Colorado Rockies 2019 Midseason Top 50 Prospects

Luis Castro, Hartford Steamed Cheeseburgers (August 13, 2019) - photo credit Bill Mercey, hartford.baseball on Instagram and BillMerceyPhotos.com

What I said in January: “The Colorado Rockies’ minor league system is one of the best in the game, with a handful of top prospects, a legion of potential regulars in the major leagues, a deep pool of bullpen arms and possible major-league utility players and, finally, a dollop of intriguing teenaged talent that could some day rise to the very top.”

Now, I’m not so sure. Is it poor drafts, inadequate player development or a failure of upper management to properly deploy talent at the major-league level? I don’t know, but the inability of top prospects to prosper in the last couple of years has turned this into a suspect system. Ryan McMahon, who graduated from this list a year ago, is finally looking like a major league regular but not so Garrett Hampson or Raimel Tapia.

And the pitching, oh the pitching. Yency Almonte has graduated from this list because he will probably surpass 50 innings this year but he could have fallen off from lack of performance. Peter Lambert graduated to modest success in Denver. Reid Humphreys has only pitched 3 innings in the past year because of injury and is no longer a prospect in my view. Former prospect Jeff Hoffman has been called up to the majors 11 times since 2016 and sent back to Albuquerque each time.

I counsel patience, but I’m becoming impatient myself. We will know more a year from now but it’s fantasy buyer beware when it comes to Rockies prospects.


Rockies Minor League Affiliates:
Triple-A:
Albuquerque (Pacific Coast League)

Double-A: Hartford (Eastern League)

High-A: Lancaster (California League)

Low-A: Asheville (South Atlantic League)

Short Season-A: Boise (Northwest League)

Rookie: Grand Junction (Pioneer League)


Prospects1500 Tiers:
Tier 1:
 Players with high expectations of both making the majors and playing at an All-Star level for a number of years
Tier 2: Players with an above average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 3: Players with an average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 4: Players who have the potential of making the majors, or have high likelihood of making the majors but providing minimal impact (e.g. middle reliever, low-ceiling UT guys)
Tier 5: Players who are worth keeping an eye on, but likely to never make a team’s 40-man roster


Tier 1:
1.
Brendan Rodgers, 2B/SS (Preseason rank #1)
Age: 23 (DOB: August 9, 1996)
Highest 2019 level: MLB

Rodgers remains the consensus top prospect for the Rockies and still one of the best prospects in the minor leagues. But he had an uneven start to his big-league career and finished the season on the disabled list after shoulder surgery. Rodgers had 0 homers, 7 RBI and a .224 batting average in 76 at-bats with the Rockies. This after 9 home runs, 21 RBI and a .350 average in 143 at-bats at AAA Albuquerque. Next year then.

 

Tier 2:
2. Michael Toglia, 1B (NR)
Age: 21 (DOB: August 16, 1998)
Highest 2019 level: Short-A Boise

The Rockies’ first-round pick in the 2019 First Year Player Draft, number 23 overall, has 9 homers, 26 RBI and a .248 average at Boise in his first pro season.

Toglia was a solid bat for UCLA, helping them to the top ranking for much of the college baseball season before they were bounced in the College World Series.

At 6 feet, 5 inches tall, weighing 226 pounds, Toglia has the classic frame for a first baseman. He was a Pac-12 all-star after hitting .336 with 11 home runs and 58 RBIs for UCLA this spring. That followed a most valuable player performance in the Cape Cod League last summer when he had eight homers and 24 runs batted in.

Does he really profile as the second-best player on this list? Probably not, but given the questions attached to the others, he might have the best career of the lot.

3. Tyler Nevin, 3B (3)
Age: 22 (DOB: May 29, 1997)
Highest 2019 level: AA

These next three are interchangeable, all with good hit tools and question marks. Nevin had 13 homers, 62 runs batted in and a .328 average at High-A Lancaster in 2018, then captured national attention with an outstanding performance in the Arizona Fall League. But the son of former player and current New York Yankees third-base coach Phil Nevin has had a modest season at AA Hartford: 8 homers, 42 RBI and a .242 average. 

4. Colton Welker, 3B (4)
Age: 21 (DOB: October 9, 1997)
Highest 2019 level: AA

Welker has 8 HR, 45 RBI and a .259 batting average at Hartford. His defense is a bit suspect so he needs to hit. Welker was named the California League’s top third baseman in 2018 and could be a star, maybe.

5. Ryan Vilade, SS (5)
Age: 20 (DOB: February 18, 1999)
Highest 2019 level: High-A

Vilade, drafted in the second round in 2017 out of high school in Stillwater, OK, is progressing well with 9 home runs, 62 RBI, 16 stolen bases and a .295 average (.360 on-base percentage) at High-A Lancaster. He has a chance ultimately to be the top player on this list. 

6. Ryan Rolison, LHP (7)
Age: 22 (DOB: July 11, 1997)
Highest 2019 level: High-A

A first round pick (22nd overall) in 2018 out of the University of Mississippi, Rolison is off to a good start in the minors. He has 117 strikeouts in 110 innings at Low-A Asheville and High-A Lancaster this season. He was sparkling in three starts at Asheville but the hitter-friendly California League takes its toll on stats. Rolison would be much higher on this list if it were not the Rockies and Denver was not his destination. If traded, Rolison should be in your fantasy sights; if not, never mind.

7. Sam Hilliard, RF (9)
Age: 25 (DOB: February 21, 1994)
Highest 2019 level: AAA

Hilliard has raked at AAA Albuquerque in 2019. Everybody’s hitting at AAA thanks to new use of the major-league baseball and the thin air and high altitudes of the western cities but still: Hilliard has 30 HR, 91 RBI, 20 stolen bases and the summer is not yet over.

He was an Eastern League all-star in 2018 after a good first half at AA Hartford, only to strike out 35 percent of the time in a dismal second-half turn. That prompted the Rockies to send Hilliard to the Arizona Fall League for another look before deciding whether to add him to the 40-man roster or expose him to the Rule 5 draft. He hit .328 in the AFL with 2 homers, 14 RBI, two stolen bases and a .389 OBP. 

8. Grant Lavigne, 1B (8)
Age: 19 (DOB: August 27, 1999)
Highest 2019 level: Low-A

Lavigne has modest numbers at Low-A Asheville this year, but the 6-4, 220-pound lefty hitting first baseman, drafted out of high school in New Hampshire in 2018 (42nd pick overall) offers a nice combination of power and speed. He actually has more stolen bases in 2019 (8) than homers (5). But he profiles as a power-hitting first basemen or left fielder and is just 19.

9. Yonathan Daza, CF (21)
Age: 24 (DOB: February 28, 1994)
Highest 2019 level: MLB

The Venezuelan has enjoyed an all-star campaign at AAA Albuquerque in this year of the big offensive explosion in the Pacific Coast League, but he has struggled in two stints in the big leagues. He has speed, power and defensive prowess that may yet allow him to surpass Raimel Tapia in Denver.

10.  Terrin Vavra, SS (11)
Age: 22 (DOB: May 12, 1997)
Highest 2019 level: Low-A

Vavra can hit and run, evidenced by a .302 batting average with a .396 on-base percentage and nine steals in 44 games at short-season Boise in 2018 and a .318 batting average with .409 OBP and 18 steals in 102 at-bats at Low-A Asheville this summer.

Drafted in the third round (96th overall) out of the University of Minnesota in 2018, 

Vavra is the son of Joe Vavra, quality control coach for the Detroit Tigers and former bench coach of the Minnesota Twins, and has two older brothers, Tanner and Trey, who played in the Twins minor league system. Exposure to pro baseball at a young age enhances a baseball acumen that keeps moving him up this list.

11. Ben Bowden, LHP (24)
Age: 24 (DOB: October 21, 1994)
Highest 2019 level: AAA

A second-round pick from Vanderbilt in 2016, Bowden was on the fast track to the Rockies’ bullpen when an injury put him on the shelf in spring 2017. He rebounded in 2018 with 78 strikeouts in 52 innings coming out of the bullpens in A-ball Asheville and Lancaster. More of the same this year at AA Hartford and AAA Albuquerque where he has a combined 63 strikeouts in 42 innings and 1.07 WHIP.

This system has a number of relievers who could impact a major-league bullpen and Bowden is now clearly the best of the lot.

 

Tier 3:
12. Dom Nunez, C (NR)
Age: 24 (DOB: January 17, 1995)
Highest 2019 level: MLB

His 17 home runs, 42 RBI and a .362 OBP earned a promotion from Albuquerque to Denver. He’s bounced on and off this list but any catcher who plays in Coors Field might be fantasy relevant.

13. Aaron Schunk, 3B (NR)
Age: 22 (DOB: July 24, 1997)
Highest 2019 level: Short Season-A

Schunk, drafted in the second round in 2019 out of the University of Georgia, is off to a good start at Boise. He has six homers, 23 RBI and a .329 average in 161 at-bats, with a .388 OBP and .928 OPS. A two-way player in college — third base and closer — the Rockies see his future at third. He profiles well there at 6 feet, 2 inches and 205 pounds, with power and limited foot speed. Keep an eye on him.

14. Niko Decolati, OF (30)
Age: 22 (DOB: August 12, 1997)
Highest 2019 level: Low-A

The 21-year-old Colorado native looks like a keeper. The 186th pick overall in the 2018 draft, Decolati excelled at Rookie-level Grand Junction, where he hit 11 homers with 56 RBI and stole 17 bases with a .327 batting average and .414 on-base percentage in 2018.

This season, at Low-A Asheville, Decolati has continued to progress though his numbers are not as gaudy. He has 12 stolen bases to go with a .332 on-base percentage. He has a future at least as a fourth outfielder in the bigs.

15. Casey Golden, LF (15)
Age: 24 (DOB: September 1, 1994)
Highest 2019 level: High-A

Another of my personal favorites, Golden is progressing steadily through the minors. He has 21 homers, 54 RBI and a .366 OBP in Lancaster this season, following 34 homers and 95 runs batted in at Low-A Asheville in 2018 and 20 homers and 59 RBI in 54 games in Rookie ball in 2017.

Golden came in as a first baseman from UNC-Wilmington but the Rockies moved him to the outfield, where he can play either corner and even has the speed for center field. (He has 9 stolen bases this summer.)

16. Vince Fernandez, LF (16)
Age: 24 (DOB: July 25, 1995)
Highest 2019 level: AA

After a standout season in the California League in 2018, Fernandez has 13 homers and 30 RBI in 57 games this year at AA Hartford. But his season was marred by a 50-game suspension for amphetamine use. He still profiles as a major-league regular but he needs to show it on and off the field going forward.

17. Brian Mundell, 1B (18)
Age: 25 (DOB: February 28, 1994)
Highest 2019 level: AAA

Mundell has rebounded in 2019 with a solid season at AAA Albuquerque after a disappointing 2018 in Hartford. He’s hitting .333 with 9 home runs, 49 RBI and a low strikeout rate. There’s a place in Denver for guys who can hit.

18. Daniel Montano, CF (17)
Age 20 (DOB: March 31, 1999)
Highest 2019 level: Low-A

The young Venezuelan has faltered a bit at Low-A Asheville this summer but he has 15 stolen bases and still has time to show whether he’s major-league material in center field.

19. Ryan Castellani, RHP (14)
Age: 23 (DOB: April 1, 1996)
Highest 2019 level: AAA

Pitchers don’t fare well on this list, and that’s because they play in hitter-friendly parks in the Rockies’ minor league system. To wit, after Castellani had a disappointing 2018 at Hartford, he has posted an 8.31 ERA in Albuquerque. Still, he has 47 strikeouts in 43.1 innings. Inconsistency is his failing; perhaps another team can fix that and he can flourish somewhere else.

20. Robert Tyler, RHP (12)
Age: 24 (DOB: June 18, 1995)
Highest 2019 level: High-A

Tyler, a supplemental first-round pick (38th overall) out of the University of Georgia in 2016, has 23 strikeouts in 19.2 innings but an ugly 8.69 ERA in the California League. He’s got the fastball to close, though.

21. Justin Lawrence, RHP (13)
Age: 24 (DOB: November 25, 1994)
Highest 2019 level: AAA

Lawrence struck out 62 in 54.1 innings out of the bullpen at High-A Lancaster in 2018 and performed well in the Arizona Fall League but has struggled mightily in 2019, earning a demotion from Albuquerque to Hartford. Control is an issue as he has 23 walks to 25 strikeouts this year. A 100 mph fastball may not, in this case, be enough.

22. Rico Garcia, RHP (23)
Age: 25 (DOB: January 10, 1994)
Highest 2019 level: AAA

Garcia was drafted in the 30th round in 2016 from Hawaii Pacific and blossomed in 2018 at AA Hartford, where he had 61 strikeouts in 67 innings with a 2.28 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. He’s pitched well at Albuquerque, with 125 strikeouts in 113.2 innings. He may well fit into the rotation in Denver, though that does not make him fantasy relevant.

23. Ryan Feltner, RHP (25)
Age: 22 (DOB: September 2, 1996)
Highest 2019 level: Low-A

The 126th pick overall in the 2018 draft out of Ohio State University, Feltner has 94 strikeouts in 99 innings at Low-A Asheville. His 98 mph fastball may ultimately play in the bullpen.

24. Roberto Ramos, 1B (27)
Age: 24 (DOB: December 28, 1994)
Highest 2019 level: AAA

I’m not convinced Ramos will be anything more than a platoon player in Denver but with 23 homers, 86 RBI and a .323 average in Albuquerque, even given the offensive offense in the PCL, he could be a major league regular. Ramos looks like a power hitter at 6-feet-5 and 220 pounds and he acts like one too.

 

Tier 4:
25. Riley Pint, RHP (10)
Age: 21 (DOB: November 6, 1997)
Highest 2019 level: Low-A

A first-round draft pick in 2016 out of high school in Overland Park, KS, Pint continues to underperform. He has 23 strikeouts in 17.2 innings but an 8.66 ERA at Asheville. That won’t play.

26.
Josh Fuentes, 3B (26)
Age: 26 (DOB; February 19, 1993)
Highest 2019 level: MLB

Fuentes played nine games in the majors this season with uneventful results. Back in Albuquerque, he has been solid if not as spectacular as a year ago. His ceiling probably is as a utility infielder, not as a regular on a first-division club.

27. Eddy Diaz, SS (33)
Age: 19 (DOB: February 14, 2000)
Highest 2019 level: Rookie

Diaz, a native of Cuba, showed blazing speed in 87 games over two seasons in the Dominican Summer League with 84 stolen bases and a .310 batting average and .411 on-base percentage. This summer, in Grand Junction, he has 20 stolen bases and a .331 batting average.

28. Tommy Doyle, RHP (34)
Age: 23 (DOB: May 1, 1996)
Highest 2019 level: Low-A

A 2017 draft pick from the University of Virginia, the 6-6, 235-pound is a power pitcher.

He struck out 41 batters in 32 innings, garnering 18 saves at Asheville this season. He has a fastball that can get up to 98 mph and a better than average slider. 

29. Jesus Tinoco, RHP (29)
Age: 24 (DOB; April 30, 1995)
Highest 2019 level: MLB

The Venezuelan pitched well at Albuquerque and made his major-league debut this season.

30. Helcris Olivarez, LHP (NR)
Age: 19 (DOB: August 8, 2000)
Highest 2019 level: Rookie

Olivarez made a terrific debut in the Dominican Summer League in 2018 and has continued to progress with 39 strikeouts in 30 innings at Grand Junction.

31. Karl Kauffman, RHP (NR)
Age: 21 (DOB: August 15, 1997)
Highest 2019 level: Inactive

Kauffman was the 77th pick in the 2019 draft after pitching Michigan into the College World Series. He’s 6-2, 200 pounds with a fastball, slider and changeup that could lead eventually to a rotation spot in Denver. Assigned to Low-A Asheville, he has yet to pitch as a pro.

32. PJ Poulin,  LHP (51)
Age: 23 (DOB: July 25, 1996)
Highest 2019 level: Low-A

The lefty has 55 strikeouts in 50.2 innings and 8 saves at Asheville.

33. Bret Boswell, 2B (28)
Age: 24 (DOB; October 4, 1994)
Highest 2019 level: AA

An eighth-round draft pick out of the University of Texas in 2017, Boswell has had a disappointing season at AA Hartford this season. He did, however, earn Eastern League Player of the Week honors recently in August with a .947 slugging percentage.

34. Willie Abreu, OF (22)
Age: 24 (DOB: March 21, 1995)
Highest 2019 level: AA

Likewise, Abreu has disappointed at Hartford.


Tier 5
35. Juan Guerrero, SS (39)
Age: 17 (DOB: September 10, 2001)
Highest 2019 level: DSL

Hits, runs, fields his position.

36. Manuel Melendez, CF (36)
Age: 22 (DOB: January 10, 1997)
Highest 2019 level: AA

The Venezuelan centerfielder has 17 stolen bases this season at AA Hartford.

37. Coco Montes, 2B (37)
Age: 22 (DOB: October 7, 1996)
Highest 2019 level: Low-A

A 15th-round draft pick out of the University of South Florida in 2018, Montes has 10 homers and 69 RBI at Asheville but has stolen only five bases and been caught six times.

38. Sean Bouchard, 1B (46)
Age: 23 (DOB: May 16, 1996)
Highest 2019 level: High-A

A solid season at High-A Lancaster in 2019, with 13 homers, 68 runs batted in and a .354 on-base percentage thus far this season. 

39.  Colten Schmidt, LHP (NR)
Age: 23 (DOB: November 25, 1995)
Highest 2019 level: Low-A

The lefty starter has 91 strikeouts in 92.1 innings at Asheville, with a 1.95 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. 

40. Julio Carreras, 3B (NR)
Age: 19 (DOB: January 12, 2000)
Highest 2019 level: Rookie

The native of the Dominican Republic has stolen 13 bases with a .301 batting average in his first year in the U.S., at Grand Junction.

41. Jacob Wallace, RHP (NR)
Age: 20 (DOB: August 13, 1998)
Highest 2019 level: Short Season-A

The Rockies’ third round draft pick in 2019 has 21 strikeouts in 15.1 innings at Boise.

42Adael Amador, SS (NR)

The Rockies gave Amador, a 16-year-old Dominican, $1.5 million to sign on July 2 in the international signing period. MLB Pipeline rates him as the 12th best international prospect eligible to sign in 2019-20.

43. Ronaiker Palma, C (NR)
Age: 19 (DOB: January 2, 2000)
Highest 2019 level: Rookie

After looking good in the Dominican Summer League a year ago, Palma was promoted to Grand Junction this year.

44. Willie MacIver, C (NR)
Age: 22 (DOB: October 28, 1996)
Highest 2019 level: Low-A

The ninth-round 2018 draft pick out of the University of Washington is making solid progress offensively and defensively at Asheville.

45. Jacob Bird, RHP (NR)
Age: 23 (DOB: December 4, 1995)
Highest 2019 level: Low-A

A decent season at Asheville, working mostly out of the bullpen, with 79 strikeouts in 71 innings.

46. Luis Castro, 1B (NR)
Age: 23 (DOB: September 19, 1995)
2019 Highest Level: AA

Castro, drafted out of Venezuela in 2015, hit .351 with modest power in 2018, but blossomed this year in the hitter-friendly California League with 22 homers and 85 RBI in 111 games. Promoted to Hartford, let’s see how he fares at AA.

47. Mike Nikorak, RHP (35)
Age: 23 (DOB: September 16, 1996)
Highest 2019 level: Short Season-A

Nikorak is a first-round draft pick out of high school in Stroudsburg, PA, in 2015 who has yet to show full recovery from Tommy John surgery.

48.  Breiling Eusebio, LHP (47)
Age: 22 (DOB: October 21, 1996)
Highest 2019 level: Short-A

A notable prospect who missed most of 2018 with Tommy John surgery but has resumed pitching this summer.

49. Mitchell Kilkenny, RHP (48)
Age: 22 (DOB: March 24, 1997)
Highest 2019 level: Rookie

The 76th pick in the 2018 MLB draft had a big year and helped Texas A&M to the College World Series. But he underwent Tommy John surgery and is just now pitching in his first professional action.

50A. Will Ethridge, RHP (NR)
Age: 21 (December 20, 1997)
Highest 2019 level: Short-Season A

Drafted in the fifth round in 2019 out of the University of Mississippi and assigned to Boise.

50B. Warming Bernabel, SS (50)
Age: 17 (DOB: June 6, 2002)
Highest 2019 level: DSL


Area 51. Bladimir Restituyo, 2B (NR)
The 18-year-old from the Dominican Republic has 16 stolen bases and is holding his own at short-season Boise.

Just one more for the road. Christian Koss, SS (NR)
Koss is flourishing for Grand Junction in the Rookie league after graduating this spring from UC-Irvine and being drafted in the 12th round. He’s old for the league, at 21, but keep an eye on him.

OK, I’ll have another. Alan Trejo, SS (NR)
I’m not buying what Trejo (14 homers, 47 RBI) is doing at AA Hartford, but you might.




About Michael Parnell 25 Articles
Michael Parnell is a retired newspaper editor who covers the Colorado Rockies for Prospects1500. He is a longtime fantasy baseball fan who now focuses on his dynasty teams in Diamond Duos and Dynasty Sports Empire leagues. He recently relocated from Fernandina Beach, Fla., to Albuquerque, N.M. Follow him on Twitter @parnellmichael.

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