We’re continuing on with our look at the Top 10 prospects for each MLB club. We’ve been mixing in commentary from other sites who follow their respected teams very closely for some of our reports. This time around we are going to stay in-house again as Dave Reiffer takes a look at the Colorado Rockies top 10 prospects. So with that in mind, Let’s see what Dave has to say about these young Rockies.
The Colorado Rockies was a fun system to rank just because of all the break-out performances in 2011. This is a deep farm system so the second half, that will be featured in the Top 21’s later this winter, will feature plenty more talent and players primed for a move into next season’s top ten.
1. Nolan Arenado 3B 4/16/1991 H: 6’1″ W: 205 – Selected in the 2nd round in 2009, Arenado was rated as one of the best pure hitters in the draft. Over 3 levels since, he has kept his batting average at or around .300 and between Low-A Asheville and High-A Modesto, he lowered his K rate 4% to 9.1% and raised his walks 3.6% to 8.1%. All the while he maintained some notable power numbers (.189 ISOP). Right now, Nolan looks like a special bat. And there is more good news coming out of the AFL where the young third basemen received glowing reviews for his defense from Stu Cole, Arenado’s manager for the AFL’s Rising Stars game who now believes they may have an above average glove in-the-making at the hot corner. Check out what Tom Belmont wrote in his Prospect | Instinct|Nolan Arenado article in October.
Our Instinct: This is a great boost in value for a kid who was rumored at some point to be moved to first base because of lack of range. Reportedly, he lost 20lbs and got after it working on his lateral movement. “I took it to heart,” Arenado said about the recommendations on improving his defense. “I want to play third base in the big leagues and I know I can, it’s just a matter of staying in shape and doing the right things to stay over there.” It just keeps getting better.
2. Drew Pomeranz LHP 11/22/1988 H: 6’5″ W: 230 – Drafted by Cleveland in the 1st round in 2010, the 5th pick overall hit the ground running with a tremendous debut in 2011 in High-A Kingston posting a 1.87 ERA in 77 innings, striking out 95 batters. Three starts in Double-A Akron did nothing to slow the excitement as he punched out 17 more hitters in 14 innings. The big lefty has two swing’n miss pitches in his low to mid-90s fastball and a knee-buckler of a curve. Since he didn’t find much use for his change-up while pitching for University of Mississippi, it is inconsistent and he needs to bring it to at least average status. Later in the season, Pomeranz was forced with a change of address as an Indian team with play-off hopes dealt him to Colorado in a deal for Ubaldo Jimenez. Tom broke him down in his Prospect Instinct|Drew Pomeranz article in September.
Our Instinct: In Pomeranz, Colorado netted themselves a top of the rotation guy. Unfortunately, in October, Pomeranz was arrested for disturbing the peace while leaving a bar with his friends at 1:45 a.m. Not sure how this behavior will affect the fast-track he’s been traveling since becoming a professional. This may be a case of too much success too soon. So the Rockies shouldn’t rush him. Pomeranz did make it to the majors in 2011, but was very hittable when he faced to a big league line-up. So he’ll still need some seasoning in the minors to further develop that change-up. Hopefully, he will have a chance to mature a little bit too.
3. Chad Bettis RHP 4/26/1989 H: 6’1″ W: 193 – Bettis could have easily been promoted to Double-A Tulsa in 2011. Drafted as more of a relief arm in the 2nd round in 2010, Colorado management wisely, I think, decided to keep him in Modesto after being promoted from Tri-City to Asheville in 2010. The move to the rotation has fit like a glove. He pitched 169.2 innings for Modesto with a 3.34 ERA, giving up 63 earned runs and 45 walks, but striking out a whopping 184 California League hitters. He does it with a plus fastball thrown anywhere from 90 to 96 mph with late movement. He complements his power game with a good slider and change-up. We touched on Bettis in our Touch’em All Series, California League pitchers update.
Our Instinct: Bettis will most certainly start the 2012 season in Double-A. It will be interesting to see if he can keep on missing bats while limiting the free passes as consistently as he has to this point. He has the kind of stuff that allows him to make mistakes up in the zone and not pay for it too much, but I think he’ll need to raise that 46% groundball rate and keep the ball out of the bleachers more to find similar success at higher levels.
4. Wilin Rosario C 2/23/1989 H: 5’11” W: 200 – Rosario stayed in Tulsa to begin 2011. His 7.1% walk rate from the previous year regressed to 4.5%. His 19.3% K rate rose to 21.4%. But he still showed elite power potential with a .208 ISOP, though that number is down from last season’s outrageous .267 ISOP. The Rockies are high enough on this kid and his potential that he earned a September call-up and showed his trademark power by homering 3 times in 54 at bats, making his mark with a .257 ISOP, but also struck out 20 times. With the glove, he’s a plus defender with an excellent throwing arm and receiving skills behind the plate. We hit on this in our Prospect Instinct|Wilin Rosario article from October.
Our Instinct: With the Rockies recent signing of Ramon Hernandez, Rosario is sure to be sent to Triple-A to begin 2012, where he’ll work on cutting down the strikeouts, rather than sit on the bench as a back-up catcher. In the long run, Colorado probably won’t be extremely picky about the k’s as long as he keeps them at reasonable level for a producing power hitter.
5. Tim Wheeler OF 1/21/1988 H: 6’4″ W: 205 – In 2011,Wheeler recreated his performance from the past two seasons but, this time, added the power they drafted him for as a first-rounder in 2009. Wheeler smacked 33 homeruns, slugged .535, and posted a mighty .248 ISOP (after scoring only .125 and .135 in the previous seasons). Just as impressive, he kept the walk rate that was right around 10% and only increased the strikeouts 3% to 22.3%. Not to mention, he swiped over 20 bases again as well.
Our Instinct: The power stroke certainly came out of the blue. So for 2012, all eyes will be on Wheeler to see if he can follow of this performance. As with Rosario, the fearsome strikeout totals won’t be as much of a concern as long as the offensive tools are in full force.
6. Charlie Blackmon OF 7/1/1986 H: 6’3″ W: 200 – Blackmon is another one of Colorado’s toolsy outfielders that made the list this year. Last year at Triple-A Colorado Springs, Blackmon continued his solid minor league career, hitting .337 with 82 hits, 19 doubles and 10 homeruns, walking 19 times and striking out 34 in 243 at bats. In the field Blackmon can play both corner outfield positions as well as center due to his speed and throwing arm (as a former college pitcher). He managed to rack up 98 big league at bats last season, setting himself apart with his speed, but not much else.
Our Instinct: Blackmon has the tools to be a 20/20 guy annually, as well as hit near .300. The key will be how well his on base skills hold up against major league pitching. Right now, he should start the season in Colorado as a back-up outfielder. But with the Rockies aggressively trying to trade Seth Smith, Blackmon would be a favorite to take the spot and could hit near the top of the order.
7. Corey Dickerson OF 5/22/1989 H: 6’2″ W: 210 – The numbers that are about to be displayed here are borderline ridiculous. In 378 at bats, Corey Dickerson collected 108 hits, 27 doubles, 5 triples, 32 homeruns and posted a .360/.638/998. That’s a .352 ISOP. He’s had two 3-homerun games this season. You only need to look at his HOME/AWAY splits to see that Asheville’s home park has played a factor in the results. In Asheville, Dickerson has hit .354/.417/.844/1.262. Away games show him hitting .193/.280/.363/.642.
Our Instinct: Sure, Dickerson’s numbers show a definite homefield bias. Remember though, that Dickerson had a decent Rookie League season in 2010 where he hit .348/.412/.634/1.046. That season his ISOP was still a cool .286. And he has some speed as shown by 21 stolen bases in two seasons. Yeah, there are some strikeouts there, but he can take walks too. How much the hitter’s park affected him will be determined when he arrives in Modesto in 2012. If he shows some of the same stuff, look for another promotion to Tulsa in the same season.
8. Edwar Cabrera LHP 10/20/1987 H: 6’0″ W: 160 – A non-drafted free agent out of Santana, Dominican Republic in 2008, Cabrera dominated two levels in 2011. In Asheville and Modesto combined, the small-framed lefty has a 3.34 ERA giving up 155 hits and 62 earned runs, while walking only 41 and striking out a whopping 217 hitters in 167 innings pitched. He’s put himself on the prospect map, using his low 90s fastball and an outstanding change-up and working on a curveball.
Our Instinct: We love the strikeouts. And the fact that he’s accomplished this over two levels is super impressive. The top concerns going forward will be the development of a solid third pitch and increasing his ability to keep the ball on the ground because a flyball pitcher in Colorado is a bad combo. Scoring a groundball rate of 48% in a hitter’s park like Asheville is pretty decent, but his still gave up 10 homeruns. And 8 longballs in Modesto. We’re rooting for you Edwar.
9. Trever Story SS 11/15/1992 H: 6’1″ W: 175 – A supplemental first rounder in 2011, Story came to the Rox with as a solid defender with range to defend anywhere on the dirt. In his debut season, he hit .268 with 48 hits, 8 doubles, and 6 homers, walking 26 times while striking out 41. With his quick hands and uppercut swing, they think he’ll develop better than average power at shortstop. He’ll also steal bases. So we have a kid with the potential for five tools. We discussed Story in our Pioneer League article and then again in our MLB Draft Review|SS Review article.
Our Instinct: Story’s 2011 performance in Casper is impressive in and of itself. In some cases, as an 18-year-old, Story faced competition older than him by a few years. Yet, he showed the power (.168 ISOP), the speed (12 stolen bases), and the ability to take a walk. With such a showing in a league that other teams like to send college players and Latin talent, Story now has warranted some expectations for 2012 where he’ll play in Asheville.
10. Tyler Matzek LHP 10/19/1990 H: 6’3″ W: 210 – Grabbed in the first round in 2009 and given the biggest signing bonus in Rockie history, club management has a lot riding on this tall lefty. The kid features a plus fastball that can sit in the mid-90s with late life, a dependable curve, and sharp slider that has two-plane movement. Unfortunately, after a promising debut season in Asheville, throwing a 2.92 ERA and striking out 88 hitters in 89.1 innings, his command went sideways. The next season in High-A Modesto saw him carry a nice 20.8% K rate but also a 25.8% walk rate. Ugh.
Our Instinct: With a demotion back to Asheville and some private instruction even before that, Rockie coaches hope they have the command and mechanical problems licked. This is still a very high ceiling arm that could be projected to the top of the rotation in a few seasons. For more insight into the talented Tyler Matzek, check out his recent Prospect Instinct article.
Check back soon as we profile more Top 10 Lists for each MLB team and also get our baseball geek on and take a look at some of the later draft picks from the 2011 draft that we think could be big names on the prospect radars in the near future. While you’re here, take a look at a recent article in this series: Los Angeles Dodgers Top 10 List and be a step ahead of the game. Also, check out a friend of ours for all of your fantasy sports needs. Fantasy Rundown is updated religiously and is truly an awesome resource. Thanks for checking Baseball Instinct. We’re working hard to bring you the best of the minor leagues and make the site the best experience it can be. So don’t hesitate to tell us what you would like to read about. Email us now at firstname.lastname@example.org.