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January 18, 2011

Future Shock

Colorado Rockies Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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Previous Rankings: 2010 | 2009 | 2008

System In 20 Words Or Less: It's a well-rounded, solid system. The only two weaknesses are a lack of up-the-middle talent and health issues.

Five-Star Prospects
1. Tyler Matzek, LHP
2. Wilin Rosario, C
Three-Star Prospects
3. Nolan Arenado, 3B
4. Christian Friedrich, LHP

5. Kyle Parker, OF
6. Peter Tago, RHP
7. Charles Blackmon, OF
8. Rex Brothers, LHP
9. Chad Bettis, RHP
Two-Star Prospects
10. Christhian Adames, SS
11. Rafael Ortega, OF

Nine More:
12. Will Swanner, C: The Rockies paid almost a half-million dollars for this 15
th-round pick, but he's gifted with power and defensive tools.
13. Juan Nicasio, RHP: A highly polished righty, Nicasio has solid stuff and excellent command.
14. Jordan Pacheco, C: This converted infielder can really hit, but the Rockies hope his defense comes around.
15. Albert Campos, RHP: Campos is a beefy Venezuelan teenager who drew some Carlos Zambrano comps while playing for Casper.
16. Casey Weathers, LHP: This former first-rounder still throws hard after Tommy John surgery, but hasn't thrown enough strikes.
17. Russell Wilson, 2B: A phenomenal athlete, the problem is that Wilson's commitment to baseball is questionable, as he may return to QB for North Carolina State.
18. Hector Gomez, SS: Gomez is a toolsy, high-ceiling shortstop, but is one who has played just 111 games in the last three years.
19. Mike McKenry, C: He didn't hit at Triple-A as well as scouts expected him to, but he still has big-league potential.
20. Chris Nelson, SS/2B: Colorado Springs makes Nelson look better than he is, but he still has a future role as a utilityman.

1. Tyler Matzek, LHP
DOB
: 10/19/90
Height/Weight: 6-3/210
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2009, Capistrano Valley HS (CA)
2010 Stats: 2.92 ERA (89.1-62-62-88) at Low-A (18 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Fastball/control

Year in Review: A high-profile first-round pick, Matzek struggled on a numbers level, but scouts remained very impressed.
The Good: Matzek is a strong, highly athletic pitcher who flashes three plus offerings when everything is working. His fastball got up as high as 95 mph in 2010, and his power curveball has heavy, late bite, giving him a swing-and-miss offering. His changeup is advanced for his age, with depth and fade, and he's an intense competitor.
The Bad: To call Matzek inconsistent doesn't do the word justice, as his stuff varied heavily from outing to outing. One scout noted starts where Matzek rarely topped 90 mph, and others where he rarely dropped below that mark. His command and control are below average, and he seemed frequently frustrated on the mound, which led to overthrowing and a loss of effectiveness.
Ephemera: Capistrano Valley High's most famous (or infamous) alum is former NFL quarterback/lesson-to-all Todd Marinovich.
Perfect World Projection: He would be an upper-tier starter.
Fantasy Impact: Star-level starters are always quite valuable, no?
Path to the Big Leagues: Matzek will begin 2011 at High-A Modesto. With more consistency, he could take off.
ETA: 2013

2. Wilin Rosario, C
DOB
: 2/23/89
Height/Weight: 5-11/190
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2006, Dominican Republic
2010 Stats: .285/.342/.552 at Double-A (73 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Arm/speed

Year in Review: The Dominican catcher was in the midst of a breakout year, but then he required knee surgery in August.
The Good: Rosario has everything it takes to be an All-Star catcher. He showcases plus power without sacrificing too much in terms of contact due to outstanding hand-eye coordination. Defensively, he's a gem; he has one of the better throwing arms in the minors, and good receiving skills.
The Bad: Rosario was slow before the injury, and he could become a bit of a base-clogger after the knee issues. He's an aggressive, free swinger who can get tied up by good breaking balls early in the count.
Ephemera: Rosario was at his best late in games for Tulsa in 2010, batting .379 (33-for-87) with six home runs and a .678 slugging percentage from the seventh inning on.
Perfect World Projection: He could be an All-Star catcher with above-average offense and defense.
Fantasy Impact: He is the rare catcher you actually want in your lineup.
Path to the Big Leagues: Rosario is not expected to be ready for the beginning of spring training, but he should be ready to go early in the year. If he's healthy and productive at Triple-A, he'll compete for a big-league job the following year.
ETA: 2012

3. Nolan Arenado, 3B
DOB
: 4/16/91
Height/Weight: 6-1/205
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Second round, 2009, El Toro HS (CA)
2010 Stats: .308/.338/.520 at Low-A (92 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Bat/speed

Year in Review: The Rockies' second-round pick from '09 put up good numbers in his full-season debut, but he did leave scouts wondering about his ultimate upside.
The Good: Arenado is the best pure hitter in the system, with plenty of bat speed and outstanding hands. He has gap-to-average power that projects as solid average down the road. Defensively, his arm earned high marks in terms of both strength and accuracy.
The Bad: Arenado is an impatient hitter whose tremendous plate coverage works against him at times, leaving him swinging at pitches he can hit but not drive, while also leading to few walks. Playing in a hitter's paradise, his averages were just .258/.278/.435 on the road, so he still needs to prove himself in a more neutral environment. He's a below-average runner and projects as no more than acceptable at third base.
Ephemera: None of the 13 players drafted out of El Toro have ever reached the majors, but Arenado is currently behind Yankee catcher Austin Romine in terms of his chances of being the first.
Perfect World Projection: He could be an everyday third baseman who makes up for a lack of on-base skills with average and power.
Fantasy Impact: As long as you are not expecting stolen bases, you'll be fine.
Path to the Big Leagues: Arenado will move to the California League in 2010, and he could put up some big numbers. He's still around 300 games away from the big leagues.
ETA: 2013

4. Christian Friedrich, LHP
DOB
: 7/8/87
Height/Weight: 6-4/215
Bats/Throws: R/L
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2008, Eastern Kentucky University
2010 Stats: 5.05 ERA (87.1-100-35-78) at Double-A (18 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Curveball/command

Year in Review: A breakout player in 2009, Friedrich wound up as one of 2010's bigger disappointments due to continued elbow issues.
The Good: Friedrich still displays power stuff for a southpaw, with a fastball that is a tick above average and a true plus curveball that is his best offering. His long arms and a bit of funk in his delivery create some deception, while his changeup is usable.
The Bad: Friedrich's velocity took a dip in 2010, and he has now been sidelined with an elbow issue two years in a row, leaving many scouts concerned about his long-term future, especially in terms of handling a big-league starter's workload. His command comes and goes from game to game and inning to inning, but it's hard to know if that's his true talent or the result of arm soreness.
Ephemera: Friedrich had his two worst outings in his only two daytime starts, giving up 17 runs over just 8 1/3 innings. In his 16 night outings, his ERA was a much more tolerable 3.76.
Perfect World Projection: He could be an above-average big-league starter, but that's hardly a lock. Relief work is a real possibility.
Fantasy Impact: He'll have plenty of strikeouts, but he will likely be pitching in Colorado. 
Path to the Big Leagues: Health will be more important than numbers for Friedrich in 2011, and he has the ability to reach the big leagues this year with a return to form.
ETA: 2012

5. Kyle Parker, OF
DOB
: 9/30/89
Height/Weight: 6-1/200
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2010, Clemson University
2010 Stats: Did Not Play
Best/Worst Tool: Power/speed

Year in Review: This multi-sport star at Clemson finally signed at the deadline, and had his football career come to an ugly end when he broke his ribs in the Tigers' bowl game.
The Good: Parker's calling card is plus to plus-plus raw power to all fields. He has solid hitting skills with a very good approach at the plate, and when he gets a pitch to drive, he usually does so. The Rockies have a long history of drafting quarterbacks, partially for makeup reasons, and Parker fits the bill there as well with an all-out, max-effort mentality.
The Bad: Parker's bat is his ticket to the big leagues, as the remainder of his game features no other plus tool. He's an average runner who could slow down as he matures, and both his outfield play and throwing arm (even for a quarterback) earn just average scores.
Ephemera: Last spring, Parker became the first Division I athlete in history to throw for 20 touchdowns and hit 20 home runs in the same academic year.
Perfect World Projection: He could be an everyday corner outfielder with power.
Fantasy Impact: Home runs are where his value lies, but he'll deliver some average as well.
Path to the Big Leagues: While Parker suffered a broken rib in his final football game, it is not expected to hinder his 2011 season in a major way. He'll begin the year at Low-A Asheville, a good place for power hitters.
ETA: 2013

6. Peter Tago, RHP
DOB: 7/5/92
Height/Weight: 6-3/180
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Supplemental first round, 2010, Dana Hills HS (CA)
2010 Stats: Did Not Play
Best/Worst Tool: Fastball/changeup

Year in Review: Among the top prep pitchers in California, many expected Tago to possibly slide into the end of the first round, but he still signed for just under $1 million after falling to 47th overall.
The Good: Tago offers plenty to dream on. Tall, long-limbed, and loose-armed, he delivers a 91-95 mph fastball with a smooth, effortless delivery that provides truckloads of projection. He impressed scouts with his mound maturity and fearless nature.
The Bad: As high as Tago's ceiling is, he's still far more of a thrower than a pitcher. He has a curveball, but it needs more spin to turn into a big-league offering, and some amateur scouts claim to have never seen a changeup out of his hand.
Ephemera: Tago was the first player ever drafted out of Dana Hills High, although the school that has produced far more professional surfers than baseball players also graduated Seth Etherton, who was not drafted until college.
Perfect World Projection: He could be an above-average starting pitcher.
Fantasy Impact: He'll have ERA and strikeouts to be sure, but do Colorado pitchers ever go for big cash?
Path to the Big Leagues: He still has yet to make his pro debut, so Tago could have a 2011 path similar to that of Matzek last year, beginning the year in extended spring training before reporting to Low-A Asheville by late May. If he finds something to go with the fastball, he could rocket up this list.
ETA: 2014

7. Charles Blackmon, OF
DOB
: 7/1/86
Height/Weight: 6-3/200
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: Second round, 2008, Georgia Tech
2010 Stats: .297/.360/.484 at Double-A (86 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Speed/defense

Year in Review: This athletic outfielder saw his season delayed by hamstring problems, but he was among the Texas League's top performers in the second half.
The Good: Blackmon has solid to plus tools across the board. Combining contact ability with bat speed a strength, he projects as a .270-.290 hitter with average power. He's also a plus runner who could steal 20-plus bases annually. His arm is a tick above average.
The Bad: Blackmon doesn't have the kind of power normally associated with a run producer, and he'll need to improve his plate discipline to fit well toward the top of the lineup. The bigger concern is how valuable his bat will be in a corner, as his jumps and routes are far from center-field quality.
Ephemera: Blackmon was more regarded as a pitcher earlier in his amateur career; he was selected in the 28th round of the 2004 draft by the Marlins out of high school, and the 20th round in 2005 after a year primarily on the mound at Young Harris junior college.
Perfect World Projection: He could be an everyday outfielder with far more value if he can stick in center.
Fantasy Impact: He's not a future star, but he can deliver in multiple categories with his combination of power and speed.
Path to the Big Leagues: Blackmon will move up to Triple-A Colorado Springs in 2011 and could line himself up for a September look.
ETA: 2011

8. Rex Brothers, LHP
DOB
: 12/18/87
Height/Weight: 6-2/205
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: Supplemental first round, 2009, Lipscomb University
2010 Stats: 2.68 ERA (37.0-20-19-43) at High-A (33 G); 3.91 ERA (23.0-14-18-27) at Double-A (24 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Fastball/command

Year in Review: A supplemental first-round pick the year before, Lipscomb converted to the bullpen and reached Double-A in his full-season debut.
The Good: Brothers has rare velocity for a lefty, sitting at 94-96 mph with a bit of sink and touching 98. While his slider isn't a wipeout pitch, it's a tick above average, and more than good enough to keep hitters on their toes.
The Bad: Brothers' power stuff comes with a bit of effort, and he has a career rate of five walks per nine innings as a pro. Right-handed hitters gave him some trouble in both the Texas League and Arizona Fall League, so he'll need to improve his slider  to be trusted in the late innings.
Ephemera: Brothers is the second-highest pick (34th overall) ever out of Lipscomb University in Nashville. The highest is righty Bo McLauglin, the 14th overall pick in the 1975 draft who remains the only player drafted out of the school to reach the big leagues.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a late-inning power reliever.
Fantasy Impact: His stuff is borderline save-worthy, so he has a chance to help there.
Path to the Big Leagues: Brothers will start at one of the Rockies' upper-level teams, and with more strikes he'll be in the big leagues before the end of the year.
ETA: 2011

9. Chad Bettis, RHP
DOB
: 4/26/89
Height/Weight: 6-1/193
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Second round, 2010, Texas Tech University
2010 Stats: 1.12 ERA (48.1-44-10-39) at Short-season (10 G); 0.96 ERA (18.2-14-3-17) at Low-A (3 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Fastball/changeup

Year in Review: This second-round pick split time between starting and relieving, but he pitched well in the rotation during his pro debut.
The Good: Bettis has well above-average velocity, sitting in the low to mid-90s, and touching 97 at times. He was amongst the most athletic pitchers in the draft, and his delivery and arm action are smooth and clean, allowing his fastball to play up due to an outstanding feel for the strike zone. He'll flash a solid slider at times. He brings an aggressive, reliever's mentality to the starter's role.
The Bad: Betts needs to develop his secondary offerings. He has a tendency to miss on his slider, turning it into a more slurvy offering, while his changeup is also below average. He needs to prove he can handle a full season as a starter, as his usage with the Red Raiders left questions about that.
Ephemera: While Texas Tech has produced more than 100 draftees, Oakland righty Dallas Braden is already the all-time alum leader in wins (25) and innings.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a solid rotation piece or late-inning reliever.
Fantasy Impact: If he stays a starter, he's more likely to be a mid-rotation type and not a fantasy stud.
Path to the Big Leagues: Bettis' showing this spring will determine if he begins the 2011 season in Low- or High-A.
ETA: 2013

10. Christhian Adames, SS
DOB
: 7/26/91
Height/Weight: 6-0/160
Bats/Throws: B/R
Drafted/Signed: 2007, Dominican Republic
2010 Stats: .290/.356/.372 at Rookie (37 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Glove/power

Year in Review: Signed for $400,000, this slick-fielding Dominican was impressive in his stateside debut.
The Good: Adames has the potential to be special defender, as he's natural shortstop with outstanding instincts and actions to go with the kind of fundamentals and consistency rarely found in a teenager. He's a switch-hitter with a good feel for putting the bat on the ball, and a tick above average as a baserunner.
The Bad: Adames has well below-average power and no projection for any, but he'll need to develop some strength to prevent pitchers from simply knocking the bat of his hands. Like many young Latin players, he can get overly aggressive at the plate.
Ephemera: Adames had nine doubles in 37 Pioneer League games in 2010, with six of them coming in three two-double contests.
Perfect World Projection: He could be an everyday shortstop with outstanding defense and enough bat to play daily. He would bat in the bottom of the lineup.
Fantasy Impact: While he won't be an offensive zero, he's far more valuable in the real world based on the glove.
Path to the Big Leagues: Adames will make his full-season debut with what is lining up to be a very interesting team at Low-A Asheville.
ETA: 2014

11. Rafael Ortega, OF
DOB
: 5/15/91
Height/Weight: 5-11/160
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 2008, Venezuela
2010 Stats: .358/.416/.510 at Rookie (71 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Speed/power

Year in Review: Signed for just $65,000, Ortega is a small but toolsy outfielder who had a monster stateside debut.
The Good: Ortega is a multi-tooled talent with plenty of potential. He makes consistent hard contact to all fields and has surprising gap power for his size; he projects for 10-15 home runs annually. He's a 65 runner on the 20-80 scale, and has good range in center with a solid arm.
The Bad: Ortega has a slight built and doesn't offer much in terms of physical projection. He needs a more patient approach at the plate to become a truly dynamic leadoff hitter. He's still working on incorporating his speed into game situations, and could improve his jumps and baserunning.
Ephemera: Ortega put up some silly small sample-size numbers in the sixth inning for Casper in 2010, going 16-for-30 with five doubles, two home runs, and four walks for a line of .533/.588/.900.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a good everyday center fielder.
Fantasy Impact: He could be quite valuable with double-digit power and 20-plus stolen bases annually.
Path to the Big Leagues: Ortega is yet another reason to keep an eye on those Sally League box scores this season.
ETA: 2014

The Sleeper: An eighth-round pick in 2010, Corey Dickerson is a big, athletic outfielder who looked far less raw than expected and hit .348/.412/.634 during his pro debut.

Top 10 Talents 25 and Under (born 4/1/85 or later)
1. Carlos Gonzalez, OF
2. Dexter Fowler, OF
3. Jhoulys Chacin, RHP
4. Tyler Matzek, LHP
5. Wilin Rosario, C
6. Ian Stewart, 3B
7. Nolan Arenado, 3B
 8. Christian Friedrich, LHP
9. Kyle Parker, OF
10. Peter Tago, RHP 

It took three teams, but Carlos Gonzalez finally became the superstar his tools had always suggested he could be; the only worry at this point is guaranteed money hindering his effort level, which was often an issue in Arizona and Oakland. Fowler showed real signs of progress during last year's second half and still has star potential in the tools. Chacin was borderline wonderful in his rookie campaign, and he remains an interesting prospect who lacks a true wipeout offering; he has a deep arsenal of average-to-plus pitches. Ian Stewart has plus-plus raw power, but scouts wonder if he'll ever be able to get past the amount of swing-and-miss in his game.

Summary: In the always competitive National League West, the Rockies have the best combination of prospects and young talent to ensure they'll consistently be toward the top of the standings. This is an impressive collection.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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