Colorado Rockies Top 20 Prospects for 2014
The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2014 Baseball Prospect Book. The book has been delayed by my head injury, but it will come out eventually. Thank you for your patience and we still need pre-orders!
All of these grades are preliminary and subject to change.
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS:
Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a reasonable chance of becoming stars or superstars. In theory, most Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or unanticipated problems don't intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.
Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.
Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Some end up as role players or bench guys. Many don't make it at all.
Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise, and some C+ prospects (especially at lower levels) turn out very well indeed.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for my full opinion about a player, the letter grade only tells you so much. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.
1) Jon Gray, RHP, Grade A: Borderline A-. All the raw material to be a number one starter, and looks like he has the polish too, with unusually good command for a pitcher who throws this hard. All the standard caveats about injury apply of course as they do with all young pitchers. But I’ll take 100 MPH with a good slider and changeup any day.
2) Eddie Butler,RHP, Grade A-: My first instinct here was B+ but the more I studied him the more impressed I was. His fastball isn’t far off Gray’s and his secondary stuff is quite advanced, particularly the changeup. Gray/Butler should be one hell of a one-two punch. Could end up being one of the steals of the 2012 draft even as a supplemental first rounder.
3) David Dahl, OF, Grade B+: Borderline B. Lost season last year due to suspension and injury but all the tools are here, could be a 20/15 guy in this park, good fielder, seems to do everything well (or better), off to a good start so far in ’14.
4) Ryan McMahon, 3B, Grade B+: Borderline B. Is it just me or are people sleeping on this guy? A second rounder. Bat praised for both power potential and pure hitting ability. Controls strike zone. Good arm, should stay at third base. Early numbers strong. Good athlete. Great makeup. Perhaps he is the player that Ian Stewart was supposed to be.
5) Tom Murphy, C, Grade B: Borderline B+. He’ll strike out some and I don’t think he would hit for a high average in a neutral park, but the power is genuine and he draws good reviews for his defense. I think we’re looking at a solid long-term regular catcher who could have some All-Star seasons ahead of him.
6) Kyle Parker, OF-1B, Grade B: I have never understood why so many people seem to be down on him. He’s always been productive and the times I have seen him he’s come across as more than just a masher, a decent athlete for his size with a good arm. He’s not Mike Trout but if he’s Ryan Ludwick that’s still a fine player.
7) Rosell Herrera, SS-3B, Grade B: Borderline B-. Do not be deceived by .343 average at Asheville. There are a lot of questions here: can he play shortstop? Will the bat be enough if he moves to third base? Will his strike zone judgment hold up against better pitching? At the same time it is possible to be too skeptical, and he did show a broad array of potential talents last year. But he is more solid prospect than future star in my view.
8) Raimel Tapia, OF, Grade B: Borderline B-: This is an aggressive grade from me for a guy who was in rookie ball but I like what we know so far. He’s aggressive but makes contact and doesn’t strike out much. He dominated rookie ball (wRC+ 141). He can already drive the ball and should produce more home run power as he fills out his 6-2, 160 frame. He has the tools to be a solid defender. He was a mild bonus ($175,000) guy from the Dominican who has outperformed guys with bigger bank accounts. This sounds a lot like Oscar Taveras when he transitioned from rookie ball (with a wRC+ of 143 at the same age) to full-season ball in 2011. I am not saying that Tapia will be that good, but this is a guy who can blossom into something special.
9) Trevor Story, SS, Grade B-: Borderline C+: I have been a Story advocate so his struggles in the Cal League were disappointing. He still has intriguing power/speed potential and I still like his defensive tools, but his strikeout issues are alarming, even with his fast start in the Cal League this year it is still worrisome. This would be the equivalent of his junior year in college. How would he be viewed if he were heading into the ’13 draft?
10) Chad Bettis, RHP, Grade C+: I don’t like him as much as I did before the injury in ’12, but I think he can be a decent reliever despite some roughness in the early going.
11) Tyler Matzek, LHP, Grade C+: Last year a scout told me that Matzek’s stuff was every bit as good as Gray’s and Butler’s and, in a way, more special because it comes from the left side. The difference-maker of course is command consistency, which they have and Matzek does not. His first two starts for Colorado Springs are his career in microcosm: brilliant on April 5th (11 whiffs in five innings, two walks, two hits) and terrible on April 11th (four walks in four innings, four hits, four runs).
12) Christhian Adames, INF, Grade C+: Very impressive defensive ability, combines reliability with good tools, quickness. Not much with the bat but should have a long career as a utility guy. Makes contact and such players sometimes show unexpected offensive growth after everyone assumes it is not going to happen.
13) Tyler Anderson, LHP, Grade C+: University of Oregon lefty looks past ’13 arm troubles, throws strikes, classic college-trained southpaw with decent stuff who relies on command. You can make a case to rank him as high as 10th depending on taste, lacks upside of Matzek but a much higher floor.
14) Dan Winkler, RHP, Grade C+: Does not impress radar guns, all he does is get people out, changes speeds, crosses right-handed hitters up with low three-quarters delivery. Durable, efficient, fourth/fifth starter material in a neutral environment but fly ball tendency could be problematic here. Great value as a 2011 20th round pick from University of Central Florida.
15) Ryan Casteel, C-1B, Grade C+: Under the radar nationally although Rockies fans are aware of him. Looks like a good power bat, has made good progress on defense but his glove isn't as good as Murphy's, hence Castell is playing mostly first base so far at Tulsa. I don't know how you get both into the lineup but having too many good catching prospects is better than not having enough.
16) Jordan Patterson, OF, Grade C+: Successful two-way player from University of South Alabama is now a full-time outfielder, power/speed potential in right field, slow start so far at Asheville but it's very early. Nice choice last year in the fourth round.
17) Tommy Kahnle, RHP, Grade C+: Rule 5 pick from Yankees earned spot in big league pen and I think he can hold it. Power pitcher throws hard and posted outstanding strikeout rates in the minors, but was held back as a prospect by spotty control. Even slight improvement would make him a competent reliever and I think he can do that. Broader improvement could make him a closer.
18) Jayson Aquino, LHP, Grade C: Borderline C+ Dominican lefty has made slow progress through the system, dominating lower levels but having some glitches when reaching full-season ball last year. At his best, throws three average pitches for strikes and has mid-rotation potential. Cal League will be instructive but challenging.
19) Sam Moll, LHP, Grade C: Borderline C+: University of Memphis lefty was third round pick last June. Undersized at 5-10 but dominated in college with three-pitch mix, unclear if he starts or relieves long-term in the pros.
20) Wilfredo Rodriguez, C, Grade C: I have liked this guy since he was a high school catcher in Puerto Rico. Still rather raw, but has good defensive tools and a chance to be a solid hitter for average with moderate power. Controls the strike zone well.
OTHERS: Alex Balog, RHP; Christian Bergman, RHP; Jose Briceno, C; Taylor Featherston, INF; Raul Fernandez, RHP; Emerson Jimenez, SS; Johendi Jiminian, RHP; Terry McClure, OF; Dom Nunez, INF; Antonio Senzatela, RHP; Francisco Sosa, OF; Will Swanner, C; Tim Wheeler, OF
I have to say I like this farm system and it strikes me as very underrated.
We'll start with the pitching. Both Gray and Butler have the potential to be number one/two starters at the big league level and both should be ready for trials later this year or in '15. The impact pitching isn't as impressive after that duo but mound talent doesn't dissipate entirely, as there are a wide array of other arms who project as back-end starters or relief contributors. Anderson and the unheralded Winkler could both turn into valuable inning-eaters. The system continues to mine talent from Latin America and projectable fellows like Aquino, Jiminian, and Senzatela could take big steps forward this year.
The hitting side has depth too. Dahl and McMahon are a few years away but both should be solid regulars at least and possibly stars. Closer to the majors we find intriguing power bats in Parker and Murphy. There are many up-the-middle options and they offer different mixes of abilities (and weaknesses): Adames has a terrific glove but might not hit; Story's pure talent is obvious but can he get the zone under control; Herrera needs to prove he's not just an Asheville illusion.
Ramiel Tapia needs to be watched very closely. His early career contains numerous parallels with Oscar Taveras both scout-wise and sabermetrically. That doesn't mean he'll turn out the same way of course, especially since we don't know exactly how Oscar himself is going to turn out. But it does show that you can find excellent talent in Latin America without breaking the bank: his signing bonus was just $175,000. The Rockies are very effective at finding Latin talent and have been for years.