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Colorado Rockies prospect rankings, mid-season 2023: numbers 5 to 3

Two outfielders and a pitcher start off the Top 5

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We’ve entered the top five of the mid-season 2023 Purple Row Prospects (PuRPs) list! Today we’ll rank PuRPs 3, 4 and 5 and tomorrow we’ll reveal the top two. Previously we had PuRPs 30-26, 25-21, 20-16, 15-11, and 10-6. 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.

5. Jordan Beck (568 points, 22 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: 9 — High Ballot 3, Mode Ballot 5

How did he enter the organization?

2022 Competitive Balance Round A, University of Tennessee

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

The 22-year-old right-handed outfielder was Colorado’s third pick in 2022 (38th overall in Competitive Balance Round A) but was ranked very closely to the first two picks (fellow PuRPs Sterlin Thompson and Gabriel Hughes) by most national scouts as an impact player. The 6’3”, 225-pounder, who played all three outfield positions at Tennessee with good athleticism and raw power, signed for an above-slot $2.2 million bonus ($2.05 million slot).

After a successful professional debut season that saw him excel with both the complex league team and Low-A Fresno, Beck was assigned to High-A Spokane to begin 2023, where he was 0.5 years younger than league average. He continued his minor league success in the Northwest League, hitting .292/.378/.566 with 20 homers among his 40 extra-base hits and 11 steals in 341 PA (149 wRC+). That led to a mid-July promotion to Double-A Hartford, where Beck is 1.8 years younger than league average. Beck has found that level more difficult, but his .222/.338/.397 line with four homers and seven steals in 148 PA is still slightly above league average (104 wRC+).

Notably, Beck has hit for power this year while also showing patience, maintaining a nearly 15% walk rate in Hartford (13% in Spokane). However, he’s also striking out nearly a third of the time in Hartford (32%) — a profile that only really works at higher levels if you also walk a ton and hit with authority. So far it’s working, but it’s something to watch with Beck is that before Double-A, he had kept his strikeouts closer to 20% of his PA. Defensively, Beck has split his time between all three defensive positions as the Rockies managed a crowded outfield picture in Spokane and Hartford, committing two errors in 99 games.

Here’s some video of Beck at Tennessee in 2022 courtesy of Prospects Worldwide, including him hitting a ball out at Minute Maid Park in Houston:

What do the scouts say?

Beck has entered the top 100 overall list at number 88 and ranks fourth in the org as a 55 Future Value player:

Beck has pretty much been as advertised since joining the Rockies organization. The right-handed hitter’s power is very real, with at least raw pop that he knows how to get to. He’s great at recognizing mistakes and doing damage with them, and he can drive the ball to all fields with good bat speed and leverage. While he’s more than willing to draw walks, he can get overaggressive, leading to legitimate worries about him making consistent contact. The Rockies have already worked with him to refine his approach and make adjustments based on how pitchers are attacking him, thinking through a team plate appearance and not just winding up and taking three shots on goal.

Beck runs well, especially for his size, with some thinking he could even potentially play center field. He’s more likely going to stick in a corner, where his arm strength profiles well. The Rockies think he can be an excellent defender if he brings the passion he has for hitting to that side of his game, with a finished product being a power-hitting corner outfielder who fits in the middle of a lineup one day.

The profile is highlighted by a 60 arm grade as well as 55 grades on his power, speed, and fielding.

FanGraphs is lower on Beck due to swing and miss concerns with the profile, ranking him ninth in the org as a 40+ FV player:

Beck is crushing the Northwest League on paper, but I’m not making any alterations to his evaluation or FV grade. He’s a fair right field prospect, with a hulking frame, above-average raw power, and a hit tool that is likely to mature below the big league average. Beck is playing a mix of all three outfield positions and his feel isn’t great for any of them. He’s very likely to end up in a corner and has a little ways to go to be considered average there. That’s going to put a ton of pressure on his bat. Beck has enough power to profile in a corner, with wrist-flicking oppo pop and an ability to drop the bat head and yank pull-side contact out to left field. But its playability is limited to low pitches right now. He’s swinging underneath a lot of fastballs, something that will become more of an issue against upper-level pitching. Beck’s bottom-hand dominant swing lopes through the lower portion of the zone, and I think there will have to be an eventual adjustment for Beck to continue hitting this way against harder-throwing arms. Beck is definitely a prospect, but readers are cautioned against simply scouting his statline. There are swing elements that put Beck at risk of falling short of the lofty offensive bar he’d need to clear to be an everyday player.

Keith Law of the Athletic was highest on Beck in the draft, ranking him 14th overall pre-draft and ninth in the system in February:

Beck was their third pick, 38th overall, in the 2022 draft, off a spring at Tennessee where he showed first-round tools with too much swing and miss. The swing is powerful, though, with great bat speed from his quick wrists, and there’s 25-30 home run power in here if hits enough to get to it in time. He played right field for the Vols because they had Drew Gilbert, who would become the Astros’ first-round pick, in center, but Beck has the speed and athleticism to play center in pro ball and the Rockies should put him there until he proves otherwise. It would not surprise me at all if he ended up the best player out of the Rockies’ 2022 draft class.

Baseball Prospectus slotted Beck 11th in their November system look:

Beck broadly fits with what [the Rockies] tend to target in college bats—a corner masher with a bit more defensive versatility than you’d expect. He generates plus-plus raw power and is reasonably short to the ball for a slugger. The swing does have some stiffness, and it’s not amazing bat speed, so Beck can be a bit late on velocity away. I’d worry about swing-and-miss in the zone generally, given how much he’s looking to lift. Beck fits best defensively in right field, but could sneak some time in all three spots if he maintains his athleticism in his 20s. He’ll need to zero in on the pitches he can actually drive, and do damage when he swings, but there’s enough power potential here—even before accounting for Coors—to project an everyday middle-of-the-order bat down the line.

Kiley McDaniel of ranked Beck 25th among 2022 draft prospects (just ahead of Hughes and Thompson) and placed him ninth in the system (still just ahead of Colorado’s first two picks) with a 45 FV grade in February:

The 6-3 Beck is an excellent athlete with easy plus raw power and above-average speed, but a swing designed for power that needs to be dialed in a bit.

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

Beck has yet to hit a wall in the minors, though his Double-A stat line hasn’t been as pretty as those at the other levels. He could conceivably be a big-league factor as soon as next year if he is able to make some approach adjustments with more exposure to upper level pitching. Scouts like Beck’s raw power, defensive utility, and athleticism but have concerns with his approach at the plate and the swing and miss in his game. The former traits give Beck a high ceiling but the latter traits make it less likely he attains that ceiling.

The Rockies now have quite a bit of system depth in the outfield (three of the top five PuRPs are outfielders, all of them currently at Double-A) as well as at the big league level, so it’s unclear what Beck’s future big league fit will be, but he’s certainly forcing his way into the picture this year. I ranked Beck fifth on my list as a 50 FV player.

★ ★ ★

4. Chase Dollander (599 points, 22 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: NR — High Ballot 1 (2), Mode Ballot 4

How did he enter the organization?

2023 1st Round, University of Tennessee

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

Entering the 2023 college season, scouts were split among whether Dollander or Paul Skenes was the top pitching prospect in the draft, with many giving the edge to Dollander after a year in which he had a 12.3 K/9 rate and 1.5 BB/9 rate with a 10-0 record at Tennessee. The 6’2”, 200-pound right-hander didn’t quite live up to those expectations in 2023, though a 4.75 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 12.1 K/9 rate, and 3.0 BB/9 rate in 89 innings across 17 starts in the SEC is hardly a disaster.

At his peak, the 21-year-old boasted a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and touches the upper-90s, paired with a plus slider, an above average curveball and change-up with strong control. Nothing was significantly off with Dollander in his draft year, but the pieces didn’t quite fit the same way they had the previous year. All that meant Dollander was still on the draft board when the Rockies picked ninth overall. He received a slot bonus of just over $5.7 million, which is among the highest bonus the Rockies have ever given (if not the highest).

Dollander has yet to make his professional debut, but it will probably be in High-A Spokane next year if the Rockies follow a similar pattern that they did with top 2022 pick Gabriel Hughes.

Here’s some video of Dollander this year courtesy of Prospects Live:

What do the scouts say? put Dollander directly onto their overall top 100 (at 63) as a 55 FV player, third in Colorado’s system after ranking him 9th overall in the pre-draft process:

Dollander’s devastating arsenal begins with a 95-97 mph fastball that peaks at 99 and produces elite swing-and-miss rates with its combination of velocity and carry. His best secondary pitch is a tight slider that parks in the mid-80s and reaches 91 mph, and it can be a well-above-average offering with sweep at its best. He also has a bigger mid-70s curveball and a fading upper-80s changeup, both of which can be solid pitches but aren’t as consistent as his primary weapons.

While Dollander continued to display frontline starter stuff, he wasn’t locating it as well in 2023. He ranked seventh in NCAA Division I in K/BB ratio (8.3) as a sophomore while repeating his simple delivery with ease, but his control and command were more average this spring. His athleticism helps him generate his premium pitches with little effort and he still has room to add more strength to his 6-foot-2 frame.

That evaluation is highlighted by a 70 grade on the fastball, a 60 on the slider, and 55s on the change-up and control.

FanGraphs ranked Dollander eighth overall pre-draft and now slot him fourth in the system as a 45+ FV player:

Dollander sat 93-95 mph as a freshman at Georgia Southern, then started throwing harder as a sophomore after he had transferred to Tennessee. Throughout 2022 and 2023, he sat 94-97 with riding life and would frequently top out in the 98-99 range. Dollander’s hard cutter/slider looks more like the latter the deeper into games he pitches. As that pitch slows down from the 87-89 mph range to the 84-86 mph band throughout a start, it tends to add length and have more typical slider shape. An upper-70s curveball and mid-80s changeup sit in the back seat together; each had less than 10% usage in 2022 and combined for just 14% usage in 2023. Those pitches are going to have to be leaned on more in pro ball — Dollander’s fastball is good, but not so good that he’ll be able to deploy it 65% of the time (his 2023 mark) against big leaguers. Dollander’s arm speed portends changeup growth, but the ones he throws now tend to sail on him. His curveball has distinct shape from his slider and has fine depth for an upper-70s curve, Dollander just doesn’t consistently land his location with this pitch either. He barely walked anyone as a sophomore even though he was throwing harder and threw 30 more innings than the season before, but he wasn’t as dominant as a junior. His BB/9 doubled and he became much more hittable, his WHIP ballooning from .797 to 1.24, which is still good but not top-of-the-draft good. He’s still likely to go around pick 10, give or take, and projects as a no. 4 starter despite having a little less repertoire polish than the usual premium college arm.

McDaniel of ranked Dollander 15th in his pre-draft rankings with future plus grades on the fastball and slider:

Dollander entered the spring with a slight lead over Skenes as the top pitcher in the draft, but quickly lost that spot and confused scouts all spring. I must have had a half-dozen scouts walk up to me this spring to ask if I knew what was wrong with Dollander. It wasn’t like he was hurt or even bad, but he wasn’t his normal self. I landed about where most teams did, that his delivery was getting too east/west, or he was spinning/coiling too much in his windup so that he wasn’t online, undermining his command and consistency of his slider. At his best, Dollander has four above-to-plus pitches and kind of looks like Jacob deGrom physically, but this spring he’s looked more like a pitcher that mediocre pitching development clubs should skip.

Law also ranked Dollander 15th for the Athletic:

Dollander will be one of the most fascinating names to watch on draft day, as he came into the year as the top college pitcher in the class but struggled all spring with command and never found the grade-70 slider he had as a sophomore. That slider was short and tight with what appeared to be very late downward break, and Dollander could throw it for a strike or use it as a chase pitch. This spring, however, it never had the same bite, and hitters whiffed on it less and chased far less, about two-thirds as often as they did the year before, so Dollander had to rely more on his fastball. His fastball is still 93-97mph and he throws it for strikes, albeit not quite as much as he did in 2022, so if some team can figure out what went wrong with his slider – Did Tennessee try to get him to change the pitch? Is he dealing with some injury or discomfort? – there’s a good chance they’ll get the draft’s best or second-best college pitcher. He had No. 2 starter ceiling or better last spring, and that pitcher might still be in here.

When evaluating Colorado’s draft, Law was complimentary of the Dollander selection:

The Rockies might have been the ideal team to take Chase Dollander (1), the Tennessee right-hander who would have been a top-five and maybe top-three pick if this draft had taken place on Labor Day last year, but whose 2023 season was kind of a disaster. He lost his best pitch, a grade-70 slider, and never really got it back; the rumor is someone had him change the grip to get more sweep, since that’s what R&D folks supposedly want, and the pitch was a non-factor for him at times, with entire starts where he wouldn’t get a single whiff on it. He’s 92-96 mph and can bump higher with above-average command and control, and has enough changeup to stay a starter. If the Rockies get him his slider back, they got a steal — never mind the old saw about the Rockies always needing pitching. Everybody needs a 2022 Dollander in their system. There just aren’t that many of them to go around.

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

The Rockies no doubt hope they can help Dollander reclaim the form he showed in 2022, so they conceivably could move him more slowly than a typical high-major college pitcher to focus on development. Or it could all click right away in fall instructs or spring training and Dollander could be in Double-A next year.

I think the time horizon for Dollander in the minors if he stays healthy is 2-3 years before he’s a rotation candidate for the Rockies. I love that Colorado picked a player with this kind of ceiling and ranked Dollander fourth on my list as a 50 FV player because of the possibility Dollander can recapture that 2022 form.

★ ★ ★

3. Yanquiel Fernandez (612 points, 22 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: 12 — High Ballot 1 (1), Mode Ballot 3

How did he enter the organization?

2019 International Free Agent, Cuba

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

According to scouts, the ball just sounds different coming off Fernandez’s bat. The 20-year-old lefty outfielder (who signed for $295k in 2019 out of Cuba) is well-known for making loud contact, and did a lot of that in 2022 with Low-A Fresno as one of the youngest players in the league. He’s done a lot more of that this year too. Fernandez is lauded for his plus power projection and good feel for hitting, though his below-average speed limits him to the corner outfield positions.

After a three game stint back in Low-A to begin 2023, the 6’2” Fernandez was assigned to High-A Spokane in mid-April, where he was one of the youngest players in the league at 2.5 years below league average, and he responded well to the challenge. In 268 PA with Spokane, Fernandez hit .319/.355/.605 with 17 homers among his 34 extra-base hits (147 wRC+). Fernandez even limited his strikeouts to 18% of his PA, a step forward from 2022. That was enough for the Rockies to promote him to Double-A Hartford in late June, where Fernandez is 3.8 years younger than league average.

True to form, Fernandez homered in his first game with Hartford and he went yard in four of his first eight games. Fernandez was selected to the prestigious MLB Futures Game a couple weeks later. In the game, Fernandez hit a single and was clocked at over 103 MPH on an in-game throw to third base:

Fernandez hasn’t quite maintained that homer pace in Double-A after his hot start, hitting just two long balls since July. Still, even though Fernandez’s .215/.283/.383 line (80 wRC+) isn’t elite, the fact that he’s doing it as a 20-year-old in Double-A very much is. Fernandez has struck out in 34% of PA in Hartford (8% walks), a number that will need to come down if he’s going to actualize the star potential he’s shown this year. He’s continued to show almost no platoon splits with his OPS, which is masked a bit because 17 of his 23 homers this year have come off right-handers. Defensively, the outfielder appeared only in right field (or as a DH), where he has four errors and 10 outfield assists in 87 games there.

Here’s some video of Fernandez hitting in fall instructs in 2021, courtesy of FanGraphs:

What do the scouts say?

Law has jumped Fernandez all the way from 11th in the system pre-season to 37th overall in MLB at mid-season:

[Fernandez] has a big leg kick and draws his hands way back, nearly barring his lead arm, but then unleashes on the ball, which produces some swing and miss — fastballs up, sliders down below the zone — but also makes for very hard contact. The recent bump up to Double A might have been too much too soon, as he’s struck out a third of the time in his first 17 games, although he’s also hit five homers in that span. He’s got a plus arm and can handle right field, so if he can keep the contact rate up or walk a little more, he should be an above-average regular there. ranks Fernandez second in the system and 53rd in MLB as a 55 FV player:

In the early stages of his 2022 season, Fernandez was getting a steady diet of breaking stuff and scuffled as a result, with just a .741 OPS over the season’s first two months as he was swinging at everything. The left-handed hitter then started to adjust and things began to click, with Fernandez posting an OPS over .900 from June 1 on, a stretch of 80 games that included 18 homers and 89 RBIs. He has dangerous raw power he’s just learning to tap into and can leave the yard to all fields, showing he’s the kind of hitter who loves RBI situations.

Fernandez fits the corner outfield profile very well, both because of his run-production potential and an easily plus arm that looks good in right field. He’s gotten some Yordan Alvarez comps, and if the adjustments he showed in his approach last year are for real, he could come close to living up to them.

FanGraphs ranks Fernandez third as a 45+ FV prospect (emphasis mine):

Fernandez is absolutely raking right now, but beware of corner guys with plate discipline this poor. His performance so far in 2023 is not sustainable; players whose swinging strike rates are this high (nearly 16% as of list publication) but who strike out as little as Fernandez has this year (17%) don’t exist at the big league level. That isn’t to say that Fernandez isn’t talented, in fact quite the opposite. He’s a strapping, broad-shouldered young man with considerable thunder in his hands, a more muscular physique than is typical for a hitter this age, and much better rotational athleticism than a hitter this physical typically touts. He can do real damage without taking out-of-control swings (though that doesn’t stop him from swinging out of his shoes), giving him the look of a dangerous lefty stick with a contact and power blend that is undercut by his plate discipline. Fernandez torches pitches in the middle/down portion of the zone and is going to hit some epic pull-side homers in the big leagues. The lift in his swing helps ensure that he will get to power when he makes contact. There’s still a ton of approach-related risk here but enough feel to hit to support a corner platoon profile, with a chance for Fernandez to take a leap and be an impact player if the youngster can become more selective.

Baseball Prospectus ranked Fernandez eighth in their November 2022 system rank with a 50 OFP:

Fernandez is your classic right field prospect. He’s projectable with present pop at the plate. There’s plenty of runway to his swing, as he sets up high and wraps a bit, but plus bat speed with good whip allows him to catch up to and lift even better velocity. It’s a power-over-hit profile due to fringe barrel control, but he should make enough hard contact to keep his batting averages in the .260 range. You might prefer your right field prospect to still be playing center field in A-ball. I hear ya. You would definitely prefer your right field prospect to be a better right fielder than Fernandez is right now. His foot speed is fine for a corner, his arm is strong enough for the position. He is just a bit awkward and heavy-footed tracking and closing on balls. Routes and reads can be improved with reps of course, but he needs a fair bit of defensive development in addition to conquering the future challenges he’ll face at the plate.

The power stroke looks like it will play up the ladder, but Fernandez has a ways to go up said ladder, and if he ends up more of a 1B/DH type you will be less enthused about penciling him into the lineup everyday.

Kiley McDaniel of slotted Fernandez 12th in the system pre-season in February as a 45 FV player:

Fernandez (right fielder who could hit 25-30 homers) and [Warming] 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?

Clearly Fernandez is a bat-first prospect with limited defensive utility (albeit a cannon of an arm), and he’ll need to be able to show he can stick in right field as he moves up the ladder. The good news is the offensive profile is quite exciting, boasting both plus power and decent bat to ball ability (with some plate discipline issues). That kind of true impact offensive profile helps Fernandez stand out even in a deeper Rockies system. I ranked him third on my list as a 50 FV player.

To be doing what Fernandez is doing as a 20-year-old in Double-A this year is phenomenal, and he’s a lock to receive a 40-man roster spot this off-season to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. I suspect we’ll see Fernandez back in Double-A next year to start, but he could push for a big league cameo late in the year.

★ ★ ★

Come back tomorrow to see how the top two rank!