It's time to show the top five Rockies prospects as voted on by the Purple Row community. Tomorrow I'll wrap up this series with a look at the list as a whole, but for now, let's take a look at the future stars in Colorado's minor league system. According to the community, they're all position players.
As a reminder, 23 ballots were cast in this edition of the PuRPs poll, with 30 points being granted for a first place vote, 29 for second, etc. Until a player was named on 8 ballots, his vote totals were modified on a sliding scale to avoid an individual ballot having too much say over the community forecast -- but none of the above players had that problem, as all 30 players on the PuRPs list were named on at least 8 ballots.
For each player on the PuRPs list, I've included a link to their stats (via Baseball-Reference), their relevant "tool score indicators" compared to their league on a 1-100 scouting scale (which is explained here) per the wonderful Baseball Cube, their contract status (via Rockies Roster), their probable MLB ETA (assuming they do make the Show), and a note on their 2012 season to date. For what it's worth, I'll also include where I put them on my personal ballot.
Remember that neither the tool scores nor the statistics pages are the end-all be-all when evaluating these players. Context is hugely important (such as the player's age relative to the league's average or the league average offensive numbers), as is the fact that injuries to prospects can affect both their tools and their stats.
Here are PuRPs 5-1:
5. Will Swanner (554 points, 23 ballots) -- Spring 2012 Ranking: 13 -- High Ballot 4, Mode (most common when placed) Ballot 5
Swanner, a 21 year-old catcher who played for Low A Asheville this year, has been known for two things throughout his career -- his prodigious power and his poor contact rate at the plate. After all, in his first professional season Swanner swatted a homer every 11 PAs but didn't walk a single time, while striking out 40% of the time. Thankfully, the catching prospect has grown a little as a prospect since then, crushing SAL pitching to the tune of .302/.385/.529 as a 20 year-old catcher, bringing the walk rate up to 10% and the K rate down to 27%.
The big knock on Swanner is that he might not stick as a catcher defensively at higher levels (which is why I was hesitant to place him higher than 5th on my ballot), but those hit tools will play fine at first base or a corner outfield position. He's a little ways away, but with Swanner there's All-Star potential if everything breaks right.
Contract Status: 2010 15th Round, Not Rule 5 Eligible, 3 options remaining
MLB ETA: Late 2015
The composition (if not the order) of the top 4 PuRPs were agreed upon in 75% of ballots.
4. Kyle Parker (625 points, 23 ballots) -- Spring 2012 Ranking: 10 -- High Ballot 1 (1), Mode Ballot 4
Parker, a 22 year-old righty outfielder in High A Modesto, is a prospect that I missed on somewhat. The former Clemson QB and 2010 first round pick of the Rockies was expected to crush homers at the lower levels given his prodigious power, but he failed to dominate low A ball and in the first half of 2012 he was slowed by a hand injury. As a result, I looked unfavorably on Parker's development as a prospect.
However, there was a reason that Parker was a 1st round pick despite never fully investing all of his time in baseball. The power is there, the patience at the plate is improving, and the athleticism (for a corner outfield position, anyways) is certainly present -- though it's been said that he's the most likely internal replacement for Todd Helton down the line. And the results finally started to reflect the tools -- Parker's line in Modesto ended up a robust .308/.415/.562 -- and in the second half it ballooned to .326/.431/.628.
In other words, I'm finally becoming a believer in Parker (I slotted him 6th on my list) and I hope that he continues his rampage in AA Tulsa.
Contract Status: 2010 1st Round, Not Rule 5 Eligible, 3 options remaining
MLB ETA: Late 2014
3. Trevor Story (648 points, 23 ballots) -- Spring 2012 Ranking: 3 -- High Ballot 1 (2), Mode Ballot 3
Story, a 19 year-old righty shortstop who played at Low A Asheville, was ranked as the top prospect in the rookie level Pioneer League by Baseball America last year and he showed us why in Asheville this season (he was the #2 prospect in BA's SAL list this year). As one of the youngest players in the league and playing the toughest defensive position well, Story hit an impressive .277/.367/.505, including an impressive 67 XBHs.
Scouts have indicated that he's a potential 5 tool shortstop at the major league level, and Story has done little to gainsay them at this point. I ranked him 3rd on my list as an elite bat, and I'm excited to see if he can continue his success at the upper levels.
Contract Status: 2011 Supplemental 1st Round, Not Rule 5 eligible, 3 options remaining
MLB ETA: 2015
2. Nolan Arenado (668 points, 23 ballots) -- Spring 2012 Ranking: 1 -- High Ballot 1 (9), Mode Ballot 1
Arenado, a 21 year-old third baseman at AA Tulsa, was seen by many Rockies fans as the 2012 starter at 3B despite never playing a game above A ball. That's probably because Arenado had just been named the MVP of the Arizona Fall League last year and had hit extremely well in Low A Modesto as a 20 year-old. For people expecting MLB stardom in 2012, Arenado's year was a little disappointing...but by most other metrics, it was mostly a success.
After all, a .285/.337/.428 line at AA as a 21 year-old is just fine. The best part about Arenado as a prospect is his great contact rate -- facing pitching 2-3 years older than him, Arenado whiffed only 10% of the time. Despite having his defense maligned after he was drafted, Arenado has developed into a competent 3rd baseman. There have been some concerns about Arenado's attitude (specifically, how he deals with failure) expressed by none other than Dan O'Dowd, which is a red flag.
Even so, Arenado is the type of player who is going to be a league average or better third baseman in MLB for a long time because of his elite contact and hit tools. If you haven't been paying attention, 3B is kind of a black hole for most of MLB but particularly the Rockies, so even league average production is pretty note-worthy.
Contract Status: 2009 2nd Round, Not Rule 5 Eligible, 3 options remaining
MLB ETA: Late 2013
1. David Dahl (671 points, 23 ballots) -- Spring 2012 Ranking: NR -- High Ballot 1 (11), Mode Ballot 1
Dahl, a 18 year-old lefty outfielder for rookie level Grand Junction, was Colorado's first round pick (10th overall) in this year's draft. To say that Dahl impressed in his professional debut would be an understatement. Playing against pitchers 2-3 years older than him on average, all Dahl did was hit .379/.423/.625 (winning the Pioneer League batting title by 41 points), run away with the Pioneer League MVP, and get named the top prospect in the league.
In other words, Dahl had just about the best start to a professional career you could hope for from a first round pick, which is why he's ranked (by a mere 3 points) as the top Purple Row Prospect for Fall 2012. Dahl is a five tool talent that projects to stick in center field defensively and comfortably projects as a MLB regular with the potential for much more. Then again, Rockies fans will have to wait a while as Dahl is still years away from the Show.
Contract Status: 2012 1st Round, Not Rule 5 Eligible, 3 options remaining
MLB ETA: 2016
Tomorrow, I'll post the entire list for discussion.