Announcement: After peaking as the #3 book among all baseball books on Amazon last year, my new book, The 2016 Prospect Digest Handbook, is on sale! Check it out here!
And for those wondering what CALs are, here’s an article on the Comparison And Likeness program I designed.
|1. Ryan McMahon, 3B|
|Born: 12/14/94||Age: 21||Bats: L||Top CALs: Josh Bell, Domingo Santana,
Johermyn Chavez, Matt Davidson, Clint Frazier
|Height: 6-2||Weight: 185||Throws: R|
Background: Hailing from Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, California – home to, among others, Sergio Santos, Matt Treanor, and recently retired minor league homerun leader Mike Hessman – McMahon did something that Trevor Story, Rosell Herrera, and other Colorado top prospects have failed to do over the past years: the lefty-swinging third baseman didn’t fall prey to Asheville’s bandbox and actually improved as he moved up to Modesto last season. After robustly slugging .282/.358/.502 – including a .256/.349/.496 triple-slash line on the road – with the Tourists, McMahon batted .300/.372/.572 with a whopping 43 doubles and six triples while tying a career-high with 18 dingers. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by 41% last season, the fourth best showing in the California League in 2015.
Projection: Now for some bad news of sorts – his K-rate two years ago, 25.9%, was already bordering on red flag territory, but it ticked up a bit as he faced the more advanced pitchers (27.5%). The power is an above-average skill as it stands now, but it has a chance to move into plus-territory given his infield position – especially considering all those doubles he’s bit over the past two seasons. McMahon handles lefties and righties equally well and should be in Colorado by the end of 2017. With Nolan Arenado fully entrenched at the hot corner it will be interesting to see where McMahon winds up. Second base? Corner outfield? First base?
Ceiling: 3.5- to 4.0-win player
MLB ETA: 2017
|2. Jon Gray, RHP|
|Born: 11/05/91||Age: 24||Bats: R||Top CALs: Andre Rienzo, Garrett Olson,
Jeff Manship, David Rollins, Nick Tropeano
|Height: 6-4||Weight: 235||Throws: R|
Background: Part of one of the more memorable three-headed draft giants in recent memory, the former Oklahoma ace teamed with former Stanford hurler Mark Appel and University of San Diego basher Kris Bryant to create a perceived – and important word here – triumvirate of can’t-miss blue chip prospects. Bryant’s already established himself as one of the most lethal big league bats. And Gray, a 6-foot-4, 235-pound right-hander, has proven that he’s ready to attempt to take on the hitter-friendly confines of Coors Field. After successfully spending the first couple months fine-tuning his game with Albuquerque in the Pacific Coast League – he tossed 114.1 innings while fanning 21.7% and walking just 8.1% of the hitters he faced – Gray got the call-up to Colorado where he would make another nine starts for the Rockies. And the results were…mixed. At best.
The hard-throwing right-hander certainly looked impressive in his second career start against the eventual NL Champs, hurling six innings with five strikeouts, two walks, and one hit. He followed that up with another solid start against the hapless Padres: 5.0 IP, 5 K, and 0 BB. He would also dominate San Diego in early September again as well: 5.0 IP, 6 K, 2 BB.
And now the bad: his second time facing off against the Mets lasted 1.2 innings; he coughed up seven earned runs on eight hits. Arizona and Pittsburgh would also smack him around a bit as well. His finished his big league debut with a 40-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 40.2 innings of work.
Projection: During his underrated debut in Colorado Gray came as advertised: he unleashed a mid-90s heater, a hard-biting slider, and a mid-80s change-up. He also continued to average about a punch out per inning with solid-average control/command. And, unsurprisingly, his homerun rate spiked to a career high 0.89 HR/9 with the Rockies. He has the right pitching makeup to succeed in Colorado: a blistering fastball, limits free passes, and generates an above-average amount of action on the ground. Let’s see if he can do what virtually no other pitcher has done on a consistent basis.
Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player
Risk: Low to Moderate
MLB ETA: N/A
|3. Brendan Rodgers, SS|
|Born: 08/09/96||Age: 19||Bats: R||Top CALs: Edwin Diaz, Rosell Herrera,
Luis Reynoso, Leonardo Gil
|Height: 6-0||Weight: 180||Throws: R|
Background: Just how historic was Rodgers’ selection as the third overall pick in the 2015 draft? Only one other time in history had shortstops gone with the first two picks in the draft: 1982 when the Cubs grabbed Shawon Dunston and the Blue Jays picked Augie Schmidt. But after the Diamondbacks and Astros picked Dansby Swanson and Alex Bregman, the Rockies’ choice of Rodgers made the 2015 draft the only time since the first year of the modern draft, 1965, that shortstops went one-two-three. Rodgers, who stands an even 6-foot and 180 pounds, had a solid debut with Grand Junction in the Pioneer League last season, hitting .273/.340/.420 with eight doubles, a pair of triples, and three homeruns with four stolen bases (in seven attempts). His overall production, per Weighted Runs Created Plus, was 5% below the league average mark.
Projection: The sample size is a bit limited, just under 160 plate appearances, but Rodgers showed off an impressive offensive foundation during his debut in the advanced rookie league: solid-average power, a strong eye at the plate, and a little bit of speed. He’s ready for full-season ball next season, but a word of warning: Asheville is going inflate his offensive production so dig deeper into the actual numbers.
Ceiling: Too Soon to Tell
MLB ETA: N/A
|4. Jeff Hoffman, RHP|
|Born: 01/08/93||Age: 23||Bats: R||Top CALs: Robin Leyer, Kevin Siegrist,
Duke Von Schamann, Jeremy Bleich, Aaron Thompson
|Height: 6-4||Weight: 185||Throws: R|
Background: There’s going to be a whole lot of pressure riding on Hoffman’s surgically repaired right elbow as the centerpiece of the deal that sent longtime Colorado icon Troy Tulowitzki out of town. Hoffman, who was acquired along with veteran infielder Jose Reyes and a pair of intriguing minor league arms in Miguel Castro and Jesus Tinoco, finally made his way back from Tommy John surgery after missing some of his final season at East Carolina University. Despite not making his big league debut until late May, the Blue Jays seemed determined to make up for lost time: his former organization pushed him straight in the Florida State League. And the 6-foot-4, 185-pound fire-balling right-hander took to it with relative ease, especially if you ignore his first two starts of the year. After the Tampa Yankees and Jupiter Hammerheads smacked him around a bit, Hoffman posted a 31-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 46.2 innings of work.
Toronto promoted him up to the Eastern League in mid-July, which lasted two starts, before dealing the right-hander away. Colorado pushed Hoffman to their Class AA affiliate, the New Britain Rock Cats, for another nine starts. He would finish his time in Class AA with a 2.81 ERA to go along with 37 strikeouts and 12 walks in 48.0 innings of work. Not bad work for pitcher that missed a tremendous amount of time and virtually leapt into the mid-levels of the minors.
Projection: First things first, here’s what I wrote prior to the 2013 draft:
“He isn’t ace-type potential, at least not in the same way as [Carlos] Rodon or TCU’s Brandon Finnegan. Instead, Hoffman’s more of a good #2-type option that can offer glimpses of the ability to take games over. Think like a lite version of Gerrit Cole – a live-armed starting pitcher capable of chewing innings and averaging 7.8 K/9 with solid average control.”
Hoffman still doesn’t profile as a legitimate ace arm – namely because his lack of punch outs will stop him from ascending into that role. But Hoffman, like his future rotation mate Jon Gray, has a skill set that should be suited for surviving – perhaps even succeeding in –Colorado: an above-average fastball, solid control command, especially once he continues to put distance between himself and the surgery, and an enormous amount of groundballs. I was probably a bit overzealous in ranking him as a #2-type arm; I would downgrade that to a #3-type ceiling now with some additional upside.
Ceiling: 3.0-win player
MLB ETA: 2016/2017
|5. David Dahl, CF|
|Born: 04/01/94||Age: 22||Bats: L||Top CALs: Avisail Garcia, Juan Silverio,
Dustin Fowler, Tyler Colvin, Yorman Rodriguez
|Height: 6-2||Weight: 195||Throws: R|
Background: The Colorado front office hasn’t been shy about aggressively challenging the 2012 first round pick. And last season’s push into the Eastern League with just 125 plate appearances in High Class A under his belt is no different. Dahl, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound lefty-swinging center fielder, took some initial lumps – he batted .212/.256/.294 with just four extra-base hits in his first 20 games – but made the right adjustments and slugged .320/.333/.454 over his next 24 games. Unfortunately for Dahl, though, he would once again miss some significant time as he ruptured his spleen in a scary collision with second baseman Juan Ciriaco. Dahl, according to A Yahoo! Sports report, opted to have the spleen removed – a decision that didn’t come lightly. According to the report at the time, Dahl will have to take additional precautions in the form of medicine to avoid getting sick. Incredibly, he would make it back onto the field in mid-July and basically pick up where he left off: he batted .292/.318/.481 over the remainder of the season.
Projection: Dahl’s had some serious hype bubbling about since his explosion in rookie ball during his pro debut – he slugged .379/.423/.625 – and he’s continued to handle the club’s aggressive promotion well since then. But one thing to highlight is the fact that his offensive toolkit hasn’t been able to catch up to his quick-push through the minors. Take for example his power: two years ago Dahl was showcasing above-average power (though some of that was inflated by Asheville) but it was slightly below-average for his duration in Class AA. Meaning: expect it to bounce back in large way in 2016.
Dahl doesn’t spend a whole lot of energy working the count as his subpar walk rates would indicate, so that’ll eventually limit his ceiling. But center fielders with 20+ homerun pop and the ability to hit .290 who can play the hell out of the position on defense are valuable. In terms of offensive ceiling think Avisail Garcia’s 2013 showing: .283/.309/.422.
Ceiling: 2.5-win player
MLB ETA: 2016
|6. Forrest Wall, 2B|
|Born: 11/20/95||Age: 20||Bats: L||Top CALs: Erick Mejia, Abraham Almonte,
Rayner Contreras, Claudio Bautista, Carlos Aquino
|Height: 6-0||Weight: 176||Throws: R|
Background: The lone second baseman chosen in the opening round two years ago. Wall, who hails from the same high school as Yankees prospect Dante Bichette Jr. (Orangewood Christian High School), had one of the better professional debuts among all incoming prep players that season, hitting .318/.416/.490 with six doubles, six triples, three homeruns, 18 stolen bases, and a promising 136 wRC+ — enough production to convince the front office that he was ready for the South Atlantic League. And – boy – was he. In a bit of an injury-shortened season, the lefty-swinging second baseman hit a solid .280/.355/.438 with 16 doubles, 10 triples, seven homeruns, and 23 stolen bases in 32 attempts. His overall production, per Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by 25% – the second best showing among all teenage prospects in the Sally last season.
Projection: One of the key statistics to look at for prospects that spend a lot of time feasting off of Asheville’s hitter-friendly confines is the home/road splits. Just look at the splits for a couple other Colorado prospects that blew up with the Tourists:
|Player||Home OPS||Road OPS|
But Wall, on the other hand, basically replicated his home production while he was on the road last season: 0.823 vs. 0.785. Meaning: his overall skill set is far more reliable, analytically speaking. He has a slightly-better-than-average eye at the plate with matching pop and above-average- to plus-speed. Look for him to post another high wRC+ mark in High Class A in 2016. And it wouldn’t be out of the norm to see him finish the year in Class AA.
Ceiling: 2.5-win player
MLB ETA: 2019
|7. Miguel Castro, RHP|
|Born: 12/24/94||Age: 21||Bats: R||Top CALs: Manny Banuelos, Randall Delgado,
Aaron Sanchez, Phillippe Aumont, Brad Hand
|Height: 6-5||Weight: 190||Throws: R|
Background: Also included as part of the Troy Tulowitzki-to-Toronto package, Castro, a hard-throwing hurler out of the Dominican Republic, made the big leap from High Class A straight to the big leagues with former teammate Roberto Osuna – except Castro’s stint didn’t last nearly as long as his former counterpart’s. Working exclusively out of Toronto’s bullpen at the start of the year, the 6-foot-5, 190-pound man-child looked like he belonged at the big league level: he posted a 12-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 12.1 innings. The front office brass, however, sent him to the International League in an effort to stretch him out as a starting pitcher. He looked solid for four outings but struggled in his fifth start with the Bison, so Toronto, in a kneejerk reaction, demoted him all the way down to Dunedin for a couple appearances before shipping him to the Rocky Mountain State. After the trade Colorado wisely pushed him back up to Class AAA and then onto the big leagues as a September call-up.
Projection: Adding to the plethora of power arms the organization is suddenly collecting. Castro can uncork a fastball in the mid- to upper-90s with relative ease. He complements that with a low 80s slider and a hard changeup. He struggled with his control somewhat, but his minor league track record – he’s averaged just 3.2 walks per nine innings in his career – suggests that it’s going to rebound in the coming years. It’s still too early to give up on him as a starting pitcher; hopefully the brass comes to the same conclusion.
Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player
MLB ETA: Debuted in 2015
|8. Ryan Castellani, RHP|
|Born: 04/01/96||Age: 20||Bats: R||Top CALs: Lino Martinez, Edgar Garcia,
Brett Devall, Luis Reyes, Zack Littell
|Height: 6-3||Weight: 193||Throws: R|
Background: The club’s second round selection out of Brophy College Preparatory two years ago, Colorado made the unusual move and pushed the 6-foot-3, 193-pound right-hander up to the Northwest League for his debut and he looked at home – he posted a 25-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 37.0 innings of work. The front office continued to challenge the young hurler by pushing him up to the South Atlantic League last season where he was just one of two qualified teenage arms last season (the other being Boston’s Dedgar Jimenez). In 113.1 innings with the Tourists, Castellani fanned 18.7% and walked just 5.8% of the batters he faced last season. For his year-plus professional career Castellani has fanned 119 and walked 38 in 150.1 innings.
Projection: Impressive Part I: his strikeout-to-walk percentage, 12.9%, tied for the tenth best mark in the Sally last season. Impressive Part II: no qualified hurler under the age of 20 posted a better total in the league last season. Impressive Part III: only one other teenager, Justus Sheffield, posted a better strikeout-to-walk percentage in either Low Class A level. Impressive Part IV: Castellani has the foundation to succeed in Colorado, assuming, of course, he can make his way through the dreaded injury nexus. The big right-hander shows poise beyond his years with an improving strikeout rate; between the beginning of June through the end of August he posted a 73-to-19 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 73 innings. He’s a candidate for 2016 Breakout Prospect of the Year.
Ceiling: 2.0-win player
MLB ETA: 2018
|9. Jordan Patterson, 1B/LF/RF|
|Born: 02/12/92||Age: 24||Bats: L||Top CALs: Brandon Barnes, Zoilo,
Nick Evans, Sean Ratliff, Michael Hernandez
|Height: 6-4||Weight: 215||Throws: L|
Background: Following in the footsteps – and ready take up the torch – of former Clemson QB turned slugging minor league bat Kyle Parker, Patterson proved that his strong showing with Asheville two years ago was just a harbinger of the things to come, not an aberration. Patterson, a 2013 fourth round pick out of the University of South Alabama, hit .278/.359/.430 with the Tourists in his sophomore campaign. He followed that up with a dominant 77-game run with Modesto last season – he batted .304/.378/.568 with 26 doubles, 12 triples, 10 homeruns, and nine stolen bases – and he continued that torrid pace once he got the phone call to move up to New Britain. In 48 games with the Rock Cats, Patterson slugged .286/.342/.503. He finished the year with an aggregate .297/.364/.543 triple-slash line with a whopping 45 doubles, 12 triples, 17 dingers, and 18 stolen bases.
Projection: Incredibly toolsy for a 6-foot-4, 215-pound first baseman/corner outfielder. He consistently squares the ball up as uses his long arms to create solid lift leading to all those extra-base hits. While he benefited from playing half his season in the California League, Patterson’s numbers in Class AA help solidify his status as a prospect – particularly after his BABIP dropped from .400 to .336.
Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player
Risk: Moderate to High
MLB ETA: 2016/2017
|10. Kyle Freeland, LHP|
|Born: 05/14/93||Age: 21||Bats: L||Top CALs: Waner Mateo, Matt Mcswain,
Trevor Harden, Kevin Johnson, Chris Lugo
|Height: 6-3||Weight: 170||Throws: L|
Background: As if questions surrounding his – and every other hurlers’ – ability to survive pitching in Coors Field weren’t enough, Freeland, the eighth overall selection in the 2014 draft, basically lost his sophomore season as he suffered through some serious shoulder fatigue and underwent the knife for a minor procedure to remove bone chips in his left elbow. Not including his seven-inning rehab stint in the Pioneer League, the 6-foot-3, 170-pound southpaw tallied a disappointing 19-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 39.2 innings of work. And the steep decline in his punch out rate all carried over to the Arizona Fall League as well: through his first six starts he fanned just 13 of the 104 batters he faced, or just over 12%.
Projection: Freeland really took advantage of squaring off against the University of Evansville’s lackluster competition throughout his three-year run with the school; he fanned 282 hitters in his 284 career innings. But that swing-and-miss ability –one which looked so promising – hasn’t carried over into the professional ranks at all, even during his quick jaunt through the Pioneer and South Atlantic Leagues two years ago. Still, though, the control is an above average ability. I originally opined in last year’s book that he could be a good #3-type arm, but I’d push him down a bit now.
Ceiling: 2.0-win player
Risk: Moderate to High
MLB ETA: 2018
Author’s Note: All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.com.