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The Rockies graduated four starting pitchers which would thin out any system.
The Rockies have a deep group of infielders ready to replace D.J. LeMahieu and Nolan Arenado if they leave as free agents after 2018 and 2019, respectively. Most have multi-positional versatility, giving the Rockies plenty of options. A year after four rookies came up to remake the starting rotation, the Rockies still have more arms on the way with Peter Lambert, Ryan Castellani and Yency Almonte all in position to reach the majors within the next two years. There are some intriguing arms lower in the system as well.
The Rockies system lacks outfielders, putting pressure on David Dahl to stay healthy and Raimel Tapia to perform moving forward. With Carlos Gonzalez hitting free agency and Gerardo Parra and Ian Desmond in their 30s, the Rockies don’t have much in the way of outfield depth should Dahl and Tapia fail to live up to their promise.
Notable Graduations: RHP Jeff Hoffman (3), OF Raimel Tapia (4), RHP German Marquez (5), LHP Kyle Freeland (8) and RHP Antonio Senzatela (10).
The Rockies made Rodgers the No. 3 overall pick in the 2015 draft, behind fellow shortstops Dansby Swanson and Alex Bregman, and signed him to a franchise-record $5.5 million bonus. Rodgers worked with former big leaguers Dante Bichette and Tom Gordon during his high school days, and has proven at ease in the professional environment since signing. He played only 89 games in 2017 due to a hand injury and quad strain, but shined when he was on the field. He flirted with .400 at high Class A Lancaster during the first half of the year and made his way to Double-A Hartford at the minor league all-star break. Rodgers' calling card is his smooth, controlled swing that bodes well for him to hit for average and power. He possesses the bat speed to handle any velocity and the balance and pitch recognition to barrel breaking balls. At times Rodgers becomes too pull-happy, but he has shown he has the strength to drive the ball the other way. Rodgers rarely walks, but knows how to work a count and doesn't miss the pitch he wants. Evaluators nearly universally regard him as a future plus hitter with enough power to impact a game. A natural shortstop, Rodgers has also seen time at second and third base with the Rockies' approach of having players work at multiple positions in the minors. Rodgers has the reliable hands, quick release and plus arm strength to play shortstop, but his fringy foot speed could be a deciding factor in an eventual move to second base. Rodgers makes up for his lack of natural range by positioning himself well and showing advanced instincts, enough that some evaluators give him a chance to stay at shortstop and possibly be an average defender there, although not all are convinced. The idea of having a middle infielder with an impact bat is exciting, which is why Rodgers isn't likely to end up at third base. How Rodgers' body changes over time, particularly if he gets bigger and loses a step, will determine whether he stays at shortstop or makes the move to second base. Even if he does end up at second, he can be an impact player along the lines of Bobby Grich or Ryne Sandberg. The Rockies have brought Rodgers along slowly, but it is not out of the question for him to be in the big leagues at some point after the 2018 all-star break.
A third baseman in high school, McMahon added first base to his resume in 2016 and began playing second base in 2017. After a down year offensively in 2016 he rebounded in 2017, batting a combined .355 between Double-A and Triple-A. He made his major league debut on Aug. 12. McMahon possesses soft hands and a strong arm, but his reaction time was a concern at third base. He handled the move to first base well and, while physically large for second base, impressed the Rockies with how he adapted to the position, although opposing scouts are less convinced. Offensively, McMahon has a consistent, short stroke and uses the whole field. He sits fastball and takes advantage of mistakes, with the strength to produce above-average power in Coors Field. Strikeouts were an issue in the past, but McMahon significantly improved his approach and plate discipline and struck out just 97 times in 2017, compared to an average of 153 strikeouts his first three seasons. McMahon's positional versatility gives the Rockies options. Wherever he plays, the Rockies envision his bat making a significant everyday contribution.
Pint touched 100 mph in high school and the Rockies drafted him with the fourth overall pick in 2016, signing him for $4.8 million. His big velocity has not translated to professional success, however. After a poor 2017 at low Class A Asheville, Pint is 3-16, 5.40 with 82 walks, 14 hit batters and 34 wild pitches in 130 professional innings, to go along with 115 strikeouts. Pint simply overpowered high school hitters, which covered up mechanical shortcomings that have hampered him in pro ball. His fastball ranges anywhere from 93-98 mph and touches 102 but plays down due to poor command and control––the result of a delivery he doesn't repeat even though it is clean. He pulls off of pitches and misses the zone, and isn't much better with his secondaries. His slider flashes above-average and his curveball and changeup flash average potential, but he doesn't have consistent control of any of them. The Rockies have taken a cautious approach with Pint, limiting his innings and adjusting his mechanics slowly. Scouts remain bullish on Pint because of his premium stuff and clean delivery, but his lack of strike-throwing ability is alarming. High Class A Lancaster is likely next in 2018.
Welker led Douglas High in Parkland, Fla., to its first state championship in 2016 and a No. 1 ranking in BA's final national high school poll. The Rockies drafted him in the fourth round and signed him for $855,000. Welker impressed immediately and was en route to the South Atlantic League batting title in his first full season, but an abdominal strain shelved him for two months and cost him the necessary at-bats. Welker's bat is his best asset. He has impressive knowledge of the strike zone, particularly for a young power hitter, and makes full use of the entire field. His swing has some length to it and a bit of a hitch, but he makes up for it with advanced feel to hit, above-average power potential and limited swing-and-miss. A high school shortstop, Welker moved to third base as a pro and has shown above-average potential there. He has a good first step, is quick on his feet and possesses a plus, accurate arm, although his below-average speed and fringy athleticism cuts into his range. Nolan Arenado is a free agent after 2019, and Welker is in line to be Arenado's eventual replacement if the Rockies are unable to resign him. For now, Welker will head to high Class A Lancaster.
The Rockies took advantage of four early picks in the 2015 draft and landed Lambert at No. 44 overall. Lambert didn't overpower and there were questions about his thin frame, but the Rockies saw a highly successful teen with a live arm, room to fill out and a desirable competitive streak. Lambert's poise and fearless mentality have helped him conquer three of the most hitter-friendly environments in baseball in Rookie-level Grand Junction, low Class A Asheville and class High A Lancaster during his first three seasons. The expected physical gains have come too. Lambert now sits 91-93 mph and touches 95 with his fastball, dialing it up and down as necessary. The pitch plays up even further because of excellent control and sink, as well. Both his biting 78-82 mph curveball and mid-80s changeup consistently project above-average-to-plus, with the best of his swing-and-miss curveballs drawing plus-plus grades. Lambert throws everything for strikes and keeps the ball down, a critical factor in his success pitching in environments similar to Coors Field. Lambert has all the components of a quality mid- to back-of-the-rotation starter, and could be more if he continues to add fastball velocity.
The Rockies signed Castellani for $1.1 million out of high school in 2014 and were protective of him early, limiting him to 150 innings in his first two seasons combined. They then bulked him up and turned him loose, and he's been exceptionally durable since. Castellani led the high Class A California League in innings pitched in 2016, and did the same in the Double-A Eastern League in 2017. Castellani works with a three-pitch mix with sinking action. His fastball holds serve at a steady 93 mph, and he has shown the ability to touch 97. His best secondary is a hard slider, and he also mixes in a usable changeup. All three pitches have flashed above-average at one point or another, but he runs into trouble when he isn't keeping the ball down. When right, Castellani commands both sides of the plate in the bottom half of the zone, and his strong lower half allows him to hold his stuff late in games. He is cerebral with a feel for the game that helps his stuff play up. Castellani projects as a potential workhorse in the middle-to-back of a rotation as long as he keeps the ball down. His ability to do that will be tested at Triple-A Albuquerque to open the 2018 season.
Traded from the Angels to the White Sox and then to the Rockies as a prospect, the hard-throwing Almonte has blossomed in Colorado's system. He posted a 2.00 ERA at Double-A and rose to Triple-A in 2017 despite separate disabled list stints for arm fatigue and knee soreness. Almonte gained 25 pounds since turning pro, which has led to a fastball that topped out at 92 mph in high school now sitting 93-96 mph and touching 98 with hard sink as a starter. Almonte also has a two-seamer he likes to use to further induce ground balls, and his main secondary is an 86-88 mph slider that is consistently above-average and flashes plus. He flashes a usable changeup but it is not consistent, although he still kept lefthanded hitters in check with a .217/.319/.310 slash line in 2017. Almonte's control is lacking at times, the result of an arm action evaluators fear may hamper his ability to throw consistent strikes. Almonte's lack of a changeup and inconsistent control lessen his chance to start, but it's not out of the question. As a fallback, his hard sinker-slider combination would play extremely well in late relief. He will begin 2018 back at Triple-A.
Hampson is next in a long line of Long Beach State shortstops in the big leagues, headed by Bobby Crosby, Troy Tulowitzki, Danny Espinosa and Matt Duffy. Drafted in the third round and signed for $750,000 in 2016, Hampson led the minors with 113 runs and finished fourth with 51 steals in his first full season at high Class A Lancaster. A top-of-the-lineup catalyst, Hampson is an undersized plus-plus runer who plays at full speed all the time. He keeps the ball on the ground or strokes it on a line to let his speed play, and he shows hints of power, although that will never be his game. His plate discipline is improving, allowing him to project as an above-average hitter with a lot of steals. Hampson gets too big in his swing sometimes, but generally self-corrects. Drafted as a shortstop, Hampson's arm is a bit short for the position, but his exemplary hands, quick-first step and top-notch reaction times fit at second base, where he shows flashes of being a plus defender. He also got some exposure to center field last year. Most evaluators see Hampson as a future super utility player, but a few see enough for him to start at second base. Double-A Hartford is next in 2018.
Vilade's father, James, is an assistant coach at Oklahoma State and was a longtime minor league coach. After growing up around the game, Vilade starred on the USA 15U and 18U national teams and won the home run derby at the Under Armor All-America Game at Wrigley Field. He was named the Oklahoma state player of the year as a senior and signed with the Rockies for $1,425,400 after they selected him with the 48th overall pick in the 2017 draft. Vilade's offensive profile is what drives him. He has a strong frame and a quick bat that produces plus raw power, and he already has a knack for driving the ball in games. He makes adjustments quickly for his age and shows advanced instincts in the box. He recognizes and tracks pitches well and draws plenty of walks. Vilade is an average runner and there is some question whether he has the quick-twitch athleticism for shortstop defensively, but believers point to his above-average arm, soft hands and advanced instincts. Vilade will play shortstop for now, but will also see time at third base and first base. It will be his bat that carries him regardless of position. Vilade is set to open his first full season at low Class A Asheville.
Nevin grew up in a baseball environment as the son of 1992 No. 1 overall pick Phil Nevin. A severe hamstring injury limited Tyler to one game in 2016 and a right wrist/hand injury limited him the first half of 2017. He hit .336/.381/.523 for low Class A Asheville upon his return in the second half, showing the promise that made him a touted prep. Two inches taller than his all-star father, Nevin's ticket will be his bat. He has bat speed, works counts and projects to hit for power as his body fills out and gets stronger. He shows all-fields power and drives the ball into the right-center gap frequently, just as his father loved to. Nevin grew up a third baseman but has increasingly seen time at first base, where he projects best. Scouts don't see the feet, agility or athleticism necessary for Nevin to handle third base on an everyday basis, and the Tommy John surgery he had as a junior in high school sapped some of his arm strength. Evaluators generally see Nevin as a platoon corner power bat, but he has a chance to put up big offensive numbers at high Class A Lancaster in 2018 and prove he could be a potential everyday regular at the big league level sometime in the future. His health will bear watching as he tries to complete a full season for the first time, having never played more than 82 games in a professional season.
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