Colorado Rockies Top Ten Prospects

Jul 7, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; General view of a Colorado Rockies cap and glove in the seventh inning against the San Diego Padres at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Rockies are known for slugfests, high-octane lineups, and poor pitching staffs. That’s exactly the kind of team they were in 2014, leading the league in batting average, OPS, and home runs, but finishing dead last in ERA. Give the organization credit, over the past few years the front office has drafted an impress group of young arms that could lead the franchise back playoff relevance for the first time since 2009. On this list, three pitching prospects project to be frontline starters while one should be an electric bullpen piece.

The Rockies’ system is deep in positional talent as well. The team has their potential catcher of the future, a replacement for Troy Tulowitzki, and a sweet swinging third baseman that has a good chance of reaching the bigs.

Add it all up, and it’s no surprise that ESPN’s Keith Law ranked Colorado’s system as the eighth best in baseball. Let me know what you think of the rankings and analysis!

Rossell Herrera struggled through 2014 after winning League MVP honors in 2013. Can he rebound and become the next great Colorado shortstop?

#10

Raimel Tapia

At just 20 years old, Raimel Tapia already has four professional seasons to his name. Tapia did not replicate the .357 batting average he posted in 2013, but he still managed to hit .326 with a 836 OPS in his first full season of pro ball. Despite the apparent success, 2014 was still a disappoint for the talented prospect. His ISO, the stat which translates most directly to the majors, went down nearly 80 points and he struck out well more than double his previous career-high. However, the lefty did post career-highs in home runs (9), doubles (32), stolen bases (33), and RBI (72). Considering his sweet swing and a short stroke, Tapia should continue to post high contact rates as he climbs the minor league ladder. His wiry frame also should allow him to add strength, and I would not be surprised if he tops 20 home runs in a season in Colorado. His above-average speed should keep him in center, which would increase his value, but his arm is strong enough to play in right as well. The Dominican is a few years away from the majors and could flame out before he gets to Coors, however, he has a ton of upside and could develop into a first-division regular with a few all-star appearance if all breaks right. 

#9

Rosell Herrera looked like Colorado’s next great shortstop entering the 2014 season, but instead he took a step back in nearly every offensive category. Herrera followed up a season in which took he home the South Atlantic League MVP by slashing an unimpressive .244/.302/.637 line. Furthermore, the Rockies don’t seem confident in Herrera’s ability to play shortstop; he spent only 57% of games at short in 2014, down from 76% a year ago. Rossell’s athleticism, strong arm, and soft hands make him a fit at second, third, or even centerfield should a position change be in order, so hope is not lost if he moves off short. On the offensive side of the ball, the 22-year-old could realistically knock 20 homers, steal 20 bags, and hit over .300 in a season, rarely seen in today’s game regardless of position. The talent is clearly there with Herrera, he just needs to harness his innate ability and find a way to rebound this season.

#8

Antonio Senzatela

Signed out of Venezuela for $250,00 back in 2011, Senzatela continues to turn heads with solid numbers and improving stuff. The right hander throws an easy 95 mph with late movement, but secondary pitches are far behind his heater in terms of development. He can throw his splitter for strikes, but Baseball America describes his curveball as “a pitch that needs work”. Senzatela has pitched very well in his minor league career; over three seasons he’s totaled a 28-9 record and 2.49 ERA. However, when a high-octane pitcher only manages a 5.7 K/9 rate in the low minors, it is a sign that he is not anywhere near the major leagues. A fastball-splitter combination would play up in the ‘pen, and that’s where I see the righty once he fully develops. 

#7

Forrest Wall

Shoulder problems in High School caused Wall to fall into the supplementary round of last year’s draft. But considering an impressive array of tools and a solid pro debut, the Rockies have to be happy about the early returns on their investment. ScoutingBook.com thinks Wall is one of the best teenage bats in the game, and he made easy work of Rookie Ball pitching in 2014, hitting .318 and posting a .907 OPS. He has a short swing, and consistently makes solid contact. Despite standing only six feet tall, Wall has decent power potential, but right now he hits more to the gap than over the fence. Above-average athleticism could give the Floridian a chance to move to short, which would tremendously enhance his value, but that all depends on his recovering shoulder. 2015 will be a big year for the middle infielder.

Jun 6, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Eddie Butler (31) pitches in the first inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

#6

Tom Murphy

Ranked as Baseball America’s seventh best Rockies prospect entering the 2014 season, Murphy jumps one spot in this year’s edition despite spending the majority of the year rehabbing an injured shoulder. Murphy’s strength and short swing allow him to generate good power, but he doesn’t project to hit for a high average at the major league level. An above-average arm and soft hands give the 2012 third rounder an excellent defensive profile. If he can manage to hit for a respectable average, which shouldn’t be difficult considering his home park, Murphy will push incumbent Wilin Rosario for the starting job as soon as midseason.

#5

Ryan McMahon

The Rockies lured McMahon away from a commitment at USC with a $1.327M signing bonus, and thus far, it looks like money well spent. Baseball America describes McMahon as having “a fluid lefty swing and impressive middle-of-the-field approach.” The third baseman is the best hitter from the Rockies’ 2013 draft class and backs up that title with equally impressive numbers. Over his first two pro seasons, McMahon has batted .294 and posted an .899 OPS. Last year with Single-A Asheville, he slugged 18 home runs and knocked an astounding 46 doubles in just 126 games. With a solid-average arm and good athleticism (he played Quarterback in High School), McMahon should have no trouble sticking at the hot corner as he continues to climb the minor league ladder.

#4

Eddie Butler

Prior to the 2014 season, Eddie Butler cruised through the minors with a a career 1.90 ERA. He was supposed to be ready for the bigs by May, but after striking out only 5.3 batters per nine (a career-low by a wide margin), and allowing 114 hits in 117 innings, it appeared the 2012 supplementary first rounder was farther away from Coors than expected. Nevertheless, a pitching-needy Colorado aggressively pushed Butler to the majors. Unsurprisingly, he continued his struggles and posted a 65 ERA+ and 6.75 ERA in three starts. Despite a poor season, Butler still has three plus pitches in his fastball, slider, and change. Butler will likely begin this season in Triple-A, but if his impressive arsenal and track record are any indication, he should have no trouble rebounding and reaching the big leagues once again. As a prospect with legit top-of-the-rotation potential, Butler is another example of just how difficult it is to grow young pitching in Colorado.

Jun 7, 2013; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; Oklahoma Sooners pitcher Jonathan Gray (22) pitches against the LSU Tigers in the fourth inning during the Baton Rouge super regional of the 2013 NCAA baseball tournament at Alex Box Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

#3

Kyle Freeland

Drafted eighth overall in last June’s draft, Kyle Freeland is a talented southpaw with a chance to develop into a frontline starter in a few years. He throws a low-to-mid 90s fastball with sink, and, at only 185 lbs, there looks to be a bit more projection left in his arm. Unlike most young pitchers, Freeland’s changeup is his best offering. The lefty’s solid arm speeds deceives batters, and the mid-80s pitch has some movement. For his third pitch, the Denver native throws both a hard and soft slider, the latter about five miles per hour slower than the former but with more break. Neither pitch will be the crown jewel of his arsenal, and the slower slider is relatively ineffective against quality right handed batters, but the it gives him more depth and should at least an average pitch in time. Freeland walked only 1.4 batters per nine in his pro debut last season, so command should not be too much of a problem going forward. Considering his repertoire, Freeland could become a very solid No. 2 starter. At worst, he will be an effective bullpen piece for Colorado.

#2

Jon Gray

Signed for a franchise-record $4.8M out of Oklahoma University, Gray throws a fastball that can touch 102 miles per hour, a tight slider with late break, and a straight change. All three pitches should grade out as plus offerings at maturity, and each plays up due to the 23-year-old’s advanced control. Gray tested positive for Adderall during 2013 pre-draft drug testing, and his fastball is down a few ticks from his college days. Hopefully the diminished velocity is not due to PEDs but rather a tired arm from a heavy workload at OU. Despite his excellent stuff, Gray was only solid at Double-A Tulsa in 2014 (8.8 K/9, 3.43 FIP), so he could repeat the level at the new Rockies facility in Connecticut. Regardless of the where he begins, Gray has an excellent chance to reach the bigs this season, assuming continued develop and strong minor league numbers. He has the makings of a No. 1 starter.

#1

David Dahl

Having invested $2.6M in Dahl as the tenth pick of the 2012 draft, Colorado has high expectation for the toolsy outfielder from Birmingham, Alabama. Talent-wise, Dahl looks like a draft steal. He’s a pure hitter with superb hands and could hit up to 20 homers at the big league level. Dahl’s poor K/BB ratios (3.5:1 in ’14) indicate a lack of plate discipline, but overaggressiveness is not uncommon in young hitters. The 20-year-old couples an excellent bat with even an even more impressive defensive profile, giving him a floor of a bottom-of-the lineup defensive whiz and a ceiling of a multiple All-Star.

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Scouting notes were obtained through Baseball America’s 2014 Prospect Handbook, unless otherwise noted.