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Colorado Rockies prospect rankings, pre-season 2023: Nos. 35 to 31

The Honorable Mentions who didn’t quite make the cut

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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 this month. For each player, I’ll include a link to individual stats and contract status (via Baseball-Reference), as well as notes on their 2022 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. Ryan Ritter (23.3 points, 6 ballots), 2022 4th Round, SS at ACL (22)

Ritter was notable leading up to the draft out of the University of Kentucky for his elite defense at shortstop, but the righty also hit a respectable .283/.369/.469 in 2022 in the SEC, which is usually the toughest conference in the NCAA. The Rockies drafted Ritter 116th overall and signed him for a slightly over-slot $530k bonus. Ritter only made a short appearance for the Arizona Complex League team as a professional (he was 1.3 years older than league average), but he did well with a .320/.414/.680 line in 29 PA that included six extra base hits (185 wRC+).

Kiley McDaniel of ranked Ritter 168th in the draft class as a 35+ FV prospect, saying that “Ritter’s pitch selection worries me a bit, but he has contact skills, is an above-average runner and can play shortstop.” ranked Ritter 169th in his draft class as a 40 FV prospect with plus grades on his arm and fielding ability, then slotted him 28th in the system:

Capable of playing anywhere on the diamond, Ritter is a smooth defender with nice actions at shortstop. His quickness gives him plenty of range, and he has soft hands and a good internal clock. He features plus arm strength and makes consistently accurate throws from a variety of angles.

The question is how much Ritter will hit, because he has done little damage with the Wildcats and initially struggled with wood bats in the Cape Cod League. Scouts don’t love his right-handed swing, and he doesn’t make consistent contact against non-fastballs, though he did make adjustments and rallied at the end of his stint on the Cape. Built along the lines of Marcus Semien, he has some strength that could produce at least 15-homer power if he figures things out at the plate, and he’s also a solid runner out of the batter’s box.

The concerns about the hit and power tools are loud enough that I refrained from ranking Ritter on my personal ballot, but if his offensive line in full season ball in 2023 (probably in Low-A Fresno to start) is more like his Complex league stats, he’ll be on my list the next time around.

34. Riley Pint (30 points, 8 ballots), 2016 1st Round, RHP at Triple-A (25)

The 25-year-old former fourth-overall pick returned to the fold after a brief retirement in early March, which was a pleasant surprise for those hoping to see Pint’s tremendous arm talent at the big league level, then he was added to the 40-man roster this off-season to ensure he stayed with the team. The 6’5” right-hander lives in the upper 90s with multiple potential plus secondary pitches, but has been plagued by command issues throughout his professional career. He’s now a bullpen arm with late inning potential if he can harness the stuff.

Pint began 2022 with Double-A Hartford. In 42 2⁄3 innings over 38 appearances, Pint had a 4.64 ERA (4.27 xFIP), 11.6 K/9 rate, and 6.1 BB/9 rate (his lowest since 2017). That was sufficient for the Rockies to promote Pint to Triple-A Albuquerque, where he appeared in three games and allowed one run on three hits and two walks while striking out three. His last appearance was in mid-August before he went on the Triple-A Injured List with a forearm strain.

Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs currently has Pint 32nd in the system as a 35+ FV player:

Injuries (oblique, forearm, shoulder) and wildness have made it difficult for former top 5 pick, Pint, to develop at all, and he briefly retired before returning to the field for 2022 minor league spring training. He still has tantalizing stuff, sitting 95-98 with a bevy of plus-flashing secondaries, including a slider in the 88-91mph range, and an upper-80s changeup. There’s too much talent here to totally ignore, and especially explosive upside if Pint can get a change of scenery.

Longenhagen checked in on Pint in November once he was added to the 40 man, ranking him below fellow 40-man addition Blair Calvo:

[Pint’s] heavy mid-90s sinker and upper-80s cutter/slider look like a middle relief fit on pure stuff, but his command causes them, especially the fastball, to play down, and he’s in up/down territory right now.

Pint was right on the edge of my list at mid-season, and I promised then if he was put on the 40-man that I would include him on my list, so I did (at #28) as a 40 FV player. He’s a pitcher with true late inning potential, edging him for me just above Calvo and Gavin Hollowell within that tier.

33. Aaron Schunk (33.0 points, 6 ballots), 2019 2nd Round, 3B at Double-A (25)

After making five-straight PuRP lists since getting drafted in the second round in 2019, Schunk fell off the list as the system’s depth caught up to him (and a down 2021) in mid-season 2022 and just misses again in this list. The 25-year-old was a two-way player in college but appeared mostly at third base in 2022 with a sprinkle of time at second in Double-A Hartford, where he was about at league average age.

In Hartford, Schunk posted a league-average (101 wRC+) line in 497 PA, slashing .258/.316/.427 with 14 homers among his 47 extra-base hits. The right-hander hit much better against lefties (.832 OPS) than right-handers (.720 OPS). Defensively, he committed 14 errors in 122 games (112 at third).

After ranking Schunk 10th in March 2021 as a 40+ FV player, FanGraphs dropped him down all the way to a prospect of note status in their January 2022 review, saying only that he (and Grant Lavigne) “are corner-only types who have needed to perform consistently to stay afloat, which hasn’t happened.” is more of a fan, ranking Schunk 27th in the system as a 40 FV player:

Not everything went poorly for Schunk when he was in Spokane last year, as he still did show glimpses of his ability to make hard contact with good bat speed. But he struggled too often catching up to velocity, swinging through fastballs and thinking too much as his struggles mounted. He’s worked to tweak a few things with his swing and the Rockies hope he can get back to simply reacting, not worrying about his mechanics while rediscovering what had been a solid approach.

Schunk is a solid athlete who gets the most out of his fringy speed. He’s also shown the ability to play third and second, which was introduced to him in 2020, with more than enough arm at the hot corner. He has the makeup and worth ethic to hit the reset button and show more conviction in what he’s doing at the plate.

Schunk came closer to where he needs to be in 2022, dropping five points off his K% and increasing his wRC+ by 30 while moving up in league difficulty. Still, he’s not standing out among the infield prospect crowd and the Rockies left him unprotected in the Rule 5 draft. Schunk likely will be a regular at third base this season in Triple-A Albuquerque, so he’ll have a good opportunity to prove himself. Schunk is a 35+ FV player in my eyes and was outside of serious PuRP list consideration for me, but 2022 was a massive step in the right direction.

32. Jeff Criswell (60 points, 12 ballots), 2022 Trade, 3B at Double-A (23)

Criswell was acquired from Oakland in what I believe to be a shrewd, under the radar trade in December in exchange for reliever Chad Smith. He was assigned to Double-A initially by the Rockies, but he could get bumped up to Triple-A (and join fellow Michigan alum and Rockies upper minors pitcher Karl Kauffmann) near the top of the system with a strong camp in 2023. The 6’4” righty starter, Oakland’s second rounder in 2020 out of Michigan (he signed for $1 million), spent 2022 at three levels from High-A to Triple-A in the A’s organization after a 2021 season that was truncated by injuries to just 12 innings (plus an Arizona Fall League stint).

In High-A Lansing, Criswell had ten starts and threw 50 innings with a 3.78 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 10.4 K/9 rate (3.2 BB/9). That earned him a June promotion to Double-A Midland, where he appeared in 12 games with a similar 4.21 ERA, though his WHIP (1.47 was up), as was his BB/9 rate (3.7) while his K/9 was down to 8.9 in 57 23 innings. Criswell was again promoted in late September to Triple-A Las Vegas, where he made two starts, allowing five runs on ten hits and three walks while striking out four in 10 23 frames.

Criswell is highly thought of by, who currently rank him 19th in the system as a 45 FV player:

Criswell’s mechanics could use some cleaning up to eliminate some herky-jerky movement, but overall they are repeatable. His fastball sits in the low-90s, though he can reach back for more and brings a changeup with some fade that has swing-and-miss possibilities. His arsenal is rounded out by a power slider and tight curveball, giving him a solid four-pitch mix.

Once he cleans up the mechanics, Criswell does project as a starter at the big league level if he can stay healthy. He’s been described as “Bassitt-ish” in reference to Chris Bassitt for similarities in their athletic builds. A bullpen role, where his stuff could play up even more, is also not out of the question.

That evaluation is highlighted by a plus fastball grade as well as above average grades on the slider and change-up and a 50 on the curveball.

Baseball Prospectus ranked Criswell 8th in Oakland’s system in December 2021 with a 50 OFP designation:

Criswell only threw 12 innings in the [2021] minor league season, missing three months with an unspecified injury and struggled with his command and secondaries in his brief late season return. His fastball velocity was down a tick as well although it still sat in the above-average range. The slider has been a potential plus pitch in the recent past, but he had a fairly scattershot feel for both that and the changeup. It’s more a lost season for developmental purposes than anything damning to the long term projection, but given the delivery already had reliever markers, it might accelerate a move to the pen.

Fangraphs ranked Criswell 15th in Oakland’s system back in December 2021 (he’s 13th currently) as a 40+ FV player:

[Criswell] walked a batter every other inning during his college career, which, combined with recent injury, pushes him toward the bullpen. Criswell had a velo spike almost immediately after entering pro ball, perhaps from the added rest, moving from the 92-94 range into the 94-97 area during 2020 instructs. That spike didn’t hold in 2021. While he was up to 97 again during his first 2021 spring outing, he was quickly shut down with elbow inflammation, which popped up again during his first outing of the regular season. He only pitched 12 innings during the summer and A’s saw fit to include him in their instructs and Fall League contingent, during which Criswell sat mostly 93-94. His repertoire depth gives him a shot to start, specifically his changeup, which is better than our pre-draft assessment. It’s already a viable third pitch (his mid-80s slider is his preferred secondary) and projects as an above-average offering. While he should be developed as a starter and has some chance to grow into the strike-throwing efficiency to become one, for Criswell (touches hand to temple) we see an eventual bulk relief role.

That’s a prospect profile which absolutely belongs in the top 30 of this Rockies system, so it’s fair to wonder why Criswell was available for Smith this off-season. The relief and control risk were overcome by the stuff profile, so I put Criswell 26th on my list as a 40 FV pitcher. Criswell will be Rule 5 eligible after the season, so he’ll be striving for a 40-man roster slot in 2023.

31. Gavin Hollowell (63 points, 8 ballots), 2019 6th Round, RHP at Triple-A (25)

The 6’7” righty reliever cuts an intimidating figure out of the bullpen and has the stuff to match. Hollowell made his major league debut in 2022, a massive leap considering the highest level he’d pitched at entering the season was Low-A Fresno. The Rockies skipped Hollowell over High-A entirely to begin 2022, instead putting him at Double-A Hartford where he was 0.5 years younger than league average.

In 48 2⁄3 innings across 42 appearances with Hartford, Hollowell served as the primary closer with a 3.14 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 11.8 K/9 rate, and 2.6 BB/9 rate with 16 saves. Right-handed batters hit a nightmarish (for them) .112 against Hollowell (.253 for lefties). Facing a Rule 5 protection deadline with Hollowell, the Rockies decided to dispense with any doubt by adding him to the 40-man roster directly on September 18th.

I happened to be in the stands for Hollowell’s first MLB appearance on September 19th, where he got two quick strikeouts in the 10th inning of a tie game. Hollowell then lost the next hitter to a walk and allowed a three-run homer to Thairo Estrada to take the loss in the game. That wasn’t the best first impression, but Hollowell did get into five more games for the Rockies down the stretch, allowing runs in two of them. Hollowell finished with -0.2 rWAR and a 7.71 ERA in seven innings, with six runs on seven hits and four walks while striking out eight.

Hollowell is ranked 36th by FanGraphs as a 35+ FV prospect with 55 grades on the fastball and slider:

A sixth rounder from 2019, Hollowell was throwing very hard during instructs, 94-96 mph in Eric’s looks. He has a pure relief look to his delivery (and his resume), coming from a low, funky slot. It’s creates very strange angle on Hollowell’s slider, which flashes plus. He threw strikes at a good rate in 2021 and looks like a fast-moving middle relief prospect.

Keith Law of the Athletic described Hollowell in pre-season 2022 as “a sinker/slider reliever who throws a ton of strikes and so far hasn’t had trouble with left-handed batters” in listing him in the “Others of Note” section.

Hollowell was ranked 25th in the system by as a 40 FV player at mid-season:

The 6-foot-7 Hollowell is a two-pitch reliever, but they are two very good pitches. His fastball reaches the mid-90s with ease and after working with the Rockies to stand up taller on the mound, he delivers the pitch with better plane and angle. He couples the heater with a nasty slider that tops out in in the mid-80s, a pitch he adds and subtracts from to give it hard, tight, cutter-like traits and a bigger, sweeping breaker.

Hollowell does a good job of throwing both pitches from the same slot, a lower angle that is hard for hitters to pick up. He goes right after hitters with his stuff, filling up the strike zone and missing a ton of bats (12.4 K/9 in 2021).

After skipping two levels in 2022, earning a 40-man roster spot, and making his MLB debut, Hollowell might begin 2023 in Triple-A and make frequent trips up and down I-25 from Albuquerque to Denver and back. Hollowell was in that 20 or so player blob at the 40 FV level for me, but he didn’t quite make my list or Purple Row’s — and I expect him to not be eligible for it the next time we do this at mid-season.

★ ★ ★

In my opinion, the Rockies have about 39 players that have arguments for 30 PuRP slots (including three on my personal ballot that didn’t make it), meaning there are several players who might in a normal year have been PuRP-worthy that weren’t in the top 30 this time around. To see the players that did make the cut, check back over the next several weeks as I unveil the pre-season 2022 PuRPs list one at a time!