Colorado has one of the worst farm systems in all of baseball right now. It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last.
The 2015 MLB Draft produced Brendan Rodgers, Peter Lambert and Sam Hilliard, all of whom have expired the rookie qualifications. In 2016, only Garrett Hampson has contributed in the majors as players like Colton Welker, Ben Bowden and Riley Pint continue to develop.
Worst yet, the Rockies forfeited the 11th overall pick in 2017 to sign Ian Desmond and came away with only three appearances by Tommy Doyle to show for their draft class so far. The futures of Ryan Vilade, Lucas Gilbreath and Bret Boswell may weigh heavy on how this plays out in the long run.
Despite the lack of upside as a whole with this current crop of prospects, several might be able to outplay their future value.
One of the game’s best, Trevor Story, never made a top 100 list. Hall of Famer Larry Walker was signed for relative pennies after being an equally unheralded hockey player. Undrafted Josh Fuentes was passed over 1,200 times and is on the cusp of making the 2021 Opening Day roster.
Regardless of what prospect pundits might expect from the approximately 200 or so players in the Rockies’ minor league system, the fate of the franchise is unclear in the wake of the Nolan Arenado trade and probable loss of Trevor Story and Jon Gray to free agency following this season.
Because this will be the inaugural DNVR Rockies prospect list and selecting a top 30 would be too basic, here’s the start of our top 33 and the schedule for release.
Purple Prospects Week
C Dom Nuñez*
C Ronaiker Palma
SS Alan Trejo
IF Bladimir Restituyo
OF/IF Bret Boswell*
OF Yanquiel Fernandez
OF Casey Golden
RHP Shelby Lackey
RHP Justin Lawrence*
RHP Riley Pint
RHP José Mujica*
LHP Breiling Eusebio
*Denotes 40-man roster
Between sources such as Keith Law (The Athletic), Kiley McDaniel (ESPN), Eric Longenhagen (FanGraphs) and the folks at Baseball America and MLB Pipeline, 40 different purple prospects received recognition as Rockies top prospects.
Of those honorable mentions, only RHP Shelby Lackey, OF Yanquiel Fernandez, RHP Riley Pint, LHP Breiling Eusebio, and C Ronaiker Palma were named to at least one list.
Rockies Top Prospects #21-33
#33 – RP Jordan Sheffield (40-Man Roster)
Age: 25.8; Throws: Right
Acquired: 2020 Rule 5 Draft, Los Angeles Dodgers
Without a 2020 minor league season, all 30 MLB clubs operated with limited knowledge of player development at the alternate sites. Somehow, 18 players were plucked from their respective franchise in December’s Rule 5 Draft.
Sheffield was a 1st Round selection out of Vanderbilt in 2016 and has faired better since a move to the bullpen, dominating in the 2018 Arizona Fall League and performing well at Double-A in 2019.
Though his fastball can touch 98mph, it’s control that will ultimately determine whether or not he breaks camp with the club lest he be offered back to the Dodgers, as per the Rule 5 Draft. He many never reach of the heights of his brother, starting pitcher Justus with the Mariners, but Jordan can certainly carve out a solid big league career that could start this year with the Rockies.
#32 – RP Yoan Aybar (40-Man Roster)
Age: 23.7; Throws: Left
Acquired: Trade with Boston Red Sox for IF Christian Koss, Dec 2020
Whereas Sheffield converted from starting pitcher to the end of games, Aybar moved to the bullpen from the outfield in 2018. An international signing by the Red Sox in 2013 whose bat simply couldn’t improve, he showed enough potential on the bump to earn a 40-man roster spot after only five innings above Low-A.
The lefty from the Dominican Republic has shown flashes of dominance between inconsistent outings, one reason his ceiling and floor are so far apart. Aybar was the only member of Boston’s 40-man not to be invited to the alternate site, hurting his development and indicating he could be acquired on the cheap. Taking a flyer on this high-upside southpaw could pay dividends if the Rockies can harness this intriguing hurler.
#31 – SP/RP Antonio Santos (40-Man Roster)
Age: 24.4; Throws: Right
Acquired: 2015 International Signing
Despite a three-game debut in 2020 that left more questions than answers, the future for Santos is actually much brighter. A control artist with four pitches as a starter, the righty from the Dominican Republic has gained some significant uptick on his fastball as a reliever, as witnessed during the 2019 Arizona Fall League.
Pegged as a #5 starter, his real value may be in the bullpen, especially if he can improve upon his slider or changeup.
#30 – SP Will Ethridge
Age: 23.2; Throws: Right
Acquired: 2019 MLB Draft, 5th Rd from Ole Miss
With a frame well-built for pitching during the long 162-game season, Ethridge transitioned into starting pitching after two seasons of relieving in college where he was teammates with Ryan Rolison at Mississippi.
Should Colorado get his slider to play as a third pitch to go along with a suitable changeup, Ethridge might be able to stay in the rotation going forward.
#29 – SP Ryan Castellani (40-Man Roster)
Age: 24.9; Throws: Right
Acquired: 2014 MLB Draft, 2nd Rd from Brophy College Preparatory (AZ)
His four-inning, no-hit performance in his Major League debut showed why comparisons to Max Scherzer are so apt. Everything beyond that sterling outing calls into question his ability to stick as a starter due to control issues (25 strikeouts despite 26 walks).
Castellani has had some misfortune pertaining to his health the past two seasons with bone chips that slowed his first taste of Triple-A in 2019 before a positive Covid-19 test got 2020 off to a rough start. At close to seven years since being drafted out of high school, now is the time for him to put it all together before a move to the bullpen becomes the only logical option.
#28 – RP Gavin Hollowell
Age: 23.3; Throws: Right
Acquired: 2019 MLB Draft, 6th Rd from St. John’s University
Hollowell saved seven games in eight attempts as a first-year pro with Grand Junction and has shown a propensity to throw strikes with his 95mph fastball and power slider. His 6-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (30 K, 5 BB) was among the best in the organization in 2019.
At 6’7”, his ability to stand tall on the mound could be a recipe for dominance during his first full-season in 2021.
#27 – SP/RP Lucas Gilbreath (40-Man Roster)
Age: 25.0; Throws: Left
Acquired: 2017 MLB Draft, 7th Rd from University of Minnesota
After converting to a starting pitcher as a junior at Minnesota, the Rockies gave the Broomfield native three seasons in their system to start games before a transition to short relief during the 2020 instructional league. It was there he dazzled with a three-pitch mix that included an above average slider and changeup, earning him a coveted spot on the 40-man roster.
Though he’s yet to pitch above High-A, Gilbreath is battling Ben Bowden, a 2016 2nd Rd Pick, as the team’s lone left-hander out of the ‘pen.
#26 – OF Niko Decolati
Age: 23.6; Throws: Right; Bats: Right
Acquired: 2018 MLB Draft, 6th Rd from Loyola Marymount University
Impressive in his pro debut and unlucky in his sophomore campaign due a broken hand, Decolati is looking to make the most of his low-key five tools. For having such raw power, he hits more ground balls than ideal and has yet to learn the craft of taking a base on balls.
Born in Boulder and son of a former baseball player at the University of Northern Colorado, Decolati is a player that could be one of the bigger sleepers in the organization.
#25 – IF Mateo Gil
Age: 20.6; Throws: Right; Bats: Right
Acquired: Trade with St. Louis Cardinals for Nolan Arenado, Feb 2021
Lured away from TCU out of high school with an over slot bonus from the Cardinals, Gil is the son of former big leaguer Benji Gil. While drafted in 2018, the natural shortstop has played just one season of pro ball outside the complex league.
With room for physical growth that could improve his future power value, Colorado will learn about this toolsy youngster in his first full-season in 2021.
#24 – OF Yonathan Daza (40-Man Roster)
Age: 27.1; Throws: Right; Bat: Right
Acquired: 2010 International Signing
After a decade in the organization that signed him out of Venezuela, it could all come down to a decision made ahead of Opening Day 2021 as the 27-year-old outfielder is out of minor league options.
He may be the best defensive center fielder on the roster and one of the better contact hitters, but his relative lack of power and ability to draw walks could ultimately decide his fate in Denver.
#23 – SP Ryan Feltner
Age: 24.5; Throws: Right
Acquired: 2018 MLB Draft, 4th Rd from Ohio State
Feltner had a difficult three-year career with the Buckeyes before excelling at Grand Junction in 2018. A rough 2019 in Asheville left much to be desired, but the righty impressed during the instructional league at the end of 2020 to suggest he could stick as a starting pitcher with continued development of his three pitches.
#22 – IF Julio Carreras
Age: 21.2; Throws: Right; Bats: Right
Acquired: 2018 International Signing
A shoulder injury hampered his ability to progress for parts of the instructional league last year, but all signs point to Carreras being the type of player Colorado loves to develop thanks to his positional flexibility around the diamond. Possessing above average speed and arm, his hit tool and power potential have a way to go, but are projectable.
#21 – RP Tony Locey
Age: 22.6; Throws: Right
Acquired: Trade with St. Louis Cardinals for Nolan Arenado, Feb 2021
The third-highest touted player in the Arenado deal, Locey was originally taken in the third round out of the University of Georgia. His fastball has yet to touch 100mph, but many project him to get there eventually. If he can improve command enough – especially with the slider – Locey hopes to extend his career past that of his father, also Tony, who topped out at High-A.