2011 Colorado Rockies Top 20 Prospects

11/30/2011
There were plenty of things to like about this organization before the Ubaldo Jimenez deal, and now there’s a whole lot more. The addition of Pomeranz and White brings in big, near-ML ready pitching to offset the developmental setbacks of Matzek, Tago, and Friedrich. If that weren’t enough, Arenado, Rosario, Wheeler, and Blackmon all look like they could contribute sooner rather than later at the plate, while Chad Bettis has made all the right adjustments on the mound. A solid 2011 Draft crop certainly doesn’t hurt things either. It’s certainly looking like a fun system to follow next year, from top to bottom.

  1. Drew Pomeranz, LHP (High A, AA, Majors): Everyone knew that Pomeranz had ace potential coming out of Ole Miss, but even the most optimistic fan probably didn’t think the 2010 draftee would reach the majors this quickly. His above-average velocity and plus curve combine to frustrate just about everyone in the opposing dugout. In his first small sample of major league starts, he posted solid K and bb rates while generating lots of weak contact and ground ball outs. Pomeranz’ mechanics look plenty good and fairly smooth, and combined with his strong frame he should provide tons of valuable innings.
  2. Nolan Arenado, 3rd (High A): It’s looking like the third baseman is one of the strongest at the position in the minors after his 2011 campaign. His recent display in the AFL only further solidified the argument that Arenado is one of (if not the) best at the hot corner right now. With great contact rates, a smooth swing, plus power, and the ability to take a walk, he would be a strong prospect in any system. Arenado’s defense is improving steadily; something that represented the only real negative about his game heading into 2011. It’s hard to not envision him as a middle of the order presence with his ability to make quality contact while still hitting for power. Anyone worrying that he’s Ian Stewart part two should not be concerned.
  3. Wilin Rosario, C (AA): The young backstop’s big bat speed and pull power should fit in quite well at Coors Field. His impatience at the plate is a concern, especially in a repeat of Double-A, but for a guy who has earned a major league stint at age 22, he’s done well. Even if some growing pains are to be expected, Rosario should be an above-average offensive catcher as long as he can show some bit of patience at the major league level. His defensive efforts have been strong, and nothing really seems to indicate anything otherwise going forward. Rosario is still raw, but the natural talent and tools are there for him to be excellent.
  4. Chad Bettis, RHP (High A): Coming out of Texas Tech, the righty boasted well above-average velocity and an inconsistent (but sometimes plus) breaking ball. His slider has always been a weapon, but  the enough fastball command has always been the biggest key for him. This year saw Bettis dominate High A batters with an increased usage of his fastball, while still taking full advantage of his plus off-speed stuff. Mainly a strikeout/flyball type, he will need to sharpen up his slider a bit while making his change-up at least an average pitch as he faces more advance Double-A hitters in 2012.
  5. Alex White, RHP (AA, AAA, Majors): The other significant half of the Ubaldo return, he has plenty of velocity and a hard breaking ball. White does not have as sharp of command as a Pomeranz type, so he may only have as much value as a mid-rotation guy, but if he’s on there is top of the rotation potential there. Like many of the other Rockies pitching prospects, the UNC product is mainly a fly-ball pitcher. As a starter I think he’s moved quicker than some projected, and his ability to make adjustments bodes well for his future in the Colorado rotation. I think he’ll settle in nicely as a mid-rotation type.
  6. Tim Wheeler, RF (AA): The 2009 Draftee looked like an strong offensive outfielder, with the possibility of being a value on defense as well after completing three years at Sacramento State. His power potential was in question after a strong 2009 junior year, and remained so after a weak 2010 effort. Wheeler’s most recent age 23 season finally saw some very legitimate power against Double-A Texas league pitching. If he can manage to bring down that 22% K rate a bit, the lefty batting outfielder should be an above-average corner outfielder capable of drawing a walk and stealing a base. I would imagine regular 25 HR power is not out of the question for him, especially playing at Coors. His speed should bump up his value even more if he can be more efficient on the bases.
  7. Tyler Matzek, LHP (High A, Low A): Even though he had plenty of room for improvement, the 2009 first-rounder came into the year with big expectations. As one of the top left-handed pitching prospects in all of baseball, he had terrible trouble getting pitches over the plate this year, with 96 walks in 97 innings. Fortunately for him he maintained a quality strikeout rate, so you have to hope some tinkering to his mechanics can get him straightened out at least a little. If any of the issues he’s had in 2011 come back in any large form during 2012, you have to begin to wonder how correctable those mechanics/delivery problems are for Matzek.
  8. Trevor Story, SS (Rookie League- Pioneer): Aside from Fransisco Lindor, it’s quite possible that Story was the best shortstop selected in the 2011 Draft (considering the fact that Baez and Panik may not stick there). The 19 year old has the tools to be a big value on defense, the bases, and at the plate. He may have more value in the first two categories long-term, but his above-average offensive potential is what may make him a big name in the near future. Story could hit for decent average and above-average power as a shortstop, but next year’s run in short-season ball or Low A will be give us a better idea. The upside is there for him to be a huge asset in time.
  9. Charlie Blackmon, RF/CF (AAA, Majors): I’m a little hung up as to where Blackmon fits in at the major league level. You would like to give him a shot at center, where his bat projects well, but Fowler and Gonzalez get the bulk of the time there. As a fourth outfielder/bench guy he could certainly have value as his base-running and defense are both worth a lot to a team, while his contact oriented hitting is definitely worth something. His power (or lack-thereof) may ultimately push him to that role, but with enough plate appearances that role may end up being a significant value for not a lot of money, possibly bumping out a Ryan Spilborghs for playing time.
  10. Rosell Herrera, SS/INF (Rookie League- Pioneer): As if the Rockies really need shortstop prospects. Especially ones this good. He may or may not stick at the position, a place where his bat may ultimately fit in best. If a move to third or second becomes necessary, the latter seems more logical as his hit and power tools project fairly well but may not be enough for a corner position. One would have liked to see slightly more contact and less strikeouts from the 19 year old in Pioneer League action, considering his overall offensive profile. Nevertheless, he’s a legitimately talented defender who has significant upside with the bat.
  11. Edwar Cabrera, LHP (Low A, High A): Yes, he was certainly old for both levels during his age 23 season, though one would have to admit that he properly dominated both levels, even with age considered. Cabrera’s change-up is clearly his best weapon, and his command really allows him to dominate hitters even though his stuff isn’t of the traditionally overpowering variety. His high 80s/low 90s velocity is very solid for a lefty, and if he ever manages to improve his breaking ball, then Cabrera could be an excellent mid-rotation option. The now-24 year old will undoubtedly face tougher competition at Double-A, but he has the stuff to challenge a lot of hitters.
  12. Josh Rutledge, SS (High A): If you look beyond the high K totals this year, the Alabama product had a surprisingly good season with the bat. Most of Rutledge’s value will probably be derived from his defense going forward, but he should be capable of hitting for decent average and a very healthy amount of doubles. On top of that, his speed is looking like it will be a big portion of his game, more on the base-running side than the pure base-stealing side. His future role will be dictated by how well he maintains his offensive contributions, but if Rutledge can maintain some semblance of contact and pop, he could be a solid regular.
  13. Tyler Anderson, LHP (Yet to Debut): Going 20th overall this past June, he has at least three quality pitches and above-average command, quietly making him one of the more polished arms coming out of college. Anderson had a strong record in his college years, limiting his walks and punching out at least one batter per inning. He should be able to move fast through this system and should likely be moving up on this list in 2012.
  14. Peter Tago, RHP (Low A): The stuff is certainly there for the 2010 first-rounder to be successful, he just needs to make some mechanical tweaks and repeat his delivery more consistently. Obviously still young, his quality fastball/curve combo has tons of potential and can overwhelm hitters. Once he manages to get the ball over the plate with some semblance of regularity, his naturally good stuff should quickly make for much better results. If he fills his lanky frame out a bit more, it’s possible he may begin to repeat his mechanics a little more consistently as well.
  15. Corey Dickerson, OF (Low A): I’d be more inclined to rank him higher if he didn’t hit in such a homer friendly park in such a hitter friendly league. Dickerson does have the raw tools to be a quality regular, but when you look at his home/road splits you have to take his 2011 line with a grain of salt. I think he can hit for power, steal some bases, and play a solid right field, but High A should provide us with a much better indicator of his true power level.
  16. Kyle Parker, RF (Low A): The former Clemson QB and outfielder faced plenty of skepticism about his power potential as the 2010 Draft approached. This year has quieted some critics in that regard, but like Dickerson, he benefited a lot from a hitter-friendly home park. He’s made the adjustment to full-time baseball well (aside from the high K totals) and appeared to play well enough on defense. Another year devoted to baseball full-time may bring big results next year.
  17. Rafael Ortega, CF (Low A): So far, the center fielder has been up to snuff at every level he’s played at in his career. Ortega has the speed, defense, and hit tools to be a quality regular, although his strikeouts totals this year are a red flag. While the Venezuelan will need to be more efficient in base-stealing, his speed has been and will continue to be a big part of his game. The power numbers this year are a big exaggerated (as with the above two outfielders), but it’s not the key part of his game. As long as he makes quality contact, gets on base, and plays well in center he can be at least a fourth outfielder.
  18. Christian Friedrich, LHP (AA): Two years removed from his dominant run through Low and High Class A, Friedrich has encountered some mechanical and injury problems the past two seasons. This year showed yet again that the lefty is having trouble making the adjustments to get past Triple-A. A rising HR rate doesn’t help him out much, but then again neither does being incredibly hittable. I think he could still easily be a back of the rotation arm in time if he regains his past form.
  19. William Swanner, C (Rookie League- Pioneer): After finishing up his age 19 season, the jury is still out on whether or not he can stick at catcher. The tools may be there for him to be at least average behind the plate, but that potential has yet to show itself in games. If Swanner can play there his bat should be well above-average for the position with his easy power. Assuming a Low A assignment is coming next year if they think his defense can handle it. He’ll be happy to hit in Asheville.
  20. Danny Winkler, RHP (Rookie League- Pioneer): The righty transferred to Central Florida before the 2011 Draft, and missed enough bats to earn a 20th round selection. He has the potential to stick as a starter if his secondary stuff gets more consistent.