For the first time in franchise history, the Colorado Rockies will finish the month of May in first place in the NL West.
Though the season has been filled with inconsistent baseball, Colorado has benefited from less-than-stellar play from its divisional counterparts and played well enough to hold a slight lead over the division.
Despite their position atop the standings, the question deserves to be asked if the team is doing enough to optimize its talent. MLB Pipeline currently ranks three Rockies’ prospects within its top 100, led by shortstop Brendan Rodgers. Through two months of the MLB season, here’s a look at five of Colorado’s most intriguing prospects.
C Tom Murphy, Triple-A Albuquerque
Tom Murphy’s string of bad luck seems to finally have avoided him to begin the 2018 season. The former top-100 prospect has endured a slew of injuries in his professional career that have derailed his progress early in seasons. After appearing on be on track at the beginning of last season with the Rockies following two successful stints with the club, Murphy suffered a forearm fracture in spring training that disrupted his season.
Now healthy, the 27-year-old has proven to be one of the most consistent bats for the Isotopes. In 163 at-bats this season, Murphy has a slash line of .307/.380/.675 to go along with 14 home runs and 40 RBI. Last week, Murphy was named to MLB Pipeline’s Prospect Team of the Week after posting a 1.179 OPS and moving into second place in the Pacific Coast League in home runs.
A career .282 hitter in the minors, Murphy is currently ranked as Colorado’s No. 10 prospect. Though he is graded as a slightly below-average defender, Murphy’s hot bat could behoove the Rockies immediately behind the plate.
1B/OF Jordan Patterson, Triple-A Albuquerque
Similar to Murphy, Jordan Patterson has been in the Rockies’ organization for what seems like ages. Drafted in the fourth round of 2013, Patterson has spent the majority of the past three seasons in Albuquerque. 2017 saw Patterson breakout and hit .283 with 26 home runs and 92 RBIs.
Patterson has strung together stretches of dominance this season, including a week in which he hit .320 and launched three home runs. The Rockies prospect was honored on the Prospect Team of the Week for his performances. Rated as the team’s No. 20 prospect, Patterson is slashing .253/.371/.521 on the season and was successful during a very brief September call-up in 2016 (8-for-18, .974 OPS).
Ian Desmond’s play has improved over the past few weeks, but Patterson could offer the Rockies a left-handed batter with pop to platoon with Desmond if he continues to struggle.
RHP Peter Lambert, Double-A Hartford
In a farm system that has a number of touted pitching prospects, Peter Lambert has ascended to the top. Drafted in the second round in 2015 out of high school, Lambert has climbed to the No. 3 spot on Colorado’s prospects, ahead of 2016 first-round pick Riley Pint (No. 4).
Since a promising start to rookie ball in 2015, Lambert has moved up a level of the minor leagues in each season, advancing from Low-A in 2016 to High-A in 2017 and Double-A this season. The 21-year-old has been successful at each stop in his professional development and is in the midst of his best season yet.
In 54 innings pitched, Lambert has a 3.00 ERA with an impressive 43/9 strikeout to walk ratio over 10 games started. Considering this hot start is coming during a time many young pitchers endure a transitional phase, his success is that much more impressive. He throws a plus changeup and has an above-average fastball and curveball. Lambert added a slider to his arsenal last season and possess above-average control.
He still needs to mature in the minor leagues and does not figure to make his MLB appearance until at least 2019; but if he continues on this track, Lambert could develop into a frontline starter for Colorado.
SS/2B Brendan Rodgers, Double-A Hartford
Since being selected third overall in 2015, Brendan Rodgers has been Colorado’s top prospect. After splitting time between High-A and Double-A last season, Rodgers has spent this season in Hartford slashing .281/.324/.521 with 11 home runs and 39 RBIs in 192 at-bats.
His tools have been widely praised since forgoing college baseball to join the Rockies’ system. He grades at least average in everything with plus power and a plus arm. Rodgers leads the Yard Goats in home runs, RBIs and total bases.
Despite a crowded middle infield in Colorado, Rodgers is the future at either shortstop or second base, but the club seems content letting him develop in the minors a bit longer.
2B/SS Garrett Hampson, Triple-A Albuquerque
Though Rodgers is the club’s top prospect, Garrett Hampson could be the middle infielder making his way to Coors Field the soonest. Like Rodgers, Hampson began the season in Double-A before being moved to Triple-A two weeks ago after a very impressive start to the season.
In Hartford, Hampson slashed .304/.391/.466 while leading the Yard Goats in on-base percentage and stolen bases. Paired with an impressive spring training, that was enough to earn Hampson a promotion to Triple-A Albuquerque.
In 14 games with the Isotopes, Hampson is batting .241 with 12 runs scored and nine RBIs. He has maintained a walk-to-strikeout ratio north of one, showing the discipline the projected second baseman holds. Hampson’s plus speed and plus glove paired with an above-average bat make him difficult to ignore as Colorado’s No. 6 prospect.
Though D.J. Lemahieu is expected to return from the DL in the coming days, Hampson could be considered for a promotion if injuries continue to linger.
Bonus: RHP Jeff Hoffman, Triple-A Albuquerque
He’s not a prospect, but Jeff Hoffman’s shoulder injury in the spring has prevented him from seeing the big leagues in 2018. Now nearing full-health, Hoffman has strung together four consecutive impressive starts for the Isotopes, including a dominating 10-strikeout performance over 6.2 innings of shutout baseball.
Hoffman showed the tools that made him a top prospect for the Rockies last season. If a spot opens up in the rotation, the 25-year-old is likely the first option to fill it.