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Colorado Rockies prospects: No. 22, Julio Carreras

The 24-year-old utility infielder could be on the verge of his MLB debut

22. Julio Carreras (147 points, 19 ballots)

It’s been a winding road for Carreras, who finds himself on the verge of a big-league debut in 2024. The 6’1” 24-year-old righty-hitting utility infielder was originally signed in 2017 as an 18-year-old with a $15,000 bonus, indicating he wasn’t highly thought of as a prospect back then. Carreras soon turned heads with his athleticism and results early on, though a rough 2021 marred by a shoulder injury nearly wiped that momentum away. Carreras rebounded with a big 2022 that saw him jump up to an end-of-season assignment to Double-A as well as a coveted 40-man roster spot after the season.

Carreras was assigned back to Double-A for 2023, where he was 0.8 years younger than league average. In 356 PA with Hartford (he missed about five weeks with injuries between April and June), Carreras hit .235/.316/.334 (83 wRC+) with five homers and 14 doubles as well as 13 steals in 14 attempts. He struck out 23% of the time and walked in 9% of PA while showing big-time reverse platoon splits (an unplayable .413 OPS against lefties but a palatable .709 against righties). Defensively, Carreras — who has one of the best infield arms in the system — was a fixture at shortstop, committing 19 errors in 88 games.

Despite the underwhelming offensive performance, the Rockies gave Carreras a promotion to Triple-A in early September. In 62 PA with Albuquerque, Carreras played error-free shortstop and hit .255/.371/.373 (88 wRC+) in a better offensive environment. His overall-better hitting line was buoyed mostly by a 16% walk rate that seems unsustainably higher than his 8% minor league average.

After the affiliated season ended, Carreras continued to play, this time in the Dominican Winter League against competition that is considered to be roughly equivalent to Triple-A. In 117 PA with Gigantes del Cibao, Carreras hit a much improved .304/.388/.461 with three homers, nine extra base hits and 17 steals in 18 attempts, earning him a place in the league’s All-Star team.

In a recent MLB.com article, Manny Randhawa called Carreras “one of the organization’s key prospects heading into the 2024 season”. In the piece, the Rockies describe Carreras as a player who “tied the group together” for each team he’s played on up the ladder.

Here’s Carreras having a four hit game in August 2023, courtesy of MLB.com:

Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs ranks Carreras 20th in the system as a 40 FV player with plus grades on his defense, arm, and speed:

Carreras’ carrying tool is his defense. He has fantastic defensive footwork, his hands, actions, and transfer are all lightning quick, he has a flair for making acrobatic plays around the second base bag, and his arm is fine (if a little inaccurate at times) for shortstop. For a bit while Carreras was in the low minors, it appeared as though he might grow into meaningful power, but that hasn’t happened and he’s still a relatively skinny, light-hitting offensive player whose propensity to chase is also a bit of a problem. There probably won’t be sufficient offensive impact for Carreras to be a regularly or even oft-used complementary player, but his defense will very likely make him a bench infielder who provides a late-game defensive upgrade.

Baseball Prospectus ranked Carreras 16th in their November 2022 system write-up:

Carreras projects as a useful bench infielder who can spot you at second, third, or short, and shows the range, actions, and arm to be at least average at the six. He started to grow into a bit more power this past season, and while the game pop will probably only bump average, that’s a nice bonus in your fifth infielder. The main thing keeping Carreras from being a starter at this point is his pitch recognition and swing decisions, but other than that, Mrs. Lincoln…

Though he might not have star upside and has significant questions about his offense, Carreras profiles as a potentially dangerous offensive player with the athleticism and skill to handle shortstop as well as third and short. Given his 40-man roster status, Carreras looms as a potential utility option for the Rockies as soon as Opening Day, though it’s more likely he starts 2024 as Albuquerque’s regular shortstop. The defensive utility, athleticism, and offensive ceiling, balanced against his plate discipline issues, led me to rank Carreras 25th on my ballot as a 40 FV player.