DENVER -- While top prospect lists are mostly populated with high MLB Draft picks or top international signings, two lower-round picks -- first baseman Roberto Ramos and right-handed pitcher Rico Garcia -- earned the Rockies' Hitting and Pitching Prospect of the Year designations, respectively.
Each team's Hitting and Pitching Prospects of the Year were chosen by the MLB Pipeline staff, based on performance during the 2018 season more than Major League potential. To receive consideration, players must have spent at least half the year in the Minors and appeared on the team's Top 30 Prospects list.
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Unranked on the Rockies' Top 30 at the start of the season, Garcia, 24, earned the Rockies' No. 21 ranking and Ramos, 23, took the No. 23 spot in the July re-ranking on MLB Pipeline.
Both were selected by scouting vice president Bill Schmidt and the scouting staff out of unheralded collegiate programs. Ramos, a native of Hermosillo, Mexico, was a 16th-rounder in 2014 out of College of the Canyons, a two-year school in Santa Carita, Calif., and Garcia is a Honolulu native seeking to become the second player from Hawaii Pacific University to make the Majors. Former Rockies outfielder Benny Agbayani was the first.
Listed at 6-5 and 220 pounds, the left-handed hitting Ramos found his power this season.
Last year at Class A Lancaster, Ramos batted .297 with a .351 on-base percentage, but his 13 home runs and 124 strikeouts suggested adjustment was in order. This season, through 60 games at Lancaster, he hit 17 home runs and, although he had 65 strikeouts, batted .304 with a .411 on-base and a .640 slugging percentage. The performance earned him a promotion to Double-A Hartford, where he slashed .231/.320/.503 and struck out 75 times, but he powered 15 home runs in 61 games.
Ramos might be a work in progress, but he made notable progress in 2018.
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"He made a nice adjustment with his approach. He wasn't attacking pitches as aggressively and he was laying off more than ever pitches out of his attack zone," Rockies senior player development director Zach Wilson said. "Because he made these small adjustments on his approach he was able to barrel up more balls. His natural power led to some pretty good home run numbers.
"He's got power to all fields and can take the fastball on the outer half to left and left-center. And if you hang a breaking ball, you're in trouble. He's done a much better job laying off good breaking balls. He had some issues in the past with that, as you see with the strikeout numbers, but he's begun to clean that up."
The Rockies generally want their prospects to play multiple positions, but Wilson said the right-handed throwing Ramos profiles strictly at first base. Wilson said Ramos "moves around OK" and has soft hands, and is trying to improve his agility and range defensively.
Garcia is not big -- listed at 5-11, 190 -- but has increased his arm strength since college.
The result was a solid year at Lancaster (7-7, 3.42 ERA while starting 15 of his 16 games, 101 strikeouts in 100 innings pitched) and Hartford (6-2, 2.28 in 11 starts, 61 strikeouts in 67 innings)
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"He has really made some solid delivery adjustments over the past couple of years, which has allowed his velocity to increase," Wilson said. "We've gotten him away from the college routine and into a very good throwing program, with bullpens between starts. All that has allowed him to go from 89-93 [mph] to, now, 94-96 and even touch 97. He has an above-average breaking ball and has developed a decent changeup.
"He was able to carve up the Cal League, and he earned a promotion and continued his very good year at Hartford. He's the real deal, and he's going to continue to get better because he's such a competitor."