The Rockies have a solid system with some depth and some high-end talent spread across different levels. There’s been some chatter there may be a regime change in Denver and while altitude creates some unique problems for executives, the farm is in a good position to produce some talent in the coming years. Here’s the primer for this series and here’s a disclaimer about how none of us really know anything, perfect to read before I attempt to tell you everything about the Rockies farm system. Here’s the Rangers list, the first in the series.
Most of what you need to know is at those links, but I should add that the risk ratings are relative to their position, so average (3) risk for a pitcher is riskier than average risk (3) for a hitter, due injury/attrition being more common. I’d also take a 60 Future Value hitter over a 60 FV pitcher for the same reasons. Also, risk encompasses a dozen different things and I mention the important components of it for each player in the report. The upside line for hitters is the realistic best-case scenario (in general, a notch better than the projected tools) and the Future Value encompasses this upside along with the risk rating for one overall rating number.
Below I’ve included a quick ranking of the growth assets Colorado has in the majors that aren’t eligible for the list and Dave Cameron shares some general thoughts on the organization. Scroll further down to see Carson Cistulli’s fringe prospect favorite. The next team up in the series, working from the bottom of the standings on up, is the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Organizational Overview by Dave Cameron
Perpetually caught between rebuilding and contending, the Rockies tried to win this year, but have seen the season the season go wrong in nearly every way possible. Troy Tulowitzki was great until he got hurt, again, while Carlos Gonzalez was also injured but not also great. Rather than flip assets like Jorge de la Rosa at the trade deadline, the team did nothing, and appear to remain directionless. This is an organization with enough talent to talk itself out of rebuilding but not enough talent to win. Perhaps it’s time for a leader who will take the team down one of those two paths, rather than eternally standing at the fork.
50+ FV Prospects
1. Jon Gray, RHP
Current Level/Age: AA/22.8, 6’4/235, R/R
Drafted: 3rd overall (1st round) in 2013 out of Oklahoma by COL for $4.8 million bonus
Fastball: 55/60, Slider: 50/60, Changeup: 50/55, Command: 40/45+
Scouting Report: Gray created tons of buzz midway through the 2013 spring coming from out of nowhere to hit 100 mph often, with a plus slider. I was lower on him than most, ranking him behind Mark Appel and Kris Bryant before the draft for a few reasons. It was new velocity we hadn’t seen before and we didn’t know if his body could handle (it has so far), it showed up on six days rest which would be reduced by 2 days each outing in pro ball, and if his arm speed slowed (as it does over time for every pitcher) so much of his value was tied to arm speed (his command was/is below average) that it would take all of his stuff down a notch and reduce the #1 starter upside people were putting on him.
Since signing, Gray’s velocity has been down some, mostly sitting 91-94 and hitting 95 mph but Rockies sources say this is intentional and he’s working on some things (they already smoothed out his delivery), which scouts assumed after Gray hit 98 mph in a short All-Star Game appearance. I think he’ll settle at 92-94 with more movement and command, the slider is still plus and the changeup has it’s moments. Scouts are a little concerned that Gray is a below average athlete and the command still isn’t quite there yet. Since the stuff is so good, that lesser command would just make him a 3/4 starter rather than a 2/3.
Summation: I’m splitting the difference on #2 and #4 starter reports from scouts, basically sticking with my pre-draft evaluation. If you’re a Rockies fan disappointed by the #3 starter projection, one year of that is worth at least 3 times his signing bonus on the open market, so that would still be a wild success.
FV/Role/Risk: 60, #3 Starter, Medium (3 on a 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2014: AA, 2015: AAA/MLB, 2016: MLB
2. Eddie Butler, RHP
Current Level/Age: AA/23.4, 6’2/180, B/R
Drafted: 46th overall (sandwich round) in 2012 out of Radford by COL for $1.0 million bonus
Fastball: 60/65, Slider: 45/50, Changeup: 55/60, Command: 45/50
Scouting Report: Butler’s stuff took a step forward since being drafted, with his velocity settling a tick or two higher (93-95, touching 97 mph consistently) than it did and his off-speed stuff jumping a notch as well. He’s in a dead heat with Gray to be #1 on this list, but the separator for scouts is that they are worried about Butler’s durability. He’s had a lot of minor dings and there’s doubt he can hold up for 200 innings, though everything is there for him to be a starter. If he has to move to the bullpen he could be a closer, with a fastball that’s been up to 99 mph and a knockout changeup, but Colorado will give him every chance to prove he can stay in the rotation. The slider has been a 55 in the past but scouts have said it’s only been average this year.
Summation: He’s either a #3 starter or a closer and he’s pretty close to being able to contribute, so there isn’t much else to do but see what he does in a full season in Denver.
FV/Role/Risk: 55, #3 Starter/Closer, Medium (3 on a 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2014: AA, 2015: AAA/MLB, 2016: MLB
3. David Dahl, CF
Current Level/Age: High-A/20.4, 6’2/195, L/R
Drafted: 10th overall (1st round) in 2012 out of Alabama HS by COL for $2.6 million bonus
Hit: 20/60, Game Power: 40/55, Raw Power: 55/55, Speed: 60/60, Field: 50/55, Throw: 55/55
Scouting Report: I was a huge Dahl fan out of high school, but his stock dipped in 2012 and 2013 with some maturity issues that caused the Rockies to issue a suspension and limit his exposure to full-season ball until this season. This year, Dahl shot through Low-A at age 21 to the High-A Cal League, where he’s still getting acclimated. Scouts never really doubted Dahl’s ability to hit and one said he almost put a 7 on the bat after seeing him this year and that same scout put a 5 on the power despite a line drive approach. It may take a few years but advanced, talented hitters with a natural opposite field stroke will often will outhit their raw power at maturity (even with a line drive approach) due to how much hard contact they make. The offensive upside combined with plus speed and a center field profile give Dahl the upside to be a star, but scouts would like to see more than one year in full-season leagues before they go all-in.
Summation: I’m betting Dahl ends up in my top 50 prospects this offseason and he’s a candidate to move much higher after next season with a likely return engagement to the Cal League in 2015.
Upside: .290/.350/.460 (15-20 HR), average defense & plus speed
FV/Risk: 55, Medium (3 on a 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2014: High-A, 2015: High-A/AA, 2016: AA/AAA, 2017: MLB
4. Ryan McMahon, 3B
Current Level/Age: Low-A/19.7, 6’2/185, L/R
Drafted: 42nd overall (2nd round) in 2013 out of California HS by COL for $1.32 million bonus
Hit: 20/55, Game Power: 40/60, Raw Power: 55/60, Speed: 45/45, Field: 40/50, Throw: 55/55
Scouting Report: Some teams were skeptical before the draft of McMahon’s ability to corral his long limbs to make enough contact long-term, but the scouts I talked to were all-in after an impressive full-season debut. One scout argued McMahon could be the Rockies #1 prospect right now and with Gray/Butler possibly graduating next year and McMahon heading to the Cal League in 2015, that may happen in 2015. He strikes out more than you’d like to see, but McMahon is just 19 and was also a star quarterback in high school (another example of a Rockies draft pick with that on his resume), so there’s still a need for reps. McMahon projects for plus raw power that scouts now think he can get to in games and, while he isn’t there right now, most believe with some work he will be able to stick at third base long-term.
Summation: McMahon, like Tapia below, may well bump move his Future Value up or down a notch with a trip to the hitter-friendly Cal League in 2015.
Upside: .275/.350/.480 (22-25 HR) & average defense
FV/Risk: 55, High (4 on a 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2014: Low-A, 2015: High-A, 2016: AA, 2017: AAA, 2018: MLB
5. Kyle Freeland, LHP
Current Level/Age: Low-A/21.3, 6’3/170, L/L
Drafted: 8th overall (1st round) in 2014 out of Evansville by COL for $2.3 million bonus
Fastball: 50/55, Slider: 50/55, Curveball: 45/50, Changeup: 45/50, Command: 45/55
Scouting Report: Freeland is a tough evaluation: his fastball and slider were both flashing plus by the end of the year (the above video is from a solid but unspectacular early-season outing) but injury concerns will follow him for years. He had elbow surgery in 2007 as a high school freshman and some clubs were still concerned about the medical, with some a couple teams late in the first round telling me they probably wouldn’t take him if he slipped to them due to concerns about his less-than-smooth mechanics contributing to a future injury. Teams were more concerned about Chris Sale’s mechanics when he was drafted, so it could end up being nothing and Freeland has been healthy for 7 years; the Rockies told me they aren’t concerned. I rounded down on the fastball and slider grade (both flash plus) since I think those pitches settle there in a starter role long-term. Freeland shows an advanced ability to command his above average stuff even with some effort to the delivery, so it’s hard to bet against him and he could shoot through the system in some scenarios, reaching his #3 starter upside in short order.
Summation: I’m taking the cautious, skeptical position on Freeland and hope I’m wrong; there’s enough unique traits here that point to him being an exception rather than the rule with young arms.
FV/Role/Risk: 50, #3/4 Starter, High (4 on a 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2014: Low-A, 2015: High-A, 2016: AA, 2017: AAA, 2018: MLB
Video credit to Mike Newman
6. Raimel Tapia, CF
Current Level/Age: Low-A/20.5, 6’2/160, L/L
Signed: International Free Agent, signed for $175,000 out of Dominican Republic on 11/29/10
Hit: 20/60, Game Power: 30/40, Raw Power: 35/45, Speed: 60/60, Field: 45/55, Throw: 55/55
Scouting Report: Tapia gets wide-ranging review from scouts, with some crushing him for an unusual swing and skinny frame, while others point to his elite bat control and performance (.342/.392/.503 in over 700 PA in domestic leagues). One scout said Tapia’s defensive reads were questionable and that his power wouldn’t profile in right field. Another scout gave a low-end comparison of Jon Jay, as a non-traditional outfielder that can play all three positions, doesn’t have much power but hits enough that you find a spot for him. The consensus is that this kid can hit despite sometimes funky mechanics and he has enough tools to be useful in some kind of everyday role.
Summation: With a trip to the hitter-friendly Cal League next year, a 50 Future Value will likely go up or down a notch depending on how he responds to big expectations.
Upside: .290/.350/.430 (8-12 HR), average defense & plus speed
FV/Risk: 50, Medium (3 on a 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2014: Low-A, 2015: High-A, 2016: AA, 2017: AAA, 2018: MLB
7. Tyler Anderson, LHP
Current Level/Age: AA/24.6, 6’4/215, L/L
Drafted: 20th overall (1st round) in 2011 out of Oregon by COL for $1.4 million bonus
Fastball: 50/50+, Slider: 45/45+, Curveball: 40/45, Changeup: 55/60, Command: 45/50+
Scouting Report: The big lefty makes you pause due to the funky delivery, but it creates deception and he’s a good enough athlete to make it work for him command-wise. The stuff is at least as good as in college if not a little better: Anderson hit 95 mph earlier this month, but sits 89-92 mostly. His changeup is a weapon to get swings and misses but the question is on the breaking ball. He tinkers with a slider, curveball and cutter at times, but should be able to settle with at least one fringy/useable pitch to keep hitters off his best two pitches.
Summation: It’s a relatively low-risk #4 starter that could have a long big league career and it could start as soon as late 2015.
FV/Role/Risk: 50, #4 Starter, Low (2 on a 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2014: AA, 2015: AAA, 2016: MLB
8. Forrest Wall, 2B
Current Level/Age: Rookie/18.8, 6’0/175, L/R
Drafted: 35th overall (sandwich round) in 2014 out of FL high school by COL for $2.0 million bonus
Hit: 20/55, Game Power: 35/45, Raw Power: 45/45+, Speed: 65/65, Field: 45/50, Throw: 45/45
Scouting Report: I was higher on Wall in this year’s draft than anyone I talked to (longer explanation) basically because he was being knocked for being a prep second baseman, though he’s an exception to the warranted rule to not pick one in the first round. Wall had a serious shoulder injury that limited his arm strength (which is now passable) and confidence to air it out while most prep second baseman play there due to a lack of athleticism or deficient baseball skills; Wall was there only because of an injury. He’s a plus to plus-plus runner with fringy raw power, can stick at second base and was arguably the best prep bat in the 2014 draft class. He’s raking in his pro debut and the Rockies have him on a throwing program to work on his arm strength.
Summation: At least league average offense and defense at an up-the middle position and plus base-running value is an everyday player and I bet if he was a center fielder (which he could be, but 2B is more valuable) Wall would’ve gone at least 10 picks higher than he did. I don’t know how this one will turn out, but I’m betting on this kid to beat expectations.
Upside: .280/.350/.430 (12-15 HR), average defense & plus speed
FV/Risk: 50, High (4 on a 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2014: Rookie, 2015: Low-A, 2016: High-A, 2017: AA, 2018: AAA, 2019: MLB
45 FV Prospects
9. Trevor Story, SS Video: Story is the best of the four fringy middle infielders in this group as he’s an athlete with the ability to stick at shortstop that looked like an everyday guy at one point, but tinkering with his swing has contributed to the bat stalling out a bit at the upper levels. One scout questioned his ability to recognize spin and the consensus is there isn’t enough here offensively for more than a utility guy.
10. Rosell Herrera, 3B Video: Herrera’s stock has fallen with a tough 2014 in the hitter-friendly Cal League due to a nagging wrist injury. It will be looked at again once the season ends to determine how serious of a problem it is going forward. Most scouts have Herrera moving to third base and more than a few called him soft, so while the tools are there for an everyday player and he raked last year at age 20 in Low-A, the arrow is pointing down until Herrera looks more like the 2013 version.
11. Jose Briceno, C Video: Briceno is a young catcher still working on the finer points defensively, but the athleticism and tools are there to stick behind the plate and the arm is plus. The raw power is average and there’s just enough feel to hit that he could get to it in games. It’s a longshot but potential everyday catchers don’t grow on trees, so scouts are more than willing to give Briceno a chance.
12. Taylor Featherston, SS Video: Featherston is a similar player to Adames, but scouts are more enthusiastic about Featherston’s chance to reach his upside. He’s good enough at shortstop to play there in the big leagues but not everyday, which is fine but the bat isn’t a standout and he fits as a utility type. Featherston is a better athlete with a lot more energy than Adames and better feel to hit, with one scout mentioning Adam Rosales as a similar player.
13. Cristhian Adames, SS Video: Adames is a player that I didn’t love last year in the Arizona Fall League and scouts keep finding excuses to move down this list, but he is a switch-hitting shortstop that’s hitting in AAA, so he still belong in this group. Scouts aren’t convinced he’s more than an okay utility player as he’s a low-energy guy that can pick it but doesn’t have elite range or speed and projects to be a below average hitter without much game power.
40 FV Prospects
14. Tom Murphy, C Video: Murphy could be higher on this list with fringe everyday tools, but has been banged up all year and scouts haven’t been able to see him play behind the plate recently. He’s almost all the way back to catching, but has struggled at the plate this year and scouts haven’t been too enthusiastic in their reviews. He’ll be 24 next year and is in the upper levels, so a strong start to 2015 could move him up this list about 5 spots.
15. Kyle Parker, 1B Video: Parker is another in a long line of Rockies’ quarterback picks (he started at Clemson) that includes Todd Helton, Seth Smith and Russell Wilson. Parker signed for $1.4 million as a late first rounder in 2010 and has hit well at every level, but scouts are skeptical this will continue at the big league level. There’s some swing and miss to his game that scouts think will increase against top-end pitching, holding back in above average raw power while his defensive indifference limits him to first base, likely in a platoon role.
16. Pedro Gonzalez, 3B Video: The Rockies top signing this July 2nd ($1.3 million) is the rare Dominican-signed fluent English speaker and he also has a unique frame, at least 6’4 and maybe 6’5, but at a rail-thin 160 pounds. He’s good at shortstop now and makes a lot of contact despite his age (16) and size due to his rare body control; scouts mention Manny Machado and Alex Rios as body comps. Gonzalez likely ends up at third base and develops at least average raw power, but, for now, he’s more of a contact hitter; if/when/how he handles added weight will dictate his future.
17. Alex Balog, RHP Video: Balog was a bit of an enigma his draft year, with scouts saying he got as high at 99 mph and sat 94-97 for stretches while he’d sit 89-92 for other outings. The Rockies got the 6’5/210 righty in the 2nd round last year and he’s showing back-end rotation potential in Low-A this year. He’ll sit 90-93 and hit 94 mph with a slider and changeup that are both a bit above average at times, but there’s still some adjustments that need to be made.
18. Ryan Castellani, RHP Video: Castellani was one of my favorite projection arms in the 2014 draft and the Rockies agreed, giving him $1.1 million in the 2nd round. The 6’4/190 righty was into the 90’s as a prep sophomore with projection and an easy delivery; he’s still around 90 now, but hit 95 mph early in his draft year. The separator here is a three-pitch mix and command that have all been above average at times and the body/athleticism that scouts can bet on.
19. Emerson Jimenez, SS Video: Jimenez is a projection play as a 6’1/160 shortstop holding his own at age 19 in Low-A despite a lack of strength. He’s good enough right now to stick at short, but he needs work offensively and defensively with mechanics and details. If he can add weight will dictate if he can make the improvements necessary to become a big league asset.
20. Sam Moll, LHP Video: 5’10/185 lefty has been moved to relief and hasn’t made it to a full-season league yet at age 22 with an elbow injury that slowed him out of spring training. Moll sits 93-95 with an above average curveball in short stints and while the plane isn’t there and the command isn’t great, it will fit in the late innings with some adjustments.
21. Dom Nunez, C Video: From powerhouse Sacramento-area high school that’s had Derek Hill, J.D. Davis and Rowdy Tellez go high in the last two drafts, Nunez moved behind the plate as a prep senior as the ideal fit for his tools. A 6th rounder in 2013 that got an over-slot $800,000, Nunez has a line drive bat with below-average power and is coming along nicely behind the plate with the tools to stick if the aptitude is there.
22. Carlos Estevez, RHP Video: 6’4/210 Dominican righty is 21 and sits 94-98 mph in short stints out of the bullpen. He isn’t just an arm strength guy, as the curveball is solid-average at times and he’ll use a slider and changeup. Estevez is still working on consistent mechanics/command, but there’s late-inning potential if the feel develops. Also worth noting he has the same name as someone noted for winning.
23. Matt Carasiti, RHP Video: 2012 6th rounder out of St. John’s has lived up to amateur scouting report of a power arm with three pitches but with the feel and consistency that fits better in the bullpen, where he moved this year in Low-A. He’ll sit 90-94 and hit 95 with an above average slider and solid-average changeup that could work in a 7th inning or long man role if the command progresses.
24. Antonio Senzatela, RHP Video: 19-year-old Venezuelan righty works 90-94 and hits 96 but has a limited upside with below average off-speed and a 6’1/180 frame. The delivery and command are good and he’s young enough that the stuff could improve; he could turn into a back-end type or spot starter with small improvements.
25. Correlle Prime, 1B Video: 6’5/200 power hitter has above average raw power to profile at first base if he hits, but some scouts doubted that out of high school ($125,000 bonus as 12th rounder in 2012) given his size. He’s hit at least .280 everywhere he’s gone and jacked 21 homers this year as a 20-year-old getting his first taste of full-season ball in Low-A. It’s probably bench/platoon bat upside as a big R/R first baseman, but he’s hitting and the headline puns will be easy.
Mike Tauchman, OF
Following a late-June promotion to High-A Modesto, the 23-year-old Tauchman hit the first four home runs of his professional career over a span of just 46 plate appearances — a promising development, that, from a prospect who’d previously exhibited an advanced approach but little power. Unfortunately, in the 160 plate appearances which have proceeded that brief interval, Tauchman has recorded zero home runs. Still, he’s not without his virtues — especially relative to his pedigree. A 10th-round pick out of Bradley last year by the Rockies, Tauchman has posted promising walk and strikeout rates of 12.5% and 18.4%, respectively, while also producing a stolen-base record of 34-for-44 (77%) in just 119 professional games. While having been deployed mainly as a corner outfielder, he’s also made starts at center and, given his speed, it’s not unreasonable to suppose that he could handle the position occasionally.
A dearth of footage exists where Tauchman is concerned. Here, for example, is probably the best of it — a brief excerpt from three-year-old amateur video of Tauchman making one catch for Bradley:
Others Of Note
There’s the usual handful of hard-throwing relievers to note, with righty Scott Oberg the best and closest to the big leagues of the bunch. Rayan Gonzalez is mostly velocity and Konner Wade is a fringy stuff guy with moxie that could carve out a long-man role. Danny Winkler is a fringy stuff, huge deception spot starter type in the upper levels, but his ugly delivery contributed to this year’s Tommy John surgery. Righty Chris Martin is a 6’8 reliever on the 40-man (when he isn’t de-Gooping himself) with a plus fastball and cutter to go with big plane. Righty Johendi Jiminian is a projectable Dominican with a fastball/changeup combo that flash above average but a lot or work to do with delivery/feel while lefty Sam Howard was a recent college pick with average stuff that could turn into a 5th starter.
As for the bats, Jordan Patterson is a 6’4/215 athlete with a 4th outfielder profile if he can hit enough and Pat Valaika is another in a long family line of solid middle infield utility types. Dominican SS Carlos Herrera was a seven figure July 2nd signing last year that’s still on the island with some hamstring troubles while Venezuelan CF Omar Carrizales is 19 and a plus runner with contact skills. 3B Kevin Padlo was one of two interesting prep bat from last June’s draft: he’s a good athlete and makes the most of low-end everyday third base tools (Video) while SS Max George, a polished middle infielder with feel to hit (Video) joins Padlo with a chance to be on the list next year.
Kiley McDaniel has worked as an executive and scout, most recently for the Atlanta Braves, also for the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates. He's written for ESPN, Fox Sports and Baseball Prospectus. Follow him on twitter.