Colorado Rockies Top 20 Prospects for 2015
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 2015 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders for the book, so order early and order often!
All of these grades are preliminary and subject to change.
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS
Grade A prospects are the elite. In theory, they have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Theoretically, most Grade A prospects develop into stars or at least major league regulars, if injuries or other 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. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don’t make it at all.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for the full analysis 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 B+: Age 23, posted 3.91 ERA with 113/41 K/BB in 124 innings in Double-A, 107 hits. Not as dominant as he was in college, velocity down some but stuff still fine overall, low-to-mid-90s with strong slider and improved change-up. Still top-of-the-rotation upside. Possible parallel: Sonny Gray (no relation) who was less than dominant in his first Double-A season but adjusted and thrived.
2) David Dahl, OF, Grade B+/Borderline A-: Age 20, hit .309/.347/.500 with 18 steals for Low-A Asheville in 392 at-bats then .267/.296/.467 in 120 at-bats for High-A Modesto. Nice rebound after lost 2013 season, impressive power/speed/defense combination. Holding back a tiny bit on the grade due to slippage in zone judgment at higher level plus statistical distortions from the Asheville park. Still an elite prospect even with those factors.
3) Kyle Freeland, LHP, Grade B+/Borderline A-: Age 21, posted 1.15 ERA with 33/6 K/BB in 39 innings in pro debut in rookie ball and Low-A. 2014 first round pick, throws strikes with low-mid-90s fastball and excellent slider, working on the change-up but good pitching aptitude overall with power stuff.
4) Ryan McMahon, 3B, Grade B+: Age 20, hit .282/.358/.502 with 18 homers, 46 doubles, 54 walks, 143 strikeouts in 482 at-bats for Asheville. Power is genuine but home park boosted other hitting stats, hit .308/.368/.508 at home but .256/.349/.496 on road. Scouts well, glove should be solid with more experience, could be the player that Ian Stewart was supposed to be.
5) Eddie Butler, RHP, Grade B+/Borderline B: Age 23, pitched at four levels, 3.58 ERA with 63/32 K/BB in 108 innings at Tulsa was the main stop. Like Gray, stuff was down compared to 2013 with notable drop in strikeout rate, was hit hard in brief major league action and had shoulder trouble. When healthy features nasty sinker/change-up/slider troika and projects as rotation workhorse.
6) Raimel Tapia, OF, Grade B/Borderline B+: Age 21, hit .326/.382/.453 in Low-A. All power came at Asheville (.350/.391/.534), hit for average on the road (.304/.374/.377) but with much less power. Tools draw praise, 33 steals, fast bat, main issue is power development outside of the friendly environment.
7) Tom Murphy, C, Grade B/Borderline B-: Age 23, hit .213/.321/.415 in 27 games for Tulsa before going down with shoulder injury. When healthy, features better-than-average power and decent on-base abilities and above-average defense but unlikely to hit for high batting averages. Potential regular if his shoulder is OK.
8) Forrest Wall, 2B, Grade B-: Age 19, hit .318/.416/.490 with 18 steals, 27 walks, 32 strikeouts in 157 at-bats in the Pioneer League for Grand Junction. High school shoulder injury limited him to second base, pure hitting skills well-respected. Could develop into something like Todd Walker or Adam Kennedy or Howie Kendrick, good hitters for average with touches of power.
9) Rosell Herrera, INF, Grade B-/Borderline C+: Age 22, did not have great year in High-A (.,244/.302/.335 in 275 at-bats) but was hampered by wrist injuries all year. The issue here: was his 2013 breakout season just an Asheville illusion, or was 2014 weaker because of the injuries? Probably some combination of both.
10) Tyler Anderson, LHP, Grade B-/Borderline C+: Age 25, posted 1.98 ERA with 106/40 K/BB in 118 innings in Double-A, just 91 hits. Typical finesse lefty with upper-80s/low-90s fastball, good changeup, slider, throws strikes and keeps hitters off-balance. Main concern is durability, has history of both elbow and shoulder trouble. If healthy, a fine fourth starter.
11) Ryan Castellani, RHP, Grade B-/Borderline C+: Age 19, second round pick from high school in Phoenix, posted 3.65 ERA with 25/9 K/BB in 37 innings in the Northwest League against older competition. Good size and strength at 6-3, 200, fastball in upper-80s/low-90s with more possible, already has curve, slider, and change-up at his disposal. Received less hype than some of the other advanced high school pitchers in 2014 draft but looks very good so far.
12) Antonio Senzatela, RHP, Grade C+: Age 20, posted 3.11 ERA with 89/36 K/BB in 145 innings in Low-A. Can hit 95 and doesn’t walk many, but reports say he needs a better breaking ball to thrive at higher levels. That dovetails with the low strikeout rate. Less physical projection than Castellani but could be mid-rotation guy if secondaries sharpen.
13) Trevor Story, SS, Grade C+: Age 22, strong in High-A (.332/.436/.582 in 184 at-bats) but overmatched badly in Double-A (.200/.302/.380 with 82 strikeouts in just 205 at-bats). Genuine power and runs well (14 homers, 23 steals), decent defender at shortstop but serious contact issues as a hitter.
14) Kyle Parker, OF-1B, Grade C+: Age 25, hit .289/.336/.450 with 15 homers, 33 walks, 102 strikeouts in 502 at-bats in Triple-A, .192/.192/.231 in 26 at-bats (14 strikeouts) in the majors. I have liked Parker as a power hitter but his season was not overly impressive by Colorado Springs/PCL standards and his brief major league exposure was difficult. Could still be a useful role player but less confidence now in ability to play regularly.
15) Dom Nunez, C, Grade C+: Age 20, sixth round pick in 2013, hit .313/.385/.517 in Pioneer League showing good plate discipline as well as promising defense, converting from shortstop to catcher, threw out 36% of base thieves. Needs more polish but looks like he can stay there, bat looks good so far. Candidate to leap up the list once we see him in full-season ball. Good fantasy sleeper in long-term leagues.
Co16) Kevin Padlo, 3B, Grade C+: Age 18, fifth round pick from California high school in 2014, hit .300/.421/.594 with 31 walks, 38 strikeouts in 160 at-bats in Pioneer League. High-hustle player gets most out of average tools, showed sound plate discipline and good power in debut. Like Nunez, a good start in full-season ball will move him up the list quickly.
17) Ryan Casteel, C, Grade C+: Age 23, hit .280/.341/.445 with 16 homers, 39 walks, 94 strikeouts in 436 at-bats in Double-A, splitting season between catcher (covering for injured Tom Murphy) and first base. Not a great defender but versatility is useful, solid power.
18) Pedro Gonzalez, SS, Grade C+: Age 17, July 2nd signee out of Dominican Republic for $1,300,000. Intriguing size at 6-4, 160, could develop in any number of ways. Could generate massive power if he fills out the frame, ultimate position might be third base or the outfield. All speculation until we see him play but upside could be highest in entire system.
19) Jairo Diaz, RHP, Grade C: Age 23, acquired from Angels over the winter, posted 3.48 ERA with 85/20 K/BB in 65 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, fanned eight in 5.2 major league innings. Throws very hard, mid-upper-90s and has a good slider, very erratic track record due to command issues but has made progress over the last year.
20) Cristhian Adames, INF, Grade C: Age 23, hit .288/.345/.368 between Double-A and Triple-A. Not much of a hitter due to lack of power but has a very solid glove, utility projection.
OTHERS OF NOTE: Alex Balog, RHP; Mike Benjamin, 2B; Omar Carrizales, OF; Max George, SS; Rayan Gonzalez, RHP; Sam Howard, LHP; Johendi Jiminian, RHP; Luis Jean, INF; Emerson Jimenez, SS; Scott Oberg, RHP; Jordan Patterson, OF; Ben Paulsen,1B-OF; Correlle Prime, 1B; Wilfredo Rodriguez, C; Wes Rogers, OF; Jorge Rondon, RHP; Pat Valaika, INF
This is a sound farm system with a balance of hitting and pitching talent.
The bats begin with David Dahl, Raimel Tapia, and Ryan McMahon, a highly-productive trio at Asheville with the tools and skills to be more than mere friendly park illusions (Rosell Herrera being a cautionary tale), though it is wise to want to see more at higher levels before going completely overboard. The point is that all three project as regulars even if the exact shape their skills take is still a little uncertain due to the environment. Tom Murphy could also be a regular if his shoulder is OK. Asheville will have additional interesting bats this year with Forrest Wall, Dom Nunez, Kevin Padlo and perhaps toolsy outfielders Wes Rogers and Omar Carrizales all heading that direction. There is still some hope for Trevor Story and several potential role players including Parker, Casteel, and minor league vet Ben Paulsen are available or will be soon.
If you want pitching you have Jon Gray, Eddie Butler, and Kyle Freeland as advanced arms. Gray and especially Butler had some hiccups in Double-A but if healthy both still project as mainstay pitchers. Freeland from the 2014 draft is a hometown kid and talented to boot. That’s a trio that any team would want to have. Tyler Anderson provides finesse balance and 2014 draftee Ryan Castellani bears very close watching. There are several bullpen candidates with powerful bullpen arms Jairo Diaz and Jorge Rondon recently acquired from other clubs.
The talent seems evenly distributed throughout the system, which should provide a steady stream of reinforcements over the next few years. Complicating factors include the distorting nature of extreme hitters parks in the organization as well as possible durability issues with the top pitchers, but that is to be expected. The rule of thumb: if you have five good pitching prospects, you’re doing well if one or two of them pan out.