- C – Hidekel Gonzalez – 19 yo
- 3.36/.811 – PAG/APPA – (DSL)
- 2016 stats: .325/.391/.481; .872 OPS; 13 doubles, 4 home runs; 7 stolen bases
If you’re familiar with our special brand of under the radar, you’ve probably seen the phrase “temper my enthusiasm” many times before. I’ve used it in situations where a UTR prospect of ours has posted very nice numbers in a season, but with some sort of catch. Well, I introduce you to this year’s Colorado Rockies UTR OAS catcher. I’ll go on record and say that I like Rockies newly crowed heir to the major league position Tom Murphy. The 2012 – 3rd rounder possesses a lot of positives to his game. He hits for average, has a good bit of pop in his bat, and he fields the position very well. But do not discount his behind-the-plate partner Tony Wolters. The 24-year-old lefty logged a fairly decent season of his own last year. In 71 games he batted .259, smacked 15 doubles, drove in 30 and stole four bases, while posting a .993 fielding percentage. In other words, Tom Murphy lite, but from the left side of the plate. With Murphy now in the majors, he graduates from what used to be a position of great depth in the organization; with him in it. I’d say that this past season, depth is something the Rockies had, but performance lacked a little. This year’s OAS choice, Hidekel Gonzalez, had himself a nice season. However, I must ‘temper my enthusiasm’, because despite his organizational leading peripherals listed above, the New York, NY native spend his third consecutive season playing in the Dominican Summer League. Gonzalez came to the organization in 2013 with reports as a solid receiver, an above-average bat, fringe arm, but the ability to handle pitchers well. He’s lived up to the reports. So, I don’t understand why after registering the succesful season he did in 2015 (2.82/.709), he couldn’t have receive a promotion to Rookie Grand Junction in 2016. We’ll never know, but I believe he will this year. With Murphy and Wolters in the major league tow, Gonzalez has a long way and a lot of work to do in order to work himself into the favor of top catching prospect discussion.
- 1B – Brian Mundell – 22 yo
- 3.76/.836 – PAG/APPA – (LoA Asheville)
- 2016 stats: .313/.383/.505; .888 OPS; 59 doubles, 14 home runs; 7 stolen bases
For those who have been reading this year’s UTR OAS series, you’ve noticed that this season I’ve expanded my coverage, talking about the overall landscape of each position on my list instead of focusing solely on the player I’ve chosen per position. I think it’s important to survey the lay of the land, so team diehards can see that we are paying attention not just to our “notspects”, and plus, it gives casual fans a good glimpse, which might help spark deeper interest. But sometimes, regardless of the positional landscape, whether a position is extremely deep or the cupboard is bare, a player needs recognized based on personal merit. And for the Rockies first base 2016 UTR OAS, I’m cutting right to it. Simply put, 6’3″- 230 lb. Brian Mundell had a season for the ages. And as much as I’d like to say I saw it coming, I didn’t. Upon being drafted as a 7th rounder out of Cal Poly Tech (CA) in 2015, Mundell was assigned to Short Season Boise. Despite the Hawks team struggles (14-24), Mundell finished the season batting .275 and ranked second on the Hawks roster in hits (67), runs scored (35), doubles (19), RBi’s (36) and total bases (100). He posted a 3.04/.724 in his debut and was a finalist for 2015’s abridged UTR OAS version. A true testament to how incredible a season Mundell had is in comparing his first two seasons as a pro. Mundell more than doubled his 2015 production in five fundamental categories in less than double the games (69/136). He was named the 2016 South Atlantic League Most Valuable Player and led all prospects HiA and down in total bases (271). In fact the only minor leaguers to tally more total bases than Mundell were Triple-A’s Kyle Jenson (272) and Double-A Reading teammates Dylan Cozens (308) and Rhys Hoskins (282). Mundell also set a new minor league record for most doubles in a season. His minors-leading 59 broke the old mark of 55 set by HiA Lancaster’s Zach Daeges in 2007 and Class A Greensboro’s Scott Seabol in 1999. It’s seasons like this that make both the in-season work and the UTR OAS series so fun. The element of the unknown. I hope Mundell can continue this barrage because it’s obvious by his first two years as a pro, he can downright get it done at the plate.
- 2B – Jose Gomez – 19 yo
- 4.18/.908 – PAG/APPA – (Rookie Grand Junction)
- 2016 stats: .367/.426/.468; .894 OPS; 14 doubles, 3 home runs; 23 stolen bases
You would think with Jim and I having our own minor league baseball prospect website that we’d both be in gobs of fantasy baseball leagues. The fact is we aren’t. It’s obvious we dedicate a vast majority of our time with this website; and we do because of how competitive the PFL (Pennsylvania Furnace League) is, the highly competitive auction league Jim and I have shared for well over 10 seasons; and the inspiration for the content we pump out year round. However, the two leagues I, personally, am involved in have very close ties to Colorado Rockies second basemen. Earlier this off-season, I made a trade with a fellow PFL owner, sending Nationals ace Max Scherzer for Rockies 2014 – 1st round draft pick Forrest Wall, Rockies starter Jonathan Grey and Arizona Diamondbacks starter Robbie Ray. In another dynasty league my co-owner and I decided to keep 2016 National League batting champion, Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu as one of our five dynasty keepers in a league where batting average is a scoring category. So, to say I have a finger on the pulse of Colorado’s second base vector would be a small understatement. Which brings me to this year’s UTR OAS, Caracas, VE native Jose Gomez. The 5’11”- 175 lb. righty signed an international free-agent deal in July of 2013, but didn’t began his pro career (in the Dominican Summer League) until the following season. Gomez had a sufficient debut batting .263 with 13 doubles, a P/A score of 2.54/.623 and team-leading 20 stolen bases. Gomez repeated the DSL in 2015, and despite seeing a decrease in several fundamental statistics, he raised his entire slash line (and P/A – 2.70/.690), which is exactly the progression you want to see in a young prospect. This past season, The Rockies shipped him stateside and I’m not sure even the organization could have predicted this level a breakout. Gomez led the entire Pioneer League with 98 hits, he ranked third in runs scored (54), RBi’s (51) and ranked second in batting amongst league regulars. It’s been said that Gomez’ future is that of a utility man. I won’t vehemently disagree with that, however, if Gomez stays on the pace he set for himself in 2016, how can you continue to slap the utility label on him? I think he’ll have a chance to prove himself again in 2017, this time in Short Season Boise or even LoA Asheville.
- 3B – Colton Welker – 19 yo
- 3.84/.683 – PAG/APPA – (Rookie Grand Junction)
- 2016 stats: .329/.366/.490; .856 OPS; 15 doubles, 5 home runs; 6 stolen bases
Since Jim and I began deep level prospect hunting, rarely, if ever, have I regretted a fantasy baseball roster decision I’ve made or lack thereof. I’ve always relied on my minors knowledge to build depth or waiver wire knowledge to replace someone who may be demoted or injured. But the one solitary regret I have in the PFL was back in 2011. During a sweep of our minor league free-agents and scanning Baseball America’s Prospect Hot Sheet, I chose to bypass a 6’2″- 205 lb. power hitting third baseman (who eventually posted a 3.77/.866 P/A) playing for HiA Modesto of the California League. A stud 20-year-old named Nolan Arenado. Not that I never “recovered” from such a miscue, but wow, what the two-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner could be doing for my roster now. That’s the baseball part, but everyone knows there’s a business side. Arenado has two years left on his contract before Arb4 hits, then he becomes a free agent in 2020. So, wouldn’t it be great for the Rockies to either sign him to another deal or to have another Arenado-type prospect brewing deep inside the system? Well, if you love prospects, you may have struck gold (again) because according to some inside the Rockies organization, this season’s UTR OAS third baseman, 2016 – 4th rounder Colton Welker, could be the second coming of the face of the franchise. Colorado drafted the 6’2″- 195 lb. righty out of Stoneman-Douglas HS (Parkland, FL) and assigned him directly to Rookie Grand Junction of the Pioneer League. Welker ranked within the team’s top five in runs scored (38), hits (69), doubles, home runs, RBi’s (36), batting, slugging percentage, OPS and total bases (103), all as the second youngest batter on the roster. His scouting report can basically be said in four words: He has it all. Plus power, the ability to hit for average, a strong arm, good defensive instincts and average speed. The most promising part of Welker’s game is his pitch recognition and the ability to deliver clutch hits. I love this kid. He’s the quintessential deeper-level corner infielder that, if drafted in deep leagues, could make you look like the ultimate genius. I expect Welker to head directly to Short Season Boise in 2017, but if he shoots out of the gate, a trip to LoA Asheville isn’t out of the question. Place Welker on your “Watch List” immediately.
- SS – Garrett Hampson – 21 yo
- 4.18/.910 – PAG/APPA – (Short Season Boise)
- 2016 stats: .301/.404/.441; .845 OPS; 14 doubles, 8 triples, 2 home runs; 36 stolen bases
There’s nothing more exciting from a fantasy baseball standpoint than to see a young kid succeed in the majors while a #1 prospect is doing the exact same thing right on his heels. Yes, I said it can be exciting, but it’s also a little hair raising due to the uncertainty of how the organization is going to sort it all out in the end. Colorado’s Trevor Story blasted onto the spring training scene last season and pretty much tackled the Opening Day starting shortstop to the ground. The 24-year-old Story posted a 4.05/.947 P/A score, but unfortunately, Story’s record-setting rookie season (27 home runs) came to an abrupt end after he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb in early August. The major league job is his, however, but #1 prospect Brendan Rodgers is tearing it up in the minors as well. The 2015 – 1st rounder out of Lake Mary HS (FL) tore his own path through the Sally League this season scoring a P/A of 3.63/.813 and leading all (full-time) Rockies prospects Triple-A down with 19 home runs. He’s a stud basically and could very well reach the majors by as early as 2018. Now, the UTR in me doesn’t necessarily/always walk down the obscure prospect road. Sure, Jim and I spend a lot of time lurking in the depths of Prospect Land, but this year’s UTR OAS choice of Garrett Hampson is anything but obscure. Colorado drafted the 5’11”- 185 lb. righty in the 3rd round of the 2016 draft and assigned him to Short Season Boise. Hampson came to the system with a “future utility player” tag, yet he certainly didn’t play like one leading the Hawks in hits (77), triples, RBi’s (44), stolen bases, walks (48), three-fourths of his slash line, and total bases (113). Not only will Hampson continue to carry the “utility” label, but will quite possibly carry the typical “age/level” stigma with him, until (or unless) the Rockies are aggressive with his assignments, challenging him to HiA Modesto for the 2017 season. I’d love to see him invade HiA Modesto this season. He’s a natural with the bat, an above average middle-infield defender and has plus-speed. Keep a peripheral, yet close eye on him.
- LF – Sam Hilliard – 22 yo
- 3.52/.848 – PAG/APPA – (LoA Asheville)
- 2016 stats: .267/.348/.449; .797 OPS; 23 doubles, 17 home runs; 30 stolen bases
As I’ve mentioned in several previous UTR OAS player bios this off-season that I’m prideful in the fact that Jim and I have expanded our vision this year, providing not only UTR player information, but a brief overview of the landscape surrounding each position in every organization; if it seems to fit that particular case. The Rockies left field situation reminded me starkly of the Pittsburgh Pirates first base position in that no matter who’s toiling in the minors, no one will supplant uber-prospect Josh Bell at the position. The same goes for Rockies 6’2″- 195 lb. lefty slugger David Dahl. The 2012 – 1st rounder out of Oak Mountain HS (Birmingham, AL) made his major league debut in 2016 and all he did was bat .315, slug seven home runs, score 42 runs and drive in 24 in 63 games; as a 22-year-old. In UTR talk, that equates to a P/A score of 3.13/.831, but not far off from this year’s UTR OAS choice of Sam Hilliard. Of course I say that tongue in cheek. The truth of the matter is, just like Pirate minor league first baseman Chase Sampson in conjunction to Josh Bell, the brutish 6’5″- 225 lb. Hilliard has little to no chance of unseating Dahl as the Rockies left fielder. However, that doesn’t mean Hilliard didn’t have a good season of his own. The former Wichita State Shocker debuted in 2015 with the Rookie Grand Junction squad, batting .306, belting seven home runs and driving in 42. He led the team in triples (8), RBi’s (42) and walks (36), which prompted an easy promotion to LoA Asheville for 2016. Hilliard defined what it’s like to fly under the radar because on the offensive side of the ball, the Tourists were basically the Brendan Rodgers, Brian Mundell and Hillard Show. Hilliard has speed, power, is an above average defender; and would make a very valuable trade chip if the Rockies chose to bolster a position of weakness in the near future.
- CF – Wes Rogers – 22 yo
- 3.02/.710 – PAG/APPA – (HiA Modesto)
- 2016 stats: .255/.339/.359; .699 OPS; 22 doubles, 7 triples, 5 home runs; 43 stolen bases
With David Dahl manning the outfield grass in Coors Field, more or less grounding the left field prospect pack for the foreseeable future, the centerfield vector for the Rockies provides a bit less of an abrupt drop off, a lesser plane if you will, between the major leagues, their top prospects, and the gather of UTRs below them. This year’s UTR OAS Wes Rogers leads a pack of what were mixed performing centerfielders in the system this year. The 6’3″- 180 lb. righty played all year in the California League, a league that is virtually predisposed to inflate the statistics of even the most subjacent of hitters. Despite Rogers leading all centerfielders HiA and down in doubles, stolen bases, walks and on-base percentage, he batted a career low .255 and was a solitary strikeout short of reaching triple digits. Now, I like Rogers. Since his debut in 2014 with Rookie Grand Junction, he’s made the UTR Hitters of the Day list nearly 20 times, he’s a speedster on the base paths (111 total steals in three seasons) and he posts above average defensive numbers. However, I simply don’t see Rogers ousting either top prospect Raimel Tapia (who logged a combined minor league 3.38/.764 P/A for Double-A Hartford and Triple-A Albuquerque, then 22 games for the major league squad) or current Rockies centerfielder, Charlie Blackmon. The 30-year-old Blackmon absolutely crushed major league pitching last year to the tune of an even 4.00 PAG and an .892 APPA score. The 6’3″- 210 lb. lefty’s 29 home runs and 319 total bases ranked second only to All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado‘s 41 and 352. Blackmon is due for his first arbitration hearing in 2018 and could become a free-agent in 2019. If Rogers wants to be the guy in center for the Rockies, he will have to really push the gas to the floor to leapfrog Tapia. He’ll get the chance to do so with Double-A Hartford this season.
- RF – Daniel Montano – 17 yo
- 3.31/.768 – PAG/APPA – (DSL)
- 2016 stats: .228/.325/.427; .752 OPS; 17 doubles, 9 home runs; 8 stolen bases
To close out the 2016 Colorado Rockies OAS list, I’m going full-blown UTR. I’ve discussed several positional situations and how they may possibly shake out, but one shakeup that I feel should not have even taken place was the Rockies and Carlos Gonzalez. Not that I disagree with Colorado signing the three-time Gold Glover, three-time All-Star and two-time Silver Slugger to a 7 year-$80M dollar contract in 2011, but how many times since then the organization has discussed trading him. Now, I know baseball is a business and these types of things have to occur, but if it were me, a guy who averages 31 home runs a year, a .291 batting average and drives in a 100 runs a year would have his own set of keys to the city. He’s a stud. Plain and simple. So, until I see with my own two eyes Carlos Gonzalez take the field wearing a different uniform, I’ll stay away from anyone inside the entire position vector. That is, except this year’s UTR OAS choice Daniel Montano. The Rockies signed the Venezuelan international free-agent to a contract in July 2015, yet he didn’t make his pro debut until 2016. Back in November 2016 over at purplerow.com, Rockies director of player development Zach Wilson said that Montano is a “young man with a ton of tools” and that his “ceiling is very high.” Wilson also stated that Montano’s debut in the DSL reminded him of another young Colorado outfielder named David Dahl and how “the sky’s the limit” for Montano. Well, all the 6’1″- 170 pounder did was lead the DSL squad in runs scored (41), home runs, walks (31), and rank second in RBi’s (32). Here’s the catch (for me at least). Montano played 89 percent of his games in centerfield. However, with his projected power potential and strong arm, the jury is out as to whether his future defensive home will be in center or a corner. Either way, he belongs on the list and should belong on any extremely deep level fantasy leagues where long-term keepers can be housed. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the organization give Montano a very aggressive push to Short Season Boise in 2017.