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January 4, 2012

Future Shock

Rockies Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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Previous Rankings: 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008

System In 20 Words Or Less: There’s a good combination of near big league-ready talent and youngsters to dream on.

Five-Star Prospects
1. Nolan Arenado, 3B
2. Drew Pomeranz, LHP
Four-Star Prospects
3. Wilin Rosario, C
4. Chad Bettis, RHP
5. Tim Wheeler, OF
Three-Star Prospects
6. Tyler Matzek, RHP
7. Rosell Herrera, SS/3B
8. Trevor Story, SS
9. Josh Rutledge, SS
10. Tyler Anderson, LHP
11. Kent Matthes, OF

Nine More:
12. Charlie Blackmon, OF: He reached the majors and got hurt. Scouts wobble between him being a good fourth outfielder and second-division starter.
13. Christian Adames, SS: He has the potential for well above-average defense, but will he hit enough?
14. Edwar Cabrera, LHP: He put up incredible numbers thanks to an outstanding changeup, but he’s a bit of a trick pitcher.
15. Kyle Parker, OF: This first-round pick didn't mash at Low-A, especially away from Asheville.
16. Christian Friedrich, LHP: His dominance in 2009 is in the rearview mirror with no great explanation for his decline.
17. Corey Dickerson, OF: Last year's sleeper slugged 32 home runs, but he also had baseball's most extreme splits; he had a .354/.417/.844 line at home, and .193/.280/.363 mark on the road.
18. DJ LeMahieu, INF: This future utility player offers some hitting skills and positional flexibility.
19. Will Swanner, C: He’s a catcher with plus power who needs to improve behind the plate.
20. Rafael Ortega, OF: Ortega is an athletic center fielder with tools in a small package, but his approach is a mess.

1. 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)
2011 Stats: .298/.349/.487 at High-A (134 G)
Tools Profile: He’s an excellent hitter who has made dramatic leaps defensively.

Year in Review: The top batter in the system made improvements throughout the season, shined in the Arizona Fall League, and shocked scouts with his defensive development.
The Good: Arenado is a fantastic pure hitter with a seemingly supernatural feel for contact. He had more extra-base hits (55) than strikeouts (53) thanks to great hands, and has the strength to hit 20-25 home runs annually. He's honed his approach to avoid pitches he can hit but not drive, and he's worked hard to improve his physique and his defense at third base. Scouts now think he can be an average third baseman, if not slightly above average.
The Bad: There is an open debate on Arenado's power ceiling; some see it as merely average. He's consistently played in very friendly environments, and that's not going to change as long as he's with the Rockies. He doesn't run well.
Ephemera: Nine of Arenado's 20 home runs came in 138 at-bats as the five-hole hitter for Modesto. He hit 11 home runs over 369 at-bats in any other batting position.
Perfect World Projection: He could be an All-Star third baseman.
Fantasy Impact: Batting average and power. Who doesn't need that?
Path to the Big Leagues: The Rockies cleared a path for Arenado by trading Ian Stewart, but talk of him breaking camp in the big leagues is more than a little aggressive. He'll likely begin the year at Double-A, but he can hit his way to the big leagues.
ETA: Late 2012

2. Drew Pomeranz, LHP
DOB
: 11/22/88
Height/Weight: 6-5/230
Bats/Throws: R/L
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2010, Mississippi
2011 Stats: 1.87 ERA (77.0-56-32-95) at High-A (15 G); 0.00 ERA (10.0-2-0-7) at Double-A Texas League (2 G); 2.57 ERA (14.0-10-6-17) at Double-A Eastern League (3 G)
Tools Profile: He’s a pure power package from the left side.

Year in Review: Pomeranz was in the midst of a breakout year with Cleveland before he headed to Colorado in the Ubaldo Jimenez deal. He made his big-league debut after undergoing an appendectomy.
The Good: While Pomeranz averaged 91 mph with the Rockies, he was rusty; he normally sits at 92-93 and touches 96. Despite the plus velocity (especially for a left-hander), the fastball is his second-best pitch; his curve is a plus to plus-plus offering with hard spin and heavy break. He has a big frame built to eat up innings, and clean mechanics.
The Bad: Much of Pomeranz's success in the minors came as a two-pitch pitcher; he could dominate with his fastball and curve without exposing his below-average changeup. He's never been an efficient pitcher, and needs to throw more strikes to get deeper into games.
Ephemera: Pomeranz allowed only one first-inning run in his 20 minor-league starts. During the first inning, he gave up just seven hits and two walks, and struck out 24.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a number-two starter.
Fantasy Impact: It's never easy to be a pitcher in Colorado, but Pomeranz should get you plenty of strikeouts.
Path to the Big Leagues: Pomeranz will be part of a crowded competition for the Rockies’ rotation, but might be best served with half of a season of Triple-A starts.
ETA: Late 2012

3. Wilin Rosario, C
DOB
: 2/23/89
Height/Weight: 5-11/200
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Dominican Republic, 2006
2011 Stats: .249/.284/.457 at Double-A (102 G)
Tools Profile: This catcher has the enviable combination of power and arm strength.

Year in Review: Last year's breakout player returned from a devastating knee injury and got back on track.
The Good: Rosario can impact a game both at the plate and behind it. He has well above-average power thanks to a quick bat with plenty of torque in his swing, and the potential to hit 20-30 home runs annually in his prime. He has one of the strongest catcher arms in the minors, and can absolutely shut down the running game.
The Bad: Rosario will need to hone his hitting skills to fully tap into his power. He swings at far too many bad pitches, can create more issues by getting pull-conscious, and right-handers consistently get him to chase breaking balls. While his arm is outstanding, his receiving skills need work.
Ephemera: Rosario fell behind in the count in 20 of his 57 big-league plate appearances. He went 0-for-20 with 11 strikeouts in those at-bats.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a star-level everyday catcher.
Fantasy Impact: Catchers with 25 home runs are valuable commodities.
Path to the Big Leagues: Rosario will begin the year at Triple-A, and unless Colorado creates a path to a starting job, he is set up to caddy for Ramon Hernandez in 2013.
ETA: 2013

4. Chad Bettis, RHP
DOB
: 4/26/89
Height/Weight: 6-1/193
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Second round, 2010, Texas Tech
2011 Stats: 3.34 ERA (169.2-142-45-184) at High-A (27 G)
Tools Profile: This right-hander has a power arm, but his secondary pitches lag behind.

Year in Review: This college reliever shined as a starter in his full-season debut, falling just short of a pitching Triple Crown in the California League.
The Good: Bettis has some of the best velocity in the system, parking his fastball in the low- to mid-90s and reaching back for 97-98 when he needs it. His slider remains a swing-and-miss offering with two-plane break. There are no glaring red flags in his delivery. He often got deep into games on a pitch count and maintained his stuff in the late innings.
The Bad: Bettis pitches off his fastball, but at times simply relies on it, as his changeup is a below-average pitch that he telegraphs with slower arm action. While he controls the fastball well, it can often come in a bit straight.
Ephemera: Bettis was an eighth-round pick in 2007 out of Monterey High School in Lubbock. The school has produced several professional athletes and musicians, but also actor Duane Whitaker, who played Maynard the pawn shop owner in Pulp Fiction.
Perfect World Projection: He’s at least a number-three starter, but there is additional upside here.
Fantasy Impact: Strikeouts should come, but the usual caveats of pitching in Coors apply.
Path to the Big Leagues: Bettis will face his first big test with a 2012 assignment to Double-A Tulsa.
ETA: 2013

5. Tim Wheeler, OF
DOB
: 1/21/88
Height/Weight: 6-4/205
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: First rounds, 2009, Cal State Sacramento
2011 Stats: .287/.365/.535 at Double-A (138 G)
Tools Profile: He’s technically a five-tool player, but has no true plus scores.

Year in Review: Wheeler, one of the bigger disappointments in the system in 2010, broke out in the Texas League while flirting with the minor-league home-run lead.
The Good: Wheeler has tools across the board with his power, speed, defense, and arm strength all rating as average to a tick above. He gets plenty of leverage in his swing and can crush mistakes. He's a good outfielder who plays hard.
The Bad: Despite Wheeler's numbers, scouts don't see him having elite power in the big leagues. He's capable in center, but profiles better as a corner outfielder, especially in Colorado. His power comes at a price, he takes a healthy cut with few adjustments, and is prone to strikeouts.
Ephemera: While 54 players have been drafted out of Cal State Sacramento, Wheeler is the only one to be drafted in the first three rounds. No alums have hit a big-league homer.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a solid everyday outfielder.
Fantasy Impact: It’s greater than his real-world value based on his ability to easily exceed double digits in both home runs and stolen bases.
Path to the Big Leagues: With no obvious opening in the big leagues, Wheeler is destined for Triple-A in 2012, though he should get a September look.
ETA: Late 2012

6. Tyler Matzek, RHP
DOB
: 10/19/90
Height/Weight: 6-3/210
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2009, Capistrano Valley HS (CA)
2011 Stats: 4.36 ERA (64.0-45-50-75) at Low-A (12 G); 9.82 ERA (33.0-34-46-37) at High-A (10 G)
Tools Profile: He has monster stuff, but more red flags than a Chinese Army parade.

Year in Review: After a disastrous start to the year, Matzek left the team, returned to his high school mechanics, and returned to the minors with much better stuff. However, his control issues persisted.
The Good: Matzek was dominant at times late in the season; he looked very much like the elite pitcher from the 2009 draft. His fastball was back to the low- to mid-90s velocity with explosive life, and his hard curveball was an easy plus offering with heavy bite. His changeup is at least average and flashes plus, and his combination of size and arsenal is rare to find.
The Bad: Matzek is among the riskiest prospects in baseball. His mechanics were inconsistent both before and after his time away from the team, and his velocity can waver as much as his control. When he puts everything together, he's very good, but that rarely happens.
Ephemera: In Matzek's 10 California League starts, he walked 20 and struck out 19 in the first inning alone.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a frontline starter, but chances are slim he’ll get there.
Fantasy Impact: He’s worth a risk if you have some roster flexibility, but he’s a lottery ticket.
Path to the Big Leagues: Matzek will likely return to the California League to begin 2012, but his spring training showing could change that.
ETA: 2014

7. Rosell Herrera, SS/3B
DOB
: 10/16/92
Height/Weight: 6-3/180
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted/Signed: Dominican Republic, 2009
2011 Stats: .284/.361/.449 at Rookie (63 G)
Tools Profile: Big man, big bat, little glove.

Year in Review: This high-profile Dominican signee shined in his U.S. debut.
The Good: Herrera has significant offensive upside. He's a switch-hitter with the potential to hit for both average and power from both sides. He has a good idea at the plate and waits for pitches he can drive. He's a solid-average runner and earns praise for his work ethic.
The Bad: While a switch-hitter, Herrera struggles against left-handers. Scouts give him no chance to stay at shortstop, and many don't think he'll even be able to stay in the infield due to poor actions and hands.
Ephemera: Herrera drew 20 walks in 153 plate appearances with the bases empty, but only seven over 121 PAs with runners on base.
Perfect World Projection: He’ll be a productive bat at a position to be determined.
Fantasy Impact: Herrera is going to hit, but we don't know who his peer group will be in the long term. If it's a corner-outfield slot, his value goes down.
Path to the Big Leagues: Herrera will stay in the infield for now, but will likely slide over for Trevor Story while he makes his full-season debut at Low-A Asheville.
ETA: 2015

8. Trevor Story, SS
DOB
: 11/15/92
Height/Weight: 6-1/175
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2011, Irving HS (TX)
2011 Stats: .268/.364/.463 at Rookie (47 G)
Tools Profile: This shortstop has solid tools across the board.

Year in Review: This supplemental first-round pick was as good as advertised during his pro debut.
The Good: Story is a scout favorite who combines energy with fundamentals and solid tools. He has an advanced approach for his age and a quick, line-drive swing that uses all fields. He has the potential for 12-15 home-run power down the road. He's an above-average runner with good actions at shortstop and an average arm.
The Bad: Story does many things well, but lacks star-level upside. He's solid at shortstop now, but he can't afford to lose a step or he could end up at second base.
Ephemera: History shows the 45th overall pick has not been a kind one; Gerald Laird is the only player drafted in that slot with more than 2,000 major-league at-bats.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a good everyday shortstop.
Fantasy Impact: Double-digit power and speed will help him, even more so if he plays his home games at Coors.
Path to the Big Leagues: Story will make his full-season debut at Low-A Asheville.
ETA: 2015

9. Josh Rutledge, SS
DOB
: 4/21/89
Height/Weight: 6-1/190
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Third round, 2010, Alabama
2011 Stats: .348/.414/.517 at High-A (113 G)
Tools Profile: He’s one of those college players with more ability than tools, but his bat is legit.

Year in Review: His full-season debut in the California League led to huge numbers.
The Good: Rutledge's short, simple swing leads to consistent hard contact and plenty of doubles laced into the gaps. He has outstanding defensive fundamentals and an accurate arm. His average speed plays up due to his instincts, and he earns high grades for his makeup.
The Bad: Rutledge just isn't the kind of quick-twitch athlete one expects to find at shortstop. He projects better at second base, where his arm would also work better. He'll never be a real power threat.
Ephemera: Rutledge hit .454 with 12 home runs in his senior league at Cullman High in Alabama, but he also pitched on occasion. He picked up the save in the first game of the state championship finals.
Perfect World Projection: He could be an everyday second baseman.
Fantasy Impact: He’ll bring good batting average, and small contributions in other categories.
Path to the Big Leagues: Rutledge will move up to Double-A in 2012, and should push for a big-league role in 2013.
ETA: 2013

10. Tyler Anderson, LHP
DOB
: 12/30/89
Height/Weight: 6-4/215
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2011, Oregon
2011 Stats: N/A
Tools Profile: He’s highly polished, but does not have much in the way of stuff.

Year in Review: Seen as one of the safest picks in the 2011 draft, Anderson went 20th overall and signed for $1.4 million.
The Good: Anderson is an advanced package with more finesse than stuff. His fastball features average velocity but plus movement, both his slider and curveball are average, and his changeup is plus. All of Anderson’s pitches play up due to his ability to sequence and hit his spots.
The Bad: Scouts wonder about Anderson's upside, as he lacks a put-away pitch and will have a small margin of error. He has a tendency to overthrow his curveball, which causes it to lose break.
Ephemera: Anderson was only the second first-round pick in school history, and the first since Dave Roberts went first overall in 1972.
Perfect World Projection: He’d be a third or fourth starter.
Fantasy Impact: More of a safe bet than an upside one, Anderson won't hurt you anywhere, nor be a big contributor.
Path to the Big Leagues: While Anderson's upside is limited, he's polished enough to move through the system quickly. He’ll likely begin 2012 at High-A, and finish in the upper levels.
ETA: Late 2013.

11. Kent Matthes, OF
DOB
: 1/8/87
Height/Weight: 6-2/215
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Fourth round, 2009, Alabama
2011 Stats: .334/.378/.642 at High-A (93 G)
Tools Profile: He can hit, and he can throw.

Year in Review: Seen as a bit of an organizational player entering the year, Matthes went on to win California League MVP honors with a huge year at Modesto.
The Good: Matthes combines pure hitting ability with impressive raw power. He looks to swing the bat, and earned a reputation as a bad-ball hitter for golfing low pitches to the wall and slicing opposite-field line drives on pitches out of the strike zone. He's a solid outfielder and runner with an outstanding arm that is more than enough for right field.
The Bad: Matthes was drafted as a college senior and missed most of the 2010 season with a knee injury, so he'll head to spring training as a 25-year-old who has yet to play in the upper levels. He can't afford any more hiccups in his development. His aggressive approach served him well in A-ball, but more advanced pitchers will be able to take advantage of him better.
Ephemera: Matthes' father and uncle both played football at the University of Miami.
Perfect World Projection: He’ll be a solid but unspectacular everyday corner outfielder.
Fantasy Impact: Again, he’ll be merely solid in the average and power categories.
Path to the Big Leagues: Matthes will move up to Double-A in 2012, and his bat will define his timetable from there.
ETA: 2013

The Sleeper: While his full-season debut was marred by injuries and ineffectiveness, right-hander Albert Campos remains intriguing based on his size and stuff.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/86 or later)
1. Nolan Arenado, 3B
2. Drew Pomeranz, LHP
3. Jhoulys Chacin, RHP
4. Wilin Rosario, C
5. Alex White, RHP
6. Juan Nicasio, RHP
7. Rex Brothers, LHP
8. Chad Bettis, RHP
9. Tim Wheeler, OF
10. Tyler Chatwood, LHP

Chacin had a promising 2011, but he also went through some disturbing times in the second half of the year when he stopped missing bats. White should win one of the final spots in the Colorado rotation, and like Nicasio, that's where his upside is. Brothers will set up Rafael Betancourt, and could close for many teams, as his stuff can miss major-league bats consistently. Chatwood was rushed to the big leagues by the Angels, and is better than what you saw, but not much.

Summary: This is a good system with a chance to get better. The Rockies were a disappointment in 2011, but the collection of near big league-ready talent should keep them competitive in a weak division for years to come.

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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