The Rockies haven’t exactly had a healthy pipeline of high-end prospects heading to the big leagues in recent years, but that could change over the next 3-4 seasons as players like Trevor Story, David Dahl and Tyler Matzek reach their ceilings and approach the big leagues. The system has improved though it still lacks true depth beyond the first few prospects. As a side note, despite significant effort because his name is just flat-out awesome, I couldn’t manage to find room for first-base prospect Correlle Prime.
1. David Dahl – OF (Last Year’s Rank: NR)
Let’s just say I’m a huge believer in David Dahl. Down the road, I think he could be one of the top players from the 2012 draft class. He has tremendous natural hitting ability and could hit .300 on a regular basis. While some scouts see gap power, I believe in the thump a little more. His knack for very hard contact should generate above-average pop down the line, along with a pile of doubles. He can also stick in center field, making him a potential star-level player.
2. Trevor Story – SS (7)
Story has a little less risk than Dahl, but his tools are a little softer as well. He is fringe-average hitter with potential for average home-run power and his share of doubles as well. With a good feel for the game, he has the ability to handle shortstop at the big-league level, leaving him at a premium up-the-middle position. Perhaps Story’s biggest strength is his lack of a true weakness. He will strike out a bunch and none of his tools are true impact tools, but Story could be a tremendous big league asset.
3. Tyler Matzek – LHP (13)
I can point to the massive control and command problems. I can point to the amazing raw stuff. Both items are strong enough – as pluses and minuses – to cement him at one end of the list or the other, and I’ve clearly pushed him up the list. I can’t get past the four-pitch mix that can all flash above-average. Even without refined command, Matzek can succeed in the middle of a big league rotation and he could still be significantly better than that if his release point clicks and he throws more quality strikes.
4. Nolan Arenado – 3B (2)
Arenado’s drop on this list is a function of the players in front of him more than a departure from my belief in his big league future. He has a very good approach at the plate and excellent natural hitting ability. He has the strength and plus bat speed to pound the ball into the gaps but lacks elevation in his swing and may max out with 10-15 home runs a year. He fits well at the hot corner. With an atypical profile for the position, he will need to hit the second he arrives in the big leagues, but he is capable of doing just that.
5. Will Swanner – C (NR)
Swanner has true plus raw power and he could hit 20 home runs annually at his peak. He also has the hitting ability for that power to play in game situations, making him an intriguing offensive talent. Defensively, he has little chance of sticking behind the plate despite a plus arm. His doesn’t move well at the position and has made few strides since signing. If he’s not a catcher, the bat has to max out, but if it does, he could hit enough for a big-league role.
6. Chad Bettis – RHP (4)
Despite missing the 2012 season with a right shoulder injury, Bettis still has the potential for two 70-grade pitches and a dominating relief role. When healthy, his fastball can sit in the 93-94 range and could work consistently in the 96-97 range in short stints. His slider has exceptional hard break and can miss bats regularly. His two-pitch profile and attacking style should play well in the eighth inning.
7. Kyle Parker – OF (6)
Parker is a raw baseball player after focusing football throughout college. He has an interesting offensive profile highlighted by plus raw power and the potential for 18-22 home runs a year if the hit tool matures as expected. He could hit .270-.280 at his peak with a fair number of walks. Defensively, he fits well in right field with good athleticism and a plus arm. The overall profile is as a solid everyday right fielder and he could arrive late in 2013 or early 2014.
8. Tom Murphy – C (NR)
Murphy isn’t a flashy catching prospect but he has a chance at a regular big-league role. He has quality defensive tools, highlighted by a plus arm and improving movements and receiving ability. He lacks an impact hit tool and likely won’t hit better than .250 at the highest levels, but he should still have 15-home run power, making him a useful catcher.
9. Tyler Anderson – LHP (8)
Anderson was a low-ceiling first round pick in 2011 and he dominated Low-A in his full-season debut. His change-up is his best pitch and he locates his entire arsenal well, giving him a classic “crafty-lefty” profile. He has a chance to move quickly in 2013 and could reach the big leagues as a number four or five starter the following year. What he lacks in upside he makes up for in certainty and offers a low-risk prospect option.
10. Jayson Aquino – LHP (4)
Aquino is a Tyler Anderson starter kit. His fastball shows a little more zip than Anderson’s, touching 91 on occasion and he also shows good feel for a change-up. His breaking ball lags behind but he will occasionally spin one that looks promising. Aquino’s ceiling rests at the back of the rotation just like Anderson, but he will take much longer to reach the big leagues as he is still likely 4-5 years away.
11. Rafael Ortega – OF (9)
Ortega reached the big leagues in 2012 with a two-game cameo late in the year. He has a chance for a prototypical center field profile with plus-plus speed, high-end defense, a strong arm and while it will take some development, base-stealing ability. He has good contact skills but gets power hungry and deviates from his strengths. At his best, Ortega could fit at the top of a lineup with a strong defensive contribution as well.
12. Peter Tago – RHP (14)
Tago is an ultra-projectable right-hander with present velocity, sitting in the 92-94 range with ease. The ball jumps out of his hand and gets on hitters quicker than his raw velocity suggests. His secondary pitches lag behind and he will take plenty of developmental time, but Tago is a high-ceiling arm that intrigues scouts.
13. Wilfredo Rodriguez – C (NR)
Rodriguez is a classic catching prospect, owning a strong, stock build and a quality profile on both sides of the ball. He already pops very well, showing sub-2.0 times on throws to second and flashing sub-1.9 times. He has offensive projection as well, showing the ability to drive the ball to the gaps and make consistent contact. He won’t come quickly, but he has the ceiling of an everyday backstop that contributes across the board.
14. Eddie Butler – RHP (NR)
Butler was a bit of an enigmatic prospect throughout his college career. He shows plus fastball velocity consistently and can reach 97 mph when he needs to. His slider also flashes plus, but lacks consistency. Many scouts believe Butler will ultimately end up in relief and he could be a setup man long term, but he may have a chance to start and prove he can’t fit in that role.
15. Ryan Warner – RHP (NR)
I’m a sucker for prospects like Warner. He has an ultra-projectable frame that has tons of room for strength and growth. He has tremendous leverage to the plate and he can already reach 91-92 mph on occasions, sitting in the 88-89 range with regularity. His curveball is a 12-6 downer that shows some plus potential. He lacks refinement, needs to work on his change-up and will have to prove himself against better hitters, but Warner is a prospect you can dream on.