Colorado Rockies' Top 10 Prospects for 2015

Mike Rosenbaum@GoldenSombreroMLB Prospects Lead WriterJanuary 22, 2015

Colorado Rockies' Top 10 Prospects for 2015

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    Rob Tringali/Getty Images

    The Colorado Rockies have quietly built one of baseball’s more exciting farm systems, as they have several impact prospects already knocking on the door of the major leagues and even better young talents on the rise.

    Right-handed pitcher Jon Gray, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2013 draft, is one of the top pitching prospects in baseball heading into 2015, while Eddie Butler still has the mid-rotation potential despite an injury-plagued campaign in 2014.

    Outfielder David Dahl made up for his lost 2013 season with an impressive performance across both Class-A levels, while breakout prospects Raimel Tapia, Ryan McMahon and Jose Briceno put up monster numbers in the South Atlantic League.

    Even Trevor Story, who tanked in his first taste of the California League last year, enjoyed a solid bounce-back campaign, finishing the season at Double-A Tulsa. Meanwhile, left-hander Tyler Anderson, the Rockies’ first-round pick in 2011, turned in the best season of his career at Tulsa and pitched the Drillers deep into the postseason.

    Lastly, the Rockies’ top 2014 draft picks, first-rounder Kyle Freeland (No. 8 overall) and comp-rounder Forrest Wall, were both highly impressive in their respective pro debuts.

    Here are the Colorado Rockies’ top 10 prospects for the 2015 season.

How They're Ranked

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    Position Players

    • Body type/athleticism
    • Speed
    • Hitting mechanics, bat speed
    • Injury history
    • Statistical trends
    • Age vs. level: How well a player fared at a certain level relative to his age and that of the competition
    • Tools: Number of projectable tools a player possesses in relation to his position, age and competition; present vs. future tool grades
    • Hit tool: In the evolution of the prospect landscape, the hit tool is the most importantbut also the hardest to project.
    • League and park factors
    • On-base skills: Approach; strike-zone management; pitch recognition
    • Makeup/character
    • Defensive tools and skill sets; present vs. projected position
    • Place on organization's depth chart
    • Positional scarcity; up-the-middle potential 

    Pitchers

    • Body type/athleticism/strength
    • Mechanics: Delivery; arm speed; release point
    • Age vs. highest level of experience
    • Injury history (durability)
    • Statistical trends
    • Arsenal quality and depth
    • Pitch projections: Present vs. future grades
    • Hitability: How tough is he to barrel? Does he keep the ball on the ground/in the park?
    • Control/command: Is he usually around the zone? Does he effectively command his stuff? How much development/refinement is needed?
    • Pitchability: Feel (and confidence) for using and sequencing entire arsenal.
    • Approach: Does he fearlessly attack and challenge opposing hitters?  
    • Projection: Does he project as a starter? If so, what type? Or is he likely to be relegated to the bullpen? If so, why?

    Resources

Close Calls

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    Rosell Herrera, SS/3B

    Dom Nunez, C

    Kevin Padlo, 3B

    Jairo Diaz, RHP

    Antonio Senzatela, RHP

10. Jose Briceno, C

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    Position: C

    DOB: 09/19/1992 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 210 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Signed: 2009 (Venezuela)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NR

    ETA: 2017

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    4560356055

    Scouting Report

    Jose Briceno’s breakout performance at Low-A Asheville in 2014 would have received more attention if not for the on-field exploits of teammates Ryan McMahon, Raimel Tapia and David Dahl. In his first full campaign at a full-season level, the 22-year-old catcher batted .283/.336/.476 with 23 doubles and 12 home runs in only 350 plate appearances.

    A right-handed hitter, Briceno projects for above-average power thanks to his compact but powerful stroke, above-average bat speed and impressive extension through contact. His approach is a bit on the aggressive side—which is often the case with young hitters at Asheville—but he makes enough contact to lead one to believe that strikeouts won’t be a major issue moving forward.

    Briceno's plus arm strength behind the plate is his best defensive attribute, as he threw out a whopping 44 percent of attempted base stealers last season in 75 games behind the plate. The Venezuelan native is an advanced blocker and receiver too, and his glove is well ahead of his bat from a developmental perspective heading into 2015.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (solid-average regular)—High risk

9. Trevor Story, SS/2B

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    Position: SS/2B

    DOB: 11/15/1992 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 175 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2011 (Irving HS, Texas)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 10

    ETA: 2017

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    4555506050

    Scouting Report

    After a dismal 2013 campaign in the California League, Trevor Story got back on track this past season and resuscitated his prospect stock with a strong performance between High-A Modesto and Double-A Tulsa. While his production dropped off following a midseason promotion to the Texas League, the 22-year-old still finished his season with a solid .263/.367/.475 batting line, 48 extra-base hits and 23 stolen bases.

    The 6’1”, 175-pound shortstop’s plus bat speed and powerful right-handed swing generate loud contact to all fields, fueling his projection for at least solid-average power at maturity. More importantly, Story’s swing looked better this past season after the organization tried to turn him into Troy Tulowitzki in 2013—which led to him striking out 183 times in 554 plate appearances (33 percent strikeout rate) at Modesto. However, both his timing and bat path are still geared toward hitting fastballs, which in turn causes him to get out in front of and lunge at quality secondary pitches.

    Defensively, Story’s solid-average speed results in similar range in all directions at shortstop, but he’s still learning to control his body while making plays on the move. He shouldn’t have any problems sticking at the position provided the bat comes around, although his athleticism, tools and baseball IQ could allow him to move to either second or third base if need be.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (solid-average regular)—High risk

8. Tyler Anderson, LHP

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    Position: LHP

    DOB: 12/30/1989 (Age: 25)

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 215 lbs

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted: First round, 2011 (Oregon)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NR

    ETA: 2015

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballCurveballSliderChangeupControl
    5045506060

    Scouting Report

    Tyler Anderson took home Pitcher of the Year honors in the Rockies system this past season after his outstanding performance in the Texas League. Making 23 starts for Double-A Tulsa, the 25-year-old left-hander led the league with a 1.98 ERA and allowed just 91 hits in 118 innings, while 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings marked a new career high.

    Anderson doesn't have a standout pitch, but he pounds the zone and attacks hitters with four distinct offerings, each of which is masked by the deception in his unusual delivery. The 6’4”, 215-pound southpaw works in the 88-92 mph range with his fastball and uses it to attack both sides of the plate, while his changeup serves as his go-to pitch for generating swings and misses. He also throws a curveball and slider, though only the latter projects to be better than fringe-average at maturity.

    Ceiling (OFP): 50 (No. 4 of 5 starter)—Low risk

7. Forrest Wall, 2B

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    Position: 2B

    DOB: 11/20/1995 (Age: 19)

    Height/Weight: 6’0”, 176 lbs

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Drafted: First round, 2014 (Orangewood Christian HS, Florida)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NA

    ETA: 2018

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    6545704560

    Scouting Report

    Forrest Wall fell to the Rockies with the No. 35 overall pick due to his limited defensive profile as a second base-only prospect and the fact that he underwent shoulder surgery prior to his senior year.

    However, the 19-year-old quickly proved to be one of the biggest steals from Day 1 of the draft by posting a .907 OPS with 15 extra-base hits and 18 steals over 41 games in the Pioneer League. The left-handed batter was particularly impressive against same-side pitching, batting .478/.613/.783 with three extra-base hits in 23 at-bats.

    Wall has the potential to hit .300 with 12-15 home runs in the majors, and that’s without taking into account the perks of playing half of his games at Coors Field. He’ll likely open 2015 at Low-A Asheville, where he could conceivably put up monster numbers at a home field that favors left-handed batters.

    Ceiling (OFP): 60 (First-division regular)—High risk

6. Ryan McMahon, 3B

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    Position: 3B

    DOB: 12/14/1994 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 185 lbs

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Drafted: Second round, 2013 (Mater Dei HS, California)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 6

    ETA: 2017

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    5560405555

    Scouting Report

    Ryan McMahon began the 2014 season on a tear, posting a 1.092 OPS with nine home runs over his first 23 games. However, the left-handed hitter’s power dropped off in subsequent months, as he tallied just four home runs over his next 76 games covering May, June and July.

    McMahon finished his season just like he began it, though, posting a .904 OPS with five home runs and eight doubles in 26 games during August. Overall, the 20-year-old third baseman ranked second in the South Atlantic League in runs (93), doubles (46), OPS (.860) and RBI (tied 102).

    At 6’3”, 185 pounds, McMahon is already loaded with strength and should have room to add even more without sacrificing athleticism. The left-handed batter has the potential for a solid-average hit tool, with plus bat speed, good barrel control and a swing that is effortless and pretty and generates consistently hard contact. McMahon’s raw power already shows in games, obviously, but it will be difficult to gauge his true power frequency until he reaches Double-A.

    Also a decorated high school quarterback, McMahon is an athletic third baseman for his size and generally has a good feel for the position. However, his defense at the hot corner will require considerable refinement in the coming years to reach his projection of solid-average.

    Ceiling (OFP): 60 (First-division regular)—High risk

5. Kyle Freeland, LHP

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    Position: LHP

    DOB: 05/14/1993 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 170 lbs

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted: First round, 2014 (Evansville)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NA

    ETA: 2016

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballCutterSliderChangeupControl
    6055605060

    Scouting Report

    Kyle Freeland absolutely dominated last spring at Evansville, posting a 1.90 ERA and otherworldly 128-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 99.2 innings (14 starts). The 21-year-old’s overwhelming success continued after the Rockies selected him with the No. 8 overall pick too, as he registered a 1.15 ERA with 33 strikeouts against six walks in 39 innings between the Pioneer and South Atlantic Leagues.

    With a projectable 6’3”, 170-pound build as well as easy arm action and a smooth delivery, the left-hander works in the 90-94 mph range with his fastball and has been gunned as high as 95-96 mph.

    Freeland’s slider represents his best present offering, and he demonstrates a feel for adding and subtracting to it. When he throws the pitch with velocity, it plays as more of a cutter in the mid-80s with late glove-side slicing action; and when he takes something off, the pitch is closer to a true slider in the low 80s with more depth. Either way, it's a pitch that projects to miss bats at the next level. On top of that, the southpaw also showcases an advanced feel for an average changeup at 84-86 mph that plays up due to the natural deceptiveness in his delivery.

    Freeland is expected to begin 2015 at either High-A Modesto or Double-A New Britain, and if all goes as planned with his development, the southpaw could be making his Rockies debut before the end of the season.

    Ceiling (OFP): 60 (No. 3 starter)—Medium risk

4. Eddie Butler, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 03/13/1991 (Age: 23)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 180 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2012 (Radford)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 2

    ETA: Debuted in 2014

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballSliderChangeupControl
    70556555

    Scouting Report

    Eddie Butler had a forgettable debut in early June, giving up six runs in 5.1 innings in a start against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and to make matters worse, the Rockies placed the 23-year-old on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation following the game.

    Thankfully, Butler was able to return to the major leagues for a second start in late September and ultimately picked up his first win after allowing one run on five hits over six innings.

    Butler posted impressive strikeout numbers in 2012 and 2013, but he suffered a significant regression in that departed this year between the Double- and Triple-A levels. His three plus pitches (fastball/slider/changeup) suggests that he will return to his bat-missing ways in the future.

    The right-hander’s fastball sits in the mid-90s with exceptional sink and run to the arm side, and he complements it with a swing-and-miss, wipeout slider in the upper 80s. Butler also possesses a filthy changeup in the same velocity range that falls off the table and evades barrels.

    He appeared poised to spend a majority of 2014 in the Rockies starting rotation before suffering the shoulder injury. He still has the ceiling of a No. 3 starter at maturity, but he’ll now have to answer questions about his durability and ability to miss bats next season.

    Ceiling (OFP): 60 (No. 3 starter)—Medium risk

3. Raimel Tapia, OF

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    Position: OF

    DOB: 02/04/1994 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 160 lbs

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Signed: 2010 (Dominican Republic)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 5

    ETA: 2018

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    6550556055

    Scouting Report

    Raimel Tapia showcased an assortment of loud tools and advanced secondary skills this past season at Low-A Asheville, as he finished third in the South Atlantic League in batting average (.326) and hits (157) and fourth in on-base percentage (.382) and stolen bases (33).

    Asheville’s home field is a notoriously hitter-friendly park, with a ridiculously short right field porch that caters to left-handed hitters such as Tapia. Therefore, it’s not surprising that he did most of his damage at home this season, with a robust .350/.391/.534 batting line, all nine home runs and 16 doubles in 60 games. That being said, he still held his own on the road with a .304/.374/.377 batting line and 14 doubles, but it obviously pales in comparison to the power he showed in Asheville.

    Tapia, 20, is a plus athlete with potential for five impact tools at maturity. The left-handed batter’s swing mechanics are somewhat unusual but don’t hinder his feel for hitting. Meanwhile, his hit tool could ultimately be plus or better, thanks to his plus bat speed, preternatural bat-to-ball ability and outstanding barrel control. However, that projection will also depend on the adjustments he makes to his approach along the way.

    Tapia already generates big extension after contact, and more power should come as he adds strength to his lean, 6’2”, 185-pound frame. His above-average speed translates to similar range in right field, while his strong arm is ideal for position.

    The 20-year-old is still a very raw and inexperienced prospect who is several years away from reaching the major leagues, but his ceiling is arguably as high as any position prospect yet to achieve the High-A level.

    Ceiling (OFP): 60 (First-division regular)—High risk

2. David Dahl, OF

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    Position: OF

    DOB: 04/01/1994 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 6’2’, 185 lbs

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Drafted: First round, 2012 (Oak Mountain HS, Alabama)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 3

    ETA: 2017

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    6550606060

    Scouting Report

    David Dahl, the No. 10 overall pick in the 2012 draft, made up for his lost 2013 season with a strong performance this past season between Low-A Asheville and High-A Modesto.

    Though he played his home games in Asheville’s notoriously hitter-friendly park and spent most of the second half in the California League, the 20-year-old outfielder’s 63 extra-base hits and 21 stolen bases in 119 games were still plenty impressive, as was his .299/.335/.492 batting line in 547 plate appearances.

    Dahl's fringy pitch recognition and pitch selection last season were products of his time off and overall inexperience, so don't read too much into his 92-28 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

    A left-handed batter, Dahl has the potential for a true plus hit tool thanks to tremendous hand-eye coordination, preternatural barrel-to-ball ability and plus bat speed. He shows advanced barrel control and feel for the strike zone, using a balanced setup and a swing that allows him to use the entire field.

    Dahl’s power should at least be average at maturity, but there’s also a very real chance he surpasses that modest projection as he continues to develop physically and refines his approach. Regardless, his above-average speed should make him a consistent source of doubles and triples.

    Dahl’s above-average speed translates better in center field than it does on the basepaths, as he has plus range with excellent closing speed and more than enough arm strength for the position.

    Dahl will likely return to the California League next season, where he’ll inevitably put up monster numbers before moving up to Double-A Tulsa.

    Ceiling (OFP): 65 (Potential All Star)—High risk

1. Jon Gray, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 11/05/1991 (Age: 23)

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 255 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2013 (Oklahoma)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 1

    ETA: 2015

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballSliderChangeupControl
    70706050

    Scouting Report

    Jon Gray’s arm strength is among the best in the minor leagues, but he dialed it back a bit this season at Double-A in favor of command. While some of the results weren’t spectacular, such as his 3.91 ERA, his overall feel for locating his fastball, slider and changeup was better than expected in his first full season and produced a .237 opponents’ batting average and 113-41 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 124.1 innings.

    It’s worth noting that the Rockies shut down Gray on Sept. 2 due to right shoulder fatigue, per The Denver Post, though it was more of a precaution than a response to a potentially serious injury.

    At 6’4”, 255 pounds, Gray works on a consistent downhill plane with his plus-plus fastball, sitting in the 94-98 mph range while flirting with triple digits early in his starts. (He topped out at 102 mph during a 2013 start at Arkansas.)

    Gray also features a slider that will flash plus-plus, sitting consistently between 85-88 mph with late, wipeout break, sharp tilt and excellent pace, while his above-average changeup still represents his weakest offering despite the strides he made last season developing the pitch.

    The Rockies had Gray working on different things in 2014, such as his fastball command and ability to expand the zone with his secondary pitches, so the numbers weren’t as impressive as expected. Regardless, his season-long success in Double-A is very encouraging and has him poised to make a midseason debut in 2015.

    Ceiling (OFP): 70 (No. 2 starter)—Low risk

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