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Colorado Rockies prospect rankings, pre-season 2024: numbers 42-36

Here are the multi-ballot players!

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After revealing the players who appeared on a single ballot yesterday, it’s time to show players who were voted onto multiple ballots but who didn’t quite make it into the top 30 plus honorable mention Purple Row Prospects (PuRPs) status for pre-season 2024, as voted on by the Purple Row community.

For each player, I’ll include a link to individual stats and contract status (via Baseball-Reference), as well as notes on their 2023 season if applicable. For the sake of full disclosure, I’ll also include where I put each player on my personal ballot. All ages are as of the day the article is posted.

Multi-Ballot Players

42. Connor Van Scoyoc (3.3 points, 2 ballots) — the 24-year-old righty starter, a 2018 11th-round pick of the Angels, was acquired in late June 2023 for Mike Moustakas. In 24 1⁄3 innings over four starts with High A Spokane, Van Scoyoc had a 3.33 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and a 8.1 K/9 rate — in line with his pitching results in the Angels organization. The 6’6” hurler was promoted to Double-A in late July and made eight starts with Hartford, posting a 5.62 ERA (4.37 xFIP), 1.49 WHIP, 7.8 K/9 rate, and 3.2 BB/9 rate in 41 23 innings. Overall he made 23 starts in 2023, totaling 128 innings pitched. He was Rule 5 eligible but not selected this off-season and will likely start 2024 in Hartford.

Van Scoyoc was listed in the “Potential Depth/Spot Starters” section of Eric Longenhagen’s FanGraphs mid-season system write-up:

[Van Scoyoc] sits 91-93 with a very strange angle that helps his fastball play in the zone as a bat-misser. He can cut or sink his heater and has an above-average curveball, but he isn’t a typical athletic fit on the mound and his arm action is so long that it has an intermission.

41. Grant Lavigne (3.3 points, 2 ballots*) — the 24-year-old righty-throwing, lefty-hitting first baseman’s streak of PuRPs appearances (with a high of number five) comes to a close at ten, as Lavigne was for a second time unprotected and unselected in the Rule 5 draft. 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), but the 6’4”, 220-pound Lavigne just hasn’t been able to mash enough to stand out from the crowd the Rockies have developed at corner infield over the last few years.

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. In 2023, that changed a bit as Lavigne repeated at Double-A Hartford (at 0.7 years younger than league average). Lavigne set a career high in home runs (17) for Hartford and slashed .227/.350/.398 in 534 PA (109 wRC+), not quite enough to dislodge the logjam at first base above him.

Keith Law of the Athletic placed Lavigne in the “others of note” section in his top 20 system rank for pre-season 2023:

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.

Lavigne’s a first-base-only bat with a patience-based approach. 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. I do think Lavigne is a 35+ 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.

*Lavigne was listed higher on his top ballot than Van Scoyoc, hence he wins the tiebreaker

40. Cade Denton (5.6 points, 5 ballots) — the 6’3” 22-year-old right-hander is a reliever through and through, one of the best acclaimed such arms in the 2023 draft. The Rockies took Denton in the sixth round out of Oral Roberts University and signed him for an over-slot (by $163k) bonus of $500k.

Denton threw 64 innings with ORU as a junior with a 1.83 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 12.1 K/9 rate, and 2.1 BB/9 rate. He made his professional debut with the complex league team, where he allowed two runs on five hits and a walk in five innings, striking out seven over four games. Denton was bumped up to Fresno as well, where he threw five innings in four more games, allowing 10 runs on nine hits and two walks with five strikeouts.

Longenhagen places Denton 41st in the org as a 35+ FV player:

Utterly dominant as both a sophomore and junior at ORU. Low-slot reliever with mid-90s heat and tail. Lateral attack with fastball/slider combo. Righty hitters flinch a lot against Denton. Slider often lacks depth but is still tough to discern from his fastball. Middle relief projection with shot to improve slider’s bat-missing ability in pro ball.

Denton was ranked 184th overall by MLB.com in this year’s draft class as a 40 FV player (and is ranked 29th in the org):

Denton attacks with two pitches that move in opposite directions and work against both left-handers and right-handers. His fastball sits at 93-95 mph and reaches 99, approaching the plate on a flat angle before veering toward the right. His low-80s slider is a slightly better offering that breaks toward the left and also features good depth.

Denton occasionally will unveil an upper-80s changeup, but he’s mainly a two-pitch guy who racks up a lot of empty swings and weak ground balls with his fastball and slider. He’s athletic and repeatedly fills the strike zone while working from a nearly sidearm slot that provides deception.

Though he struggled a bit in Fresno, it seems likely that Denton will be a fast-moving reliever with the potential to help the Rockies pen in two or three years.

39. Coco Montes (9.0 points, 3 ballots) — the 2018 15th rounder was briefly on the PuRPs radar back in 2018 when he absolutely murdered Pioneer League pitching, and now the 27-year-old righty-hitting utility infielder (splitting time between second, short, and third in that order) is back. In fact, Montes hit well enough in 2023 in Triple-A to get himself a stint with the Rockies, mostly in June.

With Albuquerque, Montes hit a stellar .317/.400/.551 with 22 homers and 53 extra base hits in 507 PA, good for a 128 wRC+. His stint in the Major Leagues was less successful, as Montes hit only .184/.244/.316 (37 wRC+) in 41 PA, though he did hit a late-inning game-tying homer in his big league debut.

Montes was designated for assignment in September and was then outrighted back to Triple-A, so he remains an option for Colorado’s utility infielder for the 2024 season, vying with PuRP Julio Carreras. He’s currently hitting .320/.377/.433 over 106 PA in the Dominican winter league, which is roughly equivalent to mid Triple-A competition, which are comparable numbers to what Carreras is posting against the same competition.

38. Braxton Fulford (10.0 points, 4 ballots) — the 25-year-old catcher was Colorado’s sixth rounder in 2021. Fulford began 2023 in High-A Spokane as an older player (1.6 years above average) and showed he had mastered the level with a .307/.398/.511 line (145 wRC+) in 162 PA before getting a promotion to Double-A at the end of May.

With Hartford, Fulford split time with PuRP Drew Romo, getting 125 PA at a league average age, with a three week IL stint mixed in. Fulford hit .219/.331/.381 with three homers and eight doubles (99 wRC+) with Hartford, then was called up to Triple-A Albuquerque in mid-September. In three games at Triple-A, Fulford went 4-8 with a homer and two doubles to end the season on a high note.

Longenhagen ranks Fulford 30th as a 35+ FV prospect:

[Fulford] and fellow slugging backstop Hunter Goodman were birds of a feather, drafted for their offense and handed to Rockies catching guru Jerry Weinstein to develop. Fulford has gotten significantly better behind the dish since turning pro and now looks like a pretty good bet to stay back there. He has below-average hands and he’s not great at framing borderline pitches or at picking balls in the dirt, but things aren’t so bad that he has to move off the position. Fulford’s swing has a weird double toe tap and a very high front side that prevents him from reaching sliders away from him. It makes sense for him to have a simple swing, as he’s strong enough to do damage with just his hands, but his current cut compromises his plate coverage enough to consider him more of a third catcher prospect than a bat-first backup at this stage.

Fulford is firmly behind Romo (and maybe Willie MacIver) in Colorado’s minor league catching hierarchy, but with both Elias Diaz and Jacob Stallings potentially free agents after 2024, Fulford has a clear path to a big league roster spot soon and will be Rule 5 eligible after the season.

37. Jeff Criswell (14.4 points, 5 ballots) — the 24-year-old right-hander was acquired from Oakland last offseason for reliever Chad Smith. Criswell was a 2020 second rounder with a $1 million bonus and entered 2023 on the verge of a big league debut after a strong 2022. The 6’4” righty was assigned to Triple-A (where he joined fellow Michigan alum and Rockies upper-minors pitcher Karl Kauffmann) for 2023.

Unfortunately, despite staying healthy all year, Criswell’s performance with Triple-A Albuquerque wasn’t enough to crack Colorado’s rotation even in a year when the Rockies used 17 different starting pitchers. In the notorious hitter’s haven that is the Pacific Coast League, Criswell pitched in 29 games (26 starts) and allowed a 7.51 ERA (5.92 xFIP) with a 1.74 WHIP, 10.0 K/9 rate, and 5.3 BB/9 rate in 121 innings. The good news was that over Criswell’s last seven games pitched, he had three quality starts and only one blow-up. His ERAs of 4.97 and 5.75 in August and September were the two best he had all year.

Criswell is getting PuRP votes because of his scouting accolades and proximity to MLB. Most notably, Longenhagen of FanGraphs ranks Criswell 14th in the system as a 40 FV player:

[Criswell] walked a batter every other inning during his college career, which, combined with several pro injuries, pushes his projection toward the bullpen. Aside from a brief velo spike into the 94-97 mph range during 2020 instructs, Criswell has been sitting 92-95 as a pro. After he dealt with elbow inflammation a few times in 2021, he had a totally healthy 2022 and worked 118 innings across 24 games as he reached Triple-A Las Vegas. He was traded from Oakland to Colorado after the season for reliever and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith; now at Triple-A Albuquerque, he has again been sitting 92-95 so far this season.

Imbalance in Criswell’s lower half continues to detract from his command a bit and contributes to variability in the shape of his secondary stuff. His repertoire depth gives him a shot to start, specifically his changeup, which is better than my pre-draft assessment. It’s already a viable third pitch (his mid-80s slider is his preferred secondary) and projects as an above-average offering. A four-pitch complement will enable Criswell to work at the back of a rotation so long as his pitch efficiency improves a bit, but it’s more likely that he ends up in a bulk relief role.

Keith Law of the Athletic wrote about Criswell in his pre-season system look:

Criswell has four pitches with an out pitch in the slider but it’s a rough delivery and he’s never had average control, so he might be a reliever in the end.

Criswell wasn’t protected or selected for Rule 5 after the season, so he’ll be available again in 2024 if the Rockies need a spot start.

36. Chris McMahon (16.0 points, 4 ballots) — the 24-year-old right-hander’s 2023 season was eagerly awaited by PuRPs voters, as the 6’2” pitcher had been significantly limited by injuries in 2022 (just 28 23 IP). They wanted to see how McMahon’s low fastball (four- and two-seam), change-up, and slider mix would perform in the upper minors. McMahon was assigned to Double-A to start the year, where he was about league average age.

With Hartford, he made 15 starts and threw 67 innings of 5.91 ERA (4.63 xFIP), 1.63 WHIP, 8.9 K/9 rate, and 3.4 BB/9 rate ball before going down with an injury in early July. McMahon was healthy enough to appear in the Arizona Fall League, where he allowed 10 runs on 17 hits with four walks and eight strikeouts in 8 23 innings across five appearances. That lower xFIP indicates some poor fortune for McMahon and the K/BB peripherals are acceptable, but expectations were higher for a 2020 second round pick.

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 2023 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.

McMahon wasn’t protected or selected in the Rule 5 draft, so he’ll continue his fight up the minor league ladder in 2024. 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 2023’s results gave me pause, as did the lower velo reports. McMahon’s stuff profile and upside was still enough for me to rate him as a 35+ FV player but not enough to put him on my ballot.

★ ★ ★

Next time, I’ll reveal the five Honorable Mention pre-season 2024 PuRPs and then we’ll get into the players that will make up the top 30.