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Colorado Rockies prospect rankings, mid-season 2023: numbers 30-26

The First Five!

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Now that we’ve looked at the players who received votes (both single ballot players and multi ballot players) and the Honorable Mention PuRPs for mid-season 2023, it’s time to examine the players that made the list. As a reminder, in this edition of the PuRPs poll, 22 ballots were cast, with 30 points granted for a first place vote, 29 for second, etc.

For each player on the PuRPs list, I’ll include a link to individual stats and contract status (via Baseball-Reference), PuRPs voting stats, a note on the 2023 season to date, and a scouting report from national prospect writers where possible. For what it’s worth, I’ll also include where I put each player on my ballot. All ages are as of the date the article is posted.

Remember that the statistics pages are not the end-all, be-all when evaluating these players. Context is hugely important (such as the player’s age relative to the league’s average or the league average offensive numbers), as is the fact that injuries to prospects can affect both their tools and their stats. I’ll make sure and note where this is the case.

30. Case Williams (63 points, 12 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: 26 — High Ballot 19, Mode Ballot 27

How did he enter the organization?

2021 Trade (Cincinnati)

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

The 21-year-old 6’3” right-handed starter, is likely best known as Colorado’s fourth-round pick out of Douglas County HS in 2020. Williams was traded to the Cincinnati Reds before he could debut with the Rockies, then was re-acquired in late July 2021 as part of the Mychal Givens trade. In 2022, Williams moved from Low-A all the way up to a cameo appearance in Double-A as a 20-year-old with a 4.64 ERA in 128 innings across 23 starts with a 1.42 WHIP, 9.5 K/9 rate, and 3.2 BB/9 rate.

This year, Williams has spent his entire campaign with Double-A Hartford, where he is one of the youngest players in the league at 3.4 years younger than average. Considering that context, it’s no surprise Williams hasn’t been able to sustain his 2022 success. In 85 innings across 19 starts, Williams has a 6.35 ERA (5.47 xFIP) with a 1.68 WHIP, 7.3 K/9 rate, and 4.3 BB/9 rate. That walk rate is over a batter per nine higher than last year and two lower on the strikeout rate.

Here’s some pre-draft video of Williams courtesy of Perfect Game:

What do the scouts say?

Williams was listed as a potential reliever in the June FanGraphs system write-up:

At points during the past couple of years, Williams (who has gone back and forth in trades from Cincinnati) has looked like one of the better pitching prospects in the system. At times, he’s been into the mid-90s with plus breaking stuff, while at others he’s in the low-90s and getting shelled. Maybe a shift to the bullpen will help him find consistency. The Rockies don’t really have to decide until next season, Williams’ 40-man evaluation year, at the earliest.

Keith Law of the Athletic seems to agree on the future reliever tag in his pre-season org look:

Right-hander Case Williams, traded to Cincinnati in November 2020 and then reacquired seven months later, has a very short arm action with two and a half pitches, working as a starter so far but likely to go to the pen.

Baseball Prospectus ranked Williams 19th in their November 2022 system write-up:

[Williams] is still a work in progress as a pitching prospect. His fastball can catch a bit too much plate, given that he sits low-90s. A bit more velocity might help set up his potential above-average curve, and he will need to find a bit more fade on the change-up as well. Williams has the breaker to miss some bats, but needs to firm up the fastball command and the rest of the arsenal to settle in at the back of a major league rotation, or in the middle innings of a bullpen.

When’s he going to get to the Rockies and how good will he be once he’s there?

Williams has been one of the younger players in the league in all three of his professional seasons and could be in Triple-A next year knocking on the door of MLB. That means the Rockies will have seen Williams plenty of times against upper minors pitching when they have to make a 40-man roster decision on him after the 2024 season (if he hasn’t already made his way onto the roster).

The main thing that kept Williams off my list and in the 35+ Future Value (FV) tier is the hesitance from scouts about his ability to stick in a big league rotation. Williams has both youth and upper minors experience on his side though, and I’m interested to see how he’s handled in 2024.

★ ★ ★

29. Michael Prosecky (69 points, 7 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: NR — High Ballot 13, Mode Ballot 26

How did he enter the organization?

2022 6th Round, University of Louisville

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

When the Rockies signed Prosecky to a slightly over-slot $300k bonus last year, most observers thought the left-handed pitcher would be ticketed for the bullpen. After all, that’s where the 6’3” hurler had made his bones in college as Louisville’s closer. Instead, the 22-year-old has made the transition to the starting rotation in his first full professional season and it’s going quite well.

Pitching at a league average age at Low-A Fresno, Prosecky has averaged over five innings per start (93 13 of them in 18 starts) and has looked no worse for the wear, never eclipsing 100 pitches in the process. Prosecky has a 2.89 ERA (4.13 xFIP) with a 1.20 WHIP, 10.6 K/9 rate, and 3.4 BB/9 rate so far on the season for Fresno. Though it seems like Prosecky is in need of higher level competition, it’s good to see a Rockies pitching prospect be both healthy and effective for an extended period of time.

Here’s Prosecky in action in early June, courtesy of

What do the scouts say?

FanGraphs jumped Prosecky up to near the top of the 40 FV tier, 17th in the system on the strength of a 55-grade curveball:

The southpaw has a short, vertical arm stroke that helps his heater play as an in-zone bat misser despite average velocity. He hides the ball forever and it appears to jump on hitters very quickly. Off of that he throws a classic 12-to-6 curveball, which is virtually indistinguishable from his fastball until it starts to bend with huge, bat-missing depth. Those two pitches give Prosecky a reliever’s foundation. He’s a bit of a short strider and his arm stroke isn’t always well-timed, but so far Prosecky has thrown enough strikes to continue developing as a starter. His third pitch is currently a changeup, which is still below average but has long-term ceiling because of the whip of Prosecky’s arm stroke. It’s perhaps more likely that his ability to spin it leads to a second type of breaker, like a two-planed slider. Either way, Prosecky is probably just scratching the surface of a third offering because of his collegiate role.

The median projection for Prosecky is probably still that of a backend starter, and it’s tough to rank him ahead of players with a similar profile who are younger, closer to the big leagues, or both. But of all the 40 FV pitchers in this layer of the Rockies system, he’s the one with the best chance to make a leap over the next 12 months because of his malleability.

When’s he going to get to the Rockies and how good will he be once he’s there?

Prosecky has been a pleasant player development surprise for the Rockies this year thanks to his jump up the pitcher role value spectrum. He’s got stuff that is getting Low-A hitters out, but the question will be if he can sustain a starter’s workload with that arsenal as he moves up the minor league ladder. The FanGraphs write-up was enough to convince me Prosecky stood out from a lot of other pitching prospects in the system. I ranked him 24th on my ballot with a 40 FV designation.

★ ★ ★

28. Chris McMahon (83 points, 14 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: 15 — High Ballot 16, Mode Ballot 24, 26, 30

How did he enter the organization?

2020 2nd Round, University of Miami (FL)

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

After a 2022 that was marred by a lat strain, limiting him to only 28 23 innings of work, McMahon’s 2023 was eagerly awaited by PuRPs voters. They were hoping to see how the 6’2” 24-year-old athletic righty starter’s low fastball (four- and two-seam), change-up, and slider mix would perform in the upper minors. McMahon has spent the season in Double-A Hartford, where he is about league average age, and was healthy until going on the IL in mid-July.

McMahon has made 15 starts so far, throwing 67 innings with a 5.91 ERA (4.60 xFIP), 1.63 WHIP, 8.9 K/9 rate, and 3.4 BB/9 rate. That lower xFIP indicates some poor fortune for McMahon and the K/BB peripherals are acceptable, but expectations are higher for a second round pick who will be Rule 5 eligible this off-season.

Here’s some video of McMahon courtesy of Perfect Game Baseball from February 2020 with front and side views of his delivery:

What do the scouts say?

Fangraphs has dropped McMahon down to a “Potential Depth/Spot Starter” designation:

McMahon, a former second rounder, missed most of 2022 with injury but is back and pitching at Hartford, where he’s sitting 91-92 with a good slider.

Law also commented on McMahon in his pre-season write-up:

Chris McMahon’s stuff was down as he dealt with a lat injury for a big chunk of the year. He’ll show the four-pitch mix to start but it’s all average or fringy and he’s probably more of a depth guy.

When’s he going to get to the Rockies and how good will he be once he’s there?

I’m still holding onto a sliver of hope that a pitcher with McMahon’s pedigree (~$1.6 million bonus) and stuff profile will be able to harness that at the big league level, but this season’s results have certainly given me pause, as have the lower velo reports. It’s an open question if the Rockies will add McMahon to the 40-man roster this off-season (I’d say no) or if another team will try their luck by selecting him in Rule 5 (also unlikely), but I hope he gets another shot next year to prove himself in the Rockies system. McMahon’s stuff profile and upside was still enough for me to rank him 30th on my list with a 40 FV tag, but it’s possible that by the next list he’ll be firmly off the radar if the injury is serious.

★ ★ ★

27. Grant Lavigne (84 points, 9 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: 20 — High Ballot 11, Mode Ballot none

How did he enter the organization?

2018 Competitive Balance Round A, Bedford HS (NH)

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

Lavigne’s profile has long been buoyed by draft pedigree (42nd pick overall in the 2018 draft, over-slot $2 million bonus) and plate discipline (career 14% walk rate). The 6’4”, 220-pound, righty-throwing, lefty-hitting first baseman (who turns 24 later this month) had a tremendous debut offensive season in 2018 (160 wRC+) but only in 2022 while repeating in High-A has Lavigne approached that performance in full-season ball.

That written, Lavigne has been at or above league-average offensively in each of his five professional seasons. It’s just that he didn’t do it in the way you’d expect a first baseman his size to compile that kind of stat line — a high strikeout (24%), high walk (14%), low power (fewer than 10 homers per season) profile.

That’s changing a bit this season as Lavigne is repeating at Double-A Hartford (he’s 0.8 years younger than league average, pending a clearing of the first base logjam above him. In 2023, Lavigne has already set a career high in home runs (14) for Hartford and is slashing .230/.361/.404 in 449 PA (111 wRC+). Compared with last year in Hartford (102 wRC+), Lavigne’s batting average is 15 points lower, his OBP is 14 points higher, and the slugging is 34 points higher. His OPS against right-handers is 113 points higher than what he’s doing against lefties and he’s feasted against relievers, hitting 10 of his 14 dingers against them with an OPS that is 308 points higher than against starters.

Here’s some video on Lavigne from the Arizona Fall League last year, including a slo-mo look at a swing (here’s another one):

What do the scouts say?

Law placed Lavigne in the “others of note” section in his top 20 system rank:

First baseman Grant Lavigne is caught in between — he doesn’t quite make enough contact to hit for enough average, but he doesn’t have enough power to make up for the lack of contact, all exacerbated by the fact that he’s limited to first base.

Lavigne was slotted into the “Power Bats” group below the main list by FanGraphs:

Lavigne was a high school comp pick in 2018 who walks a ton and has a 40 bat with 50 raw power and a groundball-heavy profile.

When’s he going to get to the Rockies and how good will he be once he’s there?

Lavigne’s a first-base-only bat with a patience-based approach (though this season’s power stroke is new and encouraging). Though the high walk rates are good, at the upper levels prospects need to show the ability to consistently do damage to pitches over the heart of the plate to keep pitchers nibbling on the corners. Lavigne doesn’t possess elite tools or defensive utility beyond first base. That puts him below players like Michael Toglia, Elehuris Montero, Hunter Goodman, and Sean Bouchard in the pecking order.

I do think Lavigne is a 40 FV player and a prospect worthy of consideration (albeit not in my top 30), it’s just tough to envision a big-league future for him with the Rockies. He’ll be Rule 5 eligible again this off-season, so maybe another team will take a flier or the Rockies will add him to the 40 man roster.

★ ★ ★

26. Victor Vodnik (84 points, 16 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: NR — High Ballot 18, Mode Ballot 28, 29

How did he enter the organization?

2023 Trade (Atlanta)

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

Vodnik, who was acquired from Atlanta near this year’s trade deadline as part of the return for Pierce Johnson, is probably the highest ceiling relief prospect in the system right now. The 23-year-old right-hander pairs a plus, upper 90s fastball with an above average to plus change-up. The reason Vodnik was left unprotected (and wasn’t selected) in the Rule 5 draft last year is that he hasn’t yet mastered the strike zone consistently enough to be counted upon in a big league bullpen despite some decent Triple-A results last year in Atlanta’s system.

Vodnik was dropped down to Double-A to begin 2023, where he threw 40 23 innings across 30 games with a 3.10 ERA (4.30 xFIP), 1.25 WHIP, 12.4 K/9 rate, and 5.5 BB/9 rate. Since the late July trade, Vodnik spent two weeks with Hartford, where he impressed with six scoreless innings in four games. Vodnik allowed four hits and one walk while striking out nine. The Rockies then promoted him to Triple-A, where he’s allowed two runs in 2 23 IP so far with two strikeouts.

FanGraphs has some video of Vodnik from a couple different looks:

What do the scouts say?

In the report accompanying the above video, FanGraphs ranks Vodnik 18th in the system as a 40 FV player:

Vodnik’s fastball velocity has vacillated wildly during his lifetime as a prospect but lately it’s absolutely booming. He sat 94-95 mph during most of 2021 and early in 2022, but last year his velo steadily crept up over the course of the season and averaged 96.7 mph in the month of September. When he showed up to 2023 spring training, Vodnik was averaging 98 and touching 100, and he’s carried that into the early goings of the Double-A season – a tiny sample, to be sure, but a promising start nevertheless. Both his fastball and his plus changeup (31% usage) inspired better-than-average in-zone swing-and-miss and worse than average chase rates in 2022, and his command of the cambio could stand to improve if Vodnik expects to induce whiffs from advanced hitters in high-leverage spots. He also throws a slider that touches the lower 90s, sitting more consistently around 86 mph, but he threw it just 6% of the time last year. Vodnik can best be thought of as a two-pitch middle relief prospect who relies on stuff more than execution. slotted Vodnik 24th in the org as a 40 FV player:

A bit of an undersized right-hander at 6 feet tall, Vodnik has more than enough stuff to be an effective reliever. It’s mostly a two-pitch mix with his fastball and changeup, both of which are plus pitches. His lively heater has averaged over 96 mph over the past two seasons in shorter stints, and he’s flirted with triple digits. He can miss bats and get a ton of weak contact on the ground with his upper-80s changeup, which he sells well with good arm speed. He does have a slurvy slider, but it’s a distant third pitch.

In addition to the injury history, the main reason for a permanent move to the bullpen is Vodnik’s difficulty finding the strike zone. He walked 4.9 per nine innings in 2022 to bring his career average up to 4.2 BB/9 heading into 2023, and that number trended upwards this season. The Braves left him off the 40-man roster in the offseason and he wasn’t selected in the Rule 5 Draft, and now he’ll get the chance to show he can learn to throw enough strikes to earn a roster spot with a new organization.

Law put Vodnik 9th in the Braves system before the season:

Vodnik only threw 34 innings in 2022 during a second year of interruptions due to injury, but he’s in the bullpen now, where he sat 95-97 mph with a plus changeup. He has to stay healthy for a full season at some point and improve his control, but that’s a two-pitch mix good enough to pitch in an MLB bullpen right now.

When’s he going to get to the Rockies and how good will he be once he’s there?

Getting arms like Vodnik that have some juice for rental players at the trade deadline is what the Rockies should have been doing every year they are out of contention. This is an obvious statement but not something has occurred much in Rockies history. Vodnik could well never make a Major League impact, but the Rockies will likely add him to the 40 man roster to give Vodnik time to develop into a late inning relief arm (if he doesn’t make a late season debut for the Rockies this year).

I don’t generally rank relief-only prospects unless they’ve got late inning potential, which is why Vodnik got the nod (28th as a 40 FV player) on my list. More of this please, Rockies!

★ ★ ★

Stay tuned for the next installment of the mid-season 2023 PuRPs list!