Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Baseball America likes Rockies' 2011 draft

Early returns on 2011 draftee Trevor Story promising
Rockies' prospect Trevor Story's debut season in short-season A-ball at Casper, Wyoming got Baseball America's attention. The publication sees him as a potential 5-tool shortstop and the Rockies drafting him makes the franchise's 2011 draft positive.

Baseball America responded to a reader who wondered if the Rockies' draft was terrible. It said no.

It's way too early to grade a draft and if recent history is any indication, the franchise has learned from mistakes and is picking smarter.

Colorado Rockies' Prospects Report also is high on Story, ranking his performance the best on the team at Casper. He's also amongst the CRPR top-10 hitters in the organization.

What the CRPR didn't like was taking limited ceiling college pitcher Tyler Anderson at no. 1 when prep hitting sensation Josh Bell out of Texas was available. I strongly believe the Rockies could very well seriously regret that decision. Bell told teams he was going to the University of Texas but he signed anyway and with the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates. Bell was worth chasing and signing. He's a premium prospect. Anderson could reach the majors but he doesn't hold similar value.
Rockies pass on Josh Bell

Other picks CRPR liked were sixth-rounder Chris Jensen (RHP), 18th-round pick Ben Alsup (RHP), both college pitchers and 31st-round pick Sam Mende, a college shortstop.

As written earlier, too early to tell what this group accomplishes or doesn't.

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Prospects not just for home club

The idea in baseball, any sport, is to win. In developing prospects, same principle, either use those advanced prospects on your team or use them as leverage to get what you want from other teams. To that end, the Rockies, with some wealth in their system, should consider trading their best prospects for established major-league talent.

Rockies can close deal for Votto
This franchise needs help now and if a player of distinction (we all have different definitions of such) is available, general manager Dan O'Dowd has to consider him.

At the Rockies Analyst, this question is discussed, with Cincinnati Reds' first baseman deluxe Joey Votto the center of attention.

Of course, Votto is not the only player the Rockies could and should pursue. A lot of talk has been heard of Houston left-handed pitcher Wandy Rodriguez. And if not him, what about Oakland's Gio Gonzalez? O'Dowd and the A's have a trading history.

Look what Milwaukee accomplished (96 wins and NLCS appearance) this season by trading for Zach Greinke (Kansas City Royals) and Shawn Marcum (Milwaukee Brewers). Yes, acquiring Marcum cost them a potential star in slugging infielder Brett Lawrie but the Brewers were so close to a World Series berth and you have to shoot for the stars when possible.

Upton worth bushel of prospects
The Rockies were intrigued a year ago with Arizona's Justin Upton and that was a worthy investigation. He would likely have come at a high price but then again, his value as a MLB player is high and he's worthy of such a cost. His addition to the lineup last year would have paid immediate and great dividends.

The Rockies' top prospects are attractive but a top-shelf quality and healthy proven player should always take precedent unless your prospect is Ken Griffey Jr., Chipper Jones or someone these days like Bryce Harper.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Rockies lacking higher-quality prospects at Triple-A

Charlie Blackmon must show more power
The Colorado Rockies have developed a strong farm system, with the 2011 season producing more quantity and quality than ever before. Who becomes dependable starters or stars is still unknown but there are numerous players that will play at the major league level. At the Triple-A level, however, the organization is weak.

The Rockies did "graduate" players to the majors from Colorado Springs but none of them look like big difference makers. Listed below is a postseason writeup.

Pitchers

Left-handed relief pitcher Rex Brothers (23-years old) excited fans and the front office with is 14.46 K/9 innings rate and then posted an promising rookie season with the big-league club. With further development, Brothers could become a plus-closer at best, a dynamite situational reliever at worst.

Right-handed reliever Edgmer Escalona (24) was much improved in his second-go-around in Colorado Springs, cutting his walks from 4.2 per nine innings to 2.5, reducing his home runs allowed from one every four innings to one every nine and slashed his ERA almost in half from 6.00 to 3.18. At Colorado, in 25 2/3 frames his ERA was an outstanding 1.75. The concern is he didn't get many outs via strikeout (4.91) which means he must win by pitching to contact.


Hitters

Eric Young Jr. (26) is now a major leaguer and will not be written up as a prospect because I think he sticks as, at least, a backup.

Jordan Pacheco (25), a catcher, hit .278 with 3 homers and 50 RBI at Triple-A and .286 with 2 HRs and 14 RBI in 21 games with the Rockies. He could start the 2012 season in the minors but he could be a MLB platoon player now.

Outfielder Charlie Blackmon (25) hit .337 with 19 doubles, 10 HRs and 49 RBI in 58 games and .255 in 27 Rockies' contests, with two extra base hits.

Brad Emaus (25), a second baseman, hit  .313 with 9 homers and 28 RBI in 45 games after being acquired by the Mets.

For the player rankings at Colorado Springs - click here.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Publication errors in ranking Rosario over Wheeler

Baseball America is a highly respected publication but it, like any magazine or newspaper, is not perfect and BA writing that Rockies' prospect Wilin Rosario is better than Tim Wheeler is an error.

Rosario is the finale-type firework to scouts but Wheeler is easily the more-developed and consistent, if still flawed, package.

Both have contact problems, reflected in high strikeout totals and both are so aggressive that they don't draw as many walks as they should and could but Wheeler hits for a superior average (.287 to .249) and slugs better (.535 to .457).

Rosario was coming back from an injury, so that has to be factored into the discussion and a season ago he was hitting .285 but if Wheeler is a boom-or-bust candidate with his free-swinging ways then Rosario is even more high risk. Rosario is home run or nothing most days while Wheeler proved to be an extra-base machine in 2011. Wheeler's ceiling also likely hasn't been reached. Rosario, the feel here is, is close to his potential.

For Baseball America to rank Rosario six spots ahead of Wheeler on the Texas League prospect rankings is overly generous and not seeing the whole picture. Wheeler will be the better hitter at the MLB level, even if his 33 homers in 2011 are never again seen.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tulsa develops major leaguers and attractive prospects

Tim Wheeler debuted power potential in 2011
Double-A Tulsa hosted, developed and featured high-quality prospects for the Colorado Rockies' in 2011, including three pitchers and two positional players that reached the major leagues.

Yet the player who hasn't yet got the call to Denver was probably the biggest star of the bunch - outfielder Tim Wheeler, a 2009 first-round draft pick (# 32 overall) who slugged his way into prospect prominence.

Wheeler (23) bashed 33 home runs, drove in 87 runs, hit 28 doubles, six triples and finished with a .287 average. He also stole 21 bases in 33 attempts. A well-rounded, breakout year, yet one with flaws. He wasn't immune to slumping and he struck out a whopping 142 times, while only drawing 59 walks. His swing produced but that approach likely won't work at the major league level. He also has to learn to hit left-handers at better than a .236 clip with a nearly 4/1 K/BB rate that he had this season.

While Wheeler has a big project on his hand in becoming more plate defensive he certainly progressed as a prospect and has proven pro talent. Two more notes about him to get excited about - with runners on base he hit .320. With runners in scoring position, he was even better, hitting .333.

Catcher Wilin Rosario (22) has been thought to be Colorado's best positional prospect and it's easy to see why. He has a big arm behind the plate, he has equally big power, he plays a premium position and he's young.

Rosario again showed the explosive bat of his, finishing with 21 homers and it earned him a trip to Denver, where he showed more home-run power. He has put 40 homers and 28 doubles on the board at Tulsa in the 175 games he's played with the Drillers over the last two years. His power is his best tool. It's no fluke.

The problem with Rosario there is way too much swing-and-miss with his game. He hit but .249 at Tulsa, struck out 91 times, drew only 18 walks and was strikeout prone at the big league level while also barely hitting over .200.

Rosario will surely start the 2012 season in the minors. He is undeniably talented and has enticing potential but without learning to hit for average in addition to power, he will severely stunt what he can be as a player, going from possible star to a backup.

Thomas Field's consistent quality earns trip to Denver
Thomas (Tommy) Field (24) is a second baseman you may not have heard much about but he too got called up to Denver late in 2011 where he didn't embarrass himself. At Tulsa, he hit .271 with 17 homers and 61 RBI. At High-A Modesto in 2010, he hit .284 with 15 HRs and 72 RBI so you can see Field is consistently good. The questions with him are can he show that kind of power at the MLB level and maintain an acceptable average? Regardless of the answers, he's proven to be a scouting find from the 2008 draft, in which he was selected in the 24th round.

The Drillers' pitching prospects were a hot attraction.

Pitcher Juan Nicasio, who won four games for the Rockies, started the season in Tulsa, where he went 5-1 with a 2.22 ERA in nine starts. He had an outstanding 63/10 K/BB rate and allowed but three homers. Until his near-fatal injury on the mound he had the possible look of a future no. 3 starter at worst.

Pitcher Alex White, who came over to the Rockies' in the Ubaldo Jimenez deal and quickly advanced to Denver, went 1-1 with a 1.65 ERA in 4 games with the Drillers, with a 10/1 K/BB rate in 16 innings. He gave up but one home run. He looked overmatched in Denver, with an ERA over 8.00.

Big, left-handed pitcher Drew Pomeranz, the plum prospect Colorado got in the Jimenez trade, made but two starts in Tulsa, but went 1-0 with an ERA of zero, allowing two hits in 10 frames with seven strikeouts and no walks.

Joe Gardner made strong first impression after trade
Joe Gardner (23), a third pitching prospect from Cleveland in that transaction, was a big surprise, going 3-3 in six starts, with an ERA of 2.48. He allowed 31 hits in 36 innings, but gave up just one homer and recorded a 22/8 K/BB rate. Gardner excelled in 2010 with the Tribe's organization but was getting roughed up in 2011 before coming to Tulsa.

Joey Williamson was excellent, posting a 3-2 mark with a 2.42 ERA but when he moved on to Triple-A Colorado Springs, he as 2-3 with a 7.12 ERA.

Starting pitcher Dan Houston earned a promotion from High-A Modesto and then competed in Tulsa but his performance was not as attractive as he became significantly more hittable and struck out fewer hitters. He has done well in the system and now, like he did by mastering Modesto the second time around, he has to do the same at Tulsa.

Starting pitcher Christian Friedrich's (24) star continues to dim. He did excel at times but he went 6-10 with an ERA of 5.00, gave up 150 hits in 133 1/3 innings, 20 home runs and has an ERA over 5.00 in his last two years, both at Tulsa. He appears to have plateaued, if not regressed.

Some in the Rockies' system and Tulsa might vehemently disagree but if Friedrich can't get people out consistently at Double-A, how would he fare at Colorado Springs and in Denver?

He looked like a grade-A prospect through 2009 but Tulsa has proven to be a testing ground he hasn't been able to conquer.

See the Double-A Tulsa prospect rankings - click here.

See overall Hitter and Pitcher Rankings - click here