The Rockies’ Top 10 list includes two young pitchers with the potential to develop into No. 1 or 2 starters, as well as an outfielder with five-tool talent. So, in other words, there is some high-ceiling talent in this system but the overall depth in the organization is not overly compelling.
The Year in Review: A supplemental first round draft pick from 2012, Butler has moved quickly through the Rockies’ system. He played at three levels in 2013: Low-A, High-A and Double-A. He spent the majority of the year in A-ball and made 22 starts between the two levels. Combined between all three levels, Butler struck out 143 batters in 149.2 innings and induced ground-ball outs at a high rate.
The Scouting Report: Butler made huge strides with his secondary stuff in 2013 and projects to now have three solid weapons with his mid-to-upper-90s fastball, changeup and slider — all of which feature a lot of movement. He also has a curveball that lags behind his other offerings. Along with swing-and-miss stuff, Butler’s ground-ball tendencies make him an ideal pitcher for Colorado.
The Year Ahead: After making just six starts at the Double-A level in 2013, the Virginia native should return to that level in 2014. Like prospect-mate Jonathan Gray, Butler could be in the Majors in the second half of the season.
The Career Outlook: Butler has come a long way in a short period of time and, if everything clicks, he could slot in nicely right alongside Gray for a formidable one-two punch.
The Year in Review: The third overall selection in the 2013 amateur draft, Gray made nine starts after turning pro and stuck out 51 batters in 37.1 innings of work. He also showed above-average control with just eight walks. After beginning his career in the Advanced Rookie league, Gray finished the season with five High-A ball starts and batters hit just .128 against him.
The Scouting Report: Gray has overpowering velocity on his heater, which sits in the mid-to-upper 90s and can hit triple digits. His slider is his second-best offering and it can be overpowering. His changeup is still a work-in-progress and is inconsistent. To survive pitching half his games in Colorado, Gray may want to focus a little bit more on working down in the zone and inducing more ground-ball outs.
The Year Ahead: Gray’s strong start to his career, as well as his pedigree, could convince the organization to start him out in Double-A in 2014 — assuming he looks good in the spring. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Gray in the Rockies’ big league starting rotation by the end of August.
The Career Outlook: The University of Oklahoma alum has a chance to develop into a No. 1 starter if he can develop a reliable third offering to his repertoire.
The Year in Review: Dahl had a nightmare 2013 season. The 10th overall draft pick in the 2012 amateur draft received an opening day assignment to Low-A ball but that was quickly overturned and he was demoted to extended spring training for disciplinary reasons. He then returned to that level in late April but appeared in just 10 games in ’13 thanks to a torn hamstring.
The Scouting Report: Dahl is a rare true five-tool talent. He makes excellent contact and has an advanced feel for hitting. He could eventually hit 20+ home runs but is still learning to tap into his left-handed pop on a consistent basis. He is an above-average runner, which helps him play an excellent center field and he also has a strong arm.
The Year Ahead: Dahl will no doubt return to Low-A ball and look to put his disastrous ’13 season behind him. He posted a 1.048 OPS during his debut season in 2012 so the raw talent is definitely there; he just needs to find a way to channel his energies in an effect manner on the baseball diamond.
The Career Outlook: The Alabama native will turn 20 in early April so time is still on his side. He has the talent to be an outstanding big league outfielder if he can continue to mature both on and off the field.
The Year in Review: Herrera had a breakout 2013 season while repeating the Low-A ball level at the age of 20. He saw his OPS jump from .543 in 2012 to .933 last year. He hit for average, power and even stole 21 bases in 29 attempts. He stuck out a fair bit but showed a good eye with 61 walks, which helped him post a .419 on-base percentage.
The Scouting Report: Herrera flashes average or better tools across the board, although he may eventually outgrow shortstop and move to third base. The infielder has made adjustments to improve his consistency at the plate with better contact rates and it showed in 2013. He still has room to fill out and may eventually has the strength to pop 20+ home runs per season.
The Year Ahead: Herrera will move up to High-A ball and, now in his fifth pro season, will hopefully continue to hit well and earn a promotion to Double-A in the second half of the year.
The Career Outlook: He may not stick at shortstop but Herrera has flashed the potential to develop into a big league regular at the MLB level — even if he has to move to third base permanently.
The Year in Review: Pro ball did not faze McMahon one bit. The 18-year-old prospect hit .321 with an OPS just shy of 1.000 in his debut. He also popped 32 extra base hits, including 11 that cleared the outfield fence.
The Scouting Report: Despite splitting his attention in high school between football and baseball, McMahon has an advanced feel for the game. His best tool may be his left-handed power but he also shows enough aptitude with the bat to eventually hit for strong averages and good on-base percentages — especially if he can trim the strikeouts. Defensively, he has a good shot at sticking at third base thanks to his strong arm and average range.
The Year Ahead: McMahon will almost certainly open the 2014 in Low-A ball but he could reach High-A ball in the second half if he continues to develop as expected.
The Career Outlook: The California native appears to have made a wise decision in following through on his love of baseball. He has a chance to develop into an all-star outfielder with an excellent all-around game.
The Year in Review: Murphy spent much longer in Low-A ball than many prospect watchers expected him to — especially after he posted an OPS just shy of 1.000. However, once the promotion came, he skipped over HIgh-A ball and finished the season (20 games) in Double-A where he managed an .831 OPS.
The Scouting Report: Murphy has the potential to hit for above-average, right-handed power. However, he swings and misses a bit too much to project for a strong batting average as he moves up the ladder. Defensively, he’s a solid catcher with a strong arm and good receiving skills. He’s still learning the finer aspects of catching, including game calling and field leadership.
The Year Ahead: Murphy should return to the Double-A level and is suddenly cast in a very favorable light as the Rockies’ catcher of the future.
The Career Outlook: Murphy should develop into a power-hitting, big league catcher who will play average or better defense.
The Year in Review: The teenager hit .357 in Rookie ball in 2013 while also showcasing some gap power but he was raw on the base paths and didn’t have much success stealing bases (10 for 19). He enjoyed a 29-game hitting streak.
The Scouting Report: The Dominican native has the makings of a plus, left-handed hitter and he handles southpaws surprisingly well for his limited professional experience. He has a well-balanced approach at the plate, which helps him make above-average contact. He makes such good contact that he doesn’t walk much. With some added weight/muscle, Tapia could eventually hit 15+ home runs. He also has above-average speed but needs to improve his reads.
The Year Ahead: Tapia will move up to full-season ball for the first time in his career and will look to continue getting on base at a solid clip despite his free-swinging ways.
The Career Outlook: The projectable Tapia could end up sticking in centre field and stealing a bunch of bases — or he could end up filling out his 6-2, 160 pound frame, slowing down and developing home run pop from the left side of the plate as a right-fielder. Only time will tell.
The Year in Review: It was an ugly year for Story who struck out 183 times in 130 High-A games. The middle infielder did show gap power and stole 23 bases in 24 attempts. He also improved drastically in the second half of the year even though he continued to swing and miss at an alarming rate.
The Scouting Report: Story has the tools to be a good hitter but he fell into the trap of trying to hit for too much power in 2013. With some adjustments, he should recover the ability to hit for respectable pop with a good batting average. Defensively, he has a strong arm and good actions at shortstop but his range is average and he may eventually end up at the hot corner or second base.
The Year Ahead: Story may have to return to High-A ball in 2014 but, if he can cut down on the strikeouts, he could reach Double-A before the all-star break.
The Career Outlook: The 2014 season will be an important one in Story’s development. He has fellow shortstop prospect Rosell Herrera to contend with and one of them may be destined for third base, which will no doubt put even more pressure of the offensive (and power) development.
The Year in Review: Bettis rebounded from missing the entire 2012 season due to a shoulder injury. His stuff wasn’t quite as crisp last year but he help his own in Double-A and earned a late-season promotion to the Majors where he struggled with his fastball command and allowed 55 hits in 44.2 innings of work.
The Scouting Report: Injuries have cost Bettis a lot of development time and his fastball doesn’t sit in the mid-90s as often as it used to. Despite that fact, he still works in the low-90s and induces strong ground-ball-out rates. His changeup is a solid offering but both his breaking balls need further development to become consistently-average offerings.
The Year Ahead: Bettis has a shot at opening the 2014 season on the Rockies’ big league roster but it remains to be seen if it will be in the starting rotation or the bullpen.
The Career Outlook: The right-hander doesn’t throw quite as hard as he did before his shoulder injury but he still has good stuff and gets outs on the ground. He may find more success in the bullpen.
The Year in Review: The 26th overall selection from the 2010 amateur draft, Parker had a solid-but-unspectacular 2013 season at the Double-A level. He broke the 20-home-run barrier for the third straight season but his on-base percentage took a big dive from .415 in 2012 to .345 in 2013. He attended the Arizona Fall League after the regular season ended and posted an .856 OPS.
The Scouting Report: Parker’s best tool is his above-average, right-handed power. He’s still working on his pitch recognition and struggles with breaking balls at times. He has strong bat speed to get around on good fastballs. Defensively, he has a strong arm but modest range and could handle either corner outfield position. More recently, though, he’s been spending time at first base — including in the AFL.
The Year Ahead: Parker will once again move up one step at a time to the Triple-A level. He’ll likely have to wait for an injury or demotion to provide him with an opportunity to play at the big league level in 2014.
The Career Outlook: I’m not the hugest Parker fan in the world but he has a shot at developing into a modest big league corner outfielder or first baseman. More than likely, though, he’ll end up as a platoon outfielder/first baseman or powerful bat off the bench.
The Next Five:
11. Tyler Anderson, LHP: The southpaw missed a good chunk of the season while dealing with a shoulder injury. He hit the disabled list in mid-May and didn’t return until August. He made just 16 starts on the year with the majority of them coming in High-A ball. Anderson has the ceiling of a No. 4 starter who could chew up innings if his shoulder woes are behind him. His best pitch is his plus changeup. He also has a fringe-average fastball and two breaking balls.
12. Jayson Aquino, LHP: It’s been a slow climb through the system for Aquino, who originally signed with the Rockies back in 2009. He spent three years pitching in the Dominican Summer League before earning a spot on a North America squad and he has yet to pitch a full season. Aquino, 21, remains a long-term project but he could develop into a No. 3/4 starter or set-up man.
13. Cristhian Adames, SS: Adames saw his OPS dip below .700 after spending the year in Double-A but it’s the strength of his glove that will get the switch-hitter to the Majors. He has good range, a strong arm and solid actions at shortstop. If he doesn’t hit well enough to be an everyday player, Adames has the athleticism to play anywhere in the infielder — even though he has limited experience at other positions.
14. Will Swanner, C: Swanner had two really bad months in 2013 (April, July) that dragged down his overall numbers and he’s going to have to become more consistent overall if he’s going to reach his full potential. The 22-year-old prospect probably isn’t going to stick behind the plate long term but a position switch (likely to first base) could allow him to focus more on his offense and help unlock his full potential — which is tied to his plus raw power.
15. Jose Briceno, C: Injuries wiped out Briceno’s 2012 season so he’s a little bit behind the eight ball with his development. He spent time in both Rookie ball and Low-A ball while flashing above-average offensive potential and solid power. Behind the plate, the young catcher flashes a strong arm but needs to improve the finer aspects of his defensive game. He should return to Low-A ball to open the 2014 season.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.