Eddie Butler could be one of the first impact pitching prospects to debut in 2014.
In 2009, the Rockies selected prep standout Tyler Matzek in the first round of the draft. Two years later—with Matzek issuing walk after walk in A-ball—the organization once again tried its luck by selecting Oregon product Tyler Anderson with the 20th overall pick. The 24-year-old put up solid numbers in the hitter-friendly (High-A) California League in 2013, though there’s concern about whether his arsenal—specifically, his lack of a true plus pitch—will translate at the highest level.
The arrival of Colorado’s youth movement during the 2014 season has the potential to transform the team’s already promising starting rotation in to one of the best in the National League.
Flame-throwing right-hander Jonathan Gray, the second overall pick in the 2013 draft, should move quickly next year, opening the season at Double-A Tulsa before reaching the majors ahead of schedule.
Meanwhile, 2012 supplemental first-rounder Eddie Butler and his filthy, bat-missing arsenal could make a run at the Opening Day rotation with a strong spring training. And he’s a safe bet to debut before the All-Star break.
The Rockies also house two of the more intriguing outfield prospects in the low minors in David Dahl and Raimel Tapia.
Dahl, the 10th overall pick in the 2012 draft, enjoyed an outstanding professional debut after signing, batting .379/.423/.625 with 41 extra-base hits in 306 plate appearances in the Rookie-level Pioneer League. However, the 19-year-old played in only 10 games in 2013 after suffering a hamstring injury early in the season.
Like Dahl, Tapia, who will turn 20 in February, put up monster numbers during his professional (or stateside in his case) debut in the Pioneer League. The left-handed batter absolutely raked in 2013, posting a .357/.399/.562 batting line with 33 extra-base hits in 286 plate appearances.
Here’s a look at the Rockies' top 10 prospects for the 2014 season.
DOB: 11/15/1992 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 175 pounds
Drafted: First round, 2011 (Irving HS, Texas)
ETA: Late 2015
6’1”, 175-pound shortstop has a smooth, effortless right-handed swing; plus bat speed results in loud contact; drives the ball to right-center; understands how to drive through the baseball; above-average to plus raw power with developing power frequency; mashes fastballs; potential for above-average hit tool.
Tendency to swing and miss took on a life of its own this past season at High-A; organization tried to turn him into a Troy Tulowitzki (something he’s not); struggled with secondary pitch recognition; offensive potential is still there, but he’s now taken a significant step backward in terms of overall development.
Shortstop can do a bit of everything on the field; above-average speed results in similar range in all directions; already showcases big league defensive actions; intuitive player who positions himself according to in-game scenarios; should stick at the position at the highest level provided the bat comes around; plus arm strength is also accurate; possesses the tools, athleticism and instincts to play third base if he’s blocked at shortstop.
Projection: Second-division regular
Video courtesy of Ron Shah.
DOB: 09/30/1989 (Age: 24)
Height/Weight: 6’0”, 200 pounds
Drafted: First round, 2010 (Clemson)
ETA: Late 2014
Present strength at 6’0”, 200 pounds; above-average raw power; fringy hit tool projection; swing gets long, and he’ll fight to get his hands extended; long and complicated stride/weight transfer; game will also features too much swing-and-miss.
He generates big-time backspin when he gets through the ball; pull-happy approach easily exploited by advanced sequencing; moved from right field to first base in the Arizona Fall League; rough actions and footwork; struggled to slow down game; future in major leagues depends on power utility.
Projection: Platoon first baseman
DOB: 04/26/1989 (Age: 24)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 200 pounds
Drafted: Second round, 2010 (Texas Tech)
ETA: 2014 (Debuted in 2013)
Missed entire 2012 season with injury to throwing shoulder; reached major leagues in 2013 after 12 starts at Double-A Tulsa; yet to regain pre-injury velocity and feel; will get more opportunities to start, but his realistic future is a late-inning reliever; closer potential if velocity returns; attacks hitters.
Fastball registers in the 92-95 mph; was capable of popping high-90s prior to injury; uses both a two- and four-seam for different looks; doesn’t consistently throw it on downward plane; will linger up in the zone; ability as a strike-thrower will continue to be tested in major leagues; cutter has better-than-average potential, thrown with velocity and fast arm action.
He has struggled with former plus slider since surgery; made strides in developing changeup last season; good arm speed and velocity separation relative to fastball; also throws a serviceable curveball to offering hitters a different look.
Projection: Setup man
DOB: 04/03/1991 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 220 pounds
Drafted: Third round, 2012 (Buffalo)
Strong and athletic 6’1”, 220-pound frame; right-handed batter has average bat speed; simple, low-maintenance swing; strong wrists and forearms; above-average raw power with good in-game frequency.
Present swing-and-miss that may be exploited against better stuff at higher levels; fringy hit tool projection despite impressive full-season debut in 2013; below-average wheels; agile defender with skills; advanced receiver and blocker; smothers everything in the dirt; footwork is efficient and quick; plus arm strength arguably is his loudest tool.
Projection: Second-division catcher
Video courtesy of MLBDirt.com.
DOB: 12/14/1994 (Age: 19)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 185 pounds
Drafted: Second round, 2013 (Mater Dei HS, Calif.)
Very projectable 6’3”, 185-pound frame; exhibits present strength and capable of adding more without sacrificing athleticism; left-handed batter’s swing is effortless and pretty; potential plus hit tool; makes consistent hard contact; plus bat speed with mature barrel control; advanced feel for the strike zone; plus raw power already plays in games.
Has a good feel for the game despite dual-sport background in high school; defense at third base should be average but will require refinement; arm is above average.
Projection: First-division third baseman
Video courtesy of BullpenBanter.com.
DOB: 02/04/1994 (Age: 19)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 160 pounds
Signed: 2010 (Dominican Republic)
Plus athlete with potential for five impact tools at maturity; left-handed batter’s swing mechanics are unusual but don’t hinder his feel for hitting; plus bat speed; preternatural bat-to-ball ability and outstanding barrel control; generates big extension after contact; hit tool could be plus or better.
Power will come as he adds strength to 6’2”, 160-pound frame; plus runner translates to similar range in right field; plus arm ideal for position; still a raw prospect in need of refinement but the ceiling is sky high.
Projection: Potential All-Star
DOB: 10/16/1992 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 180 pounds
Signed: 2009 (Dominican Republic)
Hopped back on prospect radar after disappointing 2012 campaign; wiry 6’3”, 180-pounder has a projectable frame with room to fill out; switch-hitter offers more projection from the left side; in general, swing involves too much wasted movement; needs to simplify leg kick and pre-pitch load; present gap power but not much else; could be a double-digit home run guy if he adds strength to his lanky frame.
Split time between shortstop and third base between two levels in 2012 before spending entire 2013 season at short; ability to stick at position will ultimately depend how much he develops physically; speed is slightly above-average; raw base stealer who made strides this past season; big gap between present and future potential, but he’s showing the ability to close it faster than anticipated.
Projection: Second-division regular
Video courtesy of Baseball Prospectus.
DOB: 04/01/1994 (Age: 19)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 185 pounds
Drafted: First round, 2012 (Oak Mountain HS, Ala.)
Chance for a true plus hit tool; tremendous hand-eye coordination and barrel-to-ball ability; left-handed hitter with plus bat speed; advanced barrel control and feel for strike zone; balanced setup and swing; comfortable hitting all pitches and using entire field; refined approach relative to age; could develop better-than-expected power; consistent source of doubles and triples; plus runner but not an aggressive base stealer.
Speed translates better in center field than on basepaths; plays position with confidence; potential to be above-average defensively; smooth actions; takes good angles; more than enough arm strength for the position; room for improvement in his jumps and routes.
Projection: First-division outfielder
DOB: 03/13/1991 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 180 pounds
Drafted: First round, 2012 (Samford)
ETA: Early 2014
Wiry frame at 6’2”, 180 pounds; still adding strength; three-quarters arm slot; good use of lower half driving toward the plate; crossfire delivery and long limbs create natural deception; delivery involves effort but he repeats it well; noticeable feel for mechanics; showcases a fast arm and smooth release; employs aggressive approach; simply knows how to get guys out.
Fastball is a present plus sitting consistently in the 93-96 mph range; tops out at 97-98; average command; features ridiculous movement with exceptional arm-side run and sink; generates a high number of groundouts; attacks right-handed hitters with two-seam, which is a legitimate bat-breaker and bat-misser; turns to four-seamer when working up in the zone; also uses it to pound the inner half against left-handed hitters, which is impressive given the crossfire delivery.
Changeup has late, splitter-like tumble; present plus pitch thrown in the mid- to upper-80s; generates fade and sink that mirrors two-seam fastball; plus-plus potential; nearly identical release point and arm speed relative to heater; throws pitch with conviction against both right- and left-handed hitters; shows confidence in pitch regardless of count.
Slider is an above-average offering in the 84-88 mph range; flashes plus potential; feel for adding and subtracting; features later and sharper bite when thrown towards high end of velocity range; adept at throwing it for a strike and burying it when ahead in the count; another potential swing-and-miss offering; mixes in a low-80s curveball to offer the hitter a different look; decent shape and depth; future solid-average pitch.
Projection: No. 2 or 3 starter
Video courtesy of Jason Cole.
DOB: 11/05/1991 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 255 pounds
Drafted: First round, 2013 (Oklahoma)
ETA: Late 2014
Classic power pitcher frame at 6’4” and 255 pounds; broad shoulders; strong lower half and core with a knowledge of how to use both; drives off the rubber; power doesn’t require maximum effort; fast and fluid arm action; explosive; can appear stiff at times; will still get underneath the ball and drag arm; has a feel for his mechanics and understands when to make adjustments.
Possesses the stamina to work deep into starts; demonstrates body control overall; rarely rushes delivery; can pull open with front shoulder at times and lose pitches up and to the arm side; will occasionally lose the feel for his release point from the stretch; can offer left-handed hitters too good of a look at the ball at time of release.
Effortless plus-plus fastball velocity; borderline elite; registers in the 94-98 mph range deep into games; will crack triple digits early in starts; topped out at 102 mph this spring; lacks movement; doesn’t shy away from challenging hitters; plus slider sits consistently between 85-88 mph; late, wipeout break; sharp tilt with great pace; present plus offering; will need to bury it more as a professional.
Straight changeup is weakest of his offerings and is an average pitch with the chance to improve a grade; 81-84 mph; thrown with convincing fastball-like arm speed; some fading action to the arm side.
Projection: No. 1 or 2 starter
Video courtesy of BullpenBanter.com.