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January 8, 2014

Prospects Will Break Your Heart

Colorado Rockies Top 10 Prospects

by Jason Parks

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Prospect rankings primer
Last year's Rockies list

The Top Ten

  1. RHP Jonathan Gray
  2. RHP Eddie Butler
  3. RF Raimel Tapia
  4. CF David Dahl
  5. 3B Ryan McMahon
  6. SS Rosell Herrera
  7. RHP Chad Bettis
  8. C Tom Murphy
  9. RF Kyle Parker
  10. SS Trevor Story

1. Jonathan Gray
Position: RHP
DOB: 11/05/1991
Height/Weight: 6’4” 255 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2013 draft, University of Oklahoma (Norman, OK)
Previous Ranking: NA
2013 Stats: 0.75 ERA (24 IP, 10 H, 36 K, 6 BB) at High-A Modesto, 4.05 ERA (13.1 IP, 15 H, 15 K, 2 BB) at rookie level Grand Junction
The Tools: 8 potential FB; 7 SL; 6+ potential CH

What Happened in 2013: A 1:1 candidate coming into the draft, Gray slid to the Rockies with the number three pick despite possessing the best stuff in the draft.

Strengths: Big, strong frame; physical on the mound; elite arm strength; fastball routinely works in the plus-plus range and can touch triple-digits; shows good command of the offering; works to all quadrants; slider is wipeout pitch; fastball disguise with sharp, late tilt; changeup another plus offering; arm speed consistency with some late fade; frontline characteristics.

Weaknesses: Stiff front leg landing in delivery; can cause inconsistency in his release points and tendency to yank off target; changeup yet to be featured player in the arsenal; limited professional experience (not many weaknesses).

Overall Future Potential: High 7; no. 1 starter

Realistic Role: 7; no. 2 starter

Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate risk; yet to pitch in upper minors; limited professional experience.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: If you were going to build a pitcher designed to succeed in Coors Field, Gray may be the prototype. He’s unlikely to have extreme groundball rates, but with a big fastball and a slider/change combination, he should be able to pitch at altitude while maintaining a strong stat line. Said stat line should include a lot of strikeouts and modest ratios if he can fulfill his potential. Don’t let Coors scare you, Gray is worthy of a top-five selection in dynasty drafts this year.

The Year Ahead: Gray is a top 20 prospect in baseball, and that is probably going to look foolishly conservative by mid-season, as Gray has the size, stuff, and pitchability to develop into a legit frontline starter at the major-league level. The fastball is elite, the slider is plus-plus and scary as all hell to both lefties and righties, and the changeup –the pitch I suggested could be a 6+ offering—might end up exceeding those lofty projections and developing into his separator pitch at the highest level. If the command stays strong and the stuff stays sharp, it won’t take long for Gray to emerge as one of the best young arms in baseball.

Major league ETA: Late 2014

2. Eddie Butler
Position: RHP
DOB: 03/13/1991
Height/Weight: 6’2” 180 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2012, Radford University (Radford, VA)
Previous Ranking: On The Rise
2013 Stats: 0.65 ERA (27.2 IP, 13 H, 25 K, 6 BB) at Double-A Tulsa, 2.39 ERA (67.2 IP, 58 H, 67 K, 21 BB) at High-A Modesto, 1.66 ERA (54.1 IP, 25 H, 51 K, 25 BB) at Low-A Asheville
The Tools: 7+ FB; 7 potential CH; 6+ potential SL

What Happened in 2013: From “On the Rise” prospect coming into the season, to number two talent in a solid system and one of the premier arms in the minors.

Strengths: Athletic; long arms; good body with more room to add strength; repeatable delivery; fastball is power offering; works 93-98; huge life to the arm-side; holds velocity; two-seamer with heavy life; bat-smasher; changeup is money pitch; plus-plus potential with mid-upper 80s velo, good deception, and heavy two-seamer action; slider is third plus potential offering; hard and cutter like in mid-upper 80s; longer in the 83-85 range with more tilt; shows low-80s curveball with some bite.

Weaknesses: Repeats but delivery can show effort; cross fire; can lose deception by getting long in the back (showing too much of the ball); command is loose and could cause arsenal to play down.

Overall Future Potential: 7; no. 2 starter

Realistic Role: 6; no. 3 starter

Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate risk; limited experience at Double-A level (6 starts)

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Butler has been able to get the groundball rates that Gray likely will not, but the 2013 breakout prospect remains second in line for fantasy value in the organization. Another slider/change pitcher who can succeed despite Coors, Butler may not quite be a strikeout-per-inning type of arm—though he can make inroads in all four categories. He likely does not top-20 fantasy starter upside, but a 3.50 ERA and 180 strikeouts would be nothing sneeze at.

The Year Ahead: Butler has a very deep arsenal of nasty, grimy stuff, highlighted by his multiple fastball looks and power changeup with heavy action. The delivery doesn’t always look the part and he lacks deception in the release, but he holds velocity deep into games and repeats, so he finds a way to make it play. Most sources see a long-term starter, despite the delivery concerns, as the stuff is very sharp and the movement he achieves with each offering is well above average and helps quell some of the concerns about early pickup out of the hand. Butler should have every chance to earn a rotation spot out of camp, and even if starts in the high-minors, the soon-to-be 23-year-old should be pitching in the major-league rotation by summer.

Major league ETA: 2014

3. Raimel Tapia
Position: RF
DOB: 02/04/1994
Height/Weight: 6’2” 160 lbs
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Acquired: International free agent, 2010, Dominican Republic
Previous Ranking: NR
2013 Stats: .357/.399/.562 at rookie level Grand Junction (66 games)
The Tools: 6 run; 7 potential hit; 6 potential power; 6 arm; 5+ potential glove

What Happened in 2013: The stats paint a glowing picture of Tapia from his stateside debut in the Pioneer League, but the scouting is what pushed the young Dominican up the Rockies list and onto the Baseball Prospectus 101.

Strengths: Five-tool potential; natural bat-to-ball ability; plus bat speed and bat control; could be special tool; shows ability to drive the ball; above-average power potential; easy plus run; strong arm; high energy/plus makeup.

Weaknesses: Tools still raw and unrefined; needs to add strength; needs to improve reads/routes in center; unorthodox setup and swing; aggressive approach; can play at one speed.

Overall Future Potential: 7; all-star player

Realistic Role: 6; first-division player

Risk Factor/Injury History: High risk; yet to play at full-season level; big gap between present/future grades.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Tapia is a player who will be available alongside the 2013 signees in your offseason draft, outside of the deepest of leagues—and he’s well worth considering for a reasonably high pick. It’s easy to look at the tool grades above and drool considering the Coors factor, but don’t get too carried away yet. That said, a strong debut in the Midwest League and he could be a top-10 fantasy prospect in 2015—and be subjected to way too many Carlos Gonzalez comps.

The Year Ahead: It’s early in the developmental process and I don’t want to live in the projection at the expense of the present, but Tapia has all the ingredients to blossom into one of the premier prospects in the game. Despite an aggressive (and often violent) swing that looks for contact regardless of where the ball is thrown, Tapia has the natural ability to barrel up velocity and spin alike, and with well above-average underway speed, a plus arm, and feel for the game, he should be able to develop into a very good centerfielder. That’s one hell of profile. Full-season ball will be a good test for the soon-to-be 20-year-old, but I expect the results to match the tools, and it won’t be long until Tapia is a national name in the prospect world.

Major league ETA: 2017

4. David Dahl
Position: CF
DOB: 04/01/1994
Height/Weight: 6’2” 185 lbs
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2012 draft, Oak Mountain HS (Birmingham, AL)
Previous Ranking: #2 (Org), #40 (Top 101)
2013 Stats: .275/.310/.425 at Low-A Asheville (10 games)
The Tools: 7 potential hit; 6 run; 5 power potential; 6+ arm; 6 potential glove

What Happened in 2013: A hamstring injury derailed his much-anticipated full-season debut and an early season disciplinary issue received more media attention and significance than necessary.

Strengths: Athletic and strong; natural hitter; easy, line-drive stroke; plus bat speed and bat control; plus run; strong arm; glove with above-average projection; could be legit five-tool player; strong work ethic and high baseball IQ.

Weaknesses: Reads/routes need refinement in the field; swing is more short to the ball and linear than leveraged for over-the-fence; power might not develop into plus tool; can get fastball happy and aggressive.

Overall Future Potential: 7; all-star player

Realistic Role: 6; first-division player

Risk Factor/Injury History: High risk; limited professional experience; season-ending injury in 2013 (right hamstring).

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The same fantasy upside that surrounded him after his Pioneer League MVP season is still there. However, with some of the shine off, he may be undervalued at the moment. It’s hard to wrangle a hitting prospect in the Colorado system away from his owner, but Dahl is worth inquiring about before the 2014 season starts. He could be a .300 hitting top-of-the-order player with 15 homers and 30 steals if it breaks right.

The Year Ahead: 2013 was a wash for Dahl, but now fully healthy and ready for action, the five-tool talent should waste little time establishing (anew) his standing as a top tier prospect. With an advanced and projectable hit tool, Low-A pitchers won’t have much success against Dahl, and if the game power can continue to grow, the offensive profile—in combination with his projectable defensive chops in the outfield—could push his developmental ascent into high gear. After a lost year and only 10 games above the short-season level, its aggressive to assume Dahl could reach Double-A in 2014. But several sources think he has the bat to move quickly once he regains his footing and suggested it was possible if everything clicks.

Major league ETA: 2016

5. Ryan McMahon
Position: 3B
DOB: 12/14/1994
Height/Weight: 6’3” 185 lbs
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Acquired: 2nd round, 2013 draft, Mater Dei HS (Santa Ana, CA) Previous Ranking: NA
2013 Stats: .321/.402/.583 at rookie level Grand Junction (59 games)
The Tools: 6 potential hit; 6+ potential power; 5 arm; 5+ potential glove

What Happened in 2013: The 42nd overall pick in the 2013 draft showed of his impressive offensive tool collection in the Pioneer League, hitting for average and power against both lefties and righties alike.

Strengths: Projectable body; athletic with good present strength; loose and fluid swing; plus bat speed; controls it well and makes hard contact; power has plus projection; generates back spin and lift in the swing; arm is solid-average; glove projects to be at least average; strong competitive background and makeup.

Weaknesses: Can get aggressive in his approach; fastball setup and will struggle with good sequence; arm isn’t a big weapon at third; glove/footwork still unrefined; actions can get stiff; fringe-average likely to play below average at physical maturity.

Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player

Realistic Role: 5; major-league regular

Risk Factor/Injury History: High risk; limited professional experience.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: A surprise name in the back end of the top 20 players available in first-year dynasty drafts, McMahon showed off his .280, 25-homer potential immediately last summer. With the help of Coors Field, he could put up stats similar to Josh Donaldson from 2013—value everywhere except on the basepaths, where he’s unlikely to be much of a contributor.

The Year Ahead: For a multi-sport athlete in high school (quarterback at Mater Dei High), a chiseled focus on baseball could push McMahon into the national spotlight in 2014, as the 19-year-old already has the requisite tools and intangibles to take a big step forward, and now he will have the dedication to one sport. The ceiling could be even higher than projected if the hit and power tools expand and start to flash ceilings greater than plus, but there are still many unknowns about the profile, such as how the approach will play against better arms and how the glove will develop at third. Scouts seem to love this kid, with many suggesting he was a clear first-round talent that was a gift to the Rockies in the second round. McMahon is likely to continue hitting at the full-season level, and the Rockies will soon be able to boast one of the most talented positional prospect trios in the game in Tapia, Dahl, and McMahon.

Major league ETA: 2017

6. Rosell Herrera
Position: SS
DOB: 10/16/1992
Height/Weight: 6’3” 180 lbs
Bats/Throws: B/R
Drafted/Acquired: International free agent, 2009, Dominican Republic Previous Ranking: NR
2013 Stats: .343/.419/.515 at Low-A Asheville (126 games)
The Tools: 5 potential hit; 5 potential power; 5 arm; 5 run (present)

What Happened in 2013: In a return trip to the Sally League, Herrera took a step forward at the plate; of course, hitting an incredible .384 at home on the season certainly helped his cause.

Strengths: Good size/athleticism; frame to add more strength; okay swing; can make good contact and will use all fields; shows present pop and some power projection; more lift and leverage from left side; arm is solid-average; can show good actions in the field; projects to have good defensive versatility; took a step forward after disappointing 2012 season.

Weaknesses: Lacks a plus tool; swing is timing heavy and can get out of whack, especially against quality stuff; tendency to cheat on fastballs; swing from the right-side is more linear and contact driven; plays soft; good actions in the field but footwork and execution can get sloppy; range is limited; run is average and projects to be fringe or lower.

Overall Future Potential: 5; average major-league regular

Realistic Role: Low 5; super utility player

Risk Factor/Injury History: High risk; yet to play in upper minors; lacks impact tools.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: There’s no question that Asheville is a great place to hit if you’re a left-handed bat, and Herrera took full advantage of that in 2013 by hitting .384/.455/.635 in those friendly confines. The power is noticeable, as he slugged just .411 on the road. After all, a stadium that is 320 feet to right-center and 297 feet to dead right will enhance the power numbers of many. This is more Josh Rutledge than Troy Tulowitzki, but he can hit 20 homers at Coors.

The Year Ahead: If you scout Herrera by the numbers, you see a shortstop that hit .343 in a full-season league as a 20-year-old, a noble accomplishment regardless of the scouting particulars involved. But closer investigation of the player reveals some flaws in the profile, at least when it comes to projecting the player at the highest level. Herrera’s swing improved a great deal in 2013, as his timing and balance were better, and the contact was louder and more consistent. But scouts seem down on his chances to find similar success against better arms, and on the other side of the ball, Herrera’s future home doesn’t project to be at shortstop, so the overall profile isn’t as glamorous as the numbers might suggest. On a more positive note, Herrera has the type of skill set to develop into a superutility type, a player capable of playing passable defense at several positions in the infield and outfield, with enough stick to make it interesting at the plate.

Major league ETA: 2016

7. Chad Bettis
Position: RHP
DOB: 04/26/1989
Height/Weight: 6’1” 200 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 2nd round, 2010 draft, Texas Tech University (Lubbock, TX)
Previous Ranking: #5 (Org)
2013 Stats: 5.64 ERA (44.2 IP, 55 H, 30 K, 20 BB) at major-league level, 3.71 ERA
(63 IP, 60 H, 68 K, 13 BB) at Double-A Tulsa
The Tools: 7 potential FB; 6 CH; 5 CT; 5 potential CB

What Happened in 2013: A shoulder injury spoiled his 2012 season, but Bettis returned to the mound in 2013 (despite missing yet another chuck of time to injury), and managed to log 12 starts in Double-A before getting the call to the majors, where the 24-year-old righty struggled to find his stuff or his command.

Strengths: When healthy, plus-plus arm strength; fastball easily works in the plus velocity range; could return to pre-shoulder range in the mid-90s; good natural weight to the pitch; changeup has swing/miss action and good deception from fastball; shows major-league average cutter and okay curveball; highly competitive on the mound; attacks hitters.

Weaknesses: Effort in the delivery; command is below-average and doesn’t project well because of the rushed mechanics and follow-through; hard slider took step back after injury; tendency to flatten out without much tilt; curveball can play as sightline/change up of pace pitch, but not an impact pitch; overall profile better suited for the bullpen.

Overall Future Potential: 5; no. 4 starter

Realistic Role: 5; late-innings reliever (setup)

Risk Factor/Injury History: Low risk; achieved major-league level; injury history on resume (shoulder/oblique.)

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: For better or worse, Bettis is the type of pitcher who becomes far less interesting for fantasy because of Coors Field. With a curveball as his only usable breaking pitch, he is going to have a tough time warranting ownership in anything outside of deep leagues. In fact, he’d probably have more future fantasy value if he were moved to the bullpen.

The Year Ahead: Bettis is a former power arm who suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in 2012 and struggled to regain full form in his return to the mound in 2013. If the velocity comes all the way back—most likely in shorter bursts—Bettis can find a home in the back of major-league bullpen, using his deep secondary arsenal—including a much-improved changeup—to miss bats and force weak contact on the ground. If the slider can return to its pre-injury glory, Bettis could really develop into a weapon.

Major league ETA: Debuted in 2013

8. Tom Murphy
Position: C
DOB: 04/03/1991
Height/Weight: 6’1” 220 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 3rd round, 2012 draft, University of Buffalo, State University of New York (Buffalo, NY)
Previous Ranking: NR
2013 Stats: .290/.338/.493 at Double-A Tulsa (20 games), .288/.385/.590 at Low-A
Asheville (80 games)
The Tools: 6 arm; 5+ glove; 5+ power potential

What Happened in 2013: In his full-season debut, the former third-round pick hit his way to the Double-A level, showing more promise and production with the bat than expected.

Strengths: Strong frame; good receiver; strong wrists; good footwork and coordination; excellent on balls in the dirt; good catch-and-throw skills; plus arm; intangibles for position; quick to the ball with an easy, uncomplicated trigger/swing; legit above-average power potential in the stick.

Weaknesses: Questions about hit tool utility, despite easy mechanics and smooth trigger; bat speed is only okay; power is more strength derived; will struggle against quality stuff; can beat him with velocity; below-average run; arm is strong but won’t impact game on its own.

Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player

Realistic Role: 5; second-division player

Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate risk; limited experience at Double-A; hit tool could bring game power down.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Murphy falls above the line of upside demarcation when it comes to owning catching prospects. In fact, he’s one of the top five prospects at the position for fantasy purposes. If he sticks behind the plate, a .260 hitting catcher with 20 homers is not something to shake your head at these days.

The Year Ahead: Quality backstops are hard to find, and the ones that are found tend to stick around at the highest level for a long time. Murphy has a good swing and very good strength, so he’s going to run into game power, especially against weaker arms. The better the stuff, the more exposed his bat will be, but he should hit enough to keep his solid-average to plus defensive profile on the field, which could make him a first-division player if everything clicks, and a long time major leaguer even if it doesn’t.

Major league ETA: 2015

9. Kyle Parker
Position: RF
DOB: 09/30/1989
Height/Weight: 6’0” 200 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2010 draft, Clemson University (Clemson, SC)
Previous Ranking: #8 (Org)
2013 Stats: .288/.345/.492 at Double-A Tulsa (123 games)
The Tools: 6 power potential; 5+ arm

What Happened in 2013: Parker had a strong season—all things considered—showing actualized power in Double-A without selling out for it, a trend he continued in the Arizona Fall League.

Strengths: Strong, physical player; shows good bat speed; gets good extension and can create backspin; power could play has potential to play to plus; arm is strong.

Weaknesses: Lacks defensive value; below-average run; hit tool could limit game power against better pitching; could play below average; has swing-and-miss in the zone; tendency to pull off the bat and yank.

Overall Future Potential: 5; second-division player

Realistic Role: High 4; below-average major leaguer

Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate risk; Double-A/Arizona Fall League experience; questionable hit tool and defensive value.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: There may not be a player with a bigger gap between fantasy value and real life value than Parker’s. His minimal defensive value and home park are big helps there, and could help push him close to 30 homers at elevation, if the hit tool can play at even a fringe-average level.

The Year Ahead: I’ve never been very high on Parker, mostly because of questions about the swing and defensive profile, but reports about the bat were much better in 2013 even if the defensive limitations remain. It’s not an impact profile unless the power plays to (or beyond) potential, and that still seems unlikely to me against major-league-caliber pitching. But if he can keep progressing at the plate—putting himself in favorable hitting conditions, forcing pitchers to work, keeping short to the ball and long through it, etc—Parker could emerge as a solid major-league regular.

Major league ETA: Late 2014

10. Trevor Story
Position: SS
DOB: 11/15/1992
Height/Weight: 6’1” 175 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2011 draft, Irving HS (Irving, TX)
Previous Ranking: #1 (Org), #34 (Top 101)
2013 Stats: .233/.305/.394 at High-A Modesto (130 games)
The Tools: 6 arm; 5 glove; 5 run; 5 power potential

What Happened in 2013: The former top prospect in the Rockies org and no. 34 in the minors fell into a prospect pit of despair, struggling so mightily with the stick that his stock plummeted and even his most ardent supporters (me) were forced to accept a new reality.

Strengths: Good athlete with baseball skills and instincts; gets high marks for makeup; hands are still very good; swing improved in second half; showed improved bat speed and control; has legit pop in the stick; power could play to average; arm is plus; makes plays at shortstop; good actions; good footwork around the bag.

Weaknesses: Swing was a mess in 2013; poor balance; inconsistent and erratic mechanics; poor timing and hitchy trigger; struggled with pitch recognition and reaction; killed by sharp breaking balls; makes plays at shortstop but lacks glove; is more average than plus.

Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player

Realistic Role: High 4; utility player

Risk Factor/Injury History: High risk; hit tool is well below average; yet to play at Double-A level.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Despite the setback, Story is still worth owning in fantasy based on the potential that remains (even if the risk has only increased). With a reasonable eye at the plate and the batting average risk, Story is more valuable in OBP leagues—though he’s unlikely to be a huge help in that category. There’s still 15/15 upside here.

The Year Ahead: Story could put himself back on the prospect rollercoaster in 2014 with a strong season, but his shortcomings in High-A could be magnified by the superior arms in Double-A, particularly, his aggressive, fastball-timed approach. If he can stay consistent in his setup and swing, and stay on the ball with a more nuanced approach, he has the bat speed and strength to make things happen at the plate, and that along with his average defensive profile at shortstop could once again push his stock back up on the tracks and on its way.

Major league ETA: 2016

Prospects on the Rise:
1. RHP Raul Fernandez:
Remove a few ERA-inflating outings from the seasonal resume and Fernandez would look like a different arm, as the 23-year-old has a bat-missing power arsenal with good control. It’s most likely a setup future and therefore not the sexiest prospect profile, but with a lively mid-upper-90s fastball and splitter-like changeup, Fernandez could be ready for a fast ride in 2014. Don’t sleep on the name.
2. OF Terry McClure: McClure was a part of the strong Georgia prep class of 2013, and lucky for the Rockies, fell all the way to the eighth round despite the lofty tool-based ceiling. With plus athleticism and the potential for all five tools, McClure has the physical characteristics to take a big step forward and climb into the Rockies top 10 next season, especially if the bat catches up to the promise he already shows on defense.
3. RF Jordan Patterson: A fourth-round selection in 2013 from the University of South Alabama, Patterson has the type of size, strength, and feel for hitting to step out of the shadows in 2014 as a legit offensive prospect. The arm is very strong, and despite his size, is a good athlete and should be able to find a home in right field. But the bat will determine his fate, and if he crushes at the full-season level like several scouts envision, his name will be in the mix for top 10 consideration come next offseason.

Factors on the Farm (Prospects likely to contribute at the ML level in 2014)
1. LHP Tyler Anderson:
Injuries and inconsistencies have limited Anderson from developing into the fast-to-the-majors starter the Rockies envisioned when they selected the southpaw 20th overall in the 2011 draft, ahead of arms like Alex Meyer, Taylor Guerrieri, and Robert Stephenson. With only a limited High-A resume to boast, its time for Anderson to step forward in 2014, to use his mature approach of a solid-average arsenal to launch himself ahead in the queue of arms lining up to compete for innings at the major-league level. If he can stay healthy and log innings, a hot in Double-A start could expedite his arrival and punch his ticket to Colorado by season’s end.
2. LHP Tyler Matzek: Matzek finally fell out of the Rockies top 10 after years of tantalizing and teasing observers with his plus stuff but minus control. The shortcomings of the past remained present in his 26-game run through Double-A, as the now-23-year-old arm struggled with mechanical consistency and arsenal execution. With command pulling down his once-vibrant rotation projection, a likely home will come in the bullpen, where shorter stints could enhance his stuff and hopefully allow the former first-round pick to regain his ability to repeat his mechanics and get the ball over the plate.
3. OF Tim Wheeler: Another prospect list recidivist, Wheeler’s disappointing 2013 campaign depressed his stock and major-league projection, as the 25-year-old outfielder was removed from the 40-man roster and exposed to waivers. But he still offers some defensive versatility in the outfield and can swing it enough to keep pitchers honest, so he could find himself in the discussion for a possible bench role if the opportunity presents itself.

Top 10 Talents 25 and Under (born 4/1/88 or later)

  1. Jonathan Gray
  2. Nolan Arenado
  3. Wilin Rosario
  4. Eddie Butler
  5. Tyler Chatwood
  6. Raimel Tapia
  7. David Dahl
  8. Ryan McMahon
  9. Rosell Herrera
  10. Chad Bettis

It took me a while to come around on Gray, with my personal scouting exposure to him coming before he transformed himself into one of the elite college arms in the 2013 draft, but I have finally turned the corner and believe he’s a future front-of-the-rotation stud. With that, Gray’s potential is impossible to ignore at the top of this list and he takes the top spot away from two young players with ample major-league experience.

Behind Gray, the decision to rank Arenado ahead of Rosario was not easy. Various iterations of this list had both players in the number two spot on multiple occasions. In the end, I fell back to my long-held belief in Arenado’s offensive potential. Arenado has always shown an exceptional ability to make hard contact, and as his experience against major-league arms grows, I believe that ability will help him generate 20-plus home runs a year to go along with a .280-.290 batting average, enough walks to post a strong on-base percentage, and acceptable hot corner defense. Even if it takes another year or two for this type of production to manifest on the field, when it does, that’s a damn good player worth of ranking second on this list.

As I mentioned, I seriously toyed with ranking Rosario second on this list. At the end of the day, his defense failed to show enough progress in 2013—and likely never will show considerable progress—that I was forced to hold him back. The offensive talent, including a gift for hard contact and at least plus raw power, is undeniable. If the Rockies are willing to sacrifice defense behind the plate because of his prowess at the plate, then he will contend for all-star berths and other accolades as a backstop. If he is forced off the position, his offense will still contribute positively, but it won’t be the monster offensive profile he carries right now. When it came time to finalize the list, the more well-rounded profile of Arenado won the day.

Acquired from the Angels for catcher Chris Iannetta, right-hander Tyler Chatwood emerged as a solid rotation piece in 2013. Despite numbers that look very impressive at first glance, Chatwood doesn’t have my full support as a rotation anchor going forward. The ability to miss bats consistently still escapes Chatwood, and without that to fall back on, I question how well he will sustain his success pitching half his games at Coors Field. In the end, Chatwood looks like a very valuable back of the rotation starter, but that isn’t enough to rate ahead of a potential no. 2 starter like Butler or two everyday players with impact potential like Arenado and Rosario.

The remainder of the list roles out as in the Top 10 prospects list, with high ceiling youngsters drawing higher praise from me than the middling Major Leaguers left to consider. Both D.J. LeMahieu and Josh Rutledge are utility players from my vantage point, and even though that’s all someone like Rosell Herrera may become, the fact that he still has a chance to be more keeps him in higher standing.

Even though Corey Dickerson has managed to tear up the minor leagues, I still see a bench bat or fringe everyday guy with a left field only profile. Dickerson’s fringe profile places him squarely behind higher ceiling talents like David Dahl, Ryan McMahon, Chad Bettis, and even Tom Murphy.

With Troy Tulowitzki still capable of playing at an exceptional level and the presence of Wilin Rosario, Nolan Arenado, and Carlos Gonzalez to help anchor the lineup, the Rockies desperately need both Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler to fulfill their potential and reach the big leagues quickly. If they can do that, the club has a chance to begin moving toward competitiveness in the National League West as they wait for high-ceiling youngsters like Tapia and Dahl to arrive and bolster the roster. —Mark Anderson

A Parting Thought: As far as tool-based ceilings are concerned, the Colorado's top five prospects can stand with any collection of talent in the minors, but the risk associated with the low-level position players gives the Rockies system a very boom-or-bust profile, even with the lower-risk power arms at the top of the rankings.


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Jason Parks is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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