At the end of April I provided a quick look at our top pitching prospects at the AA and AAA levels. I focused on those high levels since that is where our top pitching prospects are located. Our positional prospects are located far more in the A levels or AA, so this report covers more players at more levels. Thanks to this Internet thing we are now able to listen to games (and sometimes watch) from Asheville, Modesto, Tulsa and Colorado Springs as well as following their write-ups in the local papers. Many of our best prospects are at least 2 years away, but they sure are fun to follow and see them develop.
The grades are my own, based on what I read, saw, and heard as well as thanks to other prospect following sites and trying to take into account both the high-end potential they bring (Dahl could be an All Star in CF, Casteel could be a decent catcher for several years), which is highly subjective of course. These are just my grades, and I say to all the Rockies prospects – I like you all and want you all to be future All-Stars, but no one likes and easy grader, no matter why they give easy grades.
As I said, most of our positional prospects are in the A levels, at Asheville and Modesto. Only Kyle Parker is at AAA, a prospect, and on the 40 already. At Tulsa the offense has been really bad for the most part, and some of our most important prospects have not gotten off to great starts, like Tom Murphy. Others like Ryan McMahon have had great starts, but also have had times of struggle – which is what you want, for them to learn there not to go without failing til they hit the big leagues. The great news is that two important prospects who had lost years in 2013, one due to injury (David Dahl) and one due to performance (Trevor Story) have re-bounded this April and started out great. We may have to wait a few years to see these guys at Coors, but the future for our positional players, while maybe not as high as our pitching prospects, looks pretty good too.
Anyways, enjoy, and please feel free to give feedback. If there is a player I left off, let me know. I did not include players who are still in extended spring training waiting for the start of Tri-City Short-Season A, Grand Junction or any players playing in the D.R. summer leagues which have not started yet. Also I use the slash line of average, on-base, and OPS because I still value average, list the # of homers and give K/BB ratios because it tells us something about a player’s batting eye, even when they have high K #s, which is an issue it seems with players at some positions and something scouts and GMs over-look at other positions. But those are my favorite stats to focus upon. Again, these are my grades listed, so they are probably wrong but at least gives us something to argue about:
David Dahl – OF – Asheville (Low A), age 20 –Dahl is the #3 rated prospect for the Rox overall, after two pitchers you may have heard of at Tulsa. Dahl was their #1 in 2012 and he was super-stud at Grand Junction at 18, setting the franchise hitting streak (broken last year by Tapia), tossing 9 homers in just 306 PA, a 42/21 K/BB ratio and showing raw speed if not great base stealing ability (12/9CS). His .379 average and 1.048 OPS when considering a lot of those ABs were against college pitching led many to believe he could be a past riser, along the lines of Arenado or the many others hitting the majors now at 21 and 22. Then last year he missed a team flight, struggled with the big move to Ashville and tore, complete tear, his hamstring (supposed to be better long-term the tear he had vs smaller injuries to the leg muscles).
Now playing at A Ball at age 20, everyone says he looks mature, bigger, and ready to become the player the Rox hope he will be. [NOTE: I have just seen that the median age in the Sally League this year is almost 22] The comp some have is along the lines of Dexter Fowler – good speed, some pop, good average, nice arm and good defense. So far, the average has not been as high (.271) but 6HR a 19:7 K/BB and 8/0CS. The defense has continued to look good – he has 3 assists already and a high range factor. But the year he took off re-habbing his hamstring allowed him to grow physically – the 6 homers already this season, even in Ashville, is a big surprise. The upside might be a bit higher than originally thought and could be…in talent potential we are talking…something higher than Dexter but less than, any this is the guy some say they see if he ended up fully realizing his talent – Larry Walker. Walker was the best athlete I ever saw, so, that is not going to happen. But if Dahl continues to show power and hit for average with the rest of his athleticism, then this could be a future RF or even CF (his range allows his to play CF but CF is about reads not speed). What is really exciting for the Rox is Dahl took a while to get going, which means he got the mental bump of missing a year, struggling, and then finding himself. The last 10 games he his hitting .319 OBP, with a .477 slug. Only 1 homer/3 double in that stretch (hence the low slugging) but still drawing his walks. There is a good chance he might be in Modesto, if this keeps up, after the mid-point of the season, getting him back on track for his developmental rise.
Prospect Grade May 4: A- : Dahl needed to show that the year off didn’t hold him back. It has not a disappointment. Still young for the league, Dahl is showing that he deserves to still be the top positional player on this team. That athleticism will play great at Coors and if he keeps hitting well in Asheville he might be in Modesto real soon. And from there it is just a matter of forcing the hand of the team. Might be the future CF of this team as early as 2016. But for May 4, he has earned his A-.
Ryan McMahon – 3B – Asheville (Low A), Age 19 –McMahaon was 2nd rounder, former quarterback at Mater Dei High in L.A, a quarterback factory, but chose baseball over football (see, we already know he is a smart kid). PurpleRow, the Rockies fan website from BleacherReport, had interviews last summer with a lot of last year’s draft group who were quickly signed and sent-off to Grand Junction (another big point of quality in this team’s current organization – they draft and sign with the idea of getting development started quickly). In the interviews last year I was so impressed with what we heard from Ryan. Figured his kid might be a good future (2018 maybe) version of Garret Atkins, if he stuck at 3B. Well, I was wrong (so far). He hit .321 (again at age 18), .402 OBP, .984 OPS. Again good K/BB walk ratio, 59:28. The 11 homers were nice (in 251 PA), especially given his youth, even if the Pioneer League isn’t going to fool people that its Pac Bell Park. Not much in terms of speed, but a good body to add to as he gets older. The thought his defense with his hand-eye skills, could be a 4 tool player. And even better – he is a left handed hitting 3rd baseman (right-handed fielder as all 3B).
This year in Asheville has been fun, especially for a 19 year-old (it is not unusual for a guy like him to be a Tri-City this year). In 110 PA, he already has 7 2B and 9 homers, 28 RBI, but has held his average steady at .283. The walks have made him a .376 OBP/1.028 OPS. The good news, and I do mean this, is that over the past ten days he has been struggling. You want these kids to struggle in the minors – that is where you want them learning to deal with how hard this game really is (I heard Walt Weiss say that Nolan’s tough 2012 is what has made him the player he is today). Over the past 10 games he has still had 2HR, but he has lost the strike-zone, with 13K (vs 5BB). The league has begun to learn about him and he may have gotten a bit homer happy. But on Friday night he had 2 hits with 5 RBI on a 2B and single (he had 6 5 days earlier with 2B and homer), which is good because learning that you can drive runs in by just putting the ball in play is important, essential if you are going to have success at the mlb level, but a lot of power hitters forget that as they go up the minor league levels. The power from Ryan comes from his lower half as well as his hands (hands are still important on everyone), so his powerful legs and good footwork is exciting the team. Add that to his already 6’3” 185lb frame (that is a big kid, and he might end up a bigger kid and bat than the #2 overall choice in the 2013 draft, Kris Kryant). Despite that, if there is one great concern about the kid its that the Ks have risen as he has struggled and Ks, even when playing against kids 3 years older than you, make scouts and development directors nervous. But again, struggle at A Ball, and learn.
I mentioned 4 tool players…the one issue thus far has been his fielding (similar speed to Nolan). The infields in the minors are not always very good (they just redid the one here at Security Service Field and for the first time I can remember I have been seeing some true bounces). They say he has soft hands, but just an average arm. If the power continues to build the chances of McMahon ending up at 1B gets more likely (especially if Arenado is signed to a long-term deal despite Boras. If that happens I would not be surprised to see Ryan moved to 1B immediately). Most scouts still doubt he will ever be a .300 hitter, but if the power develops and he hits .280+ and draws walks, then you have a borderline all-star (according to one scout working the SALLY).
Grade as of May 4: A- : Tempted to give him the full A but a) the strikeouts need to come down though he is drawing his walks as well, the defense has been unsteady and he is a higher value prospect at 3B than 1B. But the early struggles the past 10 days are going to make him a better player quicker. The big question is when might he get a promotion. They want 200 PA min at Asheville, which means he might get some time in Modesto before too long.
Tom Murphy – C, Tulsa (AA), age 23 –This is the first big disappointment in our farm updates. Tom was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft as a catcher out of U of Buffalo (New York kid). His bat was the primary reason for his being drafted though some thought he might have been in the top 3 of college catchers coming out. Tom went to Tri-City after signing in 2012 (Short Season low A), and hit – .288AVG/.349OBP/.811 OPS with 6 HR. 2013 was a quick moving year for Murphy, whose catching continued to get raves. At Asheville he put in 341 PA and a (.288/.385/.975 with 19HR) and was given a late season upgrade to Tulsa (knowing he was heading there in 2014 and…as it turned out the team was considering what it might due in terms of signing either McCann or Ruiz and doing something with Rosario). In those last 74 PA at age 22 (young for Tulsa), he hit .290/.338/.831 with 3HR [Note: I always include both average and OPB because I still think average matters while a lot of SABER folks only think OBP, but in the NL where there are a lot of walks at the end of the batting order, we need to know average]. Again, good raves in his defense and game calling.
2014 has been a different story, as indeed it has been for the whole Tulsa offense. Now, they have a young squad for the AA level, with Murphy at 23 being on the older side of their team, but they really hoped he would repeat what they saw in 2013 and make this team Happy Happy with some nice assets if a trade was needed. In 74 PA, he is hitting (gulp!), .167/.257/.575 with just 3HR (and 1 double). And the last 10 days…worse! .108/.233/.368 with 13K and 5BB. Overall his K/BB is 22:7. What has happened? Well, first, the team continues to give him big raves for his catching, and the great work by the staff at Tulsa I talked about in the pitching prospect report goes in part to Tom (he is splitting the catching work with Dustin Garneau, an older AA player at 26 whose arm is special catching runners at 38%). They are not going to panic, obviously. The kid has hit well since being drafted where he was drafted higher than expected but the Rox liked him. Here is what was said coming out:” One of Colorado’s top catching prospects, 2012 third rounder Tom Murphy slashed .288/.349/.462 in 212 at-bats with the low-A Tri-City Dust Devils in 2012. Reminding some scouts of JP Arencebia, Murphy makes strong and solid contact from gap to gap, with a level swing and developing power that should help him reach the cheap seats more as he fills out. He’s not a base-clogger, with good speed and good baserunning smarts for a catcher. Murphy is a standout defensive backstop with an above average arm (he shot down 42% of base stealers last season.) He’ll take a couple of years to sharpen his game-calling and hopefully keep his strikeout totals from climbing as he gets stronger, but other than that he looks like a pretty sweet catcher of the future to us.” Hope this starts being true again real soon. Again, it is still very early.
Prospect Grade as of May 4: C- : Because the game-calling is still solid and because he has done some other things well, the grade is passing. Again, struggles are important in teaching players, but they are ready for him to break-out. They have been giving extra games off to work on things at the plate while playing the non-prospect. They will let him work it out in AA unless things get bad, and at 23 he is still young enough. But his prospect status will disappear if this is the way the whole year goes.
Kyle Parker – OF/1B (AAA), age 24 –Parker was the team’s 1st round pick in 2010 having played QB at Clemson and is still the only player to have 20 TD passes and 20 homers in the same collegiate year. Remember the 2010 draft followed their playoff year in 2009 so they were drafting low (26th), and decided to go the developmental prospect level with Parker, figuring once he focused on baseball and allowed that athleticism to get involved, they could have a solid future player. A lot of folks think Parker and see Matt Holliday, and that remains the comparison I read from others as well. Parker has been a traditional prospect – one step each year. He started in Asheville, then Modesto, then Tulsa, and now Colorado Springs. Over the first 3 years the splits have been .285/.308/.288 on average, .367/.415/.345 OBP, and .850/.976/.836 OPS. His homers have been 21,23,23. So very consistent developmental pathway. Parker has been a decent prospect, but has not made anyone get very excited. Thinking of Holliday, he was a high-school drafted player, but yes his minor league development did look a lot alike but with less power. For Holliday, with this athleticism, once he started to see good pitching that was around the plate, he turned into a better hitter. Not just fans have said that about Parker, as some scouts think with his eye (last 2 year he has been around 2:1 K/BB, which is good for power hitters) to do the same.
A lot of folks were confused by the team’s off-season’s moves as it refers to Parker. The signing of Morneau closes off the 1B position for 2 or maybe 3 years. As for RF, the nature spot for him, the team went out and got Stubbs and Barnes and has Dickerson as well (and there were whispers of Cuddy getting an extension). Well, for right now, Parker isn’t making anyone make room for him at Coors. .284/.367/.872 with just 3HR (this is the PCL, pitchers have .872 OPS). He has fortunately gotten hotter the past 10 days (been able to follow-up the Sox lately even in Memphis), going .314/.419/.904 but with 4 2B, 1T, and no homers. The word is that Parker is now being scouted by other teams, as he is still a young 24 potential power hitter, with 20 homer power who can play either corner or 1B. The Rox love their home-grown talent, but Parker is one of those guys who, without a clear opening in the near future, might be able to help the team out some place as a piece in a big trade. Either way, a big year in AAA is important for the Rox and Parker.
Prospect Grade as of May 4: B+ : Parker has done what he has done at each stage of his development. Hitting in the .280s, getting on-base through walks, showing some power, and helping the team out. But it ti is AAA, and the Rox had to hope that he was hitting .330 with 8 or 9 homers, forcing their hand in terms of what to do with the kid. Still only 24, he is about the right age for AAA and is a real prospect, and we may yet see him up in Colorado if Stubbs or Barnes struggles or if Morneau gets hurt for an extended period of time.
Rosell Herrera, SS/INF (Modesto, High A), Age 21 –A lot of times a bad year for a player can tell you not that they are a bad prospect, but they are just too young. Such is the story with Herrera, a great athlete who in 2012 was in over his head at Asheville in 2012. He was great at Casper in 2011 flasghing a .361 average and 6 homers as an 18 year-old. At Tri-City he hit .284 with a single homer but at Asheville the first time (at 19) he was no match for the pitching – .202 avg with a .543 OPS. But this is a good scouting team – and they believe in Rosell (even if they have no idea where to play him because he has one of the worst gloves in the system). In 2013 at Asheville he hit: .343/.419/.933 OPS and 16 homers to go with 21 steals (8 CS). Herrera is an interesting prospect…again depending on where he plays because the mix of power and speed excites.
This year in Modesto, a known hitters-league, playing at 21 (still young for the league), he is .264/.284/.562 but without a homer. And he has in 74 PA….2 walks. Not what you call a patient hitter. Has struck out 12 times this year in those 74. Sadly, he is hurt right now with a sore wrist, no internal damage at least according to the sources from Modesto. They will be careful with the kid, for obvious reasons. He is a faster version and bigger version of Juan Uribe, but without the glove. There has been talk of a move to outfield, though his value power-wise is lessor as an OF than an IF. Hope he gets back to playing soon….if I hear more on the wrist, will keep you up to-date.
Prospect Grade as of May 4: INCOMPLETE – Rosell had not gotten off to a great start before the injury. They love what he brings in terms of speed and power, but is still very young and relatively raw. Hope he is back by the May report.
Ramiel Tapia – OF – Asheville (Low A), age 20 –Ramiel spent 2 years with the Rox Dominician League team before they brought him over at age 19 (most prospects get here at 18). Did that mean he wasn’t a prospect? Well, based on the fact that he made the Top 100 MLB Prospects this year at 97 tells you how good his year in Grand Junction was. All he did was break Dahl’s hitting streak. He went .357/.399./.961 with 7 homers and 10 steals (9CS) and 31:15 K/BB ratio. He also plays good defense. Instant prospect.
Tapia skipped Tri-City and starts the year in Asheville, at age 19. Playing against kids 2 or 3 years older, a lot of college pitchers, he is holding his own: .265/.311/.699 with 2 HR. The 6 steals and 4 CS indicate he is still not reading pitchers well, because they think he has 20 steal potential. The average is low but again, older competition and he has had some good ABs. Past 10 days getting hotter with a .275/.318/.818 both homers and 3 doubles. He is striking out a bit more (26/7) but that has improved the past 10 days as well (9:3). He has been playing a lot of LF with Dahl playing CF, probably doesn’t have the arm to play center anyways. Tapia might be the most exciting player, all-around, in the entire Rockies farm sytem.
Prospect Grade as of May 4: B+: The outcomes may look low, but for a 19 year-old kid playing against good pitching, he has improved since day 1 and continues to learn the game. He will be at Asheville the whole season so there is plenty of time to work through things. I would expect him to go Modesto in 2015, then Tulsa in 2016 and see what happens. Great bat and he is going to get stronger and maybe faster…picture about 85% of CarGo perhaps.
Trevor Story – SS/INF (Modesto, High-A), 21 –Story was the supplemental #1 pick in 2011 at #45. Picking a high-school infielder with the idea of developing him to be a Clint Barmes type player, or starting 2nd baseman if they really hit on a guy. People love Story’s tools. He has yet to have the big year: Casper, .268/.364/.799 – 6Hr, Asheville, .277/.367/.872 – 18 HR (got him higher on the prospect ratings), Modesto, .233/.305/.700 – 12 HR in a hitter league. And the Ks were atrocious 183:45! Yes, 183 for a speed infielder. Story dropped off a lot of prospect lists after that but the team figured failing at age 20 in Modesto was not a bad thing, and he is repeating this year, much as Herrera repeated Asheville. So far…different guy: .343/.442/.1.010 with only 2HR but 11 doubles and 3 triples. And the past 10 days even better: .389/.488/1.155 with 1 homer and 5 doubles, and 3 steals, with keeping his eye 8:7 (on the season 33:17). He already has 18 steals and 2CS. That speed is plus-plus. He does have 6 errors, 5 at SS, but great range factor.
So the question is what happens with Story. Right now at AA the offense is really struggling, and aside from 2B Taylor Featherston, their infield is particularly bad. It is still early in the season, and they want to see more from Story, but this shows how a player can change things quickly if he learns from struggles rather than letting it get to him. The current Tulsa Drillers SS is hitting just .242 and the offense may be causing some issues with the great starting pitching at Tulsa. So, might we see Trevor in Tulsa soon? Keep an eye out because among position players, it is Trevor Story, not Ryan McMahon who has had the best year.
Prospect Grade as of May 4: A : Story had a hard season, even if the numbers do not look all that bad. Remember, hitting .233 in the major leagues might keep you as back-up infielder, for prospects it ends your career, or at least it causes a team to move its eyes to the next man up. Story is either “just 21” or already 21. A true prospect, one who has a chance to really challenge the team to make room for him, pushes the envelope. So, this age 21 season is so big for Story, and his year thus far looks like it is going to push him back up the prospect rankings. I would not be surprised to see Story in Tulsa by the end of May.
Jordan Patterson – OF/1B – Asheville (Low A), age 22 –Patterson is one of my favorite players, but barely belongs on this list due to his low draft status (4th round last year) and age (22, about average for Asheville). Most prospect lists put him in the 10-15 range, but since I am only looking at position players in this report, I wanted to include him. He was drafted last year in the 4th round out of the University of South Alabama, where he was the team captain (not a surprise since we know the kind of high character-hard worker types the team goes for in building their team). In college he played OF, 1B and even pitched, clocking in at 96 during the regionals (as a lefty, I am sure the Rockies considered turning him into a pitcher at some point – MLB had an article about the youngest son of Jessie Barfield who after making it to AAA was turned into a pitcher because he is lefty and wasn’t going to hit quite well-enough to make it to “the Show”). Patterson is 6’5”, 210, so a very big kid, who could have returned to college for his senior year but already 21 he knew it was time to go. I watched his swing a few times, it is not quite CarGo or Helton beautiful, but it looks good.
He started out last year in Grand Junction, and as you might expect playing older than most of the players, he had a really good season. In 249 PA he was .291/.389/.884 with 10HR and 10 SB (6CS), and a 37:19 K/BB ratio. Again, the PurpleRow interviews of Jordan (he has the right name, since we have two guys with it already – fast track to the Bigs with that?) were very good. That got him sent to Asheville this off-season, where is right about “at age.” In 24 games this year things have been a lot more difficult.
His slash: .239/.346/.687 with just the 2 HR while still showing a decent eye (28:12, K/BB), and 0SB. The last 10 days have been even harder. It is still early of course with only 88 ABs, but this wasn’t what Jordan was looking for in-terms of a follow-up to last year. He has the potential of both a 1B or corner OF bat in the major leagues, as again, that left-handed bat looking really smooth when it is rolling. He has a real good eye, as those 12 BB is second on the team. But so far, things have not gotten rolling quite as well as hoped (his defense at every spot played has looked pretty good, and that is likely to continue going forward.
Prospect Grade as of May 4: C+ : Jordan is not “old” for the league, but about average, so the early season struggles are not unusual. The season is early enough and he has enough tools things should get better. The swing is too good not to get results. I have heard comparisons to Adam LaRoche, but that maybe more power than he actually ends up producing. There is also the fact that should things go really south, they can always try again as a lefty reliever. Good leadership, good defense, just not hitting so far as well as expected.
Ryan Casteel – C – Tulsa (AA), age 22 (almost 23) –Ryan was a 17th round pick in 2010 from Cleveland State CommunityCollege, and has moved from obscure draft pick to interesting prospect for one main reason – he can hit pretty good. At 5’11”, 205, he is sharing the catching chores and DHing with Tom Murphy and the 26-year old non-prospect Dustin Garneau. Ryan has moved up a level each year, starting at Casper where he hit .305/.342/.755 with 3HR and a 35:10 K/BB ratio. Next was short-season Tri-City where he his .273/.354/.748 with 1 HR. At this point, you think, nice bat, as a catcher it sounds a lot like Jordan Pacheco. 2012 was more of the same while playing for at Asheville he hit .279/.332/.746 with 2HR (44:19, K/BB). A decent hitter but not something that makes you get really excited.
Fortunately for Casteel, the next season was at Modesto, in the offensive CAL league. It gave him a chance to explode, especially finally getting 411 ABs, the most yet. The results, .270/.352/.875 and with that 22HR. The Ks grew as well alas, 118:50, which is why his prospect status is hard to really determine. The 22 homers get you excited, but when you have a 25% K rate, is that worth it? Add to that those numbers are good if are behind the plate….as a first-baseman, they are probably not good enough to remain a prospect. The Rox are trying to get both Casteel and Murphy along with Garneau enough ABs, so Casteel has been behind the plate a lot so far, but the offense, as has been true for seemingly the whole Tulsa team, has not been there: .243/.305/.697, with 2HR and a 17:7 K/B ratio, but in 74 ABs, still a 23% rate. They will continue to find get Casteel ABs around the diamond so they can see what they have, hoping that his bat gives them another 20+ homer season, but so far Tulsa is a whole lot harder environment than was the CAL league.
Prospect Grade as of May 4: C : Casteel’s power appeared out of nowhere last year, so was it the CAL? This team loves the idea of having a lot of bats at the catcher position because no other position aside from pitching will teams trade talent as quick. Murphy is struggling and Casteel is as well, but neither is old for the league, so early season struggles do not doom their status. But the continued near ¼ K rate is the biggest issue with Casteel.
Patrick Valaika – SS/2B – Asheville (Low A), 21 –Valaika was a 9th round pick in 2013, and actually wasn’t expected to sign, since he was starting SS at UCLA and had a good situation. Valaika skipped Grand Junction and spent last year in Tri-City, hitting .240/.345/.735 in 178PA, playing pretty good defense as well. He showed a great eye, 33:23 K/BB but little power (1HR and 15 2B). This year he moved up just the one level to Asheville, and his stroke already has shown big imrpvement. He is hitting .373/.407/.985, with 3HR and 8 2B. His K total is up (20:5) and he hasn’t shown big-time speed (4 SB, 1CS). And right now he is riding a 20-game hitting streak, and has just the 2 errors this year while showing good range at SS. His brother Chris has already been in MLB, with a total of 106 games over 7 years and another Matt who was with the Cardinals organization, so this a baseball kid with high baseball IQ. His ceiling is usually looked at like that of a utility infielder or maybe a Clint Barnes type, but as David Eckstein provided, good defensive players who can use the bat can make a nice career for themselves.
Prospect Grade as of May 4: A : The grade takes into account his ceiling. Pat is not about to cause the team to trade Tulo, but he has shown great growth over Tri-City the year before (he may have been tired after having played almost every inning of UCLAs season the year before), and will definitely move to Modesto if this kind of performance continues.
Taylor Fetherston – 2B, Tulsa (AA), 24 – Taylor is one of those under-the-radar prospects in the Rockies system. At age 24, he is at the edge of prospect age in the new world, but he is also one of the few players impressing at Tulsa. Taylor was a 5th round pick out of TCU in 2011. He has improved each year with the team – starting in Tri-City at .231/.312/.661, 2HR and a 38:17, K/BB ratio. Not really great, but first year of pro-ball. Next year he was at Asheville and started the slow-improvement and climb-up the system, .299/.393/.887 with 12 HR and adding 15 SB (4CS). He did strike out a lot but also showed a good-enough eye to walk a lot, 87/53. In 2013 he was part of the playoff team in Modesto going .292/.342/.826 with 13 HR and stealing 17 (4CS). Through those first three seasons the only thing that hasn’t improved is his glove work, with 19 errors last year though showing great range. Sound like someone? When I have watched Taylor I at first thought it was Josh Rutledge! He plays and looks a lot like him (of course Josh cannot dislodge DJ right now, so that might not be the best comparison if Taylor wants to be in the majors soon.
This year he has been the best offensive player for Tulsa. The only other player having a good offensive season is Harold Riggins (who was the player of the week in their league, but at 24, Harold is not considered a prospect at 1B, where at AAA Ben Paulson is already blocked by Morneau – though I like Harold as a player and he is the kind of player an organization like the Rockies has to have). Taylor’s season: .351/.474/.896 with 2 HR (though his basestealing has been an issue, 3SB/4CS). He has 21:13 K/BB ratio, still an 18% K ratio but with a nearly .500 OBP, you can live with the Ks. Taylor leads the team with 19 runs as well, which have been sorely needed by the great Tulsa pitching staff (the Drillers are 15-15, in 1st place, which tells you with the poor hitting, just how well they have pitched!
Prospect Grade as of May 4: A- : Taylor’s defense has to be improve, and if it does, he can immediately become part of the competition for the 2B job. This team has great athletes right now in the middle-infield group – DJ, Rutledge, Culberson, and Feathston as well as Christian Adames, who I am not including in the prospect list even though he is usually included, simply because of the log-jam and Adames only adds great defense. Taylor’s start has set himself up great if the Sky Sox have an injury. His bat should play at the big league level, and this start will likely get him added to the 40 next off-season.
Two Non-Prospects Who Might Make it to Coors Field This Year:
Ben Paulsen – 1B, Colorado Springs (AAA), Age 26 – Ben was drafted in the 3rd round by the Rockies in 2009 and is the latest in a long-line of big first base types this team has had over the years, including guys like Ryan Shealy that made it to “the show” with other clubs. Ben in 6’4” and 205 lbs, and looks the part – kind of like a more athletic (at this point) Adam Dunn. In the 5 years before this season he has hit between .241 and .292, had an OPS between .702 and .867. He has between 12 and 19 homers. He has also struck out between 113 and 132 times (a high of 40 walks). Ben has had a nice minor-league career, but never made it to the 40, even when he had a good spring training like last year. This year at Colorado Springs he is having his best year, and if Morneau were to be hurt for a lengthy period of time (60-day DL so a spot opened up), this year might get a call – it certainly should get attention next off-season when minor-league FA are signed. His line: .327/.368/1.004 with 6HR and 7 2B. He has a 26:7 K/BB ratio, keeping his K ratio at 24%, his career rate. He is doing what he has to in order to get a shot if something happens at Coors (yes, Ryan Wheeler has the 40 spot, but if Morneau was down for an extended period of time, they might prefer the bigger bat of Paulsen).
Prospect Grade as of May 4: Ben has done all this team has asked of him, and he has had a nice season so far at Colorado Springs. The question is whether the chance to compete to make a 40 will happen here or somewhere else.
Tim Wheeler – OF, Colorado Springs, (AAA), 26 –Wheeler is the classic example of what can happen when you get hurt. Tim was a supplemental #1 in 2009 (the same year as Tyler Matzek was picked, showing that 2009 picks have had a very interesting path to get close to “the Show”). Tim injured his hand – broke the hamate bone – in 2012, and it essentially close off his road to the major leagues. In 2011 he had a huge year at Tulsa, hitting 33 HR with a .287/.365/.900 along with 21 SB (12 CS). Yes, he struck out 142 times that season (59BB), but those 33 HR got him to the Arizona Fall League, and with his ability to play all three outfield positions (though CF is his weakest), he looked like 2012 was going to be the year he made it to Coors. But the hamate bone when broken can sap power in many players – not all, but most.
Wheeler’s career just died. In two years in the PCL he had slash lines of .303/.357/.786 with 2 HR and .262/.355/.685 and 5 HR. He was taken off the 40 this winter…and no one claimed him. That tells you how quickly he fell, because just a few years ago he was as high as the #5 rated Rockie prospect. Then, no one wanted you. The Rockies brought him back, gave him an invite to major league camp, and finally healthy, he was the Spring Training MVP for the Rockies. They sent him to Colorado Springs but told him to keep him head up and see what happens. The problem is that players like Corey Dickerson, also a left-handed batter and 2 years younger, have passed him by. Right now there is not enough ABs for all the outfielders at Coors: CarGo, Stubbs, Dickerson, Cuddyer, Barnes and Blackmon. That is 6 OF and they have only had enough ABs because of the injury to Cuddy.
Wheeler though has done what has been asked of him: .269/.327/.827 with 4HR though a 24:5 K/BB ratio. I doubt that he will be by-passed at the end of the year when teams begin to look for minor league free agents that might be able to play at the big league level. Wheeler was hotter earlier, but has had a tough past 10 games (hitting just .211 with 8Ks the past 10 games). The only other OF on the 40 right now is Kyle Parker, for obvious reasons. But Wheeler is playing hard and giving the team options.
Prospect Grade as of May 4: B : Tim has played hard, playing all 3 OF positions, has hit some big homers, and until the last 10 days, was hitting for a higher average. He may never get his shot here in Colorado, but he gives some nice depth if he is playing this well and pop off the bench. He has done all the team has asked him to do, and has been a solid B for the Sky Sox.