Colorado Rockies Top 20 Prospects for 2018
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 late 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, SS, Grade A-: Age 21, first round pick in 2015 from high school in Florida, hit .387/.407/.671 in the California League over 222 at-bats, then .260/.323/.413 in 150 at-bats in the Eastern League; destroyed High-A (albeit in a friendly league and park), was more human in Double-A but still very credible for his age (he was 20 most of the season); scouts praise his bat speed and overall offensive potential, projecting him to hit for both power and average, overriding some concerns about an aggressive approach though he’ll need to make a few adjustments; range is fringy at shortstop but he should be able to handle a shift to second base without trouble should it be necessary; ETA late 2018.
2) Ryan McMahon, INF, Grade B+/A-: Age 23, second round pick in 2013 from high school in California; hit .355/.403/.583 with 20 homers, 11 steals, 41 walks, 92 strikeouts in 470 at-bats in Double-A and Triple-A, went 4-for-19 in the majors; cut way back on strikeouts in 2017 after whiffing 161 times in ’16; better selectivity and more consistent swing mechanics boosted production and he has nothing left to prove in the minors; adequate at third and second base but played first base late in the year and was solid there; has enough bat to play anywhere and ready now; ETA 2018.
3) Peter Lambert, RHP, Grade B: Age 20, second round pick in 2015 from high school in California, posted 4.17 ERA with 131/30 K/BB in 142 innings, 147 hits in High-A; we need to discount what most hitters do at Lancaster but conversely if a pitcher performs well in that environment he deserves some extra credit; fastball 90-95 but not afraid to be aggressive with it, locates well, plays up due to contrast with above-average curveball, change-up; plus makeup and quite young; ETA 2020.
4) Colton Welker, 3B, Grade B: Age 20, fourth round pick in 2016 from high school in Florida; hit .350/.401/.500 with six homers, 18 walks, 42 strikeouts in 254 at-bats in Low-A despite missing eight weeks with strained abdominal muscles; projected to hit for both power and average by scouts; hit .400/.449/.584 in Asheville but .302/.355/.414 on the road, still very solid for the South Atlantic League; decent glove at third base, good enough to stay there if he hits as expected; will probably continue to make noise in High-A with Double-A being the genuine test; ETA 2020.
5) Ryan Vilade, SS, Grade B: Age 18, second round pick in 2017 from high school in Oklahoma, hit .308/.438/.496 in 117 at-bats in Pioneer League with 27 walks, 31 strikeouts; very impressive pro debut against slightly older players; hitting instincts quite polished for his age and shows very good eye for the strike zone, combine that with plus bat speed and you have a player; not a butcher at shortstop but range would fit better at second base; his arm is strong enough for third, which is also an option if he hits as expected; ETA 2021.
6) Garrett Hampson, INF, Grade B-: Age 23, third round pick in 2016 out of Long Beach State University; hit .326/.387/.462 with 24 doubles, 12 triples, eight homers, 56 walks, 77 strikeouts, and 51 stolen bases in High-A; most of his power came at Lancaster (.350/.406/.532) but he was still pretty good on the road (.300/.366/.383), maintaining his strike zone judgment very well; 70-runner combined with walks looks good at the top of the order; excellent at second base, can also handle shortstop without hurting you though tools are a bit marginal there; quite reliable at both positions; ETA late 2019.
7) Ryan Castellani, RHP, Grade B-: Age 21, second round pick in 2014 from high school in Arizona, posted 4.81 ERA with 132/47 K/BB in 157 innings in Double-A, 163 hits; most days works at 90-94 but can hit 96-97 at his best, while mixing in a slider and change-up; although he throws strikes both secondary pitches are erratic and he seldom had both of them working in the same game; he did finish well, throwing 14 shutout innings in his last two starts of the year with 15 strikeouts in 14 innings; potential number three starter if he finds more consistency; ETA late 2019.
8) Riley Pint, RHP, Grade B-: Age 20, first round pick in 2016 from high school in Kansas; very disappointing season for the fourth-overall pick in the ’16 draft, posting 5.42 ERA with 79/59 K/BB in 93 innings, 96 hits in Low-A; home park bandbox at Asheville didn’t help but he was equally bad on the road; fastball reported as high as a rumored/reported 102, a definitely confirmed 99, and consistently 94-96, but very inconsistent off-speed pitches and poor command due to mechanical issues make him quite hittable at this point, even for Low-A hitters; widely regarded as best pitching prospect in the Rockies system; in my opinion he has the best arm for certain, but that’s not the same thing as being the best pitching prospect, thus his ranking here; he certainly has lots of time but another bad year as a starter will increase relief rumors; ETA 2021.
9) Tyler Nevin, 3B-1B, Grade B-: Age 20, first round pick in 2015 from high school in California, son of former major leaguer Phil Nevin; missed almost all of 2016 with hamstring tear and half of 2017 with a wrist problem but has hit well when healthy, batting .299/.353/.454 with eight homers, 27 walks, 65 strikeouts in 328 at-bats between Low-A and short-season rehab work; finished very hot, hitting .336/.381/.523 in last 50 games; bat speed and power are real and he didn’t show much rust as a hitter despite the long injury layoff; on the other hand his defense at both third base and first base was poor, leading to positional questions, although the lack of repetitions with the glove as well as his youth could be mitigating factors; ETA 2021.
10) Yency Almonte, RHP, Grade C+/B-: Age 23, drafted by Los Angeles Angels in 17th round in 2012 from high school in Florida, traded to Chicago White Sox in 2015 then the Rockies in ’16; posted 2.00 ERA with 71/31 K/BB in 76 innings in Double-A with 58 hits, then 4.89 ERA with 22/21 K/BB in 35 innings in Triple-A, 41 hits; live arm with 94-96 MPH fastball, also has a solid-average slider; change-up is very erratic, decent some days and not existing on others, was able to dominate Double-A but moving up to Albuquerque and the PCL exposed his command issues; I think he’s probably a reliever long-term; ETA late 2018.
11) Forrest Wall, OF, Grade C+/B-: Age 22, compensation round pick in 2014 from high school in Florida, hit .299/.361/.471 in 87 at-bats in California League, missing most of the season with a dislocated (non-throwing) shoulder; former second baseman moved to outfield last year after proving too error-prone and looked decent enough with the glove; although a larger sample is needed, he’s at least playable in center; line drive bat with solid eye and slightly above-average running speed haven’t changed but he lacks the huge impact potential of a top outfield prospect; ETA 2020.
12) Sam Howard, LHP, Grade C+/B-: Age 24, third round pick in 2014 from Georgia Southern University; posted 3.32 ERA with 104/43 K/BB in 127 innings in Double-A/Triple-A, including a good bit of pitching in the PCL without overt collapse of his stats; survived Albuquerque intact in other words, which is fine training for Coors Field; looks like a finesse lefty on paper but fastball can get up to 95, also has a good changeup; slider is generally average and can get flat; potential fourth starter who might be more dominant on per-inning basis if used in bullpen; ETA late 2018.
ANALYST NOTE: Spots 13 through 20 are more-or-less interchangeable.
13) Tom Murphy, C, Grade C+: Age 26, third round pick from University of Buffalo in 2012, hit .255/.312/.426 with four homers, nine walks, 56 strikeouts in 141 at-bats in Triple-A, missing most of the season with a broken arm; played well in Triple-A in 2016 (.327/.361/.647) and doesn’t have much left to prove with the bat if healthy; very good power, though batting average and OBP will likely be erratic; injuries have slowed his defensive development but he’s a viable backstop if he hits as much as he should/could; we’ll have to see if the injury impairs his throwing; ETA 2018.
14) Brian Mundell, 1B, Grade C+: Age 23, seventh round pick in 2015 from Cal Poly, hit .300/.385/.472 between High-A and Double-A with 60 walks, 70 strikeouts, 15 homers in 436 at-bats; plus raw power in 6-3, 230 pound body but game power plays lower due to line drive swing; very good eye for the strike zone helps and more homers may come in time; lacks the athleticism and mobility to play anywhere but first base and even there he’s below-average overall; I like his bat and he could put up big numbers especially in thin air, but where do you play him? ETA 2019.
15) Yonathan Daza, OF, Grade C+: Age 23, from Venezuela, hit .341/.376/.466 with 34 doubles, 11 triples, three homers, 31 steals, 30 walks, 88 strikeouts in 519 at-bats in High-A; hit almost as well on the road (.331/.377/.434) as at home (.350/.375/.495) so this isn’t just a mere Lancaster illusion, we do need to see him in Double-A of course but he caught the eye of Cal League observers with speed, gap power, and throwing arm; he caught the attention of other teams, too, so the Rockies protected him on the 40-man roster as otherwise someone would probably have taken him in the Rule 5 draft; ETA 2020.
16) Sam Hilliard, OF, Grade C+: Age 23, 15th round pick in 2015 from Wichita State University, hit .300/.360/.487 with 21 homers, 37 steals, 50 walks, 154 strikeout in 536 at-bats in High-A; originally a pitcher, became full-time outfielder last year in college; legit power/speed combination and a strong throwing arm, too, all physical tools at least average or a notch above; sometimes patient but strikes out a lot; has to prove he can hit outside of Lancaster, batted .336/.399/.572 at home but just .261/.315/.391 on the road; the splits mean we must be grade-cautious, but there are real tools here; watch him closely in Double-A; ETA 2020.
17) Daniel Montano, OF, Grade C+: Age 18, signed out of Venezuela in 2015 for $2,000,000; hit .270/.355/.423 in Dominican Summer League with three homers, nine steals, 24 walks, 39 strikeouts in 189 at-bats; DSL performance was quite solid although numbers at that level must be dealt with judiciously; that said, scouting reports show above-average speed with a chance for average power; already has good plate discipline; long way off of course but some observers expect a serious breakout once he gets to the United States; ETA 2023.
18) Breiling Eusebio, LHP, Grade C+: Age 21, from the Dominican Republic, posted 3.61 ERA with 53/20 K/BB in 57 innings between Northwest and South Atlantic Leagues; throws heavy fastball in low-90s along with a curve that flashes plus and an erratic but improvable change-up; further polish on secondaries could result in a breakout soon; watch for any spike in K/IP ratio as early indicator; ETA 2021.
19) James Farris, RHP, Grade C+: Age 25, ninth round pick by the Chicago Cubs in 2014 from University of Arizona, traded to Rockies last winter; posted 3.59 ERA with 69/17 K/BB in 58 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, 51 hits; typical middle relief type with 90-95 MPH fastball and an average but consistent slider; should be ready for bullpen trial soon; ETA 2018.
20) Wes Rogers, OF, Grade C+: Age 23, fourth round pick in 2014 from Spartanburg Methodist; hit .319/.377/.488 with 37 doubles, nine homers, 45 walks, 85 strikeouts, 70 steals in 461 at-bats in High-A; impressive season but he was repeating the Cal League and has sharp splits, hitting a crazy .356/.418/.589 at Lancaster with a more reasonable .285/.338/.397 on the road; given his speed even the latter line makes him someone to track when he reaches Double-A; ETA late 2019.
OTHER GRADE C+: Willie Abreu, OF; Ben Bowden, LHP; Shane Broyles, RHP; Ramon Marcelino, OF; Mike Nikorak, RHP; Dom Nunez, C; Jordan Patterson, 1B-OF; Chad Spangberger, 1B;
OTHERS OF NOTE: Bryan Baker, RHP; Anthony Bemboom, C; Bret Boswell, 2B; Sam Bouchard, 1B; Noel Cuevas, OF; Jairo Diaz, RHP; Tommy Doyle, RHP; Vince Fernandez, OF; Josh Fuentes, 3B; Will Gaddis, RHP; Casey Golden, OF; Rayan Gonzalez, RHP; David Hill, RHP; Austin House, RHP; Reid Humphries, RHP; Zach Jemiola, RHP; Nick Kennedy, LHP; Justin Lawrence, RHP; Matt McLaughlin, SS; Pearson McMahan, RHP; Javier Medina, RHP; Shael Mendoza, 2B; Harrison Musgrave, LHP; Yolki Pena, OF; Chris Rabago, C; Roberto Ramos, 1B; Mike Tauchman, OF; Jesus Tinoco, RHP; Robert Tyler, RHP; Jerry Vasto, LHP; Jan Vazquez, C; Hunter Williams, LHP
Despite all of the graduations last year, there’s still a nice batch of talent there. I will answer questions in the comments section.