Announcement: Described by Michael Salfino of The Wall Street Journal and Yahoo! Sports as “an insightful and often contrarian viewpoint to prospect rankings,” The 2017 Prospect Digest Handbook is now on sale! Check it out here!
|1. Riley Pint, RHP|
|Born: 09/06/97||Age: 19||Bats: R||Top CALs: Dewen Perez, Rafael Homblert, Jeremy Jeffress, Luis Pino, Alec Grosser|
|Height: 6-4||Weight: 195||Throws: R|
Background: Armed with a top 10 pick for the fourth consecutive year – and a top four pick in three of the last four drafts – the Rockies opted to take the prep right-hander out of St. Thomas Aquinas High School from Overland Park, Kansas. Pint, a projectable 6-foot-4, 197-pound hurler, threw 37.0 innings in the Pioneer, posting a 36-to-23 K-to-BB ratio en route to tallying a 5.35 ERA and a 5.45 FIP.
Projection: Pint’s career started out rather promising as he posted a solid 14-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio through his first 16.1 innings. But his control left him thereafter: he walked 17 over his final 20.2 innings. Per the usual, the data’s still too limited so we’ll have a better idea about the fire-slinging right-hander after next season.
Ceiling: Too Soon to Tell
MLB ETA: N/A
|2. Brendan Rodgers, SS|
|Born: 08/09/96||Age: 20||Bats: R||Top CALs: Yamaico Navarro, Edwin Diaz, Javier Guerra, Tim Beckham, Yancarlos Baez|
|Height: 6-0||Weight: 180||Throws: R|
Background: Taken with the third overall pick two years ago directly following two other shortstops – Dansby Swanson and Alex Bregman, both of whom made their respective big league debuts last season. Rodgers, the lone prep prospect of the trio, understandably spent his first full season in professional ball developing in the South Atlantic League last year. Or rather, he spent his first full season in professional ball enjoying – immensely – playing in the bandbox known as McCormick Field, home to the Asheville Tourists. In 110 games with the Rockies’ Low Class A affiliate, Rodgers hit a quasi-impressive – more on that later – .281/.342/.480 with 31 doubles and 19 homeruns while swiping six bags in nine attempts. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by 35% – the fourth best total among all Low Class A shortstops and tops among all teenage shortstops at the level.
Projection: On the surface Rodgers’ production looks tremendous given his age and level of competition – and that’s ignoring his lofty draft status. But a lot of that – and I mean a lot – of it was buoyed by Asheville’s exceptionally hitter-friendly ballpark. Consider his home/road splits:
- Home: .319/.378/.600 with 20 doubles and 13 homeruns.
- Away: .247/.310/.372 with 11 doubles and six homeruns.
That’s a pretty stark difference, obviously. But let’s take a look at how the overall production looks after it’s adjusted for the ballpark – thanks to StatCorner.com:
- Un-adjusted: .281/.342/.480
- Park Adjusted: .255/.316/.400
Again, that’s a pretty stark difference. But here’s the exceptionally troubling part. Consider the home/road splits that the underrated Ryan McMahon showed when he marched through the Sally with the Tourists in 2014:
- Home: .308/.368/.508 with 25 doubles, one triple, and seven homeruns.
- Away: .256/.349/.496 with 21 doubles, two triples, and 11 homeruns.
It goes without saying that Rodgers’ drastic splits are far more troubling. Overall, the young shortstop looked very solid – with average tools across the board – but his production, once the numbers are exposed, is far from elite – just like his prospect status.
Ceiling: 3.5-win player
MLB ETA: 2019
|3. Jeff Hoffman, RHP|
|Born: 01/08/93||Age: 24||Bats: R||Top CALs: Paul Clemens. John Gast, Eric Jokisch, Camilo Vazquez, Aaron Thompson|
|Height: 6-5||Weight: 225||Throws: R|
Background: It’s been a whirlwind couple of years for the long-haired, bespectacled right-hander. Hoffman was originally in the running as a candidate for #1 overall pick in the 2014 draft, but Tommy John surgery a month before the draft caused some teams to back away. Armed with a couple first round picks that June, the Blue Jays decidedly took a gamble on the hard-throwing East Carolina product when they grabbed him with the ninth overall pick. Fast forward a year or so and Hoffman became the centerpiece in the Troy Tulowitzki mega-swap. After his head stopped spinning, he found himself in the Pacific Coast League last season. In 22 starts with the Albuquerque Isotopes, the 6-foot-5, 225-pound right-hander posted an impressive 124-to-44 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Colorado called him up in late August for another eight starts: 31.1 IP, 22 strikeouts, 17 walks, 4.88 ERA, and an ugly 6.27 FIP.
Projection: Per the usual, here’s what I wrote about the talented right-hander 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.”
Four years later and the analysis remains spot on.
Hoffman showed an explosive mid-90s fastball during his brief debut, complementing it with a mid-80s slider, a 76 mph curveball, and a hard changeup. A rotation with a core foundation of Jon Gray and Jeff Hoffman would typically mean potential dominance – anywhere outside of Colorado, that is.
Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player
MLB ETA: 2017
|4. German Marquez, RHP|
|Born: 02/22/95||Age: 22||Bats: R||Top CALs: Zach Lee, Troy Patton, Jake Thompson, James Parr, Eric Hurley|
|Height: 6-1||Weight: 185||Throws: R|
Background: A nice little coup for the Colorado front office last January when they agreed to send solid league average bat Corey Dickerson and Kevin Padlo to Tampa Bay in exchange for the hard-throwing duo of Jake McGee and German Marquez. McGee, by the way, should be able to fetch a substantial return at this year’s trade deadline thanks to the skyrocketing price of above-average relievers. As for Marquez, well, he continued his recent sprint through the minor leagues last season, capping the year off with a six-game tryout in Colorado in early September. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound right-hander opened the year up with 21 mostly dominant starts with the Hartford Yard Goats in the Eastern League, throwing 135.2 innings with an impeccable 126-to-33 strikeout-to-walk ratio en route to tallying a 2.85 ERA and an equally impressive 3.25 FIP.
Colorado bumped him up to the Pacific Coast League in early August for five starts – of which they were incredibly noteworthy thanks to his, once again, eye-catching peripherals: 31.0 IP, 29 K, and 6 BB. His work in the big leagues was decent enough for a young hurler: 20.2 IP, 15 K, 6 BB, and a 4.26 FIP.
For his minor league career, Marquez has thrown 491.1 innings with 421 punch outs and just 137 walks over parts of five seasons.
Projection: I’ve been an increasingly bigger fan of Marquez with each passing year. Here’s what I wrote in my book in 2015:
“Not quite as impressive as [Greg] Harris, who also spent the year in the Midwest League as a 19-year-old, but still plenty promising. Right now, though, Marquez looks like a backend starting pitcher.”
And I followed that up with this in last year’s analysis:
“There’s really not a whole lot to not like about Marquez at this point in his development: he misses a decent amount of sticks, has improved his walk rate in each of his four professional seasons, and has had success against much older competition. He’s primed and ready for Class AA. He’s a potential mid-rotation arm with tremendous upside as a backend reliever.”
Another year later and Marquez looks like a solid #3/#4-type arm in a big league rotation. He showcased a lively mid-90s fastball during his debut, complementing it a hard upper 70s curveball, and a low 80s changeup.
He has a long history of strong strikeout totals coupled with low walk rates. What’s not to like?
Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player
Risk: Low to Moderate
MLB ETA: Debuted in 2016
|5. Ryan McMahon, 1B/3B|
|Born: 12/14/94||Age: 22||Bats: L||Top CALs: Trey Michalczewski, Matt Davidson, Matt Helm, Drew Ward, Bobby Borchering|
|Height: 6-2||Weight: 185||Throws: R|
Background: The very definition of a roller coaster season. Here are McMahon’s monthly OPS totals during his time with the Hartford Yard Goats: .545, .832, .553, .907, and .750. Note: this is ignoring the six-game September. McMahon, a personal favorite of mine, hit an aggregate .242/.325/.399 with 27 doubles, five triples, 12 homeruns, and 11 stolen bases in 17 attempts. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by just 1% – easily the lowest mark of his entire career, by a long ways. McMahon, a second round pick out of Mater Dei High School in 2013, posted a 147 wRC+ in the Pioneer League during his debut; he followed that up with a 137 wRC+ mark in the South Atlantic League in 2014; and he proved that Asheville’s home ballpark wasn’t the reason for his elite production as he tallied a 141 wRC+ total the next year in High Class A. For his career, the lefty-swinging third baseman – who’s currently moonlighting as a first baseman thanks to Nolan Arenado – is sporting an impressive .282/.359/.489 with 134 doubles, 17 triples, 59 homeruns, and 29 stolen bases (in 59 attempts).
Projection: Here’s what I wrote in last year’s book:
“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?
Well, I hate to say it – especially because I like McMahon as much as I do – but I called it, both times. McMahon’s strikeout rate ballooned into full red flag territory as it spiked to over 30% last season and the club wisely decided to move him across the diamond in anticipation of Arenado and him sharing a lineup card.
The combination of McMahon’s track record and the couple months of matching production last season should provide enough evidence as to point to a bounce back year in 2017. The move to first base hurts his overall value – thanks to first basemen not contributing as much on defense – especially since he saved more than 40 runs at third base in 2014 and 2015, according to Clay Davenport’s defensive metrics.
Ceiling: 3.5-win player
MLB ETA: 2017/2018
|6. Raimel Tapia, OF|
|Born: 02/04/94||Age: 23||Bats: L||Top CALs: Charlie Tilson, Jake Shaffer, Dustin Fowler, Gerardo Parra, Juan Portes|
|Height: 6-2||Weight: 160||Throws: L|
Background: “Yes, the numbers – without proper context – have been phenomenal during his four-year professional career. And 21-year-old outfielders that bat .305/.333/.467 with double-digit homerun power and speed in High Class A are certainly noteworthy. But, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, Tapia’s (artificially bloated) production topped the league average mark by just 12%. Just to put that into perspective, here’s a short list of 21-year-old players that have topped the California League average production by about 12% over the years: Gabriel Guerrero (112 wRC+), Alex Yarbrough (108 wRC+), Theodis Bowe (110 wRC+), Beamer Weems (113 wRC+), Johnny Wittleman (108 wRC+), Travis Denker (117 wRC+), and Jonathan Herrera (114 wRC+). Throw in some pitiful walk rates and Tapia’s top prospect status comes sliding back down. Now, again, this isn’t to say he won’t be a useful big leaguer; I don’t think he’s top prospect worthy.” Those are the words I used in last year’s book when I named Tapia among the game’s most overrated prospects.
He, of course, promptly went out and slugged .328/.361/.458 with 25 doubles, 10 triples, and eight homeruns between his time with Hartford and Albuquerque. Most of that, it should be noted, came with Hartford. The Dominican-born outfielder also made a brief 22-game stint in Colorado where he batted .263/.293/.263 in 41 trips to the plate.
Projection: Here’s what I wrote for his “Projection” in last year’s book:
“But here’s the single most important statistic that needs to be noted: despite the appearance of some gaudy numbers – and let’s be honest, they appear quite garish – Tapia’s overall production topped the California League average production mark by just 12%. That’s certainly not the mark of a top-notch prospect – a nice one, sure, but not a top blue chipper. Tapia has solid pop, but it’s not likely going to develop any further. The speed is an above-average tool. But his walk rates have been terrible. CAL’s best comparison is Gerardo Parra, a below-average big league bat.”
Well, I still stand by the analysis – even after another solid year in the minors. Tapia’s always going to post high BABIPs thanks to his speed, but the power – which will artificially improve thanks to Coors Field – is below average. And, once again, CAL compares him to Gerardo Parra, a career .274/.321/.404 hitter with an 89 wRC+ and a walk rate at 6.0%. All those seem like very reasonable numbers for Tapia, outside of Coors Field.
Ceiling: 2.5-win player
Risk: Low to Moderate
MLB ETA: Debuted in 2016
|7. Ryan Castellani, RHP|
|Born: 04/01/96||Age: 21||Bats: R||Top CALs: Matt Lollis, Spencer Adams, Zack Litell, Kyle Ryan, Arquimedes Nieto|
|Height: 6-3||Weight: 193||Throws: R|
Background: Fun Fact Part I: Castellani, a second round pick out of Brophy College Preparatory in 2014, was the only pitcher to throw more than 160 innings in any of the three High Class A leagues last season. Fun Fact Part II: Here’s a list of 20-year-old arms to throw at least 160 innings in High Class A since 2006 – Castellani (2016), Jonathan Pettibone (2012), Wilfredo Boscan (2010), and Chaz Roe (2007). Fun Fact Part III: Of those aforementioned group of 20-year-olds, Castellani’s strikeout-to-walk percentage, 13.3%, was tops during their respective tours. Castellani, a 6-foot-3, 193-pound right-hander, made 26 starts with the Modesto Nuts, fanning 142 and walking just 50. For his career, he’s averaging 7.4 strikeouts and just 2.5 walks every nine innings.
Projection: The key to pitching successfully in Colorado’s bandbox has yet to be unlocked – though it’s likely going to come down to a combination of an above-average fastball and tremendous groundball rates. Why, hello, Mr. Castellani. The lanky right-hander has generated an impressive amount of action on the ground throughout his three-year career: 55.5% in the Northwest League during his debut; 47.7% in the Sally two years ago; and a whopping 51.8% last season. Fantastic control and consistent success against significantly older competition, Castellani looks like a nice complementary piece to the Jon Gray-Jeff Hoffman rotation.
Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player
Risk: Moderate to High
MLB ETA: 2018
|8. Tom Murphy, C|
|Born: 04/03/91||Age: 26||Bats: R||Top CALs: Steven Hill, Yan Gomes, John Hester, Lucas May, Wellington Castillo|
|Height: 6-1||Weight: 220||Throws: R|
Background: Fun Fact Part I: Among all stateside MiLB’ers with at least 300 plate appearances last season, the former University of Buffalo star finished with the eighth best production line in 2016. His overall numbers, per Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by a Ruthian 62%. Overall, the former third round pick slugged .327/.361/.647 with 26 doubles, seven triples, and 19 homeruns in just 80 games. And just for fun, here are those numbers pro-rated for a 162-game season: 53 doubles, 14 triples, and 38 homeruns. All. From. The. Catching. Position.
For his career, Murphy is sporting a rock-solid .282/.347/.537 with 100 doubles, 15 triples, and 72 homeruns in 367 games. He’s also managed to throw out 28% of would-be base stealers as well.
Projection: Let’s take a trip down Memory Lane, ok? Here’s what I wrote in my book two years ago:
“A potential Three Tree Outcomes hitter behind the plate, Murphy has a history of good, not great walk rates, above-average power, and a concerning K-rate. CAL links him to a bunch of backup-type bats in Andrew Knapp, Luis Exposito, and Kellin Deglan. Throw in some massive question marks about controlling the running game – he’s thrown out 20% in his career – and Murphy definitely has some hurdles to jump over to make a big league career possible.”
And I followed that up with the following in last year’s tome:
“And one year later much of the same thing could still be said (or written). Murphy – once again – displayed some Three True Outcomes potential as he posted an ISO above .230 and a punch out rate north of 28.5%. His walk rate stumbled a bit effectively costing him the triumvirate. A reasonable big league comparison: J.P. Arencibia.”
Well, Murphy’s strikeout rate plummeted to 24.3% last season – his lowest mark since 2014. His BABIP also spiked, .386, which is another cause for concern. With the state of catching at the big league level completely bereft of impact talent, Murphy should have no obstacles standing in his way towards becoming a decent big league backstop.
Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player
Risk: Low to Moderate
MLB ETA: Debuted in 2015
|9. Miguel Castro, RHP|
|Born: 12/24/94||Age: 22||Bats: R||Top CALs: N/A
|Height: 6-5||Weight: 190||Throws: R|
Background: Also part of the Troy Tulowitzki-mega swap with Toronto, Castro, who was acquired along with Jeff Hoffman, Jesus Tinoco, and big league veteran Jose Reyes, battled some shoulder soreness in 2016 – an injury that limited him to just 15.2 innings in the Pacific Coast League and 14.2 innings in Colorado. For his five-year minor league career, Castro has thrown 224.2 innings while averaging an impressive 9.6 strikeouts and 3.3 walks per nine innings while totaling an aggregate 3.08 ERA. He’s also thrown 32.1 innings in the big league career, fanning 30 and walking 15 to go along with a 6.12 ERA.
Projection: Here’s what I wrote about the hard-throwing right-hander in last year’s book:
“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.”
After a year of basically wasted development thanks to the shoulder injury, I think there’s still time for him to regain his once promising control – after all he’s just entering his age-22 season. There’s tremendous upside here, if he can regain his old ways with the strike zone. If not, well, that mid- to upper-90s fastball will play tremendously well in the bullpen.
Ceiling: 2.5-win player
MLB ETA: Debuted in 2015
|10. Jordan Patterson, 1B/LF/RF|
|Born: 02/12/92||Age: 25||Bats: L||Top CALs: Johnny Field, Matt Den Dekker, Brett Carroll, Mike Gerber, Brandon Jones|
|Height: 6-4||Weight: 215||Throws: L|
Background: Next in line in Colorado’s seemingly endless supply of older, league average, and incredibly valuable bats. Patterson, who’s walking in the same footsteps of Charlie Blackmon, Corey Dickerson, and D.J. LeMahieu, turned in another Patterson-like showing with the Albuquerque Isotopes in the Pacific Coast League. In 119 games, the corner outfielder/first baseman slugged .293/.376/.480 with 24 doubles, seven triples, and 14 homeruns while going a perfect 10-for-10 in the stolen base department. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by 29%. For his career, Patterson is sporting an impressive .290/.369/.487 triple-slash line, with 108 doubles, 19 triples, and 55 homeruns while swiping 63 bags in 87 attempts.
Projection: Patterson’s been on my prospect radar for the last couple of years. I originally listed him as the system’s 22nd best prospect in 2014. And I wrote the following little blurb in my book a year later:
“A curious fourth round pick out South Alabama, Patterson never displayed homerun-power for a run-producing position in college; he slugged 16 career homeruns. Since entering the system he’s belted 24 in 185 games, though he’s been old for his levels.”
And I wrote the following when I ranked him as the 9th best prospect in last year’s book:
“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.”
He handles lefties and righties well, though he shows a slight favor towards right-handers but not enough to push him into a platoon role. The power is slightly better than average and it’s going to blossom in Coors Field. One of these years when he gets a chance to put together 500 plate appearances in the big leagues, Patterson’s going to put together a 2.0-win season and most people will wonder where it came from.
Patterson’s kind of like a poor man’s Aaron Judge.
Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player
MLB ETA: Debuted in 2016
Author’s note: A special hat tip the following websites for the use of the their statistics – fangraphs, baseballreference, baseballprospectus, statcorner, and ClayDavenport.com