clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Colorado Rockies prospect rankings, mid-season 2023: numbers 15 to 11

We now enter the top half of the PuRPs list!

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Now we enter the top half of the mid-season 2023 Purple Row Prospects (PuRPs) list. Previously we had PuRPs 30-26, 25-21, and 20-16. 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 a national prospect writer where possible. For what it’s worth, I’ll also include where I put each player on my personal ballot. All ages are as of the date the article is posted.

15. Hunter Goodman (352 points, 22 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: 19 — High Ballot 8, Mode Ballot 14

How did he enter the organization?

2021 4th Round, University of Memphis

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

The 23-year-old left fielder/first baseman/DH/catcher (based on playing time in 2023, in that order) possesses excellent raw power from the right-handed batter’s box that he’s been able to get into games (30 homers, 59 extra-base hits across two levels this year). The ability to at least fake it at catcher also provides Goodman’s profile a bit of extra juice, though it’s unlikely he ends up behind the plate full-time at the big-league level.

Goodman jumped from Low-A all the way to Double-A in 2022, and he returned to Hartford to begin 2023, where he was 0.8 years younger than league average. In 400 PA, Goodman hit .239/.325/.523 with 25 homers and 24 doubles (125 wRC+) while walking in 10% of PA and striking out in 24.5% (41% Three True Outcome), a mix a prospect can get away with when they are striking the ball with authority. That line included an excellent 1.118 OPS against lefties (.782 vs. right-handers).

The Rockies promoted Goodman a couple weeks ago to Triple-A Albuquerque, where he is 3.7 years younger than league average. Against that upper-level pitching (and friendly hitting environment) in a 47 PA sample, Goodman has continued to hit for power. He has five homers and five doubles already en route to a .289/.319/.733 line (130 wRC+). Defensively, Goodman has spent the plurality of his games in left field (31), with first base (30) and DH (27) close behind, then catcher (13). He has eight errors this season, five in left, two at first, and one at catcher, and he’s thrown out 21% of would-be base thieves.

Here’s some video of Goodman crushing two homers in the same game with Hartford last month:

What do the scouts say? places Goodman 12th in the system as a 45 FV player:

The ball comes off of Goodman’s bat with a different sound, and the right-handed hitter showed he can access his tremendous power. It’s a power-over-hit approach with a longer swing and leverage, and there’s always going to be some swing-and-miss to his game — he struck out in over 26 percent of his plate appearances last year. Focusing on using the whole field and not being as pull-happy as he has been at times would help him be a more complete hitter.

It’s unclear where Goodman will play defensively long term. The Rockies saw a lot of improvement behind the plate, and he’ll continue to work on his craft there with new catching coordinator Dustin Garneau. He saw a lot of time at first base in 2022, and he looked comfortable in left field — he played the outfield corners at Memphis — during instructs, with the Rockies looking for ways to get his bat into the lineup.

Fangraphs slots Goodman 8th in the system with a 40+ Future Value tag, with the tools highlighted by a plus-plus (70) raw power grade (and 60 future game power):

A heavy-handed receiver with mobility issues, Goodman wasn’t likely to stay behind the plate [when he was drafted] and lots of teams viewed him as a first base prospect with a 40-grade hit tool. He’s continued to catch on occasion but is now mostly playing a combination of first base and left field. There is probably a subset of pitchers who Goodman could catch, pitchers whose stuff doesn’t finish in the dirt. Asking him to smother chase-inducing breaking balls is a bridge too far, though. He also likely isn’t an everyday left fielder or first baseman because he isn’t an especially good defender at those spots either, but as a multi-positional power hitter who you hide at a few different positions, he’s going to be a damn good role player. Goodman has some of the best power in the minors, approaching 70-grade raw. He’s more apt to get to that power against breaking balls that catch the plate than any other pitch type, and I expect big league pitchers will try to blow velocity past him at the letters, where he tends to expand the zone. There’s enough playable power here for Goodman to be a good role player even though he’s a 30 defender whose hit tool will probably also be well below average.

Keith Law of the Athletic ranked Goodman 16th in the system in February:

Goodman has some of the best power in the organization, hitting 36 homers across three levels last year, but it’s power over hit and he strikes out too much to project as a regular. He might have a chance for that if he caught well enough to be a regular back there, but he’s more suited to part-time work and the Rockies have tried him at first to give him another path to the majors.

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

Goodman is a bat-first prospect, there’s not much doubt about that. This is especially true in a world where robo-umps come to MLB. He has the offensive ceiling to be a contributor at catcher, first base, corner outfield, or DH in at least a platoon capacity and maybe more. Goodman is now knocking at the door of MLB playing time, though his prospect timeline doesn’t demand a 40-man roster add until after the 2024 season. I think it’s a safe bet that he’ll be on the major league roster before then, though it might be next season.

Goodman’s high strikeout, low walk tendencies may become even more pronounced as he makes it to the Show, but his ability to get his raw power into games is a critical point in his favor as a prospect. The catcher utility is also a help, even if it’s only in a part-time role, but right-handed power like Goodman possesses plays at any position if he can limit those strikeouts to a manageable level. Michael Toglia has a similar power over hit profile with better defensive utility (and as a switch-hitter) but has struck out at a higher level than Goodman with less of his raw power translating to games.

Goodman was a 40+ FV player for me, 14th on my list, because of the swing and miss in his game and likely 1B/DH defensive fallback. I’m excited about seeing what a player with his power can do in Coors Field (even as a platoon bat).

★ ★ ★

14. Warming Bernabel (368 points, 22 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: 7 — High Ballot 7, Mode Ballot 11, 13, 18

How did he enter the organization?

2018 International Free Agent, Dominican Republic

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

Bernabel entered 2023 with a 40-man roster spot and some hype after a strong 2022 season that saw him hit well across two levels of A-ball before he saw his season end with a concussion sustained in an accidental collision. The 6’2” 21-year-old righty-hitting third baseman, known for his elite hand-eye coordination and aggressive approach, was signed by the Rockies for $900k in July 2018 after being listed as Baseball America’s 33rd best prospect of the international signing class. He was assigned to Double-A Hartford, where he is 2.8 years younger than league average.

Unfortunately, Bernabel hasn’t had a smooth 2023. He hit just .192 in April before heating up slightly in May to .266 before hitting the injured list with a back issue that kept him out of action for over a month. After a short rehab stint at the complex league, Bernabel was back to Hartford in mid-July. His .819 OPS in July was encouraging, but he’s slumped back to a .553 OPS in August. In all, for Hartford Bernabel has a tepid .241/.291/.359 line with five homers in 254 PA (78 wRC+).

When looking at that line though, it remains important to remember that Bernabel is one of the youngest players in the Eastern League and that his season has been impacted by injury. Still, it’s hard to be a strong offensive player when walking in only 5.5% of PA (striking out in 19% of them). Defensively, he’s played 66 games at the hot corner (including the complex league) and committed eight errors (down from 21 last year), so it’s good to see some improvement there.

Here’s some video of Bernabel from the 2022 Arizona Fall League, including a slo-mo look at the swing:

What do the scouts say?

Law was the high man on Bernabel nationally, ranking him 90th overall in the minors and fourth in the system in February:

[Bernabel] can hit even good fastballs and shows above-average power already, with superb hand-eye coordination, resulting in an aggressive approach that doesn’t see him running a lot of deep counts. His offspeed recognition isn’t quite at that level yet, which showed a little bit after his move to High-A Spokane, although he’s young enough to improve in that area. He’s a former shortstop who has the hands and arm for third base, needing work on timing and consistency that he should get with more reps.


He could end up a hitter for average with 15 to 20 homers a year, or more of a power hitter with less average if he doesn’t progress enough in pitch recognition, but either version would be at least a solid regular at third.

Fangraphs ranks Bernabel 12th in the system with a 40+ FV tag:

Bernabel’s lively hitting hands drive a fairly exciting hitter profile even though he has some scary indicators related to his plate discipline. Bernabel’s swing is rhythmic, balanced, athletic, and has natural loft without compromising contact. He has great bat-to-ball feel in the zone (86% Z-contact%), and the lightning-fast way his hands fire allows him to let the baseball travel deep before deciding to swing. He often decides wrong, though. Bernabel is one of the more aggressive hitters in all of pro baseball, chasing at a 37% clip and swinging 54% of the time in 2022.

After a very slow first month of 2023, Bernabel hit the IL with back spasms and missed the month prior to list publication. At this stage of the season, my hope was that he would either keep raking or be exposed and be forced to adjust, but the injury has prevented the latter from happening. He has the hit and power combination to be an everyday third baseman if he can chase fewer non-competitive breaking balls, but he’s a risky young hitter because of how often he tends to. Bernabel is on the 40-man roster and in his first option year. He’s quite young and still only has about a month of reps above A-ball. His second option year will almost certainly be used next season as he continues to try to be more selective or be eaten alive by more mature pitching.

Finally, ranks Bernabel 10th in their system list as a 50 FV player:

Bernabel’s feel for the barrel stands out more than anything else. He’s very aggressive early in counts, and it hasn’t hurt the right-handed hitter yet — he’s struck out in just 13.4 percent of his plate appearances heading into 2023. He can do damage too, and he’s just starting to learn how to finish balls, with the raw pop to hit it out to all fields. A more refined approach could lead to more in-game power.

Bernabel’s defense has improved markedly, having moved from shortstop to third base after he signed. His internal clock is much better now, with his footwork and arm working in sync more consistently, and he has plenty of arm strength for the position.

Baseball Prospectus put a 55 OFP grade on Bernabel in November 2022, ranking him 6th in the organization:

Bernabel’s swing is a bit noisy. He is handsy during his load and uses a big leg kick for timing. That should lead to some sync or adjustment problems, but he just makes good contact more often than not. While not really looking to lift and pull, Bernabel has a fair bit of pop already and should have at least average power to go with a plus hit tool. In the field his work at third base is inconsistent at best. He has the arm strength for the position, and while he’s not as hopeless there as his error total might suggest, he didn’t always look comfortable. If he can get to even a gentleman’s 45 at the hot corner, the bat should take care of the rest, but that’s still a bigger “if” than you’d like at this point.

I’m a soft touch for an unconventional stroke—and I think Bernabel’s will work just fine—but there needs to be some positional/defensive value for him to be a good regular.’s Kiley McDaniel ranked Bernabel 8th in the system in February as a 45 FV prospect:

[Yanquiel] Fernandez (right fielder who could hit 25-30 homers) and Bernabel (solid third baseman with 20 homer upside and feel for contact) are both potential regulars with well-below-average pitch selection holding them back. They are 20 and 21 years old respectively, so there’s still some time to develop that skill.

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

Bernabel was given an aggressive assignment entering 2023 that befits his 40-man roster status, but the back injury and offensive struggles so far have clouded the crystal ball somewhat on what kind of hitter Bernabel can be against upper-minors pitching. He’ll need at least one more minor league option year before the Rockies even consider bringing him up to MLB, and then when Bernabel gets there he’ll need to fight for playing time in a crowded corner infield situation.

Still though, it’s important to keep the perspective that Bernabel possesses a hit tool that could be a weapon at the big league level, especially if he can lay off a few more out of the zone pitches. The offensive potential and scouting reports were enough for me to rank Bernabel 10th on my list as a 45 FV player.

★ ★ ★

13. Jaden Hill (382 points, 22 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: 6 — High Ballot 7, Mode Ballot 10, 14

How did he enter the organization?

2021 2nd Round, Louisiana State University

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

Hill was thought of as a top-five talent entering his draft year but was limited in stuff and results (6.67 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 7.6 K/9 rate) by an elbow injury that led to Tommy John surgery for the 6’4”, 234-pound right-handed pitcher. Nonetheless, the Rockies were willing to bet on the arm talent and selected Hill 44th overall in the second round and signed him to a slot bonus of $1.69M.

About that arm talent: despite the injury history and a lack of game reps over the last few years — both contributing to the risk he’s a reliever — Hill is a true top-of-rotation ceiling pitching prospect. At his best, the 23-year-old throws an upper-90s fastball graded in the 60-65 range, a plus changeup graded in the 60-70 range, a potentially above-average slider, and decent control. There is plenty of risk with Hill (injury history, strike-throwing, relief role), but the potential reward is great.

After a brief and successful return to the mound in late 2022, Hill was assigned to High-A Spokane this year, where he is a league average age. Alas, it just hasn’t gone well for Hill this season. The Rockies have limited Hill’s pitch count in outings to under 75 pitches, and in so doing he hasn’t gone deeper than four innings into a start. That means he’s only thrown 43 23 innings in 16 starts, during which he’s gotten hit hard, with a 9.48 ERA, 1.81 WHIP, and 5.2 BB/9 rate.

The good news is that Hill’s xFIP is only 4.54, indicating some poor flyball luck with homers (he’s allowed 11 this year), and a 11.7 K/9 rate. Hill went on the IL a couple weeks ago — given the proximity to the end of the season, this might be his final line.

Here’s some video of Hill in his Low-A debut last year (this video has more footage from the same outing if you’re curious):

What do the scouts say?

FanGraphs slots Hill 19th in the system with a 40 FV grade:

It’s now been about a year since Hill returned from his TJ rehab and his strike-throwing has remained well below average. He’s still sitting 94-98 mph, but his heater’s shape and Hill’s scattered command of it causes it to play down. His slider has caught up to his changeup quality and has maybe even surpassed it because his feel for finishing it is more consistent than his change. Even with the round-down elements of his fastball, Hill’s secondary stuff is good enough for him to be a late-inning reliever if he can hone his command, but things have been rough enough for long enough now that I’m not projecting that to happen anymore.

Hill ranks 29th in Colorado’s system at as a 40 Future Value player despite a 60 grade on the fastball and change-up and a 55 on the slider:

His fastball is in the mid-to-upper 90s, and he’s continuing to work on getting a little more run on the pitch. His changeup is still his best secondary, and it’s at least plus, a mid-80s offspeed offering with tumble that misses a ton of bats. The slider has been inconsistent, but it’s in there, with belief it can be at least an average pitch in time.

More than anything, Hill needs innings. The Rockies will continue to be cautious in the near term so he can get accustomed to the professional routine of being in a rotation. He has the chance to start, given his stuff, size and general feel for strike zone, but the first step will be getting him through a healthy season on the mound.

Law ranked Hill 10th in the system in February:

[Hill] came back this summer to make ten short rehab starts and showed the same mid- to upper-90s velocity with a plus-plus changeup he had before the surgery. He needs to get any consistency on the slider, but more than anything, he has to stay healthy — he threw just 39 innings in his two non-pandemic years at LSU, even though he’s close to 250 pounds and looks like he should be more durable. It’s truly No. 1 starter upside but he has so little track record of health that his probability of getting there is extremely low. ranked Hill as a 40 FV prospect in February:

Hill was the 44th overall pick in 2021, a tough outcome for a player it appeared could go in the top ten picks before command issues followed by Tommy John surgery. He still runs it into the upper-90s and has a plus changeup he showed while pitching 17.1 pro innings last season.

Baseball Prospectus slotted Hill 9th in the system with a 50 OFP designation in November:

The strengths and weaknesses remain the same as they were in college—not a surprise given the lack of pro innings in the interim—a fastball [Hill] can dial up into the high 90s with run, a six-plus change on the positive side of the ledger, poor command, and a lack of a right-on-right glove-side option for the negative. How the breaking balls and strike-throwing progress in 2023 will tell us a lot more about whether Hill is a starter or reliever long-term, but he still may have the most upside of any arm in the Rockies system.

Hill has a realistic plus ceiling as a starter or reliever. He’s also pretty likely to be a reliever. He’s also thrown 69 innings in the last four years. Not nice.

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

The error bars are wide when forecasting Hill’s future impact, though the upper bar seems to be lowering with every difficult outing and IL stint. The fact remains though that if his top of rotation stuff is able to be carried deep into games he might well be Colorado’s best pitching prospect (firmly in the system’s top five players). The word “if” is doing a lot of heavy lifting in that sentence, though. Hill is a risky pitcher not only for injury, but also for role because it’s not a lock that he stays as a starter either. If he’s a starter, it’s a 2-3 year ramp to the big leagues; as a reliever, it’s probably 1-2 more years for Hill.

I always have trouble ranking these types of boom-bust prospects, and with the difficult season Hill has had I’m now closer to worried than intrigued. I slotted Hill 13th on my list with a 40+ FV grade due to the upside and the late inning reliever fallback.

★ ★ ★

12. Joe Rock (391 points, 22 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: 11 — High Ballot 7, Mode Ballot 12, 15, 16

How did he enter the organization?

2021 2nd Round, Ohio University

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

The 6’6”, 200-pound, 23-year-old lefty starter was the 68th overall pick of the 2021 draft and signed for a slot bonus of $953,100. Rock was one of the few PuRP pitching prospects with a clean bill of health in 2022 and threw 115 23 innings between High-A and Double-A. In 2023, Rock was assigned to Hartford again and was still 2.4 years younger than league average.

In a full campaign with Hartford, Rock’s run of health ended with an injury that put him on the shelf for a month from mid-April to late-May, but he has still thrown 72 innings across 16 starts this season. He has a 5.38 ERA with a much lower 3.67 xFIP in those innings, accompanied by a 1.50 WHIP, 10.5 K/9 rate, and 3.8 BB/9 rate. Rock’s rates are marred by a 7.52 ERA in his eight home starts (3.63 on the road) and the fact that lefties are actually hitting higher (.303 BA) than right-handed batters are (.266).

Here’s some video of Rock from late 2021 courtesy of FanGraphs:

What do the scouts say?

In the profile accompanying the above video, FanGraphs ranks Rock 15th in the system as a 40 FV prospect:

Rock has an ideal pitcher’s build and an incredibly loose and fluid delivery for a guy his size. … His frame, small school/cold weather pedigree and the missed year of reps were all late-bloomer traits that indicated his already solid stuff could become better with pro development.

Rock’s fastball touches 96 mph, sits 91-94, and has tailing action that’s aided by his natural deception. It takes hitters a few looks from the batter’s box to really seem comfortable in there, especially the lefties. There have been flashes of an above-average slider and changeup, though Rock’s finishing pitch has been his slider to this point. His slider command is much more advanced than that of his changeup, but the changeup’s action is better when he releases it correctly. It’s imperative for Rock’s changeup to develop, as it will help keep righty hitters off his fastball, which they get a nice long look at due to his arm slot. He has a leg up in this regard because of his mechanical fluidity and tailing fastball shape, which mimics that of his change. Even with a fully developed changeup, Rock’s fastball may end up playing best in shorter bursts rather than two and three times through a lineup, but at the moment, he has a shot to pitch toward the back of a rotation.

Rock is currently ranked 16th in the system by and as a 45 FV prospect:

With three pitches coming from his long and lanky 6-foot-6 frame, Rock provides an uncomfortable at-bat. He’s generally in the low 90s with his fastball, though he can reach back for more on occasion, and it plays up because of extension, deception and a slightly funky/lower slot. He can throw it to both sides of the plate, and it comes in with a bit more ride to it than hitters expect. Both his slider and changeup play well off the heater, the breaking ball being a bit of a hybrid between a power curve and slider and the changeup coming in with a lot of sink to offer a really good weapon against right-handed hitters.

Because of the unorthodox nature of his delivery, not to mention his long limbs, Rock can struggle a bit with his command, but he’s around the zone more often than not, and he has an idea of how to mix all his pitchers to keep hitters off-balance.

Law ranked Rock 17th in the system in February:

Rock shows three pitches with a low-90s fastball, average slider, and above-average changeup, but works with 40 command and doesn’t show great feel for using his stuff. He was a disaster from the stretch last year as well. He has the stuff to start but the lack of command and feel probably points to relief.

Rock was listed as a 40 FV prospect (outside the top 14) by in February:

Rock is a 6-6 lefty who popped up at mid-major Ohio in the 2021 draft spring and eventually went 68th overall. He has a solid-average three-pitch mix and fringy command, though some scouts worry his arm action portends command and injury issues down the road.

Baseball Prospectus listed Rock 20th in the system in their November write-up:

A long, lean, fastball/slider lefty with a bit of deception, Rock leans heavily on his mid-80s breaking ball, which shows sharp two-plane break and has above-average projection. His fastball sits low-90s, but there might be more in the tank either in short bursts or given more physical development. The fastball is merely around to set up the slider, as Rock doesn’t have much command of or carry on the pitch. He will probably stay stretched out for another season as a starter in Hartford, but his eventual home will be working the middle innings out of the bullpen.

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

Rock has an intriguing profile, boasting a projectable starter’s frame with a deceptive delivery. He’s shown improved velocity and feel for his change as a professional, though one might hope for better results in a repeat season at Double-A even if he’s young for the league. I’m a bit behind where the electorate is on Rock as a pitching prospect, ranking him 16th on my ballot as a 40+ FV prospect with the pedigree and stuff weighed against the reliever risk. To ascend to a higher FV tier, Rock’s command and another secondary pitch will need to emerge to get high minors and MLB hitters out with a starter’s workload.

★ ★ ★

11. Jordy Vargas (431 points, 22 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: 10 — High Ballot 5, Mode Ballot 10, 12

How did he enter the organization?

2021 International Free Agent, Dominican Republic

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

Vargas was one of Colorado’s headline prospects from their January 2021 amateur free agent class, signing for $500k out of the Dominican Republic. The 6’3”, 153-pound 19-year-old right-handed starter has MLB bloodlines, as he is the son of pitcher Yorkis Perez, who played in parts of nine big league seasons for five different teams. Vargas boasts a pitch mix that includes a mid 90s fastball, a potential plus curveball, a promising change, and the ability to throw them for strikes consistently.

Vargas split 2022 between the complex league and Low-A Fresno, and the latter place is where he was assigned to begin the season. At 2.9 years younger than league average, Vargas was one of the youngest players in the California League (younger even than 2022 second round pick Jackson Cox). In his return to Fresno, Vargas was clearly not overmatched by the competition in 64 innings across 13 starts, in which he had a 4.22 ERA with a 1.23 WHIP, 9.7 K/9 rate, and 3.4 BB/9 rate. Right-handed batters hit just .202 against him.

Unfortunately, we know Vargas’ final stats for 2023 because he underwent Tommy John surgery in July. The timing is such that much of 2024 will also be consumed with rehab and regaining strength for Vargas, a cruel blow for the pitcher and for Rockies fans looking forward to an exciting young starter scaling the minor league ladder.

Here’s some video of Vargas in his first ACL appearance in 2022, courtesy of FanGraphs:

What do the scouts say?

FanGraphs ranks Vargas 5th in the system with a 45+ FV grade, second best among Rockies pitching prospects. The evaluation includes a 60 Future grade on both the hammer and the heater:

Vargas is a loose, ultra-projectable, strike-throwing starter prospect with a curvaceous breaking ball. At age 18, Vargas was already sitting 93-95 mph with disruptive tailing action, and he’s held that velo as his innings load and per-start output has grown upon entering full-season ball. His curveball is a knee-buckling parabola of death, he’s adept at creating tail on his changeup, and his general athleticism and the looseness of his arm action portend continued growth in this area. His fastball’s shape doesn’t really complement his curveball right now, but Vargas is too young to really worry about that. The ease of his delivery and his ability to throw strikes both facilitate starter projection, and his extremely lanky, broad-shouldered build not only generates hope that he can maintain mid-90s heat under a starter’s workload, but also that he may continue to throw harder as he matures. ranks Vargas 17th as a 45 FV player:

Just 19 for all of the 2023 season, Vargas has already impressed with his potential three-pitch mix and feel for how to use it to get hitters out. Coming from a slight and narrow build — one evaluator said he’s built like a fungo — he has a low-90s fastball that plays up a bit because of his ability to command it to both sides of the plate and the ride it gets at the top of the zone. Lower-level hitters haven’t been able to square it up, and he’ll have to learn not to rely on it as much as he faces better competition, having thrown the pitch close to 70 percent of the time in 2022. The good thing is he has secondary offerings to go to. He can really spin a breaking ball, and while it sometimes gets caught between a slider and curve, it has depth and bite. It’s a pitch he can land early for a strike and also use as an out pitch. He has good feel for his changeup too, and sometimes it’s better than the breaking ball.

Vargas goes right after hitters and should be able to continue filling up the strike zone. It remains to be seen how much strength he can add to his wiry frame, with any physical maturity only adding to his potential starting pitcher profile, something he’ll try to continue building once he’s fully recovered from his surgery.

Law ranked Vargas 19th in the org in February:

Vargas is a very skinny right-hander who can really spin the breaking ball and throws a ton of strikes, with four walks and 40 strikeouts in 26 2/3 Arizona Complex League innings before the Rockies moved him up to Low A. He’s 6-foot-3 and not even 165 pounds yet, projecting to add some muscle even with a narrow frame, and could end up a three-pitch starter with an out pitch in the breaking ball if he gets stronger.

Baseball Prospectus slotted Vargas 12th in the system in their November 2022 ranking:

A teenaged pitcher with arm speed to spare, Vargas is a bit of a developmental project at present. His mid-90s fastball plays below the plus velocity as it is control over command, and the pitch mostly just runs down barrels. He does have good touch and feel for an 11-6 breaker, although the shape can get a little loopy at times. His changeup has a chance to be at least average as well, although Vargas doesn’t always replicate his arm speed and the fade is fringy at present. There’s the outline of a three-pitch, mid-rotation starter in his profile, and Vargas spent all of last season as an 18-year-old. The Rockies, however, do not have a great track record with maximizing arms and he could be in the top 10 or well off this list when his 19th birthday rolls around.

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

Vargas has been impressive at every level so far at a precocious age, but now he’ll be on the shelf for an extended period of time as he rehabs and with that comes the uncertainty that he’ll be the same pitcher afterwards. The pre-injury Vargas possessed tremendous upside as a prospect and appeared likely to remain in the starting rotation in the future. Much can happen in between Low-A and MLB though, and Tommy John surgery recovery isn’t a guarantee.

The good news is that Vargas won’t be Rule 5 eligible until after 2025, meaning the Rockies will have time to see what kind of pitcher he can be against more advanced hitting. I ranked Vargas 11th on my ballot as a 45 FV talent due mostly to the inherent risk with surgery, though on talent alone I think he’s closer to a top five player in the system.

★ ★ ★

Tomorrow, we get into the top ten of the mid-season 2023 PuRPs list!