Wednesday, February 9, 2011

TEAM #17 – Colorado Rockies

Matzek didn't find the transition to the professional ranks as easy as many expected

The Rockies are one of the more interesting organizations to rate, because everything about them is just so middle of the road. At the Major League level, they have a .496 winning percentage over the last six seasons. We have rated their Minor League system an average of 15th over the last five seasons including back-to-back #17s ( Their international scouting program has had an average level of success, and their drafts over the last decade have vacillated from very good (2000, 2004, 3005) to very bad (2001, 2006, 2007), but, on balance, have been pretty average. The only thing that isn’t really average is the stability of their front office, as the Rockies have had only two GMs over the last two decades, and the current leadership of Dan O’Dowd, as GM, and Bill Schmidt, as Scouting Director, have been in their respective roles for more than a decade. Given all that it makes it easy to expect more of the same moving forward.

Nothing about the Rockies’ system jumps out at us very positively or very negatively. They have some nice prospects at the top of the system, but unless Tyler Matzek finds what he had in the spring of 2009, none of them really are the envy of the baseball world. If you scan down the team list grade-by-grade, they match-up with the number of prospects that we would expect as well as any team in baseball. They have a nice mix of hitting vs. pitching, skilled vs. less skilled positional prospects and high ceiling vs. high floor. The reality is that no team epitomizes ‘average’ moreso than do the Rockies. Most importantly there doesn’t seem to be any strategic shift that would portend movement—either upward or downward—in the near future, as the Major League team is strong enough to be competitive, but not competitive enough to likely employ any ‘all-in’ type of strategy.

Best Pick from 2010 – The Rockies are an interesting list, as 2010 saw many of their top prospects take a step back, and few unexpected ones step forward. While we realize that we are still pretty much on an island with this one, but we had Rafael Ortega at #25 last year when few had heard of him. It will likely be another year before the consensus on him swings in our direction, but he is much better than most realize.

Worst Pick from 2010 – We could go with Friedrich at #2, but his step back was as much health related as anything else. Many would like us to see this a call for Tim Wheeler at#4, whom we knew put us out all alone, but we aren’t writing Wheeler off quite yet. Instead this will go to Delta Cleary—despite all of the caveats we placed upon ranking him at #11. Cleary won’t be found among the Rockies Top 30 this year and barely earns a C+ grade.

Grade A

1) Tyler Matzek, LHP (2010 Performance Scores– Dominance 58; Control 20; HRrate 52; Stamina 69)

Matzek ranked as a clear consensus best prep pitching prospect entering the 2009 draft, and when he lasted all the way to the Rockies at #11 it had to be considered a bargain—despite the $3.9 million price tag. After a strong showing in instructionals, Matzek debuted in the South Atlantic League (SAL), where his control abandoned him. He still finished with the circuit’s #15 Performance Score, but it was not up to expectations. Matzek was drafted, in many respects, because he possessed the complete package—potentially four pitches, a mid-90s fastball and exceptional mound presence. Little of that was on display in the SAL, as his fastball sat in the low-90s, he barely used his change and often seemed lost on the mound. Knowing what he is capable of, we are willing to chalk 2010 to adjustment. Matzek has the potential to be a front of the rotation star. He will first need to find mechanical consistency, in order to cut down on the 62 walks he issued in 89 innings in 2010. The Rockies will bump Matzek up to the California League (CAL) in 2011, where we expect to see a different pitcher.

2) Wilin Rosario, C (2010 – Power 79; Discipline 48; First Base Rate 33; Speed 38)

Few players did more to turn potential into productivity in 2010 than did Rosario, who stamped himself among the game’s elite prospects. Already considered a virtual lock at a Big League opportunity due to his plus defensive backstop skills, the 21yo Rosario had a breakout year offensively. For the first time in his career, his plus-power was evident, as Rosario belted 19 home runs in 270 ABs, en route to earning the Texas League’s (TXL) #3 Performance Score behind the Royals’ Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas. Unfortunately, knee surgery cut his season short, and may delay the beginning of his 2011 campaign. While Rosario hits with authority to all fields, he still struggles with pitch recognition and plate discipline. He was not actually a burner on the base paths prior to the knee surgery and is only likely to be less mobile upon his return. Rosario’s upside is that of an above average offensive and defensive catcher at the Major League level—capable of posting 25+ home runs annually. He’ll get a chance to prove that he is recovered in 2011 in AAA, with a chance at joining the Rockies before season’s end.

Grade A-

3) Nolan Arenado, 3B (2010 – Power 77; Discipline 73; First Base Rate 28; Speed 31)

Positional concerns kept Arenado downgraded on our 2009 pre-draft board, as we had him rated as a fourth rounder. The Rockies fell in love with his bat and selected him in the second round. While we still have significant positional concerns, Arenado’s bat is lessening them for us. Offensively, Arenado can flat out rake—showing plus power and solid contact skills. Perhaps more impressively, Arenado makes two-strike adjustments that are well beyond his years. His 2010 performance saw him finish with the SAL’s #4 Performance Score. As to the negatives, Arenado is not very patient at the plate—drawing only 35 walks in 576 professional ABs. He is not very athletic, and has below average speed. A prep shortstop, there was discussion early on of converting Arenado to catcher—a position that he physically profiles well. It now appears that his eventual destination is first base, where his bat should play, but not be nearly as attractive. The Rockies will send him to assault CAL pitching in 2011.

Grade B+

4) Kyle Parker, OF

The Clemson quarterback put together a tremendous junior year on the diamond, that saw him enter the draft as a likely first round selection. The Rockies tried to sign him to a contract that would have had him give up football, but seemingly got a bargain when the saved nearly $800,000 and signed him to a deal that allowed him to play his senior year. Seemingly that is, because in his final collegiate football game, Parker went down with broken ribs that could delay his debut until April or May. A two sport athlete, the nearly full season delay to the start of his professional baseball career is not insignificant. In college, Parker demonstrated both potentially above average power and contact skills. The downside is that—despite being a two-sport star—Parker is not exceptionally athletic, and possesses only average speed. Defensively, Parker likely ends up on an outfield corner, with right field seemingly having the edge. Once healthy, look for Parker to make his debut in full-season ball—possibly in the CAL.

5) Rafael Ortega, OF (2010 – Power 53; Discipline 74; First Base Rate 74; Speed 76)

One of the players that we are considerably higher on than most, as his slight build, that offers little in the way of obvious projection, tends to dissuade the scouting community. What can’t be ignored is Ortega’s excellent strike zone management skills, plus contact skills and plus speed—none of which will be negatively impacted by his 5’11”, 165lb frame. Even his questionable power looks to be potentially average for a Major League center fielder. With his speed, he is able to cover sizeable ground in center and has a strong arm—leaving little doubt about his ability to play the position at the next level. Ortega followed up a #12 Performance Score in the DSL in 2009 by posting the Pioneer League’s (PIO) best Score this season. Only 19yo, Ortega should have plenty of opportunity to gain additional plate patience—the only thing lacking from becoming a potential game changing top of the order threat. The Rockies will send Ortega to the SAL in 2011 and we expect that he will validate our ranking.

Grade B

6) Peter Tago, RHP

We expected Tago to be an early second round pick this past June, so we weren’t really shocked when the Rockies selected him in the later part of the sandwich round. At 6’3”, 190lbs, Tago has a frame that offers plenty of projection to his currently low-90s fastball. The problem is that this is a pitcher that is considerably more projection than production at this stage. With a middling curve and a barely used change, Tago’s secondary offerings require considerable work. But the old adage is that you can’t teach velocity and that is what the Rockies are betting on here. There is a lot to work with here, but little in the way of making sound projections at this point. A strong showing this spring could find Tago in the SAL—but given the rawness of his repertoire, a stint in extended spring training with a summer debut in the PIO may be more likely.

7) Chad Bettis, RHP (2010 – Dominance 44; Control 71; HRrate 73; Stamina 72)

Bettis is another pitcher that we had tabbed for the second round this past June. With a low-90s fastball, a potentially plus slider and an adequate change, the foundation for a solid middle of the rotation starter exists. Unlike Tago above, Bettis’ offerings are very refined, and he not only shows plus command, but he works down in the strike zone. The problem that prevents us from ranking him higher is that, without a true strikeout pitch, we aren’t sold on Bettis’ ability to remain in the rotation. In short stints, out of the pen, Bettis’ fastball becomes a mid-90s offering, giving him a strong fastball/slider combo. We believe that the eventual outcome will be that the Rockies will realize that a plus arm out of the bullpen is better than an adequate arm in the rotation. Look for Bettis to begin 2011 in the CAL.

8) Christian Friedrich, LHP (2010 – Dominance 54; Control 51; HRrate 34; Stamina 67)

After a phenomenal 2009 campaign, Friedrich came back to earth a bit in 2010, as he finished with the #14 Performance Score in the TXL. Nagging injuries played somewhat of a role in the decline, as Friedrich missed time with both a sore elbow and a shoulder muscle problem. When healthy, Friedrich shows four pitchers, with both his fastball and curve being potentially plus pitches. He demonstrates solid command, and typically keeps the ball down in the zone—despite allowing 10 home runs in 87 innings in 2010. If he can remain healthy, Friedrich can become a solid lefty in the middle of a Big League rotation. Expect Friedrich to open up 2011 in the AAA rotation, with a shot at the Major League rotation by mid-season.

9) Tim Wheeler, OF (2010 – Power 46; Discipline 50; First Base Rate 55; Speed 76)

We expected more than what Wheeler has shown after the Rockies got, what we believed to be, a steal when the selected him at the end of the first round in 2009. Although he has shown little of thus far in his professional career, Wheeler possesses plus power and plus speed to go along with average contact and strike zone management skills. With a solid arm, Wheeler could play any of the outfield positions. To some degree that is part of the problem, as his critics see him as a natural fourth outfielder type. Just 22yo, he looks to begin 2011 in AA, where a breakout season offensively would restore some of the lost luster. We aren’t giving up on him just yet.

10) Charles Blackmon, OF (2010 – Power 67; Discipline 74; First Base Rate 49; Speed 77)

We admit to being torn on Blackmon, as he remains one of those ‘toolsy’ athletic types that we aren’t usually high on. Now 24yo, we aren’t sure how much additional projection that we can expect. What we are sure of is that in 2010 Blackmon did offer us a glimpse of what the future likely holds, on his way to posting the #10 Performance Score in the TXL. Blackmon possesses above average contact skills, strong strike zone management skills and above average speed. Defensively he looks to be a competent center fielder, where his minimal power should not be a significant factor. If all goes right, Blackmon has the upside of an average Major League center fielder. What we see as more likely, however, is that he becomes a starting center fielder on a second division team or a fourth outfielder on a better one. Blackmon should begin 2011 in AAA and see Colorado at some time in 2011.

11) Rex Brothers, LHP (2010 – Dominance 76; Control 26; HRrate 71; Stamina 26)

The Rockies had targeted Brothers as a reliever even before they used a sandwich round pick on him in 2009. With a mid-90s fastball and a plus slider, he profiles as the quintessential left-handed set-up guy. He will get the chance to earn a bullpen spot in Colorado this spring, where he will have to show improved command. Brothers could rank higher on this list, if we didn’t have the data on the contribution values of Minor League relief pitchers, as his floor is relatively high.

12) Albert Campos, RHP (2010 – Dominance 41; Control 70; HRrate 63; Stamina 78)

Campos made his U.S. debut in a big way, as he posted the #2 Performance Score in the PIO in 2010. A 20yo, with a 6’4”, 225lb, frame, Campos cuts an imposing figure on the mound. Possessing a low-90s fastball, a potentially plus curve, and a useable change—with solid command—all of the ingredients are present for him to become a solid mid-rotation innings-eater. Even more encouraging is his ability to keep the ball down, inducing a 1.34 GO/AO ratio in three professional seasons. If there is one knock against him, it is that Campos has yet to miss as many bats as his stuff would portend. Look for Campos to get his first taste of full-season ball in the SAL to open 2011.

Other Potential Top 300 Prospects – 13) Alving Mejias, RHP.

Feel free to post any questions and or comments. We will try to answer them in our weekly Mailbag segment.

You can find an explanation of our grades here Diamond Futures Annual Prospect Rankings Series and an explanation of our 2010 Performance Scores here Do-It-Yourself - Understanding Performance Evaluation and here This Week's Mailbag - Prospect Rankings Questions. The Performance scores represent the player’s performance relative to the leagues that they played in during the 2010 season.

No comments:

Post a Comment