17. Brenton Doyle (310 points, 24 ballots)
Brenton Doyle sure looks the part of a future impact major leaguer. The 6’3”, 200-pound righty outfielder, who turns 25 in May, has bulk and athleticism that evokes a football player. He signed for an above-slot $500k out of D-2 Shepherd University as a fourth-rounder in 2019 and immediately won the rookie-level Pioneer League batting title with a 185 wRC+, showing substance in support of his gaudy college stats (.380/.438/.647 with 90 extra-base hits in 699 plate appearances).
Since then though, it hasn’t been as easy for Doyle. After the lost 2020 campaign, he had a 110 wRC+ season for High-A in 2021 and won a league Gold Glove for his time in the outfield but saw his K% rise from 22% to 32% while his BB% declined from 14% to 7% at a league-average age. Doyle showed flashes of the elite athleticism and tools which get scouts excited, but the swing and miss in the profile, especially against breaking balls, was a big red flag. Assigned to Double-A Hartford to begin 2022 — again at a league-average age — Doyle struck out about the same (31%) but walked even less (4.5%) in 507 plate appearances.
Doyle’s overall line of .246/.287/.450 with 23 home runs among his 47 extra-base hits as well as 23 steals in 26 attempts was close to league average offensively (96 wRC+), but it wasn’t exactly a break-out campaign either for a player who is so physically gifted. Defensively, he continued to show well mostly in center field with some right field sprinkled in, posting ten outfield assists and four errors. The good news for Doyle is that he didn’t finish the season with Hartford. After a struggle for the first two-thirds of the season, Doyle caught fire down the stretch for Hartford with a .944 OPS in September. That was enough for the Rockies to get him a look at Triple-A pitching on September 20th with Albuquerque.
In one of the friendliest hitting environments in organized baseball, but against pitchers who were about 2.6 years older on average, Doyle knocked the snot out of the ball. In 41 plate appearances to close the year, Doyle hit an unconscious .389/.463/.778 with three homers, two triples, and a double (199 wRC+). Factoring in his 13 strikeouts and five walks, Doyle had one of the Three True Outcomes in over half of his PA. The scouting profile and hot coda to 2022 were enough for the Rockies to add Doyle to their 40 man roster in November. He’ll enter spring training as a player trying to carve out a MLB role as soon as this year.
Here’s Doyle hitting an opposite field homer in June 2022 for Hartford:
MLB.com demonstrates the absolute toolshed Doyle is in their 2022 evaluation, which places him 23rd in the system as a 45 FV player. Doyle is graded with 60 tools for his speed, arm, and fielding ability with a 55 for his power and 45 for his hit:
With an upright stance that helps [Doyle] leverage the ball more, he’s still learning to tap into his plus raw power on a regular basis. He gets over-aggressive at the plate and expands the zone too much, rarely drawing walks (7.1 percent rate in 2021). That, in turn, led to a spike in his strikeout rate (31.6 pct) ... Doyle won a Rawlings Gold Glove for his defensive work in center field, and his plus speed will allow him to stay there, with a plus arm to boot, for a very long time. If he can refine his approach, he has the chance to bring an exciting power-speed combination to Colorado.
Fangraphs places Doyle 23rd as a 40 FV prospect in its system overview:
Even though he’s approaching 24, Doyle remains a high-variance prospect because the hit tool quality is going to heavily influence his overall performance, and it’s harder to get a grip on projecting that because the context for his development is unique (tiny school, abnormal 2020, a fast-approaching 40-man decision later this year). It’s easy to envision him striking out so much in 2022 that Colorado struggles to justify adding him to the 40-man next offseason, but he has the tools to enjoy a big mid-20s breakout à la Mitch Haniger.
When Doyle was added to the 40 man roster this November, Fangraphs bumped him back up to a 40+ FV player:
It’s a little tougher to anticipate 24-year-old Doyle’s big league timeline because, even though he’s a little older, he’s barely tasted Triple-A and might spend most or all of 2023 there. It’s rare for players who strike out as often as he does to be successful big leaguers, but his raw power (plus) and speed (plus-plus) sure are tantalizing. Like lots of the Rockies’ hitting prospects, Doyle has below-average plate discipline, which foment his already shaky feel for contact.
ESPN.com’s Kiley McDaniel ranked Doyle 5th in the system as a 45 FV prospect earlier in March 2022:
[Doyle] had a great post-draft debut in 2019, then came back in 2021 with a solid season but one that shows where his floor/ceiling will be. Doyle is the somewhat familiar lower-contact rate center fielder with big raw power — with those types ranging from Drew Stubbs to Mike Cameron. Doyle will be 24 in May and should spend most of the year in Double-A, letting us know if he’s more of a low-end starter or role player.
Keith Law of the Athletic ranked Doyle 15th in his pre-season 2022 list:
[Doyle] has four above-average to plus tools, but the hit tool is the one that matters most and it’s not clear if he has that one after he punched out 32 percent of the time in High-A last year at age 23.
As Law puts it succinctly above, the hit tool matters most, and that’s the one Doyle has struggled with as a professional despite that plus speed, arm, fielding ability, and raw power. The hot Triple-A finish and the the 40-man roster placement by the Rockies this off-season means they want to see how this ride goes in the upper minors despite the swing and miss in the profile.
I’m enough of a believer to bump Doyle into my 40+ FV tier, placing him 17th on my list. Doyle still has a star ceiling and a floor boosted by that excellent outfield defense that could get him to the Show as soon this season if he earns the opportunity.