There's more than meets the eye with this Rox prospect

January 14th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Thomas Harding’s Rockies Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Manny Randhawa contributed to this edition of the Rockies Beat newsletter.

He’s not on MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 list of Rockies prospects. He signed for $15,000 out of the Dominican Republic seven years ago, and he hasn't elicited excitement the way heralded youngsters like Adael Amador or Yanquiel Fernandez have.

But Julio Carreras is considered one of the organization’s key prospects heading into the 2024 season, one who could conceivably find himself in the Majors as soon as this year if things go well for him at Triple-A Albuquerque.

Carreras, who turned 24 on Friday, is a versatile defender with a strong arm who profiles well as a utility infielder, particularly at shortstop and third base. He’s a work in progress at the plate, but he’s shown a hit tool that produced 37 doubles and an .825 OPS over 110 games with High-A Spokane in 2022.

Following a strong start to his professional career -- Carreras posted an .835 OPS for Grand Junction in the Rookie level Pioneer League in 2019 -- the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the '20 Minor League season and a left shoulder injury hindered him in ’21. He bounced back with his ’22 performance, but then regressed at the plate in ’23.

Undeterred, Carreras was impressive in 29 games this offseason for the Gigantes del Cibao of the Dominican Winter League, posting a .304/.388/.461 slash line with five doubles, a triple, three homers and an eyebrow-raising 17 steals in 18 attempts.

All of that is important to see when evaluating whether Carreras can be a part of the long-term plan for the Rockies. But according to the organization’s director of player development, Chris Forbes, there’s much more to Carreras than meets the eye. And it’s that “much more” that has Colorado intrigued about what lies ahead for him.

When Forbes and other player development personnel traveled to the Dominican Republic to see Carreras several years ago in his hometown of Sabana Grande de Boya -- from which Reds phenom Elly De La Cruz also hails -- it quickly became evident that they had someone special in the fold.

“It’s an incredible reset for him and for us as well,” Forbes said. “To see where he’s from -- to see the outhouse out back and to see what he’s done in sending money home to help improve his mom’s lot in life. And the town itself, I’m not sure there’s even a stop sign.”

Forbes spoke glowingly of Carreras’ sense of gratitude. 

“He’s unbelievably grateful,” Forbes said. “His humble beginnings, I think, kind of help define who he is and who he wants to be. From a character standpoint, he’s an unbelievable kid.”

Stats are important. Baseball is a game built on them. And with all of the tools and metrics we have today, we’re able to evaluate players more thoroughly than ever before. But presence in a clubhouse is a real thing, and Carreras exudes that.

Forbes described Carreras as someone who has “tied the group together” at each level of the farm system in which he’s played.

“As we put clubs together, you’re never sure what that’s going to be like,” Forbes said. “But with guys like him, I feel like, ‘OK, I feel good about putting Warming Bernabel [Rockies’ No. 10 prospect] with Carreras. Because Bernabel’s got a lot of work to do. Benny Montgomery [No. 8] has got a lot of work to do.

“You’re always looking at these guys and asking yourself, ‘Who could be a difference-maker?’”

Carreras may not have the cachet of an Amador or a Fernandez. But he could be a difference-maker for Colorado someday, both on the field and off.