Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
It is still the time of the year when baseball interests are about possibility and hope. A big part of that are organizational prospects. So far, Jason Parks at Baseball Prospectus has offered his thoughts on the Rockies top ten prospects, Baseball America has published its top ten, Purple Row went a bit deeper and covered their consensus top 30, and we’re still waiting on FanGraphs’ Rockies top ten from Marc Hulet. Each list is notable in its own right, but the only implications they have on future competition so far are how each top ten measures against other systems. We’ll soon get a clearer picture once the top 100 prospect lists and organizational rankings become available. Tonight, MLB.com will unveil the first top 100 prospect list for 2014, and it is going to be interesting to see how many Rockies end up on it. This will provide our first glimpse into how the Rockies organizational depth compares to other teams based on high end prospects. I suspect that the Rockies will be well represented, and I think it will be the first sign that over the course of the next few months we’re going to hear a lot about the strength of the club’s farm system.
The Rockies had three names on MLB.com’s 2013 list: David Dahl at 58, Nolan Arenado at 62, and Trevor Story at 99. Arenado won’t be on the list because he’s gone on to fulfill the hope invested in all prospects by entrenching himself in the daily line-up, and after a down 2013 with the bat (.233/.305/.394) at High-A Modesto, I doubt Story will remain on the list. That leaves Dahl. His ranking might suffer because he missed nearly all of 2013 due to a torn hamstring, but his ceiling remains very high and he will stick around on top 100-lists.
Then there are the pitchers. Jonathan Gray, taken number three overall in the 2013 amateur draft, is the best pitching prospect the Rockies have ever had, and he might challenge Troy Tulowitzki and Todd Helton as the organization’s best prospect ever. He’ll likely start the year in AA Tulsa and has a good shot at making an appearance in September this year. Given his polish and potential, I would be surprised if he’s not in the top twenty. Behind him might be Eddie Butler. He’s already shown he can handle AA ball and is on track to debut for the Rockies this year as well. I suspect Butler will be somewhere in the top 50-60 prospects. Not a lot of teams will have two front-of-the-rotation ceiling prospects ranked so highly.
If Dahl, Gray, and Butler are on the top 100 prospect list, it will equal the number that they had on the 2013 list. But that doesn’t suggest equivalence, as the ceilings of Gray and Butler are higher than the names they would be replacing (Arenado and Story); not to mention that their contribution as starting pitchers would be more valuable.
The other name that might make its way on the list is more surprising than Dahl, Gray, and Butler. Keep an eye out to see if Raimel Tapia makes the MLB.com top 100. Baseball America ranks him tenth, and Purple Row has him 16th. Baseball Prospectus, however, ranks him third in the organization, ahead of Dahl but behind Gray and Butler. The Rockies acquired the almost 20 year old as an international free agent in 2010. At Rookie level Grand Junction in 2013, he hit .357/.399/.562 in 66 games. Those numbers need to be calibrated to the competition, but Jason Parks sees him as a true five-tool player, not unlike Carlos Gonzalez. In fact, he may end up replacing Gonzalez after the 2017 season as a 24 year old, when Gonzalez’s current contract expires. It will be interesting to see where Marc Hulet ranks Tapia so as to better contextualize, corroborate, or challenge Parks’s high ranking compared to the others.
This is all speculation of the MLB.com top 100 list. And because it deals with prospects, it’s really speculation of speculation. If Tapia can make his way on to some top 100 prospect lists, the Rockies may have two plus-pitchers and two outfielders with really big bats and speed getting national attention. As we await the first top 100 list and then the others, I think we’re going to hear a lot about the great potential the Rockies have in the farm system. Parks described the system as “boom or bust.” In anticipation of the optimism that comes with baseball in early spring, I’m placing my hopes, for now at least, on a prosperous near-future for the Colorado Rockies.
Some of these prospects will be in camp during the spring. Be there too by getting your Colorado Rockies spring training tickets here.