2017 Colorado Rockies Top 10 Prospects

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1. Brendan Rodgers, ss
2. Riley Pint, rhp
3. Jeff Hoffman, rhp
4. Raimel Tapia, of
5. German Marquez, rhp
6. Ryan Castellani, rhp
7. Tom Murphy, c
8. Kyle Freeland, lhp
9. Ryan McMahon, 3b/1b
10. Antonio Senzatela, rhp

The transformation has been quick, but virtually unnoticed from afar. With the emergence of a new leadership approach in Colorado two offseasons ago, the Rockies’ focus returned to the basics of baseball.

No more gimmicks. No more moaning about altitude. No more attempts to reinvent the wheel. And look what has happened.

A franchise built on scouting and player development finds itself so confident in the talent it has developed—and the talent that is on the way—that it signed free agent Ian Desmond, not to patch a hole, but to play first base and bring playoff experience.

In other words, the Rockies believe they will be a factor in the National League West in 2017.

It all starts with the homegrown nucleus and confidence in the farm system.

The Rockies will go to spring training with a lineup in which five of the eight projected regulars will be homegrown: third baseman Nolan Arenado, shortstop Trevor Story, left fielder David Dahl, center fielder Charlie Blackmon and catcher Tom Murphy. At least three members of the rotation will be players originally signed and developed by the Rockies—Jon Gray, Tyler Anderson and Chad Bettis—and the farm system should provide other pieces as well, such as righthander Jeff Hoffman and lefthander Kyle Freeland.

At 27, Bettis is the elder statesman. Gray posted a Rockies-record 16 strikeouts in a September shutout, while fellow rookie Anderson, a 2011 first-round pick who didn’t even rank among the Top 30 Prospects a year ago, recorded a 3.54 ERA in 19 starts after an injury-plagued tour of the minor leagues.

And there is more on the way.

Scouting director Bill Schmidt, long praised for his ability to uncover young hitting talent, is now also earning respect for the ability of his staff to find quality big league pitchers.

What a difference a change in organizational philosophy can make. With the hiring of Jeff Bridich as general manager and the departure of Bill Geivett from the front office, the Rockies’ approach to pitching development changed drastically. For one thing, the Rockies no longer fear pitchers throwing curveballs at altitude.

The Rockies are building a pitching staff around power pitchers focused on doing what they do best, regardless of the environment. The 4.79 ERA the rotation compiled in 2016 was the ninth-best in the franchise’s 24-year history.

The Rockies, however, now have the type of depth to find rotation help primarily from within. Righthanders German Marquez and Antonio Senzatela should contend for innings in 2017.

The NL West has two mega-franchises at the top—the Dodgers and Giants—but the Rockies have more than enough offense to do the job if the pitching develops. The ingredients for Colorado to contend in 2017 and beyond are in place, and they came primarily from within the organization.

1. Brendan Rodgers, ss | bba_video_icon_red

Born: August 6, 1996. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 185. Drafted: HS—Lake Mary, Fla., 2015 (1st round). Signed by: John Cedarburg.

Batting: 60
Power: 60
Speed: 50
Defense: 50
Arm: 55

Based on 20-80 scouting scale—where 50 represents major league average—and future projection rather than present tools.

Background: Rodgers grew up in a family that had a focus on soccer, but his attention turned to baseball at the age of 5. His best friend’s father, Ralph Nema, introduced Rodgers to baseball and coached him a good part of his youth. He was a multi-sport participant during his youth, but in kindergarten he proclaimed he would be a baseball player when he grew up. He certainly had big league touches to his development. While Nema was his youth coach, former big leaguers Dante Bichette, an original Rockies outfielder, and all-star closer Tom Gordon also coached Rodgers. He was considered the top prospect in the 2015 draft but slipped to the Rockies with the No. 3 pick when the two teams ahead of them opted for college shortstops. The Diamondbacks took Vanderbilt’s Dansby Swanson at No. 1 and the Astros selected Louisiana State’s Alex Bregman at No. 2, and they both reached the majors in 2016. The Rockies signed Rodgers to a franchise-record $5.5 million bonus. His pro beginning was a challenge. He battled nagging foot, hamstring and hip injuries at Rookie-level Grand Junction in 2015, limiting him to 37 games and leading scouts who hadn’t seen him as an amateur to question his attitude and potential. At low Class A Asheville in 2016, Rodgers reaffirmed his elite status. He finished third in the South Atlantic League in home runs (19) and fourth in slugging (.480) despite being one of only 14 players in the SAL who was younger than 20.

Scouting Report: Don’t be misled by the fact Rodgers saw time at second and third base as well as shortstop in 2016. The Rockies still feel he has a strong future at shortstop, but the front office is trying to create flexibility with its prospects so that they will be able to fill various holes. With Rodgers’ athleticism and power potential he could fit anywhere in the infield. He has elite bat speed and good feel for the bat head, and he punished fastballs before SAL pitchers adjusted and fed him a steady diet of offspeed stuff. He made adjustments but will have to do so against quality sliders he rarely saw as an amateur. He has a polished approach for such a young hitter with solid plate discipline. With strength and conditioning in the offseason, he will add strength and durability. He has quality actions at shortstop and a solid, at times plus, arm that will improve in its consistency with added strength. Rodgers does not have the speed of a player who would be considered a basestealing threat, but his athletic ability and instincts give him surprising range.

The Future: The Rockies see Rodgers as an eventual all-star and feel confident he can attain that goal at shortstop if he can stay healthy. A hamstring problem landed him on the disabled list in May 2016, and he went through a dead-arm period in his first full season that he must learn from. The Rockies will allow Rodgers to force the issue when he is ready—they have Trevor Story in Colorado, and he just set an NL record for homers by a rookie shortstop—but the next step is high Class A Lancaster.

Asheville (LoA) .281 .342 .480 442 73 124 31 0 19 73 35 98 6

2. Riley Pint, rhp | bba_video_icon_red

Born: Nov. 6, 1997. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 195. Drafted: HS—Overland Park, Kan., 2016 (1st round). Signed by: Brett Baldwin.

Background: Pint was rated the top prep pitching prospect in the 2016 draft and went fourth overall to the Rockies, who signed him for $4.8 million to forgo a Louisiana State commitment. Working to streamline his mechanics, the Rockies limited Pint’s workload at Rookie-level Grand Junction, which led to him never working more than five innings.

Scouting Report: Athleticism and arm speed give Pint an overpowering fastball that has reached 100 mph and sits 97. What makes him special is pairing that with two potential plus offspeed pitches. His breaking pitch, a low-80s power curveball, features natural spin and late break. Once Pint can get a consistent release point, it will be a pitch that can set up his arsenal. His changeup also has plus potential with a lot of action, but still needs consistency. Command issues are being addressed with subtle adjustments to his delivery. Pint showed his ability to adapt quickly during instructional league, when the Rockies worked to improve his balance and direction to the plate. He fits in well with teammates, keeping a low profile and showing an excellent work ethic.

The Future: Pint has the type of arm to be a legitimate No. 1 starter, but Colorado will be need to be patient with such a high-risk talent. He will start at low Class A Asheville in 2017.

Grand Junction (R) 1 5 5.35 11 11 0 0 37 43 2 23 36 .307
Eugene (SS) 0 0 1.08 2 2 0 0 8 5 1 2 14 .167

3. Jeff Hoffman, rhp | bba_video_icon_red

Born: Jan. 1, 1993. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 225. Drafted: East Carolina, 2014 (1st round). Signed by: Chris Kline (Blue Jays).

Background: The key player among the three prospects the Blue Jays sent to the Rockies for shortstop Troy Tulowitzki in a 2015 deadline deal, Hoffman was Toronto’s first pick—ninth overall—in 2014. He had Tommy John surgery shortly before that draft, delaying his pro debut to 2015. He steadily climbed the minor league ladder and made his big league debut in September 2016.

Scouting Report: Hoffman showed signs of fatigue when he debuted with the Rockies, and he surpassed 150 innings for the first time in 2016. At his best during the season he showed a live fastball with sinking life that sits in the 93-96 mph range and reaches 99. Hoffman has an excellent plus curveball but relies on it too much. His slider is a nice secondary breaking pitch, and his changeup is solid. His strikeout rate jumped significantly in the minors, but to keep that up in the big leagues, he has to take better ownership of the inner part of the plate and be willing to use any of his four pitches without hesitation.Home runs are a concern afte he allowed seven in 31.1 innings in his ML debut, although that was not an issue for him in the minors.

The Future: Hoffman has a chance to earn a rotation spot in Denver for 2017. With his power and pitch mix, Hoffman should grow in a solid mid-rotation starter.

Albuquerque (AAA) 6 9 4.02 22 22 0 0 119 117 11 44 124 .261
Colorado (MLB) 0 4 4.88 8 6 0 0 31 37 7 17 22 .287

4. Raimel Tapia, of | bba_video_icon_red

Born: Feb. 4, 1994. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 165. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2010. Signed by: Rolando Fernandez/Jhonathan Leyba/Hector Roa.

Background: Signed for $175,000 in 2010, Tapia has hit at each level in his development. After taking it one level at a time in his first three pro seasons, he moved from Double-A Hartford to Triple-A Albuquerque to a September callup in 2016 and never slowed down. He hit .328 in the minors in 2016 and owns a career .317 average.

Scouting Report: Tapia is an offensive threat and run-creator who plays with confidence and backs it up. Don’t get caught up in the way he crouches in two-strike situations. He does not have that typical rise before he swings in that situation, instead staying low and maintaining the ability to drive the ball into gaps despite the unique approach. Tapia has the speed and range to play center field—he earns average grades—and his above-average arm will play on an outfield corner.

The Future: Despite his above-average speed, Tapia is an inefficient basestealer. He should force his way to the big leagues to stay in 2017. His athleticism gives the Rockies options with where to play him in the outfield. They would like to see him adjust to center field, where he is working to get better breaks.

Hartford (AA) .323 .363 .450 424 79 137 20 5 8 34 25 49 17
Albuquerque (AAA) .346 .355 .490 104 14 36 5 5 0 14 2 12 6
Colorado (MLB) .263 .293 .263 38 4 10 0 0 0 3 2 11 3

5. German Marquez, rhp | bba_video_icon_red

Born: Feb. 2, 1995. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 185. Drafted: Venezuela, 2011. Signed by: Ronnie Blanco (Rays).

Background: Signed by the Rays in 2011 out of Venezuela for $225,000, Marquez was the prime player the Rockies received after the 2015 season when they traded Corey Dickerson to Tampa Bay. Marquez repaid the Rockies’ confidence with a breakout 2016. He made the jump from Double-A Hartford to Triple-A Albuquerque to the big leagues in 2016.

Scouting Report: Marquez has plus velocity and it comes effortlessly at a consistent 94-96 mph and touches 98. The ball comes out of his hand with velocity and never fades. Marquez’s solid three-pitch assortment includes a curveball that flashes plus and has good spin. His 2016 focus was to tighten it up, which he did. That allows his curveball to play better at the mile-high altitude of Coors Field. His changeup still needs work but has good velocity differential from his fastball. He has shown an ability to pitch inside and use his changeup even when behind in the count. Most impressively, he reduced his walk rate in 2016 by more than a half walk per nine innings. His command improved.

The Future: Marquez will challenge Jeff Hoffman to claim the open spot in the big league rotation. He has the stuff to be an upper-tier No. 3 starter.

Hartford (AA) 9 6 2.85 21 21 0 0 136 124 9 33 126 .245
Albuquerque (AAA) 2 0 4.35 5 5 0 0 31 30 5 6 29 .254
Colorado (MLB) 1 1 5.23 6 3 0 0 21 28 2 6 15 .326

6. Ryan Castellani, rhp | bba_video_icon_red

Born: April 1, 1996. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 190. Drafted: HS—Phoenix, 2014 (2nd round). Signed by: Chris Forbes.

Background: After drafting Castellani 48th overall in 2014, the Rockies came up with a $1.1 million bonus offer to lure him away from an Arizona State scholarship. They were extremely protective of his workload his first two seasons of pro ball but in 2016 allowed him to work deeper into games. He averaged nearly 6.2 innings per outing over 26 starts at high Class A Modesto en route to being named the California League’s No. 1 prospect.

Scouting Report: Castellani has two prime ingredients in a two-seam fastball with 93-95 mph velocity at its best and good sinking movement and a changeup that mimics his fastball in terms of slot and action. His slider hasn’t been as consistent as it needs to be, but it can be plus as well. It gives him that three-pitch mix to succeed as a starter and helped him lead the Cal League in strikeouts while remaining effective the second and third time through batting orders. Castellani has the quick arm action and a clean delivery that limits stress on his shoulder. Managers and scouts appreciate his mound presence and competitive makeup that pushes him that extra step.

The Future: Castellani can get overlooked by the abundance of quality arms the Rockies have on the verge of the big leagues. He made sure he wouldn’t get left behind with his Cal League performance. A potential No. 3 starter, he is headed for Double-A Hartford in 2017.

Modesto (HiA) 7 8 3.81 26 26 1 0 168 156 8 50 142 .248

7. Tom Murphy, c | bba_video_icon_red

Born: April 13, 1991. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 220. Drafted: Buffalo, 2012 (3rd round). Signed by: Ed Santa.

Background: A September callup in 2015 and 2016, Murphy has impressed with eight homers in 79 at-bats. Healthy since an injury-plagued 2014 that included season-ending shoulder surgery, Murphy earned his 2016 callup with an explosive second half at Triple-A Albuquerque. He raised his average 119 points and hit 11 home runs in the final two months.

Scouting Report: The Rockies see Murphy as a plus offensive player who can hit in the bottom of the lineup while he adjusts to life in the big leagues. He’s a rhythm hitter who can get hot and has above-average power thanks to his great strength. What has the Rockies most excited is the work Murphy has put in to improve his defense. He has softened his hands in his receiving, which helps him frame pitches. He has an above-average arm to slow down the running game. Some scouts worry about a lack of agility behind the plate due to his muscular frame, and that at times slows his pop times on throws to second base as well. He can still fine-tune his defense, and seems eager to do that.

The Future: The time is now for Murphy, who convinced the Rockies he is ready to compete for the regular big league job with Tony Wolters. If everything comes together, Murphy has the potential to be an offensively potent catcher with above-average defensive ability.

Albuquerque (AAA) .327 .361 .647 303 53 99 26 7 19 59 16 78 1
Colorado (MLB) .273 .347 .659 44 8 12 2 0 5 13 4 19 1

8. Kyle Freeland, lhp | bba_video_icon_red

Born: May 14, 1993. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 170. Drafted: Evansville, 2014 (1st round). Signed by: Scott Corman.

Background: The eighth pick overall in 2014—one spot ahead of Jeff Hoffman—Freeland embraced the idea of pitching in Colorado as a hometown hero. The Denver native was born 39 days after the first regular-season game in Rockies history. Limited in 2015 first by left shoulder fatigue and then surgery to remove a bone chip in his left elbow, Freeland returned fully healthy in 2016 and worked 162 innings between Double-A Hartford and Triple-A Albuquerque.

Scouting Report: Freeland can pitch to the corners with a fastball that sits in the low 90s and touches 97 mph. His eye-opening pitch is a slider with tilt, which many scouts call a wipeout slider at its best, and he also throws a below-average curveball. The big step for Freeland will be becoming most consistent with his changeup and slider, which at times comes out like a cutter. He took a major step forward in terms of mental maturity in 2016 by learning to focus pitch to pitch and not getting over-amped after a mistake. He commands his pitches well thanks to excellent athleticism that shows up on defense and even at the plate.

The Future: Freeland could claim a lefty reliever spot to begin his Rockies career. He could move into the rotation, but that won’t come until he solidifies a third offering.

Hartford (AA) 5 7 3.87 14 14 0 0 88 84 9 25 51 .254
Albuquerque (AAA) 6 3 3.91 12 12 0 0 74 81 7 19 57 .284

9. Ryan McMahon, 3b/1b | bba_video_icon_red

Born: Dec. 14, 1994. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 185. Drafted: HS—Santa Ana, Calif., 2013 (2nd round). Signed by: Jon Lukens.

Background: Lured away from a scholarship to Southern California for $1,327,600 as a 2013 second-round pick, McMahon moved off third base and began working at first base in 2016 at Double-A Hartford. It’s part of an organizational play to create multiple options for prospects so they don’t get blocked at the big league level. A quarterback in high school, McMahon handled the new position well.

Scouting Report: McMahon struggled offensively for the first time in his life in 2016, which isn’t all bad. A competitor, he did show life in the second half, even as Hartford endured a season-long road trip due to construction issues that kept the team from ever playing a game in their home park. McMahon will have to adjust at the plate and drive the ball the opposite way, but he does have a bit of a hook in his swing, which makes him susceptible to quality fastballs. He still has average to above-average power. A strong athlete though a below-average runner, he has soft hands and improved footwork at first base. He made 17 errors in 67 games at third.

The Future: The expectations remain high for McMahon, who dealt with Double-A struggles similar to those experienced by shortstop Trevor Story. McMahon likely will return to Hartford to open 2017, but the Rockies won’t hesitate promoting him to Triple-A Albuquerque quickly if he responds.

Hartford (AA) .242 .325 .399 466 49 113 27 5 12 75 55 161 11

10. Antonio Senzatela, rhp | bba_video_icon_red

Born: Jan. 21, 1995. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 180. Signed: Venezuela, 2011. Signed by: Rolando Fernandez/Orlando Medina/Carlos Gomez.

Background: Senzatela was limited to seven starts in 2016 because of a recurring right shoulder problem that didn’t require surgery but forced him to spend two lengthy stints on Double-A Hartford’s disabled list. He showed no ill effects in the offseason, creating the expectation that he will be at full strength in 2017. When he takes the mound he usually wins. Senzatela has gone 41-19 in 88 pro games with a 2.45 ERA and a California League pitcher-of-the-year award in 2015.

Scouting Report: Everything Senzatela does revolves around a heavy, downhill fastball that sits between 92-95 mph. He can command it to all four quadrants of the strike zone with a tough angle for hitters. He experimented with a curveball and came up with a hybrid slider that has late tilt and grades average. His curveball is serviceable early in counts but altogether is a below-average offering. There remains work to be done on his changeup, though it has shown flashes of being an average weapon.

The Future: With three average or better offerings at his disposal and above-average control, Senzatela has excelled at every level. He will get a look in big league camp, but he would have to shake things up to become a factor in the bid for an Opening Day roster spot. A solid and healthy year in the upper minors in 2017 would force the issue.

Hartford (AA) 4 1 1.82 7 7 0 0 35 27 1 9 27 .218

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