Rockies bring strong prospect depth into Spring Training

Colorado's farm system emerging as one of league's best

Rockies bring strong prospect depth into Spring Training

DENVER -- The Rockies have quietly been building depth in the Minor League system and are beginning to reap the benefits.

MLB.com's recent prospect ranking included four Rockies, and several other rankings put the farm system among the best in baseball because of its growing list of prospects. Some of the hottest prospects aren't yet ready for Major League camp, but there is a healthy list of players who could help in 2015.

In this latest installment of a series previewing Spring Training 2015, here is the Rockies' prospect watch:

RHP Jon Gray: Last year, in his first full Minor League season, Gray (ranked No. 16 by MLB.com), the third overall pick in 2013, battled fatigue in his throwing arm. The Rockies' top-ranked prospect on MLB.com still managed a solid performance -- 10-5, 3.91 ERA, with 113 strikeouts in 124 1/3 innings at Double-A Tulsa. With offseason strengthening and familiarity with throwing every fifth day, he has the talent for double-digits strikeouts per nine innings -- traits that could put him in the Majors by season's end.

Pleskoff on Gray, Butler

RHP Eddie Butler: A brief, pain-filled Major League entrée has raised questions about Butler (No. 35) Butler went 1-1 with a 6.75 ERA in three Major League starts and was held out of the Arizona Fall League to work on strengthening a rotator cuff that gave him problems all year. If Butler's shoulder is fine, he could be a viable rotation option this season.

SS Trevor Story: The 45th overall pick in 2011, Story, at 22, burned up the Class A Advanced level last season with a .332 average and a .436 on-base percentage, and he also saw time at Double-A. With a non-roster invitation, he'll have a chance to work against Major Leaguers early in camp with the hope that it'll accelerate his development.

INF-OF Rosell Herrera: After earning South Atlantic League MVP honors in 2013, Herrera, 22, fought problems with both wrists and appeared in just 72 games last season (.302, 4 HR, 23 RBIs). Still, he was considered prospect enough to appear in the Futures Game during All-Star weekend. The Rockies gave Herrera a crash course in the outfield during fall instructional ball. The versatility could make him a factor at the Major League level this year, if he can stay healthy.

OF David Dahl: The 10th overall pick in 2012, Dahl (No. 59) doesn't turn 21 until April 1, and will not be in Major League camp, but don't be surprised if he appears late in Major League games. The left-handed-hitting Dahl hit .299 with 14 home runs, 41 doubles and eight triples at two Class A levels last year.

LHP Kyle Freeland: The Denver native, drafted eighth overall last summer, might or might not appear in a big league Spring Training game. If not, Freeland (No. 60) is worth a trip to the Minor League side. The Rockies believe he has the strike-throwing capability (33 strikeouts to six walks in his first 10 pro starts) to become a factor quickly at the Major League level.

Top Prospects: Freeland, COL

1B-OF Kyle Parker: Taken 26th overall in 2010, Parker saw brief big league action last season (.192 in 18 games), but he hit .289 with 15 homers in Triple-A. With plenty of bench depth already on the roster, the right-handed-hitting Parker likely would have to have a monster camp to make the Opening Day roster. But with a strong showing, he could be an option for significant playing time if called up.

3B Ryan McMahon: A second-rounder in 2013, McMahon, 20, nearly cracked the MLB.com Top 100. In two professional seasons as a teenager, he hit 29 home runs and 64 doubles, and has hit .294. He'll either be worth a trip to a back field for fans to watch him in a Minor League game, or worth sticking around for should the Rockies bring him over for the main game.

OF Raimel Tapia: Tapia, 21, isn't in Major League camp, but this could be the year he sees some time in the main Spring Training games. Having hit .357 with 20 doubles in Rookie ball in 2013 and .326 with 32 doubles last year at Class A Asheville, it'll be interesting to see what he can do if he's called over to face Major League pitching.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page, Thomas Harding and Friends at www.Rockies.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.