The Rockies’ system is a long list of potential major league contributors, topped by nearly a full team of 50+ overall grade prospects. They haven’t had the best luck developing young pitchers, but Jeff Hoffman and Jon Gray give them a chance at building a cost-effective pitching staff in the near future as they try to retool, while a stable of younger hurlers may arrive in three to four years. I don’t see any huge surprises on this list for people, though having Brendan Rodgers number one may be debatable. Gray gets bumped down a bit for command concerns, though obviously his upside is apparent. Catcher Dom Nunez and starting pitcher Peter Lambert may be higher on this list than you will hear elsewhere, and Carlos Estevez‘ relief potential bumps him into the 50-grade territory for me.
Here’s the primer for the series and my scouting thoughts in general. The grades I put on players heavily weight the functionality of each tool in game situations, rather than just pure tool grades. Here is a table to understand the position player grades:
|Grade||Tool Is Called||Batting Average||HR||ISO||Baserunning Runs||Fielding Runs|
As well as one to understand what the overall grades approximate:
|Grade||Hitter||Starting Pitcher||Relief Pitcher||WAR|
|80||Top 1-2||#1 Starter||—-||7|
|55||Above Avg||#3/4||Mid Closer||2.5|
|50||Avg Regular||#4||Low CL/High SU||2|
|40||Bench||Swing/Spot SP||Middle RP||1|
|35||Emergency Call-Up||Emergency Call-Up||Emergency Call-Up||0|
One other difference in the way I’ll be communicating scouting grades to you is the presence of three numbers on each tool instead of just two. The first number is the current grade. The second number is the likely future grade; or, if you prefer percentiles, call this the 50th percentile projection. The third number is the ceiling grade, or 90th percentile projection, to help demonstrate the volatility and raw potential of a tool. I feel this gives readers a better sense of the possible outcomes a player could achieve, and more information to understand my thoughts on the likelihood of reaching those levels.
In the biographical information, level refers to where they finished the year, unless they were sent down for injury rehab or other extraneous reasons. Ages are listed as of April 1, 2016. You can also find each player’s previous rank from Kiley’s list last year. Below, Dave Cameron shares his thoughts on the general state of the organization. Returning for his popular cameo, Carson Cistulli picks his favorite fringe prospect toward the end of the list. Next up will be the Detroit Tigers.
1. Brendan Rodgers, SS
Current Level/Age: R/19.6, 6’0/180, R/R
Acquired: Drafted 3rd overall (1st round) in 2015 out of Florida HS by COL for $5.5 million
Previous : NA
Rodgers went into his spring season as a strong contender for the first-overall pick, though a slight dip in performance made him slide down two spots to the Rockies. Every aspect of his game shows promise, from his soft hands and strong arm in the field to his promise of power and average at the plate. Throw in above-average raw speed, and the sky is the limit for what he can do at the big league level.
His offense is likely to be the greatest source of value he provides on the field. A future plus grade on his power may be light once he fills out, and he has good enough contact skills to be a well above-average bat overall. He gets good lift to his swing despite his hands being a little steep entering the zone at times, and he can be long to the ball due to his barrel getting away from him early. Both qualities are relativley minor limitations, since he also has excellent hip drive and a really efficient lower half as a whole.
The downward start with his hands makes him mildly pull-heavy with his fly balls, though he has shown some capacity to drive the ball to all fields. As he adds strength, he may still be able to hit the ball out to all fields. The length to his swing may also lower his hit tool potential slightly, but I still think he profiles as a likely 55 bat due to a good feel for the barrel and great balance. I have a very small concern about strikeouts in the future as the competition gets better, but not enough to think his other skills can’t compensate for it.
Defensively, there is talk of him moving off short as he matures, but I think that’s premature. His range may be average or a little above, but he adds quick yet quiet hands and footwork to profile as a legitimate big league shortstop in my mind. He has plenty of arm strength and can throw from every angle, showing aptitude for throwing on the move. His defense at third would profile as elite for the position, but I still see him as an average shortstop at worst defensively.
As a high school bat, undoubtedly Rodgers carries a bit more risk for his high draft position, but there is great potential here with plenty of present ability to buy into his development. Whether he plays shortstop or third base, he has a bright future with one of the highest ceilings in the minor leagues.
Hit: 35/55/60 Power: 40/60/65 Run: 50/50/55 Field: 55/60/65 Throw: 50/60/65
2. Jeff Hoffman, RHP
Current Level/Age: AA/23.2, 6’5/225, R/R
Acquired: Drafted 9th overall (1st round) in 2014 out of East Carolina U by TOR for $3.08 million bonus, traded to COL July 2015
Previous Rank: 2 (TOR)
Hoffman came back from draft year Tommy John surgery with a much more physical build and produced an excellent year split between High-A and Double-A. His fastball velocity came back swimmingly, and he flashed the same ridiculous curveball that had him in the conversation for first-overall pick before his injury. While there were some concerns over his lack of strikeouts, it was extremely impressive how low his walk rate was in 2015, averaging 2.34 walks per nine innings.
Had Hoffman not been returning from a year off rehabbing, I could buy into the concern over his strikeout rate. He certainly had reliever command at times as he felt his way through his delivery. However, he was obviously working on finding his delivery again and seemed to be just trying to pound the zone with his fastball and curveball, rather than trying to miss bats.
A few things were noticeably different from his college look, mainly centering around a more deliberate delivery that didn’t look rhythmic or natural at times. He tended to get too side-to-side with his movements, resulting in his fastball and curve being left up in the zone. When he kept his lower-half drive more in line with the plate, he had much better command and finish to all three of his pitches.
Though the run on his fastball was not as impressive as it was at ECU, it still jumped out of his hand and showed enough life to project as a possible plus-plus offering. The best thing about his curveball was how much break it had even though he mostly just dropped it into the middle of the zone. His changeup showed good sink when he kept it at the bottom of the zone. He definitely has the least feel for it of his three pitches, but the 55 ceiling I gave his change may be low if he can replicate his best version of it more often.
Make no mistake, Hoffman has mechanical work to do and may still take some time to regain his comfort on the mound. Even with a modest improvement in his overall command, he likely develops into at least a number-three starter. It won’t be a difficult adjustment burying his sharp breaking ball when he starts to go for strikeouts again, and his changeup could end up being a better weapon than he was projected to have in college. Consistency with his delivery, particularly finding a rhythm that works for him again, will be the key to seeing him at the top of any big league rotation.
Fastball: 60/65/70 Curveball: 55/65/70 Changeup: 45/50/55 Command: 40+/50/55
Video courtesy of Baseball America
3. David Dahl, OF
Current Level/Age: AA/22.0, 6’2/195, L/R
Acquired: Drafted 10th overall (1st round) in 2012 out of Alabama HS by COL for $2.6 million bonus
Previous Rank: 3
Dahl’s 2015 season was shaped by a nasty collision that resulted in the decision to have his spleen removed. Even with over a month taken out of the middle of his season, Dahl remained productive and on track for a look in the big leagues by 2017 at the latest. He could step into a big league lineup this year, but he needs a bit more time to improve his approach and possibly grow into some power.
He brings an smooth, middle-of-the-field swing into games that is capable of lacing line drives anywhere between the lines. Dahl has the strength to hit for above-average power, but he swings with the intent of making solid contact and doesn’t seem to go for more than gap shots. He demonstrates better lift and home run potential in batting practice, and with his hitting ability he is the perfect candidate to develop power after he has already started to get big league at-bats.
While Dahl has shown the ability to hit minor league pitching at a high level, he has yet to add many walks to his resume, which may limit his hit tool if he remains as aggressive against major league pitching. He may be capable of putting up a .300 average in the big leagues, but I want to see signs that it will come with a better-than-average on-base rate before pumping up his hit grade. He has the base-running prowess to warrant a plus run grade, and his speed serves him well in the outfield to profile as an average center fielder.
Dahl already could produce like a league-average outfielder, but he has a higher ceiling that could be worth waiting for if he develops. Look for signs of a more selective approach in 2016, as well as any indication he can turn his high doubles totals into more home runs. It’s likely that they happen simultaneously if he concentrates on picking out pitches he can drive. Either way, Dahl has an excellent future ahead of him in the outfield.
Hit: 50/55/65 Power: 40/45-50/60 Run: 55/60/65 Field: 50/55/60 Throw: 55/55/60
Video courtesy of Minor League Baseball
4. Ryan McMahon, 3B
Current Level/Age: High-A/21.3, 6’2/185, L/R
Acquired: Drafted 42nd overall (2nd round) in 2013 out of California HS by COL for $1.32 million bonus
Previous Rank: 4
McMahon has huge potential with his bat, and has made short work of each level he has faced so far in his career. He is one of the safest bets to be a power producer in the future, though his strikeouts have risen steadily as he has climbed the ladder. Despite the slight concerns about his future contact, McMahon makes up for it by being adept at taking his walks, and he will have the game power to continue making pitchers work around him.
As a typical lefty-hitting, righty-throwing player, he does have the tendency to pull his hands forward and across the pitch at times, leading to a few too many ground balls to the right side that will be converted to outs more often at the big league level. He still manages to show projectable lift in his swing and is capable of being an all-fields power threat as he finds more consistency with his swing. Occasionally his hips will slide out from under him, leaving him susceptible to good offspeed offerings down, but the damage he can do when he’s on the pitch will more than make up for the times pitchers have him beat.
Another important thing to remember with McMahon is how recently he began focusing solely on baseball, having been a quarterback in high school as well. Because of that, both his approach and his present average defense carry optimism for improvement as he gets more repetitions. Even if he strikes out in one third of his at-bats in the future, his power threat and hard contact will keep his average and on-base percentage at least above average. A good defender with an above-average hit tool and plus or better power is a great asset for the Rockies to have, one that will climb as quickly as he can improve his contact and plan at the plate.
Hit: 45/55/60 Power: 55/60/65 Run: 45/40/45 Field: 50/55/60 Throw: 55/55/60
Video courtesy of Craig Goldstein
5. Jon Gray, RHP
Current Level/Age: MLB/24.4, 6’4/235, R/R
Acquired: Drafted 3rd overall (1st round) in 2013 out of Oklahoma U by COL for $4.8 million bonus
Previous Rank: 1
Gray’s velocity was the reason he jumped up to the third-overall pick in 2013, and it propelled him quickly through the minor leagues to make his major league debut last season. He made nine starts in August and September before being shut down upon reaching an innings limit, and the results were mostly favorable, particularly by fielding independent metrics (5.53 ERA, 3.63 FIP, 3.84 xFIP). While his fastball has opened eyes, it’s his slider that will keep him viable as his command gets ironed out.
Averaging 94.4 mph on his fastball would have put him 13th among big league starters had he accumulated enough innings to qualify, though overall his heater gave up the most damage of his three offerings. Though he limited walks respectably, hitters had little problem jumping on his fastball, which he has had trouble commanding to the corners of the zone. His slider was elite level, both in terms of whiffs and command, a pitch that can reach the upper-80s with tight downward and glove-side bite. His changeup lags behind the other two offerings in present and potential quality.
Even without an above-average third pitch, his big fastball and hard slider give him a starter’s repertoire. The command of his fastball will be the determining factor in how well he can do in the rotation; right now it may be no better than an average offering despite the top-of-the-scale gun readings. At present his inconsistent arm slot and delivery efficiency clouds the ceiling on his command, but I’m optimistic he will continue improving as he has over the last two years since being drafted.
If Gray can settle in with slightly below-average command, he’s a number-three starter with the stuff he possesses. There is no reason to consider it at this time, but his potential in the bullpen is sky high if the location and delivery do not progress adequately. While he may lack raw athleticism, he does show potential growth in harnessing his fastball enough to flirt with a number-two starter role, but it’s still a work in progress.
Fastball: 50/55/60 Slider: 65/70/75 Changeup: 40/40+/45 Command: 40/45/50
6. Raimel Tapia, OF
Current Level/Age: High-A/22.2, 6’2/160, L/L
Acquired: Signed in November 2010 out of Dominican Republic by COL for $175,000 bonus
Previous Rank: 6
The biggest thing that stands out about Tapia is his energy and competitiveness on the field. He has a great all-around tool set highlighted by a hit tool that just hasn’t quit and plus speed. His defense is fringy for center field, and his arm only has a chance at playing plus in right field, but he can likely fit at any of the three positions without being a liability. His speed gives him some upside if he can run better routes in the outfield.
At the plate, Tapia has been a hitting machine up through High-A Modesto. He has hit over .300 at every stop but his first season in Rookie ball. In the Arizona Fall League, I was impressed by his excellent contact ability, yet surprised to see how often he chased out of the zone or looked fooled on breaking stuff. He has a decent eye at the plate, though his ability to hit anything spoils his approach and limits his on-base potential despite having the talent to hit .300 in the big leagues.
His swing has been scrutinized by evaluators for years now, but I don’t see a big problem with it. His lower half has a quick twitch quality but is frequently unstable. His whole base collapses on low pitches, eating away at some of his potential power. He has a very good line drive path and plus contact, though his competitiveness gets him a little too amped when he gets hittable pitches in the zone. I think both his balance and his over-excitement are interconnected and will improve as he starts facing better pitching and has time to settle in.
As long as his pitch recognition skills continue to develop, I don’t think it will be a huge adjustment for him to be more selective at higher levels. His bat-to-ball skills will still be the main source of his on-base production, though he will need to accept when pitchers aren’t giving in and take a free base more often. With even mild improvement there, he’s a plus hitter, which is where I would bet he ends up. The power has a chance to be above-average if his approach improves, but he most likely graduates the minor leagues with 40 power. Overall, an excellent part of the Rockies’ upper-level prospects group.
Hit: 50/60/70 Power: 35/40/50+ Run: 60/60/65 Field: 45/50/55 Throw: 55/55/60
7. Dom Nunez, C
Current Level/Age: A/21.2, 6’0/175, L/R
Acquired: Drafted 169th overall (6th round) in 2014 out of California HS by COL for $800,000 bonus
Previous Rank: 21
While Tom Murphy is the catcher of the immediate future, there are many who believe Nunez will be the better backstop by the time he’s ready for the big leagues. He projects to be an excellent defensive catcher despite only playing the position regularly for two years after signing as an infielder.
Especially interesting is how well he has performed with the bat in his first two-and-a-half years. Nunez has hit for an excellent average, shown a great eye at the plate and makes plenty of contact. Not physically developed yet, he is already flashing better power than most scouts anticipated at draft time, hitting 13 homers and 23 doubles in 441 plate appearances this past season.
Nunez is a great athlete on both sides of the ball. Behind the plate, his hands are really good receiving, and a tremendous transfer and accurate arm make it likely he will be able to impact the opposing running game. In the batter’s box, he has an all-fields line drive swing that is very projectable, particularly impressive for being right-left guy. His home run power is almost exclusively to right field currently, but simply maturing physically should turn a lot of his doubles around the field into home runs with good carry.
There’s nothing not to like about his profile at this stage of his career, with the only reservations coming from his proximity to the majors. Assuming a natural progression of his current skills, we might be looking at a rare gifted defensive catcher who can hit for average and power. I’m buying his chances, though it mostly depends on where his physical development goes over the next couple years.
Hit: 40/55/60 Power: 35/45/55 Run: 45/40/45 Field: 50/55/60 Throw: 45/55/60
Video courtesy of Christopher Blessing
8. Forrest Wall, 2B
Current Level/Age: A/20.4, 6’2/185, L/R
Acquired: Drafted 35th overall (Supp 1st round) in 2014 out of Florida HS by COL for $2.0 million bonus
Previous Rank: 8
This one is tough for me. Like Kiley last year, I was a big fan of Wall going into the 2014 draft and was excited to see who would take advantage of the high school second baseman stigma. He didn’t disappoint, putting up great numbers in Rookie ball before transitioning to full season ball in 2015. Wall continued producing at a high level, though I was surprised to see how overmatched he looked in a lot of his at-bats. I still believe in his talent, but there’s more risk in his projection than I would have thought watching him in 2014.
At the plate, he has a great bat path and quick hands for a young player, sometimes getting too pull-heavy with his dominant front arm pulling his swing toward the right side. His hips were kind of “swimmy” when he was drafted, but his lower half consistently drove through the middle of the field with plenty of explosiveness.
As he acclimated to pro ball, he traded some of the fluidity in his base for a reaching stride that leaves him uphill with all of his weight on or behind his back foot. When he gets fooled or off timing from that spot, his hands and upper body rush forward and lose connection with his strong lower half. When I gave hitting lessons, I likened this movement pattern to the weeble wobble, because I’m five years old.
Luckily for Wall, he has well above-average contact skills that keep him from completely missing the ball any time he guesses wrong, and he is still able to punch the ball on the ground through the infield. Major league defenses will be far less forgiving, and pitchers will take advantage of him if he were to stay exactly the same. That said, Wall is too talented for something so relatively simple to be his downfall, so I do think he figures things out. It does keep me from giving his likely future power an average or better grade until he shows more consistent, comfortable balance at the plate.
Defensively, Wall profiles as an average second baseman, with his history of shoulder problems keeping him on the right side of the bag. Reports are that his arm strength has returned and he has more than enough for the position. Add in his plus speed and base-running ability, and the Rockies have a promising infielder with a dynamic skill set. I’m still betting on him developing with gusto, just hedging a bit while he figures out his approach.
Hit: 45/50/60+ Power: 35/45/55 Run: 60/60/65 Field: 45/50/55 Throw: 50/50/50
9. Tom Murphy, C
Current Level/Age: MLB/25.0, 6’1/220, R/R
Acquired: Drafted 105th overall (3rd round) in 2013 out of Univ of Buffalo by COL for $454,000 bonus
Previous Rank: NA
When I asked people about Murphy, the first response was to emphasize how jacked he is. I didn’t want to be left out, so… there it is!
Murphy is an offensive-minded catcher with enough defensive skills to be around average in the field. How much he hits will be determined by how much he improves his approach. He carries some risk of being a low-average, moderate-power catcher due to some strikeout concerns, but he may just hit for enough power that it won’t matter.
Murphy has a compact swing with a nice fly-ball path, and he has the strength to turn those fly balls into a lot of homers. His shoulders can get stiff during his swing, resulting in his hands pushing out in front, making him slightly less dangerous pitches down in the zone. It also makes his power mostly pull-dominant, though it’s not like there isn’t a precedent for a guy with tight shoulders swinging the bat alright.
With a 50+ grade on his throwing and slightly below-average receiving and blocking, his offense will be the key to his future as a regular. The strikeouts are likely here to stay, which drops his hit tool down a few ticks despite his solid swing. The power is real, which will have to help him maintain decent walk rates to become a reliable starter.
Hit: 40/45/50 Power: 50/55/60+ Run: 40/40/45 Field: 45/45-50/50 Throw: 50/50/55
10. Trevor Story, SS/IF
Current Level/Age: AAA/23.4, 6’1/180, R/R
Acquired: Drafted 45th overall (Supp 1st round) in 2011 out of Texas HS by COL for $915,000 bonus
Previous Rank: 9
Story was once touted as the heir to Troy Tulowitzki’s shortstop, until a couple years of stagnant offensive development took away some of the shine on his prospect status. He is a hugely athletic guy that has the raw physical tools to provide value in every category, but his execution has been the source of his struggles. His hitting has been limited at times by his contact rate, while his defense could play at shortstop but fits better at third or second base due to inconsistency.
At the plate, similar to Forrest Wall above, Story can get stuck with his weight on his back side as he strides, then has nowhere to go with his upper body but lunging forward when he’s fooled by a pitch. He has a great fly-ball path that will help him tap into his raw strength, but his hands also can rush forward as he starts his swing, making him hook around or over a lot of balls instead driving them in the air. He did an excellent job cutting down on the strikeouts in 2015, and has a good enough eye to continue walking as he gets to the big leagues.
I have to admit I don’t get how Story can be thought of as less than a future major league starter. Even if you think he won’t hit for a high average and the strikeouts come back with a vengeance, he has enough power and patience to get on base at least at an average clip. His power is mostly to his pull side only, but he has a decent swing that could allow him to hit drives to all fields with only slight adjustments. Throw in an average arm and the ability to play the infield, and Story is still a very valuable asset.
Hit: 40/50/55+ Power: 45/50/55 Run: 55/50/55 Field: 50/50/55 Throw: 50/50/50
Video courtesy of Shaun Kernahan
11. Kyle Freeland, LHP
Current Level/Age: High-A/22.9, 6’3/170, L/L
Acquired: Drafted 8th overall (1st round) in 2014 out of Univ of Evansville by COL for $2.3 million bonus
Previous Rank: 5
Freeland has the stuff to be in a big league rotation, and if it weren’t for elbow surgery and shoulder fatigue he may have been knocking on the Rockies door this spring. I think his three-pitch arsenal is more than capable of getting him through a lineup multiple times, but I worry that his longevity and, to a lesser extent, his command may keep him from reaching his ceiling as a mid-rotation option.
In Arizona, Freeland made up for the innings he lost at the beginning of the season from surgery to remove bone chips in his elbow and some subsequent shoulder fatigue. What I saw was a promising pitcher with mechanical issues that appear to be exacerbating the focused wear on his arm. He looked more crossfire with his delivery than during draft time, closing off his stride. All the effort in his delivery seems to arrive as his arm comes through its low three-quarter slot, and his follow through ends with a noticeable recoil as his arm bounces back up from its finish.
His fastball came in at 91-94 mph, touching 95, complemented by a slider he can throw at two speeds and a sinking changeup. Both his fastball and changeup look capable of inducing ground ball outs with regularity, and he was able to backdoor his slider or throw it down on his glove side with equal effectiveness. Both his changeup and slider are telegraphed by arm speed changes that big league hitters will pick up, but each has enough life to project as at least average offerings.
I also saw more of a strike-thrower rather than a command specialist, though his stuff is good enough to remain projectable even if his command stayed the same. He has excellent overall athleticism, and will prove adept at holding big league runners with his variety of set times and pickoff moves. Mostly because of his arm mechanics, I see a lot more potential in him coming out of the bullpen, where he can go 100% with his great stuff and have a future setup role. If he ends up starting, it may be as a five-inning guy with a few breaks to rest his arm throughout the year.
Fastball: 55/60/60 Slider: 45/50/55 Changeup: 45/50/55 Command: 40/45/55
Video courtesy of The Prospect Pipeline
12. Peter Lambert, RHP
Current Level/Age: R/18.9, 6’2/185, R/R
Acquired: Drafted 44th overall (2nd round) in 2015 out of California HS by COL for $1.495 million bonus
Previous Rank: NA
Lambert has a clean, over-the-top delivery and a good frame, pitching well in his first eight starts at Rookie-level Grand Junction. He commands his fastball very well for a high school draftee, and both his curve and changeup show promise of developing into at least average offerings. His change is presently his third pitch, but I like his arm speed and feel for it, even though he hasn’t quite honed in its movement or location yet.
His velocity has stabilized in the low-90s after joining the professional ranks, and it may tick up as his lower body fills out and gives him more mass to work with. Lambert is a few years away from the big leagues, but I see enough projection all around to profile as a number-four starter with some upside if his secondary pitches really take off.
Fastball: 50/55/60 Curveball: 40/50/55 Changeup: 35/45/55 Command: 45/50/55
Video courtesy of Eric Longenhagen
13. Carlos Estevez, RHP
Current Level/Age: AA/23.3, 6’4/210, R/R
Acquired: Signed in 2011 out of Dominican Republic by COL
Previous Rank: 22
Estevez has a huge fastball with plus-plus velocity, at times plus command and decent life. His slider offers inconsistent break and location, but it shows flashes of being an above-average pitch with more work. He also has a changeup that is unlikely to be a major part of his repertoire in the future. The fastball alone makes him a bullpen option as soon as this year, as he has enough command and velocity to keep hitters on the defensive.
He has closer potential, though how deep into the pen he goes will depend on the slider. Though he has to improve both the movement and command of the pitch, I like his prospects of turning it into a consistent above-average option based on his athleticism and the leeway his fastball will provide.
Fastball: 60/65/70 Slider: 45/55/55 Command: 50/50/55
14. Miguel Castro, RHP, VIDEO
This one is tough to rank. On the one hand, Castro showed in the majors last year he has one of the best fastball-changeup combinations in the game. On the other, he also displayed poor overall command of all three of his pitches that made the Blue Jays’ decision to rush him to their active roster look very premature. I get it, though; if you see him keeping his two best offerings down in the zone, there isn’t a hitter on the planet that can square him up consistently. I worry what the quick ascension and exposure to way too advanced hitters will do to his development.
I definitely see him as a reliever going forward, with his slider being a poor present offering without much projection and his command keeping him from facing hitters multiple times through a lineup. I can’t help but hope he reaches his ceiling as a top flight closer, though it will take some big improvements in a short time to avoid sending him back down to High-A or Double-A where he may be best served.
At only 21 years of age this season, I am counting on him sharpening his command enough to become a setup guy with upside, but it will be a tricky process to get him there. It all depends on how he handles the strange development year, with the Rockies needing to find the right path for him to stay on track.
Fastball: 50/55/70 Slider: 35/40/40 Changeup: 45/55/60 Command: 40/45/45+
The Rockies have plenty of reasons to be excited about Nikorak’s potential, most notably the mid to high-90s heat he brings to the mound. In high school he also excelled on the football field as a promising quarterback, giving his general athleticism more credibility. He shows flashes of a plus curve and an above-average changeup to pair with his hard but straight fastball.
He has a clean but mechanical delivery with a loose arm. At times he can get a little extreme with his spine tilt to throw straight over the top, which stiffens up his arm and rotational actions. His motion can look too practiced that it makes him look less athletic, but off the mound he moves around very well. I will be interested to see if the Rockies can free him up a bit and let his natural skills take over.
I actually would have rated his command a tick or so higher if not for the rough showing in his first go at pro ball. He threw 14 strikeouts to 32 walks in 17.2 innings for the Rockies’ Pioneer League affiliate. It’s a small sample of a high school pitcher pitching professionally for the first time, so I’m willing to mostly look past it. It bears watching how he comes out of the gate in 2016.
Fastball: 50/55/60 Curveball: 45/55/60 Changeup: 40/50/55 Command: 40/45/50
Gonzalez was one of the Rockies’ biggest international signings last year, and offers a tremendous ceiling as an offensive player with the physical tools to eventually play a solid infield. His first professional experience was a mixed bag, as he held his own offensively despite striking out at a high rate, as well as flashing his tools on defense but making a ton of errors. He still has a ton of physical maturation in front of him, and his swing shows enough potential to be a power bat when he grows up.
The Rockies’ plan for now is to convert Gonzalez over to center field. The strikeouts are a bit worrisome, though it being his first professional season is not really a surprising thing. Look for him to settle in this year at the plate, and hopefully we can get a better sense of what he will do in the contact department. The team sees potential as a five-tool producer if things break right.
Hit: 30/45/55 Power: 35/55/60 Run: 45/40/45 Field: 45/50/55 Throw: 55/55/55
Patterson enjoyed a hugely successful season last year split between High-A and Double-A, though questions remain regarding how well he will hit major league pitching. He shows above-average bat speed and respectable power, but inconsistent barreling and a swing that can get overcommitted early may limit its utility against advanced offerings and sequencing. He looked better in the regular season than in the Arizona Fall League, but he likely settles in as a fringe starting option with a streaky BABIP-reliant average and decent pop. If he can make strides with his plate discipline and make pitchers come to him, he has the all-around skills to bump him into above-average starter territory.
Hit: 40/45/50 Power: 45/50+/55 Run: 45/45/45 Field: 50/50/50 Throw: 55/55/55
Diaz throws gas, his fastball living in the 95-99 range with slight tail. The ball seems to come out of his hand earlier than you’d expect in his delivery, making his velocity more overpowering. He has a slider with sharp downward break in the 88-92 range, but it’s his fastball that will help him retire hitters in the later innings.
The fastball has legitimate 80 potential without much improvement. It will already play at that level as long as he is commanding it in the zone, which he did well in the big leagues last year but not as well in Triple-A. His command comes and goes, and his track record suggests a future as a dominant reliever mixed in with months here and there where the strike zone will disappear on him. His slider has above-average potential, but presently it doesn’t the movement or command to be an average pitch.
Fastball: 70/75/80 Slider: 45/50/55 Command: 40/45/45
Castellani had a nice full-season debut in Asheville last year, showing off a projectable two-seam fastball and a great pitcher’s frame. He has a chance to move quickly through the lower levels despite his young age with good command of his heater, though his secondary offerings presently are below-average pitches. His arm generates most of his velocity rather than getting a lot out of the rest of his body, but it has super clean actions that give the rest of his arsenal some hope for developing.
Continuing to improve his delivery and finding a breaking ball that works against advanced hitters will be his primary areas of focus as he goes forward. Though he has more projection than present ability, I like his chances of developing into at least a back-end starter with number-three or -four potential.
Fastball: 50/60/65 Curveball: 40/45/50 Changeup: 40/45/55 Command: 45/50/55
Herrera is an exciting young shortstop with the potential to hit for average, play solid infield defense and steal a ton of bags. He has bat speed that some think will develop into power, but I don’t see quite enough projection in his swing to expect much there. It’s early yet, so a lot of things could happen between now and when he could be ready for the big leagues. A nice upside prospect with a wide range of outcomes.
Hit: 30/50/55 Power: 20/30/35 Run: 60/60/60 Field: 50/55/55 Throw: 50/55/60
Moll has a solid collection of pitches that would normally project in a starting rotation, but his high-effort arm and injury history make the bullpen a safer option for him long-term. He throws mid-90s heat with a hard slider from a low three-quarters angle that will make him very tough on lefties. He may have platoon issues in the big leagues, though his changeup should be good enough to keep right-handers off balance so he can put them away with his fastball and slider.
He has an outside chance at being a closer candidate, but I think his likely role is in the seventh or eighth inning. Look for him to get an opportunity with the big league pen as soon as this year, where his stuff and competitiveness will make him a useful option in some capacity.
Fastball: 55/60/65 Slider: 45/50/55 Changeup: 40/45/45 Command: 40/45/45
Marquez got a boost in attention with his inclusion in the Rockies/Rays Corey Dickerson trade, as a hard-throwing starter prospect with excellent walk rates in the Rays system. Another pitcher who is more control than command, he still has work to do to continue keeping his walk rate low without giving up more hard contact. He is primarily a fastball/curveball pitcher, both projecting to be above-average offerings, with a changeup that shows some promise but is presently below average.
At only 21 years of age heading into the 2016 season, he has time to develop his command and round out his arsenal. I think he comes up a little short in the command department, but he has enough weapons to be a decent four or five starter or a promising reliever. The potential for a mid-rotation starter is there, just less likely in my opinion.
Fastball: 50/55/55 Curveball: 50/55/55 Changeup: 40/45/50 Command: 40/45/45
Anderson sat out the 2015 season due to continued discomfort from a stress fracture in his elbow after originally suffering the injury in 2013. He has a wiggle with his stride leg as he pauses at leg lift that helps add some deception to his delivery without sacrificing command. Even if it only works to throw hitters off the first few times they see him, it’s fun to watch.
His best secondary pitch is a changeup with decent fade, though I’m not sure his arm speed is consistent enough on it to fool high-level hitters. It has above-average potential, likely the only pitch in his arsenal with that high a ceiling. He has a chance to work in the back of the Rockies’ rotation as soon as this year, but it all depends on how his throwing progression goes this spring.
Fastball: 50/50/55 Slider: 40/45/50 Changeup: 45/50/55 Command: 45/45/50
Senzatela made quite an impression in 2015, cruising through the normally hitter dominant California League with huge numbers. Through 154 innings, he tallied 143 strikeouts to only 33 walks as a 20-year-old in High-A. He did this almost exclusively on the back on his 91-94 mph fastball that he commands extremely well. That said, none of his secondary offerings have a great chance of being average pitches in the big leagues. That said, he is a tremendous competitor who has succeeded against age-advanced competition only three levels away from the majors.
Watching him throw, it’s clear that hitters have trouble getting in rhythm with his delivery, and the ball comes out of an unexpected straight overhand slot after a closed stride. He has a loose, quick arm that works on top of a strong but unathletic base. He makes his delivery work by being more consistent than most pitchers his age with his mechanics, even if they are a little stiff and not offering much projection.
Despite topping out in the mid-90s with little movement, his fastball may already be a plus pitch due to how well he locates it. His changeup shows well at times, but like most pitchers who rely more on their arm than their body, his arm slows down noticeablely to get the change of speed, enough that big league hitters won’t have a problem picking it up early. He also throws a curve and a slider, but he lacks feel for both and doesn’t get a lot of sharp break on either.
If he can continue to command his fastball the way he has, he may be an option in the back of a rotation, particularly if one of his breaking balls can find some consistency. As it stands, his best chance for getting an average or above secondary offfering is out of the bullpen, where he can throw with more intensity on each pitch. There is enough here to see a major league pitcher, but I find it most likely we see him out of the bullpen with the occasional start thrown in, since his ability to amass innings is a valuable skill on its own.
Fastball: 55/60/60 Slider: 40/45/45+ Curveball: 40/45/45 Changeup: 40/45/45+ Command: 50/50/55
Balog got a late start to his 2015 season after a groin injury in spring training, but came back to throw 97 innings of good baseball, giving up only 19 walks and five homers in the California League. The limiting factor is his lack of strikeout potential, as none of his pitches project to induce swings and misses in the future.
His control is ahead of his command, but it alone may be strong enough to get him a big league job. He will have to step up his location within in the zone as he progresses to Double-A and Triple-A, but there is some promise here that the Rockies could have a durable number four or five on their hands.
Fastball: 50/55/55 Slider: 40/45/50 Curveball: 40/45/50 Changeup: 40/45/55 Command: 40/45/50
Nevin was drafted 38th overall in 2015, with the Rockies valuing his makeup, feel for hitting and hopeful development of power as he matures. He is a fairly polished player for a high school draftee, showing obvious signs of being the son of former major leaguer Phil Nevin.
His simple swing and advanced approach may help him advance quicker than most prospects his age, though his lack of torque and a swing path built for line drives leaves me skeptical about his future power production. That, coupled with the likelihood of moving off third base across the diamond or to the outfield make Nevin an interesting prospect, but one that will need everything to break right with his bat to be a starting option.
Hit: 40/55/60 Power: 30/40/45 Run: 40/40/40 Field: 40/45/50 Throw: 50/50/50
27. Jesus Tinoco, RHP, VIDEO
Tinoco enjoyed tremendous success in his seven starts after arriving in the Troy Tulowitzki trade, maintaining a reasonable chance at sticking in a rotation. He is primarily a two-pitch hurler, flashing mid-90s heat and an above-average slider. He hasn’t shown much feel for his changeup yet, but he’s an athletic guy with a good arm that has slowly but steadily improved every aspect of his pitching game.
He most likely projects as a reliever for me at this stage, though his 2016 performance could bump him into starter territory with some command gains and signs of positive development with his change. His timetable may get accelerated due to his Rule 5 draft eligibility next offseason, making this year an important one for defining his future role. He is throwing strikes with better consistency and has decent command of his fastball, but his secondary pitch location will be the key to getting big league hitters out, regardless of his role.
Fastball: 50/55/60 Slider: 40/45/50 Changeup: 35/40/45 Command: 40/45/45+
Carasiti’s stuff was pretty impressive in the Arizona Fall League, flashing above-average with three pitches. He has a mid-90s fastball with some sink, a hard slider and an inconsistent but promising splitter. He has a pretty safe future as a big league reliever and has the upside of a setup guy if his secondary stuff reaches its peak effectiveness and consistency.
Fastball: 50/55/60 Slider: 45/50/55 Splitter: 40/45/55 Command: 40/45/45
Adames profiles as a solid utility infielder with some mild upside at the plate as a contact hitter. He has fantastic hands in the field and average range for a shortstop. Combined with above-average arm strength and excellent accuracy from multiple angles, Adames also has the ability to play third and second without missing a beat.
He makes contact at an above-average rate, but his ground ball-heavy batted ball distribution doesn’t give him a ton of upside in the power department. As a result he will be challenged heavily by pitchers, so the walk rates he put up in the minors will be reduced in the big leagues. His average will be dependent on how many grounders sneak through holes, and with average speed, it’s unlikely he will add a ton of hits keeping the ball in the infield. When he’s finding hits his defense will give him enough value to start, but he’s more reliably a solid utility player.
Hit: 40/45/50 Power: 35/35/35 Run: 50/50/50 Field: 60/60/60 Throw: 60/60/60
Howard progressed well in 2015 with a stellar year in the South Atlantic League including a run of 22.2 scoreless innings. Though his stuff is around average across the board, he may have the command he needs to fit comfortably in the back of a big league rotation. His fastball sits in the low-90s with little movement but great location, while his slider is a sharp, downward-breaking pitch that has strikeout potential when he locates it. His changeup is exceptional for how well he replicates his fastball arm speed, making it another average to tick above pitch. He will have to earn every step up the ladder, but Howard could be a nice value in a few years.
Fastball: 50/50/55 Slider: 45/50/55 Changeup: 45/50/55 Command: 50/55/60
There’s nothing terribly exciting about Hill’s work on the mound, but he does enough well that he could eventually be a back-end guy in the Rockies’ rotation. He can throw strikes and should be able to eat up innings with a low-stress approach and decent assortment of pitches.
Fastball: 50/55/55 Slider: 45/50/55 Changeup: 35/40/45 Command: 40/45/50
Musgrave had an excellent season rolling through High-A and Double-A lineups. Not big on stuff, he has found success filling up the strike zone with a four-pitch mix from a somewhat deceptive delivery. He steps with a closed stride and whirls around with a low three-quarters slot that he repeats well, but his command remains in need of work.
His arsenal isn’t very projectable, with none of his pitches projecting as much above average. His 2016 performance in the upper minors will help put his possible future role into focus, though I see his talents giving him a middle relief role or spot starter job in the big leagues. The stuff isn’t quite there to turn lineups over, and the command floor he would have to reach to make it work is likely a tall order.
Fastball: 45/50/50 Slider: 40/45/50 Curveball: 40/45/55 Changeup: 40/45/50 Command: 40/45/50
Prime had a tough year at the plate, but remains a tremendous athlete with plus power potential if things work out. His hit tool may not develop enough for him to get there, but when he’s on a pitch he can really do some damage.
Hit: 30/35/40 Power: 45/55/60 Run: 40/40/40 Field: 50/50/50 Throw: 45/45/45
Carrizales lit up the South Atlantic League in the first half of 2015, using his above-average bat speed to put up some power numbers he hadn’t demonstrated before. He cooled off dramatically in the second half, calling into question how much of his power improvement was for real. His swing doesn’t project for a ton of fly balls, and he will not be physical enough to project for real power in the future.
His plus speed adds a stolen base dimension to his game, but his reads and decision-making on the bases need a lot of work. Overall, Carrizales has some interesting tools that could make him a useful player, but it’s still too early in his development to see a definite path to the big leagues.
Hit: 35/50/55 Power: 25/30/35 Run: 50/50/55 Field: 50/55/60 Throw: 50/50/50
LHP Helmis Rodriguez (VIDEO) is a dark horse pitching prospect with a great changeup but not much else at this stage. RHP Johendi Jiminian continues to flash an interesting fastball/changeup combo, but may not have the pitchability to translate them into a big league role.
OF Daniel Montano (VIDEO) is a potential center fielder who has a quick bat, but hasn’t yet made the jump to game action. SS Rosell Herrera (VIDEO) has seen a meteoric fall in his prospect status after two seasons in the hitter-friendly California League with poor results. SS Emerson Jimenez (VIDEO) scuffled in 2015 but remains an interesting player with a plus-plus arm and plus speed. C Ryan Casteel (VIDEO) has been an interesting hitter at times, but his lack of a solid defensive home makes him likely organizational depth.
The (very modest) distinction of Cistulli’s Guy in the case of the Colorado Rockies features a contretemps between two field-playing half-prospects: third baseman Shane Hoelscher on the one hand and Tauchman on the other. Both remained in college through their senior years (Rice and Bradley, respectively), both were selected in the 10th round or later, both offer a combination of reasonable plate discipline and the capacity to handle a position on the more difficult end of the defensive spectrum.
The author has selected Tauchman for two reasons. First, because he’s preserved his core skillset through Double-A (while Hoelscher has recorded only 19 plate appearances at High-A). Second, because Tauchman was also Cistulli’s Guy last year, when human reggaeton horn Kiley McDaniel authored the Rockies list.
While producing a less impressive slash line in 2015 than 2014, Tauchman actually exhibited some encouraging trends this past year. His walk- and strikeout-rate differential improved from 5.3 to 4.0 points. Moreover, he recorded his highest number of center-field starts. Again, all while having moved up a level.
Here’s video footage of Tauchman definitely playing center field on August 27th of this past year: