Top Lineup C – Willie MacIver – Over the time Jim and I researched, then put together the UTR OAS lists, it occurred to us with each passing team how rare it is for a team to develop great, all-around catching prospects. And quite honestly, the Rockies are no exception. You have aging major leaguer in Chris Iannetta as your starter, defense-first backup Tony Wolters and what seems like forever star-in-waiting Tom Murphy at the highest level. I wouldn’t call it living paycheck to paycheck, but one thing organizations hope for is finding that long term solution. Is Murphy the answer? Who knows. He’ll be 28 a week into the 2019 MLB regular season and destined to start the year in Triple-A. Since 2015 he has a .219 average with 10 home runs and 34 RBi in 81 games. Not exactly Hall-of-Fame material. As far as the 2018 season goes, and the overall catcher package you’d like to see however, 2018 – 9th rounder Willie MacIver fit the bill. Drafted out of the University of Washington, the 2018 – 9th rounder came to the organization with several intriguing tools: plus-raw power; plus arm; a solid glove behind the plate; good plate discipline; and good speed for a catcher. The junior draftee was assigned to SS Boise and didn’t necessarily put on a show, but gave the Rockies exactly what you’d want in a catcher. Good offense at the plate and and above average skills behind it, as he posted a .284 batting average, hit five home runs, drove in 30, stole four bases and logged a .984 fielding percentage in 31 games. Thing is, the 6’2”- 205 lb. righty is fairly new to the position, having played third base up until his sophomore year at Washington, which is evident of how good an athlete MacIver is. He’s absolutely someone to watch in the Rockies system, and even has the chance with a solid/stellar sophomore season to inch his way toward “top overall minor league catchers” discussion. Place him on all prospect watch lists.
*Update: The Rockies designated catcher Tom Murphy for assignment*
1B – Roberto Ramos – With the recent contract extension awarded to Nolan Arenado, you’re almost forced to ask yourself what current Rockies top prospect will find his way over to first base. Is it Tyler Nevin? Or incumbent major leaguer Ryan McMahon? Colton Welker perhaps? Maybe not because scouts and evaluators say Welker is athletic enough to move to first base of even the outfield if need be. As long as the organization can keep his potent bat in any lineup. So, despite all the possibilities, let’s not discount some of the other sluggers in the organization. This past season will probably be the last UTR go around for this year’s OAS Roberto Ramos, but he certainly earned it. The 2014 – 16th rounder out of the College of the Canyons is known for two things: Power and strikeouts. In 2018, over two levels (HiA Lancaster and Double-A Hartford), Ramos tied for third overall for the minor league lead in home runs with 32. However, as sexy as the long ball is, strikeouts can kill that vibe real quick. Over 122 games, he struck out 124 times. In fact, over his 369 game minor league career, he’s suffered a startling 393. Defensively, the 6’5”- 220 lb. lefty hasn’t proved a liability at first posting a .992 fielding percentage last season, and .989 over his career. More than likely Ramos is ticketed for another go at Double-A, and with a burst out of the gate, a promotion to Triple-A isn’t out of the question. 2B – Hunter Stovall – I’m a huge believer in Garrett Hampson; and after he batted .301 with 24 extra-base hits, 43 runs scored, 44 RBi with 36 bases in his debut season back in 2016 (for SS Boise) he was an easy UTR OAS choice at shortstop. But with the presence of #1 prospect Brendan Rodgers, Hampson was destined to shift to second base, and it’s kind of a proud moment since the once “future utility role” tagged player is poised to open the 2019 season as the Colorado Rockies starting second baseman. So, the UTR book is wide open again, we’re ready to anoint the next under-the-radar star at the position and hopefully Mississippi State University draftee Hunter Stovall doesn’t disappoint. The 2018 – 21st rounder was sent straight to Rookie Grand Junction after his junior year where he was a 2018 College World Series All-Tournament Team selection at second base. The 5’8”- 170 lb. righty batted .296 and was among the Pioneer League leaders in home runs (10) and ranked just outside the top ten in slugging percentage (.588) and total bases (117). If Stovall can continue hitting like this, his path to the big leagues could be quick, however, despite the “future utility role” once stamped on Hampson, this might be more true for Stovall, as he saw time at catcher and infield in college, while seeing time at every position on the diamond last year except pitcher, catcher, and first base. It’ll be intriguing watching Stovall ascend through the system. Not because of his bat, but where the organization plans to play him. Stovall is a great athlete with plus speed, well-above-average defensive tools and a real good bat. Should be a fun one to watch.3B – Bret Boswell – As I mentioned in first baseman Ramos’ bio above, Nolan Arenado pretty much cemented his status as a lifetime Rockie by signing an 8 year- $260M dollar contract extension. This keeps him in Colorado until his age 34 season. Therefore potential third basemen, including Welker are kind of in a holding pattern, yet still have to go out and produce everyday, working hard to earn an opportunity elsewhere. However, I’ll throw my own curveball into the equation and choose Bret Boswell as this year’s OAS third baseman. I mean, how in the world can I leave 25 doubles, 27 home runs, 97 runs scored and a .296 average off this list? In spite of Boswell being listed as a second baseman in the organization, he registered more games at third in 2018 than second, and logged a better fielding percentage at third (.973) than he did as a second baseman (.970). Sure, Boswell was a 23 year-old in HiA last year, will be 24 all year long, thus it being his last season as a UTR qualifier, unless he spends all of 2019 with Double-A Hartford, which we expect him to do so. But, we’ve used this term a lot over the course of this website’s existence: formality. Boswell deserved a spot, but he won’t unseat Arenado. No one will. So, why not celebrate an under-the-radar power hitter who could actually find himself in the mix for major league playing time at second base if he continues to show this much power as he continues to ascends up the ranks.SS – Eddy Diaz – I love kids like Diaz. Not because of his skills as a player, but how his production ranks next to top prospects who sit above him on the depth chart. Now let’s make it clear that we here acknowledge that, despite Trevor Story’s presence in Colorado, 2015 – first round draft pick Brendan Rodgers is the heir apparent to the shortstop position and deserves every top prospect ranking linked to his name. He’s less than a year away from making an impact in the majors. So, with Rodgers, 2017 draftee Ryan Vilade and 2018 – third rounder Terrin Vavra ahead of Diaz, the 5’11”- 170 lb. righty has to do more to earn equal attention. And I think he did just that in 2018. He’s not called “Fast Eddy” for nothing, as he stole 54 bases in 2018, which ranked fourth in all the minors behind Houston’s Myles Straw (70); the Cubs Rochest Cruz (56) and Tampa Bay’s uber prospect Vidal Brujan (55). Diaz isn’t just a set of wheels. He’s batted .311 and .309 his first two seasons and carries a career .411 on-base percentage. Defensively he needs work, but with this kind of speed (87 steals in 84 games), you wonder with the overload of middle infielders in the system, Diaz may find himself in either a potential trade or a target for a possible position change to help utilize his speed.LF – Yolki Pena – With the MLB regular season less than a week away, looking at the Rockies projected opening day lineup, there’s one thing that I’m really hoping for; and that’s for soon-to-be 25 year old left fielder David Dahl to stay healthy and finally reach his full potential. Much like I said about first baseman Corey Zangari in our Chicago White Sox UTR OAS post a few weeks ago. There’s nothing worse than watching a player begin to make his mark and within a flash it’s all over. So, we hope Dahl can prove his worth with a full season of heath. After all, he’s under team control for another five seasons. So, we head to the UTR drawing board and see a bevy of outfielders; and as far as the 2018 season goes, we’re going to take a chance on the crooked numbers of second-year Dominican Republic native Yolki Pena. Signed back in 2016 for $600K, the 6’2”- 165 lb. lefty started his pro career in the Dominican Summer League. Pena batted .301 in his debut and also led the 2017 DSL Rockies squad in hits (64), runs scored (36) and total bases (82), yet most notably was his (team leading) 40 walks to only 34 strikeouts. When you look at Pena’s line score from 2018, you realize that his debut was absolutely no fluke. Sure, his batting average dipped to .257, however, Pena played 13 less games in 2018 than he did the previous year, but walked an astonishing 58 times to (another) 34 strikeouts. That’s nearly a 28 percent walk rate. This helped him to a .467 on-base percentage, which ranked sixth in the league. And for a kid with below-average power, he still clubbed 12 doubles, six triples a home run, equating to a .439 slugging percentage. As true an under-the-radar prospect that there is in the Colorado system. I’m surprised he repeated the DSL in 2018, however, with numbers like this, he’s destined for either Rookie Grand Junction or even SS Boise if the organization really wants to test him. CF – Matt Hearn – Here we are with another position in the organization who’s top star is under contract for the next several years. Three-time all-star and former National League batting champion (2017) Charlie Blackmon isn’t set to see free-agency until the 2023 season; where he can exercise an opt out clause. That’s five years away, and in circumstances like this, Jim and I have to go back to the basics. We have to find ourselves a solid UTR candidate who could possibly work his way up through the organization in pure centerfielder fashion. With the exception of former UTR Organizational All-StarYonathan Daza (along with some other intriguing names on that list) there aren’t many centerfield stars in the organization yet. So, let’s throw 2016 – 24th round draft choice Matt Hearn’s name into the mix. Selected out of Mission College (CA), the 5’9”- 165 lb. lefty doesn’t really do anything truly special. He was drafted by Atlanta, but the Braves cut him after his rookie year in the pros. The following year Hearn found himself playing for the Gateway Grizzlies of the Independent League before the Rockies gave him a call, signed him in March 2018, and assigned him to SS Boise of the Northwest League. In 36 games, Hearn batted .377 with eight extra-base hits, 12 stolen bases and 24 runs scored before receiving a late-July promotion to LoA Asheville. With the Tourists, he slowed down a bit (.271), but slightly boosted his walk total and stole six more bases. Will Hearn unseat Blackmon? No. As a 23-year-old prospect in LoA, will major publications give him any attention? No. However, he had a decent season in 2018 and you know what, that’s a good thing. Can he surprise us again in 2019? Us little guys sure hope so. RF – Niko Decolati – There are some kids you just have a gut feeling about when you not only see their stats, but read their story. Decolati is one of those kids. I know for me, the 6’1”- 215 lb. right fielder will immediately find his way to my personal long-term prospect watch list after the debut season he had for Rookie Grand Junction last year. Colorado drafted righty slugger out of Loyola Marymount University (CA) and the junior came to the organization as a super athlete with plus raw power; well above-average speed, great arm and plus bat speed. He was Loyola’s third baseman and shortstop, but was immediately shifted to the outfield upon being drafted and true to his athleticism, committed only four errors in 58 games in right field. With the bat, Decolati ranked within the Pioneer League top five in runs scored (55), hits (86), home runs (11), RBi (56), walks (34) and ranked second in the league with 140 total bases. There is nothing not to like here. Decolati can hit, he can field and he can throw with the best of them in the entire Rockies organization.I fully expect Decolati to open the 2019 season with SS Boise or even an aggressive push to LoA Asheville. One of my favorite Rockies follows heading into 2019. Top 5 Starting Pitchers – (Factor Score) / Highest Level Attained
1. RHP Garrett Schilling – (15) / LoA Asheville
**Schilling posted a solid numbers in his first full season at Asheville. The 18th round pick in 2017 recorded 135 strikeouts in 144.1 innings, along with a 2.8 BB9 rate and 3.87 ERA in 26 appearances (25 starts).
2. RHP Rico Garcia – (11.5) / Double-A Hartford
**The undersized right-hander defied the odds in 2018. The 5′ 11″ 190 lb was drafted in the 30th round in 2016 only posted subtle numbers over the last two season. He made his debut in the Northwest League (Boise) where he made 16 appearances, half of them starts, and was scorched with a 6.37 ERA and 12.7 H9 rate. He split time between Boise and LoA Asheville in 2017 and his 2.97 ERA and 4.29 K/BB ratio in 8 appearances (4 starts) did not raise any eyebrows. Garcia was making delivery adjustments over those past seasons, and it all came together last season. Garcia started at Asheville and was promoted to Hartford in early July. He finished with a 1309 record, a 2.96 ERA in 27 appearances (26 starts), and 162 strikeouts in 167 innings. His arsenal contains a low’s 90 fastball and a buckling breaking ball, and hitters have a difficult time picking-up his release point. Garcia could become an innings-eating back-end type.
3. LHP Lucas Gilbreath – (10) / LoA Asheville
**The Rockies like Glibreath so much, they drafted him twice. In 2014, when he was a high schooler, Colorado drafted him in 36th round, but Gilbreath went to the University of Minnesota. The Rox came calling again in 2017 and signed the 6′ 1″ 185 lb lefty from the 7th round. He finished his first full season in Asheville with an outstanding 4.96 K/BB ratio, but with a 5.04 ERA. Digging deeper, Gilbreath registered a 3.33 FIP, which indicates that luck wasn’t on his side.
4. RHP Antonio Santos – (9.5) / HiA Lancaster “Legit UTR”
** Santos becomes a Legit UTR with a return visit to the OAS roster. The projectable 6′ 3″ 180 lb Dominican has held his own against older competition on each of his stops the last four seasons. The organization took note last season when the right-hander took on hitters in HiA California League and posted a 7.7 K9 and 2.9 rates, but gave up 15 home runs in 65.2 innings. Santos has a 92-95 fastball that will touch 97 mph. He also has a good feel on his breaker and changeup, but needs to work on his consistency. Santos solid 2018 season follows-up the selection as my Rockies 2018 “One to Watch”.
5. RHP Brandon Gold – (9.5) / HiA Lancaster “Legit UTR”
** Gold also repeats as a UTR-OAS from 2018. The 12th round pick in 2016 took his raps in the Cali League last season, but my system got the flashes of his potential
Top 3 Relief Pitchers – (Factor Score) / Highest Level Attained
1. RHP Reid Humphreys – (14) / Double-A Hartford
2. RHP Tommy Doyles – (13)/ LoA Asheville
3. LHP Ben Bowden – (13)/ HiA Lancaster