24. Julio Carreras (151 points, 21 ballots)
Carreras is the highest-ranked of the three players on this edition of the PuRPs list who weren’t on the mid-season list (and the first position player revealed so far), having bounced back in a big way from a rough 2021 season all the way to a 40-man roster spot this off-season. The 23-year-old righty-hitting utility infielder was originally signed in 2017 as an 18-year-old with a $15,000 bonus, indicating he wasn’t highly thought of as a prospect back then.
Nonetheless, Carreras soon made waves among the national prospect watcher community with his athleticism and backed it up with a strong stateside debut in 2019. The pandemic and a shoulder injury that required surgery led to a lost 2020 season for Carreras and a delayed start to his 2021 season. It probably also factored into a poor full-season debut that year, as Carreras hit for just 83 wRC+ in Low-A while scouting reports similarly soured on him. Fangraphs moved him all the way down to the prospect of note category entering 2022:
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).
2022 was a redemptive season for Carreras, who began the year at High-A Spokane 0.5 years younger than league average. In 450 plate appearances for Spokane, Carreras hit .289/.352/.473 with 11 home runs among his 50 extra-base hits (129 wRC+) and 17 steals in 22 attempts. He struck out 24% of the time while walking just 7%, but the bat speed that had been missing in 2021 appears to have returned. Defensively, Carreras (who has one of the best infield arms in the system) played mostly shortstop (after splitting time between there and third base in 2021), committing 19 errors in 109 games.
The Rockies bumped Carreras up to Double-A Hartford in late August, where he was 1.8 years younger than average. He hit .233/.303/.350 in 68 plate appearances (81 wRC+) there while committing two errors in 19 games at shortstop (he played there exclusively with Hartford). Between Spokane and Hartford, Carreras actually had reverse platoon splits in 2022, producing a .723 OPS against lefties and a .858 OPS against right-handers. The performance overall was enough for Carreras to snag a 40-man roster spot in November.
The best video of Carreras is from Extended Spring Training in 2019 courtesy of Fangraphs:
After the 40-man roster placement, Eric Longenhagen bumped Carreras back up to a 40 FV player in November:
After a rough 2021, Carreras had a bounceback 2022, posting a 129 wRC+ at High-A and playing a pretty good defensive shortstop. His range is only fair, but the quickness of his hands and his huge arm strength make him a shortstop fit, and while he probably won’t reach base enough to be an everyday producer there, he has enough pop to make for a dangerous 1-WAR utility infielder.
Baseball Prospectus ranked him 16th in their November system write-up:
Carreras projects as a useful bench infielder who can spot you at second, third, or short, and shows the range, actions, and arm to be at least average at the six. He started to grow into a bit more power this past season, and while the game pop will probably only bump average, that’s a nice bonus in your fifth infielder. The main thing keeping Carreras from being a starter at this point is his pitch recognition and swing decisions, but other than that, Mrs. Lincoln…
BP’s Kevin Johnson checked in on Carreras this past August:
Throughout his pro career, Carreras has demonstrated a mild, but increasing tendency to chase pitches out of the zone, primarily breaking stuff away, leading him to trend toward a 25% K-rate. However, when he maintains his plate discipline and tracks the ball with consistency, he’s able to allow his loose, whippy bat to stay on plane and spray the ball to all fields. The athletic infielder has also started to tap into some of his raw power this season- launching 11 home runs, the most of his career, an improvement that likely coincides with physical maturity and a 10% decrease in his groundball percentage from last season. Those long balls, while a welcome breakthrough, tend to hold more value if Carreras can remain at shortstop long-term. While the righty tallied 51% of his reps at third in Low-A last season, he’s become a fixture at short this season in High-A. Carreras has the glove, agility and arm to stick at the premium position; however, if Carreras can continue to progress in the power department, he’ll see his stock rise and offer big league clubs greater defensive versatility.
Tall, lean and athletic, Carreras has shown excellent bat speed from the right side of the plate with an ability to make hard contact out front when he’s healthy. There’s leverage in his swing and as he fills out his 6-foot-2 frame, there should be a good amount of power to come. He was a bit tentative with his swings after coming back, but the pop showed up at times and the next step for him tapping into that power is to make more adjustments and eliminate his tendency to chase.
Carreras has played mostly on the left side of the infield, with more than enough arm to stay there, and opinions are split over whether he can play shortstop or third regularly. The latter puts more pressure on the bat to develop, but his makeup and intangibles point to him maximizing the tools he has.
Though he might not have star upside, Carreras profiles as a potentially dangerous offensive player with the athleticism and skill to handle shortstop as well as third and short. Given his 40-man roster status, Carreras looms as a potential utility option for the Rockies as soon as this year, though it’s more likely he spends the balance of the campaign on Double-A Hartford as their regular shortstop. The defensive utility, athleticism, and offensive ceiling, balanced against his plate discipline issues, led me to rank Carreras 22nd on my ballot as a 40 FV player.