|Original Published Date: Dec. 10, 2013|
The player development process is an inexact science and the 2013 Colorado Rockies system was a great example of the highs and lows that organizations experience as they train young players to have an impact in the major leagues.
The process starts with the draft and the Colorado Rockies appear to have struck gold with University of Oklahoma Jonathan Gray. Selected number three overall, Gray shoved-it in his first 37.1 innings by posting a 1.93 ERA and a sub 1.00 WHIP. While the mechanics come with effort, Gray looks like the real-deal and could move quickly through the system
Eddie Butler and Rosell Herrera took major steps forward in the development process. Butler has developed into one of the more exciting right-handers in the entire minor leagues and despite repeating Low-A, Herrera posted a .934 OPS in 472 at-bats. Finally, Kyle Parker continued to mash and looks poised for a call-up to Colorado in 2014.
While there were highs, there were also plenty of lows. Our 2012 top prospect David Dahl was limited to 10 games in Low-A due to attitude problems and a hamstring injury that cost him most of the season. The skills that made him a top 50 overall prospect are still there and our hope is that he bounces back in 2014. Trevor Story though is a more concerning story. Striking out an alarming 183 times, Story looked lost in Modesto and his prospect star took a major hit. With Herrera nipping at his heels, it will be interesting to see what the Rockies do with Story in 2014.
It’s a good system and could be better assuming Dahl and Story can get back on track. Plus, Raimel Tapia, Tom Murphy, and Ryan McMahon all showed promise and could be fast risers.
|2014 Age: 22||Ceiling: #2 starter|
|Ht: 6-4 Weight: 255||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2014|
There was a lot of debate leading up to the 2013 draft in terms of who would be the first pitcher off the board – Mark Appel or Jonathan Gray? Ultimately the Astros played it safe and went with the more proven commodity in Appel but Gray’s ceiling might be higher. In fact, if you look at what he did during his first 37.1 innings in professional baseball, it’s pretty easy to get excited that Gray could be a number one.
Leading up to 2013, Gray was looked upon as an excellent amateur arm, a first rounder, but not a Top three pick. However, both his velocity and the quality of his secondary pitches ticked up significantly leading into his junior year and six months and $4.8 million dollars later, he was the number three pick in the draft.
The arsenal consists of three plus pitches. A fastball that sits 94-97 MPH that can touch the upper nineties when needed, a wipeout slider that is his big out pitch, and a change-up that is also really good. I’ve seen them all in a California League game and the batters were totally overmatched.
Gray’s pitching mechanics are pretty violent. The arm action is fast and aggressive and he puts his entire body into his pitching. While this has the advantage of great momentum to the plate, he can get out-of-control throwing off his balance on his landing. The posture could also be better as he crouches on his delivery. Overall, I would grade his mechanics as average at best and this could lead to problems repeating his delivery and ultimately controlling his elite arsenal.
Despite his less than ideal pitching mechanics, Gray will be pushed through the minor league system quickly. I would expect him to start 2014 back in High-A while logging significant innings in Double-A. While there is an outside chance that he’ll see time in Colorado in 2014, 2015 is a more reasonable time-frame.
Fantasy Impact: Gray has fantasy ace upside even though he’ll pitch in the pitcher unfriendly confines of Coors Field. The arsenal is going to dominate batters at the major league level and the results should be more than a strikeout an inning. However, he could prone to bouts of control issues and this could put pressure on his ratios.
|2014 Age: 23||Ceiling: #2 starter|
|Ht: 6-2 Weight:180||Bats: Both Throws: Right||ETA: 2014|
Even though Eddie Butler was drafted in the supplemental first round of the 2012 draft, he went under-the-prospect-radar in his 13 initial professional games. He posted great numbers but observers weren’t sold that he would stay a starter. Spin forward a year, and not only are people more convinced that he’s a starter, but a top-of-the-rotation starter.
2013 will was a true breakout for the 22-year-old right-hander from Virginia. Through three levels including: Low-A, High-A, and Double-A, Butler showed a dominating arsenal with excellent control. He posted a 1.80 ERA and a 0.99 WHIP in 149.2 innings with an 8.60 K/9 and a 3.15 BB/9 rate. Plus, he did it primarily in the hitter-friendly park in Asheville and in the California League, the best hitters league in all of minor league baseball. Finally, during the Futures game at Citi Field, Butler arguably had the best outing of all the pitchers; better than Syndergaard, Bradley, and Walker. He was flat out electric.
His arsenal has plus future potential and starts with his plus-plus fastball. The pitch sits 94-96 MPH but in short burst like the Futures Game, it sat 96-98 with a lot of arm-side run. He secondary pitches are behind his fastball but not by much. His slider has a chance to be a nasty offering. It sits 85-87 MPH with tight spin and two-plane break. He also throws a hard change-up that sits 89-90 MPH with excellent deception and fade.
The delivery is not without effort. He has a very fast arm with great momentum to the plate. Because of the aggressiveness in his pitching, his balance can get off causing his front shoulder to fly open. That said, Butler’s mechanics do allow him to mostly repeat his delivery. While I doubt he’ll ever have pinpoint control, it should be good enough to enable his arsenal to be effective.
Butler should start 2014 at Double-A and could see Colorado before the end of the year. While the delivery still gives me pause for concern, his ceiling is a number two or dare I say…higher.
Fantasy Impact: Butler is a top 50 prospect for me. There is a chance he’ll wind up in the bullpen as a late inning reliever but for now, I’m buying.
|2014 Age: 20||Ceiling: Role 6
|Ht:6-2 Weight: 185||Bats: Left Throws: Right||ETA: 2016|
2013 was very disappointing for David Dahl. Between a disciplinary action and a season ending hamstring injury, Dahl played in only 10 games for the Tourist in Asheville. Hopefully Dahl will return fully healthy for 2014 and continue to develop into the ceiling of a first division outfielder.
Dahl’s scouting report remains the same – a five tool prospect with a mature approach at the plate. He has nice bat speed with a quick path to the ball and great hip rotation to elicit excitement about future power. His nine home runs in Grand Junction in 2012 were no fluke and as Dahl adds more strength, he could grow into 20 home run power. He’s also an above average runner that gets very good reads which should translate into 20 or more stolen bases in the future.
Defensively, he’s a strong defender with a cannon for an arm. While the Rockies will continue to play him in center field, he’s likely a corner outfielder long-term.
I doubt the Rockies are panicking over Dahl’s lost season. He only turns 20 on April 1st and there is still plenty of time left for Dahl to grow into the first division player the Rockies believed they drafted. I expect Dahl to split time between Asheville and Modesto in 2014 with an ETA to the Majors of 2016.
Fantasy Impact: Two words…buy low. Go get Dahl on your Dynasty League and thank me later. He’s got 20/20 upside hitting at the top-of-the-lineup.
|2014 Age: 24||Ceiling: Role 5
|Ht:6-9 Weight: 200||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2014|
Kyle Parker is a prospect that just doesn’t get any love. I get it…he profiles as a first baseman, and a right-handed first baseman at that, and therefore his bat will really have to play for him to be a major league regular. But you know what…I think it will and therefore, I’m buying.
I’ve had a chance to see Parker numerous times throughout the past two years with the most recent in several games during the Arizona Fall League. He has massive raw power that is just starting to translate into in-game power. While his stat line shows 23 home runs in both 2013 and 2012, the raw power he shows in batting practice isn’t yet fully actualized.
While batting practice is well, batting practice, it’s the best place to see a player’s flat raw power. Parker can hit balls out to right just as easy as he can to left. In fact, I saw him hit a 450 foot home run to right and it was done with a combination of wrist and lower body strength.
The obvious question is will he hit enough to tap into that power? While there is length in his swing, he makes very good contact and has an approach at the plate. While I doubt he ever profiles with an above average hit-tool as his .293 career minor league batting average suggest, he could hit .250-.260. Throw in the potential to hit 25 to 30 home runs in Coors Field and the upside is pretty alluring.
Parker is nearly major league ready and should see Colorado at some point in 2014.
Fantasy Impact: Power is at a premium in Fantasy Baseball and Parker is one of the few players in the minor leagues who could hit 25+ home runs. Plus, given his age and position along the development curve, the risk is much lower on him achieving his ceiling then a teenager that we are still mostly dreaming on. Invest!
|2014 Age: 21||Ceiling: Role 5
|Ht:6-3 Weight: 180||Bats: Both Throws: Right||ETA: 2016|
As the old saying goes – second time is the charm. After struggling in an aggressive assignment to Asheville as a teenager, Rosell Herrera raked in his second stint in Low-A. He showed the ability to hit, hit for power with above-average speed while playing an above-average shortstop. The slash line was an impressive .343/.419/.515 with 16 home runs, 21 stolen bases in 472 at-bats.
While it was an impressive season, it was his second time in the league in an offensive oriented park where his batting average was fueled by a .402 BABIP. Still, Herrera has a lot of tools that begin with impressive bat speed, particularly from his natural right side. The swing is compact and he stays inside the ball very well. Because he uses his lower half well, the swing has natural loft. Plus, at 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds, he has the frame to add bulk which should only help his future power potential.
On the other hand, that same bulk will eventually reduce his speed on the basepaths. In other words, his 21 stolen bases could be his high water mark with a future projection of high single-digit stolen bases a more reasonable projection.
In most situations, Herrera would have been promoted to High-A mid-season as he clearly had solved the Carolina League. However, a struggling Trevor Story was blocking any move to the California League; which leads us to the inevitable question for next year. Where will the Rockies play Story and Herrera?
Fantasy Impact: The tools and performance of Herrera suggest he should be a Top 100 prospect. While we can throw a lot of caveats around him repeating a level, the fact is he repeated a level and that needs to be taken into account. Therefore, I think he’ll fall just outside but is clearly a player that a smart Dynasty Owner should be targeting. The ceiling is a Role 6 first division starter, probably at third base with a ceiling of a 25/10/.280 hitting in the middle of a lineup.
|2014 Age: 24||Ceiling: #4 starter|
|Ht: 6-4 Weight:215||Bats: Left Throws:Left||ETA: 2015|
Selected as the 20th overall pick in the very deep 2011 draft, lefty Tyler Anderson had a very good season primarily pitching in the difficult California League. He did miss considerable time with a shoulder strain but returned late in July and finished off the season in fine fashion.
He’s primarily a fastball/change-up pitcher that doesn’t throw exceptionally hard, but has significant funk in his delivery that makes his arsenal play-up. The funk doesn’t come from his delivery but through an unusual leg kick. His front leg almost does a wiggle, which I’m sure is a timing thing, but it must be incredibly distracting to the hitter. It’s that little distraction that allows his fastball, which only sits 88-90 MPH to play-up.
His change-up though is a really nice pitch. It sits 81-82 MPH but is thrown with the same arm action and arm speed as his fastball. Combine the technique with the funk in his delivery, and it becomes a difficult pitch to hit. He also throws a mid-70’s curve ball that has a nice shape but he struggles to throw it consistently for strikes.
Anderson should begin the 2014 season in Double-A and could see Colorado in 2015 or if the need arrives, late in 2014. He’s a back-of-the-rotation starter in most situations, but could really struggle in Coors Field putting his ceiling at a number five or up-and-down player.
Fantasy Impact: While Gray and Butler have the arsenal to endure the trying conditions of Coors Field, Anderson does not. He’s a dicey pick in a dynasty league and can be ignored in most fantasy league formats.
|2014 Age: 21||Ceiling: Role 5
|Ht:6-1 Weight: 175||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2016|
It was a difficult year for shortstop Trevor Story. Listed as the number two prospect on our Colorado Top 10 list in 2012, you could have made an argument to have kept Story off the list altogether in 2013.
Contactability was the problem for Story as he struck out 183 times in 497 at-bats in the hitting friendly California League. How bad was it? He had the third most strikeouts in all of the minor leagues. I had a chance to see a number of those strikeouts and tried to determine if it was a case of being overly aggressive, an inability to distinguish balls from strikes, or a case of not hitting the curve.
The main problem I observed was bad hitting mechanics that are prohibiting him from catching up to plus velocity. The mechanics cause him to cheat on his swing and then he becomes susceptible to off-speed pitches. I was told he looked better in 2012 with his swing more fluid, but I just didn’t see it. The optimist will point to his .286 batting average in August as progress but it was fueled by a .422 BABIP. The contact rate remained the same. Story does have other skills as he is an above-average runner as well as an above-average defender.
Based on his struggle in 2013, Story should repeat High-A in 2014. However, Rosell Herrera is nipping at his heels and deserves a promotion to Modesto. It will be interesting to see what the Rockies do with their once top prospect.
Fantasy Impact: I’m clearly not very bullish on Story and while he might be considered a buy-low candidate, I’m not buying it yet. The swing needs an over-haul and until we see some improvement, he’s only ownable in the deepest of fantasy leagues.
8. Raimel Tapia (OF)
Without a team in one of the low-level rookie leagues, the Rockies start their players in the college-heavy Pioneer League. While some see this as a disadvantage in the proper development of players, the Rockies have always worked this way.
The brightest star on the Grand Junction team was 19-year-old outfielder Raimel Tapia. Tapia is a nice prospect with bat speed that is already translating into hard contact. In 258 at-bats, Tapia posted an impressive .562 slugging percentage that included seven home runs. He also has above-average speed that enabled him to steal 10 bases but clearly there is room for improvement as he got caught nine times. At 6-foot-2 and 160 pounds, Tapia is only going to get stronger and could become an interesting name within the Rockies organization.
9. Tom Murphy (C)
Taking advantage of the hitters paradise known as Asheville, Tom Murphy posted a .288/.385/.590 slash line in only 288 at-bats. Impressed by his progress, the Rockies promoted him to Tulsa in the Texas League, potentially putting him ahead on the depth chart of the more highly touted Will Swanner. Murphy has bat speed but the swing can get a little long and produce some swing and miss. He does have an approach and can work the count and take a walk. Defensively, there is concern about his ability to stay behind the dish as his footwork and arm are only rated as average.
10. Ryan McMahon (3B)
Taken in the second round of the 2013 draft, Ryan McMahon enjoyed the nice hitting confines of Grand Junction and put up a nice slash line of .321/.402/.583. While many thought he would have plus future power, the hit-tool played better than was advertised coming out of high school. While he only made contact 74% of the time, his approach was good, walking 13% of the time. Asheville should be a lot of fun for McMahon with the chance to hit 20 plus home runs. That alone will give him some juice with prospect watchers.
2014 Emerging Prospect:
Carlos Herrera (SS)
One of the millon dollar bonus babies during the 2013 J2 signing, Carlos Herrera has a chance to be a quality middle infielder. Known more for his stick then his glove, the hit tool is mature enough that he could start 2014 in the Pioneer League and be on a fast track.