023 — if McKillican is performing well in Double-A by mid-season, he could get a lot more PuRPs consideration.
46. Stephen Jones (1.4 points, 1 ballot) — another right-handed reliever, the 25-year-old was a late round pick in 2019 (signing for just $3k) who pitched well in 58 innings at Double-A Hartford in 2022 at 0.5 years younger than league average with a 2.64 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and 10.4 K/9 rate against a 3.7 BB/9 rate. Like Calvo, Jones got knocked around in the AFL (13 ER in 10 IP), but his inclusion there was still encouraging.
A 6-foot-4 right-hander, Jones actually has three pitches at his disposal. He throws his fastball in the 94-98 mph range with good downward plane and can work it to both sides of the plate. His slider might be a solid swing-and-miss pitch when all is said and done, with good bite and depth to it, and he even has a usable changeup with deception and sink that can help neutralize left-handed hitters.
Jones doesn’t have pinpoint command, but he does tend to be around the plate, with enough control to be effective as a reliever.
43. Mitchell Kilkenny (2.1 points, 1 ballot) — the 25-year-old righty starter and 2018 second rounder was a rotation mainstay in 2022 for Double-A Hartford. The former PuRP threw 102 innings across 24 starts but didn’t get particularly encouraging results, posting a 5.56 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, and 6.7 K/9 rate. He was not protected from the Rule 5 draft and it appears his prospect status could really use a strong 2023 to get back on track.
45. Ronaiker Palma (1.5 points, 2 ballots) — a 2017 international signee out of Venezuela who wasn’t protected or selected in the Rule 5 draft this year, the 23-year-old is an athletic catcher noted for his high-contact ways and strong catch and throw skills. Palma hit well in High-A Spokane, with a .300/.336/.401 line (106 wRC+) in 247 PA as the back-up to top 100 prospect Drew Romo. Fangraphs likes Palma enough to rank him 31st in the system as a 35+ FV prospect:
Palma is built like a Volkswagen Beetle and is extremely difficult to make swing and miss in the strike zone. He’s been in pro ball since 2018 and has only struck out 36 times during affiliated games. He’s also barely played, in part due to injury, and has only averaged about 40 annual games as a pro. Healthy Palma is a plus athlete with great catch-and-throw skills thanks to the quickness of his release. His offensive skill set is similar to Yohel Pozo and Willians Astudillo, and Palma has a seemingly pathological need to put balls in play, though he doesn’t yet have the same kind of power on contact as either Pozo or Astudillo. For now, he’s an interesting sleeper at a very shallow big league position.
Longenhagen further remarked on Palma in November when talking about 40 man roster decisions:
Palma’s lack of physicality might be a barrier between him and being drafted, but he has fantastic catch-and-throw skills and could be a 40–60 game [MLB] backup in 2023, with more long-term upside because of his contact skills.
Palma has been on the periphery of my list for the last few PuRP cycles, and this time I decided to highlight him (ranking him 29th) as a player to watch (and my second ranked pure catcher) instead of another back-end starter or middle reliever.
44. Alberto Pacheco (2.0 points, 2 ballots) — the 20-year-old lefty starter (who signed for $400k in 2019) made his stateside debut in the complex league in 2022 at about 2.2 years younger than league average. In 46 IP across 11 appearances, Pacheco stood out with a 3.13 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and 11.2 K/9 rate (2.9 BB/9 rate). Longenhagen of Fangraphs wrote up Pacheco in April 2022 in extended spring training:
[Pacheco] was up to 95 mph, sitting 91-94, and had a better breaking ball than our reports from 2021 indicated, a two-plane slurve in the 82-85 mph range. He had better feel for landing it as an in-zone strike than he did for burying it as a finishing pitch. His changeup was in the 84-87 mph range, consistent with reports from last year. There are ways you could frame it (teenage lefty up to 95!) to justify a re-evaluation and a move up the Colorado pref list, and Pacheco is certainly a pitcher in their system to know, but let’s see how the velo trends this summer. Pacheco has three pitches in the 45/50-grade area and is still several years away from the big leagues, so he probably still belongs in the Others of Note area.
Pacheco will be in his first 40-man roster evaluation year in 2023 and he’s yet to pitch at full season ball yet, but the results and stuff are encouraging and Pacheco could be a breakout prospect this year.
42. Jack Blomgren (2.8 points, 2 ballots) — the 24-year-old middle infielder was Colorado’s fifth rounder in 2020 out of the University of Michigan, where Blomgren played shortstop and was a fiery glove-first leader on a team that was the runner-up in the College World Series in 2019. Based on that description, it’s no surprise that Blomgren was described thusly by Keith Law of the Athletic in February 2022:
Shortstop Jack Blomgren has a shot to be a good utility player, with strong contact skills, some speed and a high baseball IQ. The Rockies could try him in center to help boost his value as a jack-of-all-trades bench piece
Unfortunately, Blomgren was limited by injuries to just 20 plate appearances in 2022 for Double-A Hartford, though he raked (.353/.421/.647) in that small sample. Though his athleticism might not measure up to the top prospects on this list, Blomgren seems more likely than most to maximize his ability and potentially eke out a big league career.
41. Coco Montes (6.8 points, 3 ballots) — the 2018 15th rounder was briefly on the PuRPs radar back in 2018 when he absolutely murdered Pioneer League pitching, and now the 26-year-old righty-hitting utility infielder is back. That’s thanks to a 2022 season that saw Montes get to the doorstep of MLB, splitting time between Double-A Hartford and Triple-A Albuquerque at second, short, and third.
Montes hit .245/.383/.265 in 60 Double-A PA, then was promoted in late April to Triple-A, where he hit .274/.359/.500 (112 wRC+) with 20 homers among his 51 extra base hits in 479 PA against pitchers who were on average 1.6 years older. Though he was unprotected and unselected in the Rule 5 draft, Montes will likely serve as close to MLB infield depth for 2023 and could well find himself on the big league roster this year.
40. Willie MacIver (7.1 points, 3 ballots) — the 26-year-old backstop was a PuRP in last season’s pre-season list, but hasn’t been able to sustain the run of form that got him a place in the 2021 Futures Game in the upper levels of the minor leagues. In 2022, MacIver repeated in Double-A Hartford (with a cameo in Albuquerque), where he was 1.2 years older than league average. In 396 PA, MacIver hit .231/.315/.413 (99 wRC+) for Hartford with 15 homers among his 33 extra base hits.
MacIver was described by Fangraphs before 2022 as “Catching Depth”. They noted he “does have unusual athleticism for a catcher but is more of a ready-made third or fourth catcher in an org rather than a true backup, mostly due to swing-and-miss issues.” MacIver seems likely to serve as the primary Triple-A catcher in 2023 and is a likely 40 man roster add if the Rockies need another backstop.
39. Bryant Betancourt (8.3 points, 3 ballots) — the 19-year-old is a bat-first catcher/first base prospect from Venezuela who laid waste to the Dominican Summer League in 2022, his second season at the level. In 175 PA at a league average age, Betancourt hit .355/.462/.674 (190 wRC+) with 11 HR (second in the league) and 11 2B. Defensively, Betancourt spent more time at first base and DH than catcher, but we don’t know yet which position he’ll occupy once he gets stateside. If he does stay as a catcher, there will be a lot less pressure on the bat to succeed.
38. Daniel Montano (9.0 points, 4 ballots) — the 23-year-old lefty-hitting, righty-throwing outfielder returned to the mid-season PuRPs list after a 3.5 year absence on the strength of a resurgent 2022 spent between High-A Spokane and Double-A Hartford. In a return engagement to Spokane, Montano hit .321/.420/.523 (159 wRC+) in 133 PA with more refined plate discipline (15% walks, 19% strikeouts). That earned him a promotion in late May to Double-A Hartford, where Montano was about 0.9 years younger than league average.
Against more advanced pitching, Montano’s .252/.355/.439 line in 359 PA was still well above average (119 wRC+). Montano hit 13 of his 14 home runs in Hartford and maintained a 14% walk percentage, though his strikeout percentage climbed to 28%. Defensively, Montano played all three outfield positions, though mostly on the corners.
The Rockies didn’t add Montano, who entered the system with a lot of hype and a $2 million signing bonus back in 2015, to the 40 man roster to keep him from minor league free agency after 2022, but they did sign him back to a minor league deal this off-season. He’ll likely slot in somewhere in the AA/AAA mix in 2023. Montano’s offensive surge in 2022 put him just off my list, but with a 40 FV designation as a player with a potential big league future.
37. Connor Staine (12.5 points, 4 ballots) — Staine was the 146th overall pick in the fifth round in 2022 by the Rockies, but many draft outlets had him ranked much higher. The 22-year-old right-hander out of UCF was 88th overall in MLB.com’s draft rankings (only two spots behind Rockies 3rd rounder Carson Palmquist) as a 45 FV prospect, and is now ranked 21st in the system:
Staine is a 6-foot-5 athletic right-hander with a loose arm and some upside. His fastball was up to 96-97 mph and averaged just over 93 mph this past year at Central Florida, a bit of a velocity spike from earlier in his college career. His 80-81 mph slider also improved, and while it’s probably fringy now, it has an up arrow next to it and it’s easy to see it being an average breaking ball that misses bats. He can fold in a slower get-me-over curve, and while he doesn’t throw it much, he shows feel for at least an average changeup.
While he’s largely been around the strike zone, Staine’s command has come and gone at times this season. A minor back issue slowed him a bit, as did a blister, but his size and pure stuff provide some projection and a college arm to dream on, with the upside of filling a big league rotation spot if it all clicks.
Kiley McDaniel of ESPN.com ranked Staine 96th pre-draft as a 40 FV prospect, saying that “Staine will get into the mid-90s with a solid-average slider and starter traits.” Staine hasn’t made his professional debut yet, but his upside makes him an intriguing arm to follow this season.
36. Juan Guerrero (23.3 points, 6 ballots) — the 21-year-old righty slugger from the Dominican Republic was a notable prospect who was exposed to Rule 5 this off-season but who might need to be protected with a strong 2023 season. After signing for $650k in 2018 as an infielder who primarily spent his debut season at third base, Guerrero was moved to full-time corner outfield duty in 2021 in the Arizona Complex League.
In 2022, Guerrero made his full-season debut with Low-A Fresno, where he was about 1.1 years younger than league average. In Fresno, he played all three outfield positions (most in left) along with some time as the DH, with five errors in his 89 games out there, but he did make an amazing catch in right field. Offensively, Guerrero hit .274/.335/.437 with 14 homers among his 42 extra-base hits in 506 PA (97 wRC+). Though the line was below average for the league, it was a very strong debut for a 20-year-old in his first exposure to full-season ball.
Guerrero has already shown a very good feel at the plate and even though it’s more of a “see the ball, hit the ball” approach, he’s limited his strikeouts and even drawn some walks. How much he can add muscle to his ultra-lean frame will help determine how much impact he has at the plate, with the Rockies expressing confidence he’s going to grow into more extra-base thump.
Signed as a shortstop, Guerrero mostly played third during his DSL debut and shifted to the outfield in 2021 where he used his athleticism more than he exhbited any idea of how to actually play the position. He’s an aggressive baserunner who plays with super-high energy but has average speed, so a corner spot makes the most sense. He might just be scratching the surface, with the ceiling to eventually grow into a big league regular with an exceptional bat.
FanGraphs listed Guerrero 29th in the system pre-2022 as a 35+ FV prospect:
The spindly Guerrero has very precocious feel for contact and a swing that is much more elegant and precise than it is explosive. He can hit and has done nothing but since entering pro ball, slashing .319 with an OBP just south of .400 in both of his first two pro seasons. Narrowly built, it’s not obvious that Guerrero will develop typical big league strength and power, especially not for a left field, which is where he’s trending on the defensive spectrum. He’s another very young 2022 40-man eval in this org, so he might move quickly if the Rockies want to stress test his bat to better inform their decision about whether to 40 him or not. He’s a very interesting sleeper who could blow up if he comes to camp with more physicality.
Guerrero mostly stands out for the potential of his hit tool, which has yet to be tested above Low-A ball. He’s a 40 FV talent for me who fell just off my list this time around, but he’s exactly the type of prospect who could make a big leap during the off-season.
★ ★ ★
Thanks to all who voted this time around! Next time I’ll reveal the five Honorable Mention pre-season 2023 PuRPs, and then we’ll get into the players that will make up the top 30.