3. Adael Amador (652 points, 24 ballots)
Adael Amador’s breakout in 2022 might not have been quite as celebrated as fellow PuRP Ezequiel Tovar’s (more on Tovar next week), but the step forward the 19-year-old switch-hitting shortstop (he turns 20 in April) took in 2022 in the eyes of national prospect watchers might be even larger than Tovar. The 6’0”, 160-pound Amador was hanging around the top ten of the Rockies system entering 2022, but he’s now a player who is consistently on overall top 100 lists.
Amador was the highest-rated signing for the Rockies in the July 2nd period in 2019, representing the 15th-highest ranked player in that class by MLB Pipeline. He signed with Colorado for $1.5 million — giving him the equivalent of an early-second-round draft bonus — but only got into professional games in late June 2021 for the Arizona Complex Level team due largely to the lost 2020 season. In the ACL against competition on average about 1.9 years older, Amador hit for a strong .299/.394/.445 line in 200 plate appearances (122 wRC+).
Amador was assigned to Low-A Fresno to start 2022, where he was the second-youngest player on the team behind fellow PuRP Victor Juarez (No. 22), 2.1 years below league average. Amador started out hot with a 1.086 OPS in April and stayed solidly above average offensively this year thanks to an excellent approach at the plate. In fact, Amador’s 87 walks (16%) against 67 strikeouts (12%) in 555 plate appearances (only six of which were against a pitcher younger than him) place him among the best in the minor leagues in that BB/K ratio.
In all, Amador hit .292/.415/.445 as a teenager in full-season ball with 15 homers, 24 doubles, and 26 steals in 38 attempts, good for an excellent 128 wRC+. He hit well from both sides of the plate, with a .853 OPS as a lefty (including 14 of his 15 homers and 17 of his 24 doubles) and .893 OPS as a righty (in a smaller sample size). Amador played almost exclusively shortstop in 2022, committing 24 errors in 115 games between there and second base.
Writing for the Rockies’ blog, Jack Etkin wrote up a nice profile on Amador worth reading in its entirety about his journey as a Rockies prospect, especially the 2022 season, and more in depth detail on Amador’s offensive approach and defense.
Here’s some video on Amador hitting from both sides of the plate at 2021 fall instructs courtesy of Fangraphs:
Also, here are some of Amador’s 2022 highlights.
Amador was ranked 43rd overall in the Fangraphs top 100 revealed earlier this week as a 50 FV prospect, second in the system, highlighted by a 70 future hit grade:
He lacks a traditionally projectable frame, but Amador has still gotten stronger over the last year and he flashed more power than expected. His feel for contact and for the zone already gave him a high floor.
Amador is a well-rounded middle infield prospect with a smaller, almost maxed-out frame that compares to Jimmy Rollins or Domingo Leyba. He has special hand-eye coordination and bat-to-ball skill, as well as a tremendous idea of the strike zone. Amador is one of those short-levered switch hitters who is so short to the ball that he gets an extra beat to diagnose pitches before he has to commit to swinging, and he takes advantage of this. Over the last year or so, he’s thickened like a roux and become stronger, and he’s capable of doing more damage than our tepid projection expected. Increasingly, Amador’s choppers and grounders are peppered with feel for pull-side loft, when appropriate. On paper, Amador is still generating flat, groundball and line drive contact a lot of the time, but we think his feel for the barrel and for the zone together will enable him to hit for average power at maturity, maybe more as a left-handed hitter. As he’s gotten stronger, Amador’s defensive projections have shifted to second base.
Baseball Prospectus put Amador 44th overall last month and he was third in the system as a 60 OFP player in November:
Amador shined all year in Low-A, getting glowing reports on his hit tool from our whole Cal League contingent. The switch-hitter starts wide open with a fair bit of hand movement pre-swing, but once he gets going, there’s plus-plus bat speed and he spits out hard line drives on anything close to the plate. Amador knows the zone well, too, walking more than he struck out in 2022. His swing is geared to go back through the origin—although he does have some pop from the left side—so this is a hit-over-power profile, but there might be a lot of hit.
Amador is an above-average runner who is an aggressive, if inefficient base stealer. The speed plays on the dirt though, and he has the arm and range for short, although the rest of the defensive tool set needs further refinement. He might end up at second base long-term, but wherever he winds up in the field, he’ll look good as a classic number two hitter. The hardest thing to project is the hit tool, but Amador passes both the eye and metrics test so far.
MLB.com ranked Amador 68th overall last month as a 55 FV player (including a 60 hit grade), third in the system:
A teenager for all of last season, Amador stands out for his very advanced approach from both sides of the plate. He walked more than he struck out in his first year-plus of pro ball, with just a 12.7 percent strikeout rate compared to a 15.1 percent walk rate. He has a very good feel for the barrel and has shown the propensity to make good swing decisions. There were some questions about what kind of impact he would have, but he’s added strength and there’s reason to believe the extra-base authority on display with Fresno in 2022 is real.
Amador has played a lot of shortstop since he’s joined the Rockies and has decent hands, footwork and a solid arm. A lack of quickness, especially as he physically matures, might limit his range enough to necessitate a move to second, where he has seen some time. He could be an outstanding defender at the keystone, with the progress he’s shown at the plate contributing to an everyday middle infielder profile.
Kiley McDaniel of ESPN.com ranked Amador 73rd overall as a 50 FV player:
Type: Above average at everything except power
Amador gives plenty of margin for error in his projection as the base of his skills — plus hitter, plus pitch selection, switch-hitter, plus runner, plus arm, solid-average defender at shortstop — check a ton of boxes while his performance in 2022 was better than anyone could’ve expected.
Finally, Keith Law of the Athletic snuck Amador just onto his list at 98 overall, fifth in the organization:
[Amador] does have an exceptional eye at the plate, which will be his carrying tool and gives him a high floor as at least a utility infielder who has real on-base skills. He’s a true switch-hitter who has some sneaky pop when he barrels the ball up, but overall he’s a strong groundball guy, with the second-highest groundball rate of any qualifying hitter, behind only the Angels’ Arol Vera. It’s part swing and part approach, as he can get the bat on the ball anywhere in the zone but often does so at the expense of contact quality. He’s going to have to work to stay at shortstop, with second base the most likely position for him. He could be that good utility guy, a strong regular at second with 10-15 homers a year, or maybe a shortstop who’s a borderline star because of his on-base skills. He’s also just 20 this year, so there’s time to work on the swing a little more to get him to put more pitches in the air rather than on the ground.
The combined package of strong plate discipline and offensive potential shown by a teenaged switch-hitting up-the-middle defender as one of the younger players in full-season ball is intriguing. Amador has already shown more power than was forecasted this time last year and he’s got the chops to stick at shortstop if the Rockies need him there.
Sure, he’s a couple years away (he’ll probably start the season in High-A) and will need to be protected from Rule 5 after the 2023 season, but Amador represents another everyday regular profile on the farm for the Rockies. It’s probably not a star ceiling, but the production and profile were strong enough for me to rank Amador third on my ballot with a 55 FV grade as a future above average regular at an up the middle defensive position.