Colorado Rockies Top 20 Prospects for 2017
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. All of these grades are subject to change as the winter progresses. The final grades will be finished sometime in February when all 30 teams are complete.
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. 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) Brendan Rodgers, INF, Grade B+/A-: Age 20, first round pick in 2015, hit .281/.342/.480 with 31 doubles, 19 homers, 35 walks, 98 strikeouts in 442 at-bats in Low-A; well-known to scouts for years as heralded high school shortstop, best tools are power and throwing arm; caution flag is sharp home/road split between hitter-friendly Asheville (.318/.376/.597) and rest of Sally League (.247/.310/.372), bat perhaps less polished than anticipated though no one doubts long-term potential; strong arm and soft hands work well at shortstop, though range may decline enough to force move to second or third long-term; an elite prospect but with just enough questions to keep from pure A- grade. ETA 2019.
2) Jeff Hoffman, RHP, Grade B+/B: Age 24, first round pick by Blue Jays in 2014, traded to Rockies in Troy Tulowitzki deal; posted 4.02 ERA with 124/44 K/BB in 119 innings in Triple-A, then 4.88 ERA with 22/17 K/BB in 31 major league innings; fastball 92-95 with higher peaks; mixes in curveball and change-up; showed steady command in difficult Pacific Coast League but was more tentative in the majors, not unusual of course; I don’t think he’s a future ace but should be a fine mid-rotation arm with more adjustments. ETA 2017.
3) Riley Pint, RHP, Grade B+/B: Age 19, first round pick in 2016 from high school in Kansas; posted 5.35 ERA with 36/23 K/BB in 37 innings in Pioneer League; fastball 95-100 MPH with 102 readings in high school; also has a plus breaking ball; change-up needs work but is developable; command can also be shaky but given athleticism and aptitude it should improve; number one starter upside but will need time to get there and like all young pitchers we’ll need to see if he can stay healthy. ETA 2020.
4) German Marquez, RHP, Grade B/B+: Age 21, signed by Rays out of Venezuela in 2011, traded to Rockies in Jake McGee/Corey Dickerson deal; posted 3.13 ERA with 155/39 K/BB in 167 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, then 5.23 ERA with 15/6 K/BB in 21 major league innings; breakout season; fastball 92-96, along with above-average curve and improved change-up, throws strikes; seems like he deserves more attention than he’s received although Coors effect will compromise his fantasy value; you can make a case for a straight B+ and I may go there once all the prospect lists are finished. ETA 2017.
5) Tom Murphy, C, Grade B/B+: Age 25, hit .327/.361/.647 with 19 homers, 16 walks, 78 strikeouts in 303 at-bats in Triple-A; hit .273/.347/.659 in 44 major league at-bats, albeit with 19 strikeouts; threw out 33% of runners in Triple-A and 40% in majors; not a terrific defender but not a bad one, either, certainly playable if he hits as expected; power is real, as are contact concerns but Coors is ideal for his bat and should mask weaknesses; don’t expect high batting averages but he’ll produce power and play his position competently. ETA 2017.
6) Raimel Tapia, OF, Grade B/B+: Age 22, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2010; hit .328/.361/.458 with 23 steals, 27 walks, 61 strikeouts in 528 at-bats in Double-A/Triple-A, then .263/.293/.263 in 38 major league at-bats; best tool is speed, 60-grade; has some wiry strength but home run power won’t be a huge factor in his game; can handle center short-term but power would be stretched at a corner; could also use more patience to boost OBP but should hit for average. ETA 2017.
7) Ryan McMahon, 3B-1B, Grade B/B-: Age 22, second round pick in 2013, hit .242/.325/.399 with 12 homers, 55 walks, 161 strikeouts in 466 at-bats in Double-A; tough call here, left-handed power that made him so attractive is still here but contact problems were severe last year and defense has been disappointing, enough to move him to first base even without being blocked by Nolan Arenado; on the right day still shows an electric bat and he is young enough to make needed adjustments but parallels to Ian Stewart can’t be ignored. ETA 2018.
8) Kyle Freeland, LHP, Grade B-: Age 23, first round pick in 2014 from University of Evansville; 3.89 ERA with 108/44 K/BB in 162 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, 165 hits; healthy after struggling with arm problems in ’15; 90-94 fastball with deceptive arm action; solid slider, curve and change aren’t as good but they exist; throws strikes; number four starter type but margin for error will be thin in Coors. ETA 2017.
9) Forrest Wall, 2B-OF, Grade B-: Age 21, compensation pick in 2014; hit .264/.329/.355 with 41 walks, 97 strikeouts, 22 steals in 459 at-bats in High-A; to be honest the metrics don’t support a grade this high but Wall retains his strong reputation with scouts for his youth, pure hitting skills and pretty swing; defense at second base remains rough (32 errors) but is reportedly being tried in the outfield, which will put pressure on his bat; does production improve to match reputation, or will reputation slip to match production? ETA 2019.
10) Ryan Castellani, RHP, Grade B-: Age 20, second round pick in 2014 from high school in Arizona, posted 3.81 ERA with 142/50 K/BB in 168 innings in High-A, 156 hits; fastball 90-95 with strong ground ball rate; mixes in slider, change-up, both secondary pitches making slow but steady progress and will round out a full arsenal; usually throws strikes, number four starter projection but should not be overlooked; ETA 2019.
11) Yency Almonte, RHP, Grade B-/C+: Age 22, drafted by Angels in 17th round in 2012, traded to Rockies for Tommy Kahnle; posted 3.58 ERA with 156/55 K/BB in 168 innings between High-A and Double-A; fastball as high as 95, has improved slider and change-up, command will wobble at times but has the stuff to be a number three or four starter if he develops more consistency, or perhaps a power relief arm. ETA 2018.
12) Peter Lambert, RHP, Grade B-/C+: Age 19, second round pick in 2015, posted 3.93 ERA with 108/33 K/BB in 126 innings in Low-A; average fastball velocity at 89-93 MPH, can touch a bit higher at his best; mixes in curveball, slider, change-up; grades for all secondaries depend on your source, some say the curve and change-up are plus, some say they are below-average; all agree he throws strikes and is more mature than typical for his age; given youth could develop in several different ways although huge velocity gains unlikely given 6-2, 185 build. ETA 2019.
13) Ben Bowden, LHP, Grade C+/B-: Age 22, second round pick in 2016 from Vanderbilt; posted 3.04 ERA with 29/15 K/BB in 24 innings in Low-A debut; I’d like to see fewer walks but 93-95 MPH from left side gets attention as does a very good change-up; slider needs more refinement; will reportedly be used as a starter to get him innings, development of breaking ball will determine if he stays in that role at higher levels. ETA 2019.
14) Sam Howard, LHP, Grade C+/B-: Age 23, third round pick in 2014 from Georgia Southern; 3.35 ERA with 140/52 K/BB in 156 innings between High-A and Double-A; low-90s fastball (sometimes higher) with a very good slider and decent command; off-speed change-up remains mediocre; like Bowden, he needs another pitch and could be a number three/four starter if he finds it or a nice bullpen arm if he doesn’t. ETA 2018.
15) Pedro Gonzalez, OF, Grade C+/B-: Age 19, signed for $1,300,000 out of Dominican Republic in 2014; hit .230/.290/.394 in Pioneer League with 14 walks, 77 strikeouts in 226 at-bats; on pure tools he would be in the Top Five in this system but his skills are very raw, dropping him down the list; 6-5, 190 build, raw power, speed, and arm all draw 55 or 60 grades; will flash good hitting skills but he doesn’t control the zone consistently and swing mechanics get out of whack easily at this point; high bust risk, but could also develop into a star. ETA 2021.
16) Antonio Senzatela, RHP, Grade C+/B-: Age 22, signed out of Venezuela in 2011; posted 1.82 ERA with 27/9 K/BB in 35 innings in Double-A; season cut short by sore shoulder; when healthy, throws fastball up to 97 with a good slider and workable change-up but lots of questions about health/durability/future role; watch for spring reports closely. ETA 2018.
17) Dom Nunez, C, Grade C+: Age 22, sixth round pick in 2013; hit .241/.321/.362 with 10 homers, 49 walks, 91 strikeouts in 390 at-bats in High-A; threw out 43% of runners with very low error rate; receiving skills are otherwise considered shaky and he gives up a lot of passed balls at this point, but ability to contain runners helps; good plate discipline and can flash some pop from left side but did not have anticipated breakout season despite playing in the Cal League; still interesting. ETA 2019.
18) Tyler Nevin, 3B, Grade C+: Age 19, comp round pick in 2015, son of former major leaguer Phil Nevin; limited to one at-bat in the Northwest League by serious hamstring injury; when healthy, projects as a 20-homer bat and a solid third base glove but has to prove his healthy and no need to rush considering what is ahead of him. ETA 2021.
19) Colton Welker, 3B, Grade C+: Age 19, fourth round pick in 2016 from high school in Florida; hit .329/.366/.490 in Pioneer League with 13 walks, 28 strikeouts in 210 at-bats; makes contact but also has a chance to hit for power, a fine combination for the future; arm works at third base but opinions about his glove are otherwise mixed; like Nevin, he is promising but doesn’t have to be rushed. ETA 2021.
20) Jose Gomez, INF, Grade C+: Age 20, signed out of Venezuela in 2013; destroyed Pioneer League with .367/.426/.468 line, 23 steals, 23 walks, 24 strikeouts in 267 at-bats; stats are better than his tools but that’s not an insult and speaks well to his instincts; arm, speed are average but he makes the best of them, hitting approach is refined; not a lot of power projection but could be strong OBP source going forward; I want to see him outside the Pioneer League before running a higher grade up the flagpole but should not be under-estimated. ETA 2020.
OTHER GRADE C+: Parker French, RHP; Garrett Hampson, SS; David Hill, RHP; Brian Mundell, 1B; Harrison Musgrave, LHP; Mike Nikorak, RHP; Jordan Patterson, OF-1B; Helmis Rodriguez, LHP; Robert Tyler, RHP; Jack Wynkoop, LHP
GRADE C: Willie Abreu, OF; Wander Cabrera, LHP; Omar Carrizales, OF; Matt Carasiti, RHP Shane Carle, RHP; Stephen Cardullo, 1B; Yonathan Daza, OF; Jairo Diaz, RHP; Julian Fernandez, RHP; Vince Fernandez, OF; Rayan Gonzalez, RHP; Rosell Herrera, OF; Sam Hilliard, OF; Zach Jemiola, RHP; Salvador Justo, RHP; Trey Killian, RHP; Javier Medina, RHP Manuel Melendez, OF; Sam Moll, LHP; Daniel Montano, OF; Wes Rogers, OF; Jesus Tinoco, RHP; Pat Valaika, INF
There are a lot of borderline grades in this system and your mileage may vary on specific placements. I will be around in the comments to discuss.