Colorado Rockies Midseason Top 10 Prospects
A year after making the National League wild card game, the Rockies are staying alive in the race for the postseason.
A scorching 13-3 stretch to end the first half put the Rockies at 51-45 and just two games back of both first place in the NL West and the second wild card spot. Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon are again performing like MVP candidates, Trevor Story has bounced back to become an All-Star, and stout pitching from lefthanders Kyle Freeland and Tyler Anderson have kept the rotation afloat after expected ace Jon Gray struggled so badly he was eventually sent down to Triple-A.
There are holes to be addressed, to be sure. Expensive free agent bullpen signees Mike Dunn (9.00 ERA), Bryan Shaw (7.23) and Jake McGee (6.15) have been disastrous, and as a team the Rockies batted just .233/.297/.394 away from Coors Field through the break.
The Rockies have options approaching the trade deadline. If they stay hot and decide to buy, they have blue chip prospects around the infield—namely Brendan Rodgers, Ryan McMahon and Garrett Hampson—as well as a deep stable of pitchers they can deal from. If they slump out of the break and choose to sell, Gerardo Parra, Carlos Gonzalez and Chris Iannetta are all veteran trade candidates, and their departures would open up playing time for promising young players already on the major league roster, namely Raimel Tapia, David Dahl (when he gets healthy) and Tom Murphy.
The Rockies role as buyers or sellers will come into focus as July goes on. They come out of the break with 10 straight games against winning teams until the trade deadline, including a crucial road series against the Diamondbacks.
The Rockies have never made back-to-back postseasons in their franchise history. By the end of the month, it will be widely apparent whether they can change that this year, and what the best route is for them to take.
1. Brendan Rodgers, SS
After scuffling in his first taste of Double-A last year, Rodgers returned to Hartford better than ever. Sporting a leaner, trimmer frame, Rodgers has cut his strikeout rate, increased his walk rate, set a new career-high in stolen bases and hit .276/.340/.504. Rodgers remains a capable shortstop with a plus arm, and he’s played some third base for the first time as the Rockies try to enhance his versatility. Importantly, Rodgers has stayed healthy. After missing at least 30 games due to injury each of his first three seasons, Rodgers played 83 of a possible 88 games before heading to the Futures Game.
2. Ryan McMahon, 1B
McMahon made the Opening Day roster but has been yanked back and forth between the majors and minors as the Rockies try to find the right role for him. Rather than make him a starter, the Rockies used McMahon as a pinch-hitter and utility infielder, preventing him from getting the consistent at-bats or reps needed to adjust to the majors. McMahon remains the Rockies best long-term option at first base, but his future outlook is muddled with the team committed to playing the high-priced Ian Desmond.
3. Peter Lambert, RHP
Lambert’s advanced feel for pitching combined with natural physical maturity has led to a banner season. He led the Double-A Eastern League in ERA (2.23), WHIP (0.99), and walk rate (1.17) despite not even turning 21 until after the season began, and he was promoted to Triple-A at the start of July. Lambert expertly manipulates his 92-93 mph fastball that touches 96—running it, sinking it and throwing it for strikes in every quadrant—and both his curveball and changeup are playing above-average to plus the way he interplays them off his fastball. The result has been an ascent to the undisputed top pitching prospect in the Rockies system.
4. Garrett Hampson, 2B/SS
People are increasingly realizing Hampson is not a "gamer” but an elite athlete who just comes in a smaller package. Hampson made quick work of Double-A before moving up to Triple-A and continuing to hit, putting together a combined .309/.379/.463 slash line. Hampson remains an above-average contact hitter with plus-plus speed, stealing 33 bases in 38 tries, and he’s been an adequate defensive shortstop and excellent second baseman. He’s also begun playing some center field for the first time this year and held his own, another testament to his athleticism. Hampson was rewarded with his first big league callup on July 21.
5. Colton Welker, 3B
high Class A Lancaster
Welker’s unorthodox swing has cut into his power (three home runs, .388 SLG outside of Lancaster) but he continues to show solid feel to hit and strike-zone awareness. He is using the whole field, has a mature approach and is impressing with his hand-eye coordination. Welker’s defense at third base has been widely praised—particularly his instincts, arm and reactions off the bat—but his thick lower half raises concerns about his long-term mobility.
6. Riley Pint, RHP
Pint came out of his first start at low Class A Asheville with shoulder stiffness, missed the next two months, made two starts at short-season Boise, and has been out since June 21 with an oblique strain. Pint still flashes plus stuff across the board, headlined by a 97-101 mph fastball, but inconsistencies in his delivery have yielded poor control, and now his injuries further complicate how realistic it is for him to reach his big upside.
7. Ryan Rolison, LHP
Rookie-level Grand Junction
Rolison finished second in the Southeastern Conference with 120 strikeouts this spring as Ole Miss’ top starter. The Rockies drafted him No. 22 overall and signed him for $2,912,300. An aggressive lefthander, Rolison boasts a lively low 90s fastball, a wipeout curveball and a promising changeup. He throws across his body at times and his control suffers because of it, but evaluators believe that can be fixed and see mid-rotation upside.
8. Yency Almonte, RHP
Command and control problems hampered Almonte as a starter in Triple-A, but his power stuff earned him a callup to the Rockies bullpen at the end of June. His 97-98 mph fastball and 89-91 mph power slider are major league pitches that play, and not having to worry about a third pitch or being too fine with his command suits Almonte. Almonte pitched the eighth inning in all three of his first major league appearances, and he has the potential to remain in late-inning relief.
9. Grant Lavigne, 1B
Rookie-level Grand Junction
Lavigne rated as one of the top power hitters in the 2018 draft class, with some teams considering the 6-foot-4, 230-pounder masher worthy of a first round pick. The Rockies snagged him in the supplemental first round, No. 42 overall, and signed him for $2 million. Lavigne already showed his bat plays in pro ball with a .361/.448/.590 slash line and five home runs in his first 22 professional games, with his advanced approach drawing raves. He’ll just need to keep his big body in shape as he moves up the ladder.
10. Ryan Castellani, RHP
Castellani got hit hard in big league spring training and has spent the year in a funk. In a repeat season at Double-A, Castellani’s control has regressed, his strikeout rate has plummeted, and his command has been below-average across the board. Still, as a young, physical righthander with a fastball that reaches the mid-90s and an above-average slider, there is optimism Castellani has a future in the major leagues, possibly as a reliever if his command continues to stall.
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1B Roberto Ramos demonstrated huge lefthanded power and showed it wasn’t just a product of Lancaster, hitting .314/.426/.608 on the road in the California League and then seven home runs in his first 14 games after a promotion to Double-A Hartford.
RHP Justin Lawrence’s wicked 94-98 mph sinker out of a low arm slot has made him a ground ball extraordinaire and one of the most uncomfortable at-bats in the Cal League.
RHP Robert Tyler has been a blowtorch in late relief at low Class A Asheville, sitting 95-97 mph and touching 99-100 with a plus changeup and a slider that’s tightening up.
- SS Ryan Vilade has been better at the plate lately, but evaluators still see a swing that needs a lot adjustments. Defensively his stiff actions and limited range have most scouts projecting him out of the infield altogether and out to left field.
- C Dom Nunez is again struggling to hit in Double-A and has regressed into a fringe-average defender with a below-average arm behind the plate.
- LHP Ben Bowden’s fastball velocity has backup up from 93-95 mph to 90-92 out of the bullpen. Though he’s found ways to succeed in difficult pitching environments Asheville and Lancaster, he no longer projects as the fast-moving reliever he once did.
- RHP Riley Pint (oblique strain) is expected to get back on a mound this week after missing over a month.
- 1B Tyler Nevin (groin) had two disabled list stints for the same injury, missing two weeks in May and three weeks in June after aggravating it.
- LHP Breiling Eusebio (elbow) had Tommy John surgery in mid-May and will be out until 2020.
- RHP Mike Nikorak (elbow) has yet to pitch since returning from Tommy John surgery but is throwing bullpens at short-season Boise. He is slated to start pitching in games in August.
- OF Yonathan Daza (hamstring strain) played one game in six weeks from late to May to early July but has since returned.
- C Tom Murphy ranked second in the Pacific Coast League with 16 home runs before being recalled on June 12. He hit .303/.333/.429 through 17 games with the Rockies.
- OF Noel Cuevas earned his first callup after eight years in the minors and has stuck on the roster as a backup outfielder.
- RHP Brooks Pounders had a 7.63 ERA in 14 relief appearances before being demoted to Triple-A.