August 5, 2008 6:11 PM
Rockies Hidden Gems
Of the first five players listed, the reasons why they get lost in the shuffle vary. A couple have been hampered this season by serious injuries, a couple haven't even played professionally yet, but all have the kind of potential that Rockies fans would be wise to make note of.
Hector Gomez - After playing all of one game for Modesto before going down for the season with a shin injury that eventually morphed into his getting Tommy John surgery in late June, Gomez will most certainly drop from the ranks of baseball's elite prospects by most pundits' reckoning. The elite potential he had before this season remains with him, however, so while he may drop off the national radar, Rockies fans would be wise to keep him on theirs.
Shane Lindsay - It's becoming a long, slow and seemingly painful climb for the hurler from Bacchus Marsh, Australia, but in ten starts in Modesto he had once again been showing some of the most promising stuff in the system. Questions of his command are now joined by questions about his emotional maturity after an off field bar fight cost him a broken pitching hand and two months of the season. He's now hoping to finish the season strong as he rehabs in Asheville, but 2009 looms as a critical one for Lindsay, whether it's with the Rockies organization or not. He'll once again be eligible for the Rule 5 draft, and with his Modesto showing and more experience under his belt, his stuff may be too tempting for other teams to pass over this time.
David Kandilas - While I'm on the subject of Australians in the system, Kandilas could become the Rockies next big time centerfield prospect, but he'll have to wait until 2009 to even start showing Rockies fans what he has to offer. That the Rockies were willing to sign him to a six figure bonus knowing that they'd have to wait a full year before he'd be mature enough to enter the developmental pipeline shows some of the confidence they have in this kid's abilities.
Delta Cleary - He's a cousin of NBA star Shawn Marion, and a gifted athlete in his own right. Cleary was drafted by the Rockies this year in the 37th round after hitting .411 with NCAA Division II champs LSU-Eunice, and knocked in 76 RBI helping to lead his team to the title. At Jonesboro High School in Arkansas he was a three sport star who's baseball exploits were the least noteworthy of the three. Because he's so unrefined at his chosen sport, he's also a difficult guy for scouts to get a read on. While many scouts have been intrigued by his tools, his raw package mixed with contract demands befitting his athletic profile led to him being undrafted out of high school in 2007 and then to dropping all the way to the Rockies' pick this year. Don't be fooled by the low draft round, though, Cleary's athleticism convinced the Rockies to give him fourth round money as a signing bonus. At 18 years old, it's going to take some time to develop his skills, but the payoff for the Rockies could be very well worth the effort.
Parker Frazier - A pitcher who has nearly five times as many strikeouts as walks, gives up a homer only once every 26 innings, and has a groundball percentage in the upper fifties could probably count on at least a dozen wins a season with a major league defense behind him. You get the sense looking at Frazier's numbers that there still is a lot of untapped potential and that the potential that has been tapped isn't completely showing up in the numbers just yet.
Since a 30 double, 34 homerun season in Asheville in 2005 got him on the prospect map, Matt Miller's subsequently sailed off of it with two seasons that failed to live up to that standard. A closer look shows there has been progression, as he's improved his contact and selection, culminating in this season's .343/.408/.469 season across two levels. Miller's just a step from the bigs at this point, and should be useful there in a reserve outfielder role. While the Rockies surplus at the position casts doubts that Miller will get that chance in Denver, his time seems nearly at hand.
Baseball Prospectus' minor league projections say that Xavier Cedeno will have an major league ERA of 5.48 at his peak as a starter. While that's fairly high, consider that were he to be shifted to the bullpen, their projections would knock a couple runs off of that. The 21-year old lefthander nevertheless remains a viable bottom of the rotation candidate a season or two down the road for the Rockies, but certainly has terrific potential as an extended lefty out of the pen if that first plan falters.
In a system that's fairly short on prospects with a lot of power potential, my eyes get drawn to the few who are showing it. One such player is Kane Simmons, who's had 19 extra base hits out of 36 hits overall across three minor league levels this season. Of those players with more than twenty hits, there are only two others in the system who have had a better than 50% extra base rate, Joe Koshansky and Ian Stewart. As an undrafted free agent signed out of the independent Golden League last winter, Simmons has a lot of ground to make up, but he's gotten off to a fine start of doing so in 2008.
Surprisingly, the Tourists might be the most difficult team in the system to pick out a true under the radar bench prospect from. They have had three players, Jhoulys Chacin, Darin Holcomb and Connor Graham, perform too well to not be noticed, and several perform poorly enough to make me wary of recommending their potential, but consider David Christensen's month to month progression of AVG/OBP/SLG before he got injured on July 23rd:
The 20-year old Christensen seemed to have turned a corner, and at his age there's still plenty of time to get that back. He's another one of the few players in our system that has the potential to hit the ball out of any park, on any day, so definitely keep an eye on him when he comes back and in 2009.
10% is sort of a magical number for contact hitters. If a player strikes out less than one time out of every ten plate appearances, it could typically be considered a good thing, as with a normal hit distribution of balls in play, they should be able to maintain a pretty high batting average. Jordan Pacheco's kind of an odd duck this season, however, as he's one of the very few players in our system to get below that 10% strikeout threshold but for whatever reason, his average is only at .250 with little power. While nobody would confuse him for Adam Dunn, it's not like he's just hitting dribblers and soft flies either, as a 22% line drive rate is also very healthy. It seems as if he's been the victim of some pretty bad luck at the plate this season, and if he continues to progress as a catcher defensively, he should prove to be a very valuable organizational asset.
If you look at the Cape Cod League leaderboards, you'll see two Rockies 2008 draft picks leading the batting average and homerun categories. While homerun leader and fourth-round selection Chris Dominguez seems likely to be the one that got away from this year's draft with only ten days left to the signing deadline, the Cape's leading hitter, Rockies 46th round draft pick Jimmy Cesario, is now playing with the Ghosts and hitting .320. Having redshirted a season at junior college before transferring to Houston, Cesario was already "old" for a prospect when the Rockies drafted him, and his age will have him written off by most national prospect watching camps. But having success against stiff competition in the summer's premiere wood bat league (Cesario's performance ranked as the Summer's 18th best on the amateur circuit according PGCrosschecker) and showing solid contact skills at a middle of the diamond position indicates he could be a decent utility candidate down the road.