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10 Colorado Rockies prospects who could debut in 2016

Drew Creasman Avatar
February 23, 2016

 

The Colorado Rockies have seen some outstanding (Nolan Arenado) promising (Jon Gray) troubling (Eddie Butler) confounding (Tyler Matzek) and incomplete (Cristhian Adames, Tom Murphy) Major League debuts over the last few seasons. And 2016 is shaping up to add a barrage of intriguing names to appear on the backs of MLB uniforms for the first time.

Here is our list of minor leaguers in the Rockies system who could make their first MLB appearance before the 2016 season is over. They are ordered from least to most likely to debut:

  1. Ryan McMahon

It’s incredibly unlikely that McMahon sees big league action this season, especially if the team is serious about starting to work him at first base, which could take some adjusting to. Still, if the slugging third basemen really crushes the baseball at Double-A Hartford, it’s not out of the question that the Rockies could give him a look at some MLB pitching even if the intent is to start him at Triple-A in 2017.

McMahon just turned 21 in December and there is no need to expedite his arrival unless he takes a big step forward in his development. Still, the underlying talent and intangibles suggest he might be ready sooner than at first expected.

  1. Raimel Tapia

The case for Tapia is similar to the case for McMahon. His extraordinary contact ability and the fact that he is already on the 40-man roster make it slightly more likely that Tapia could get a September cup of coffee but since neither has played a single inning above High-A ball, their debuts would be relegated to a scenario by which the Rockies are well out of contention in September and/or are piling up names on the DL at that time.

Getting Tapia some looks at elite pitching could go a long way toward telling the tale of his offensive prowess. Yet to be tested in the United States, if Tapia is putting up more hits than games played for the fifth consecutive season (six if you count the AFL) he could be called up simply to finally present his bat with a challenge.

  1. David Dahl

Dahl might have debuted already if not for some tough injury luck. He is more polished at this point than McMahon or Tapia and has already seen time and moderate success at Double-A. His defense and speed could play at the highest level right now but the Rockies are being patient with his bat and health. Of all the potential impact position players in the Rockies organization, Dahl is the most likely to be called up in September not just to give him a look but just because he is ready.

A healthy David Dahl is very close to the big leagues, but if the Rockies want to maximize his potential not just to contribute but to be a star, taking it slow and steady is wise.

  1. Kyle Freeland

Coming out of the University of Evansville incredibly polished, Freeland was on the fast-track both before and after he was sidelined for most of 2015 with injuries. Despite the setback, in just a year-and-a-half Freeland has been promoted twice and been invited to the Arizona Fall League which amounts to a third graduation in the level of competition he has faced in a very short MiLB career.

The most encouraging part is that he excelled against some of the best prospects in the world in the AFL, but pitchers with an injury history and unique deliveries always come with a special “beware” tag. There is little development left to be done on Freeland’s “stuff” but his approach, health, and consistency all need to be tested at the Double-A level. After Eddie Butler struggled so mightily, the Rockies are hesitant to keep skipping their pitchers over Triple-A.

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This group from McMahon to Freeland represents some of the best talent the Rockies have in their system that is still too raw to be counted on immediately. The most likely scenario for each of these players is that they don’t see the big leagues this year outside of a somewhat random September call-up. The best case scenario for all of these players is that they are fighting for a starting job on the Opening Day roster in 2017.

  1. Jordan Patterson

Patterson broke out in prospect circles in 2015 by decimating High-A and then getting even better after a promotion to Double-A. He displayed all his raw athletic ability; power (17 HR, 45 2B) speed (18 SB) and defensive prowess buoyed by one of the best arms in the system.

It’s entirely possible that there are too many holes in his offensive game for Patterson to ever be an impact player. He slowed down to end the season and put up ghastly statistics in the Arizona Fall League which points to fatigue more than anything else but does hint that his hitting utility might not play at the upper levels.

He was a bit of a late bloomer and is already 24-years-old meaning that age-wise he should be about ready for MLB. He should start 2016 in Triple-A or be moved there very quickly to see if the bat can keep up with better pitching. If it can, the Rockies have an interesting extra option for the second half of the season at fourth outfielder and/or backup first baseman. Not a lot of teams have a power hitting first baseman who can steal 20 bases.

  1. Sam Moll

Lefty reliever Sam Moll may not be a household name even among prospect hounds, but is still an interesting option. Another guy who has struggled a bit with injuries and has fallen off the radar by being a minor league reliever who doesn’t close and, therefore, doesn’t pile up saves, Moll’s potential contributions should not be understated.

He put together his best season both in terms of health and production in 2015, tossing 68.1 innings over High and Double-A combining for a 2.12 ERA. He struck out nearly 10 batters an inning while walking just over two. That K/BB ratio is indicative of a polished pitcher who could see MLB as soon as the Rockies find themselves in need of some left-handed relief depth. The addition of Jake McGee and the fact that Boone Logan and Yohan Flande still exist means that Moll would likely need some injuries or cuts from the roster to the guys ahead of him to debut in 2016. Though, Rockies history suggests that neither of those eventualities are that far fetched.

  1. Carlos Estevez

The reason Moll wasn’t racking up the saves is because right-handed flamethrower Carlos Estevez was often in his way. Notching 18 Saves over two levels in 2015 while striking out over 11 batters an innings, Estevez is successful largely on the strength of a fastball that sits in the mid-to-high 90s.

The Rockies saw enough from Estevez in 2015 to add him to the 40-man roster. He is the guy beyond organizational filler who will be called upon should the team need an additional bullpen guy. There are conversion candidates (starters like Eddie Butler or Tyler Chatwood who may end up in the pen) but Estevez has shown the stuff and maturity to prove that he is close.

The Rockies almost always have to reach deep into their pitching depth and Estevez represents one of the best options they’ve had in that department in a long time.

  1. Jeff Hoffman

The main attraction in the Troy Tulowitzki trade, Jeff Hoffman almost certainly will debut in 2016 but also almost certainly not in any kind of impactful role.

Hoffman is the new Arenado; the new Jon Gray. Fans will want to see him immediately and the Rockies will be faced with doing everything they can to patiently develop high-end talent. Just like Gray last season, if/when Hoffman does debut, it will likely be long after meaningful games are being played and once he has shown an ability to succeed in Triple-A.

He hasn’t yet shown his full potential but the scouts and minor league evaluators are all in agreement that Hoffman exhibits the stuff of a front-line starter. The only thing to do now is to see if he takes control of his development and forces the Rockies hand a little earlier in 2016.

Hoffman is the guy to keep an eye on for those of you with MiLB.TV because if he can come close to reaching his ceiling, he pairs with Jon Gray giving the Rockies two potential young aces for the first time since 2007.

  1. Tyler Anderson

Much like David Dahl, we should already have had this conversation about Tyler Anderson. Sidelined by injuries after dominating the Texas League in 2014 — to the tune of being named the league’s best pitcher — Anderson has experienced more than his fair share of frustration in a long trek toward MLB.

Already 26, some of the shine has worn off of the former first-round draft pick, but he has shown that when healthy his craftiness and excellent breaking stuff can miss a lot of bats. The last time he saw on-field action, Mr. Anderson threw 118 innings and posted an ERA of 1.98.

Anderson has an advanced feel for pitching and Rockies director of development Zach Wilson recently told Purple Row that he is in the discussion to make the starting rotation out of spring training 2016.

He is likely to land behind Jorge De La Rosa, Jon Gray, and Chad Bettis, battling it out with Butler, Chatwood, Chris Rusin, Tyler Matzek, and Jordan Lyles for the final two spots. Most likely, Anderson begins the year in Triple-A with a call-up sometime mid-season depending on his production level and that of those around him.

  1. Trevor Story

That’s right, it’s almost Story time. We’ll try to keep the puns to a minimum.

Trevor Story will see Major League action this year unless he experiences a season-ending injury. Story has a chance in 2016 to prove the value of patient development. He’s already played five seasons in the Rockies Minor League system and still hasn’t reached his 24th birthday.

MiLB.com recently ran some projections for potential rookies in 2016 and they see Story’s most likely outcome as a 16 HR, 15 SB, 1.3 WAR campaign. There’s a ton of pop in the bat and his defense and speed are well above average meaning that his success will be almost entirely dependent upon an ability to make contact against big league pitching.

It would behoove the Rockies long term interests to keep Story in Triple-A until late May. Once he passes the “Super-Two” deadline, giving the Rockies an extra year of control at the end of his contract, he should be brought up to see if he can cement himself as a fixture in the infield for the foreseeable future.

A few more names to watch:

Keep your eyes open for the pitching triumvirate of Harrison Musgrave, Matt Flemer, and Shane Carle. None are considered to have comparable ceilings to anyone on this list but all three could find their way into Christian Bergman-like roles over the next two seasons. This group has shown success at Double-A, providing a nice floor for the overall organizational depth at starting pitcher.

German Marquez, half of the return in the Corey Dickerson trade, still needs to find his place in the organization and hasn’t yet pitched above High-A but reports after the trade suggest he isn’t too far off and a good showing to start the season in Hartford could push him right into the middle of all the names we’ve discussed.

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The Rockies are unlikely to be competitive in 2016 but these players mean there will be no shortage of intrigue. Who flames out? Who becomes a steady producer? Who breaks through and becomes a star?
The answer to those questions will tell the future of the Colorado Rockies. Fans can start to get a look at that future on March 2nd when spring training games begin. Watch this space.

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