August 27, 2008 12:11 AM
Rockies Top 10 Prospects
Here are my current top ten Rockies prospects. I'm including only players who have not yet exhausted their MLB rookie eligibility of 50 innings pitched, 130 AB's or 45 days on the active roster not including September, so Franklin Morales and Ian Stewart are no longer eligible, or they would certainly still appear.
1. Dexter Fowler
Strengths - Fowler's athletic frame and natural skills frequently draw comparison to Torii Hunter. In 2008, he put the tools and skills into a complete package. Blessed with excellent hand-eye coordination and plate discipline, he should be able to hit for a high average and draw plenty of walks with some pop out of a lead-off slot in his prime. He excels on the basepaths and defensively.
Weaknesses - Fowler has a long, complex swing from the right side of the plate, and scouts are concerned that it will be exposed against MLB pitching. Since a healthy portion of his power comes from this side (a .653 SLG compared to .481 from the left) some feel that lofty power projections for him are out on a limb, while others see the left-handed power as still in development, but on its way.
2. Jhoulys Chacin
Strengths - Chacin has a good, sinking low 90's fastball, a high quality change-up, a curve with big break, and a slider, all of which he throws for strikes, and all of which are major league quality.
Weaknesses - When looking for an ace, scouts usually look for at least one "plus-plus" pitch; a lights out option that Chacin doesn't seem to have, his closest being the change-up. Without that, the consensus view is that he could wind up in just the middle of an MLB rotation. Chacin does have the four plus pitches, however, which puts him in a unique category that most pitchers which do have that one showstopping pitch won't duplicate and has a few scouts seeing top of the rotation potential with him regardless. He gets into trouble being too fine at times, when he should just trust his stuff to do its work.
3. Christian Friedrich
Strengths - Friedrich has a hard, deceptive, 89-92 mph fastball and a 12-6 curve and he'll work mainly off of those two pitches with a change-up
Weaknesses - Similarly to Chacin, Friedrich lacks a plus-plus offering that would elevate him to potential ace status, and his overall repertoire while sufficient, isn't as deep or varied as Chacin's. He therefore also has his greatest likelihood of being a middle of the rotation stalwart without the upside. Command troubles have arisen sporadically and Friedrich tends to rush his delivery after mistakes, luckily he hasn't made many so far in his professional career.
4. Casey Weathers
Strengths - One of the hardest throwers in baseball, Weathers' 98-101 mph fastball is a knockout pitch. He compliments it with a slider to keep hitters off balance.
Weaknesses - Weathers has yet to develop the kind of consistent command that would elevate him to the major leagues. Hell be going to the Arizona Fall League to build on a successful run with Team USA in Beijing.
5. Hector Gomez
Strengths - Scouts see Gomez as in the mold of Troy Tulowitzki, a big bat, strong armed shortstop who's long body won't be a detriment to him staying at the position. Gomez's swing is fluid and should allow him to hit for a solid average in the major leagues, with power to most of the field.
Weaknesses - Gomez lost a year of development due to injury and Tommy John surgery in 2008, and with the unrefined skillset he had to begin with, a setback like this could prove costly. It can probably be assumed that he will return with the same lunge in his swing that some feel could deter his development at upper levels.
6. Wilin Rosario
Strengths - Rosario's taken an enormous step forward at the plate this season, and some scouts are now seeing the potential for a middle of the order catcher. He's shown an ability to drive the ball against a variety of pitch types and make consistent contact, as well as show fairly advanced plate discipline.
Weaknesses - While Rosario's fundamentals behind the plate lead most scouts to believe that he'll stick at the position, in practice, his pitch blocking ability has proven to be a considerable drawback. His swing, while much improved, gets a little pull happy according to one scout I talked to who'd like to see him use the whole field more.
7. Brandon Hynick
Strengths - How about tenacity? Hynick had a breakthrough season for Modesto in 2007 but started 2008 in a tailspin and a 6.49 April ERA, Hynick's been steadily but swiftly improving ever since, however, and in five August starts he's compiled a 1.55 ERA in 34 and 2/3 innings. Hynick's command is exceptional, and
Weaknesses - Similarly to Greg Reynolds, Hynick throws a lot of strikes, but without overpowering stuff has the slimmest margin of error between success and disaster. Early in the season that showed, as he allowed 27 homeruns through the month of July. So far in August, a big part of his success has been putting a zero in that category. Hynick's ceiling may be limited, but his inning eating ability could be useful down the road.
8. Aneury Rodriguez
Strengths - Rodriguez still has considerable upside potential, and while his ERA and win loss numbers show him to be slipping in the second half after a promising start, it appears that unluckiness might have much to do with this, at least in the month of August. A low 90's fastball with late movement and a sharp breaking ball highlight his repertoire.
Weaknesses - Rodriguez' performance record hasn't quite matched up to his potential and the stuff hasn't quite risen at the trajectory his frame would suggest. While a chance of an upper rotation upside is still there, he's getting close to a point where putting a complete season together would be expected or even needed to remain a viable candidate. As it is, I think a lower slot in the rotation is the most likely expectation.
9. Eric Young Jr.
Strengths - Admittedly this is somewhat of a vanity pick, as teammate Chris Nelson and 2008 draft picks Charlie Blackmon and Delta Cleary have stronger collections of raw tools and therefore higher ceilings, but Young and Fowler are the Rockies two most polished position candidates relatively close to the majors that also grade out with starting potential. Wile Fowler's got star potential, Young's more a yeoman. Young succeeded at Tulsa where other speedy Rockies prospects have had difficulty adjusting, which speaks well of his chances of carrying over his contact abilities to MLB play. Even after his return from a broken bone to his hamate bone maintained good contact and plate discipline, maintaining the team's second highest on base percentage after Fowler.
Weaknesses - Young's power has been marginal to begin with, and while he displayed some before the hamate injury, it didn't return with him. While this is fairly common with wrist/hand injuries, with Young it might be of particular importance because it could be the difference between everyday work or just a utility speed threat off the bench. Young's stocky physique belies his speed, but it affects his lateral defensive range and prevents him from playing shortstop. He'll be looking for continued progress on his defensive play and a return of some of that gap power at the Arizona Fall League next month.
10. Connor Graham
Strengths - Graham's 94-95 mph fastball and hard slider are two plus pitches that he should be able to build off of and make him very intriguing. If he could add another pitch, he'd have as high an upside as Friedrich as a starter.
Weaknesses - Two pitches alone probably won't be enough to keep him in a starter's role, particularly considering the slider lacks command at times. While this could limit him to the pen at the MLB level, his potential there would be next to Weathers' in the system.
Honorable Mention: Chaz Roe, Chris Nelson, Charlie Blackmon, Delta Cleary, Parker Frazier
Colorado Springs: Joe Koshansky's had several memorable weeks this season, so it was somewhat surprising that the PCL hadn't named him hitter of the week until he had a week where he went 12 for 18 with four homers, had his second cycle of the season, scored 12 times and drove in 15. I forgot to mention that with last week's post, this week he's also been named to the PCLs all post-season team at first base for his fine work this season.
Tulsa: Fowler and Weathers have returned to Tulsa for the final week of the season after winning Bronze medals with Team USA in Beijing. While Weathers is ticketed along with Young for the AFL in Spetember, it appears likely that Fowler will be spending time with the Rockies when rosters expand.
Modesto: Chacin continues to run up a minor league leading wins total, now at 18, which should be a testament to both his effectiveness in outings limited to five innings, but also credit should be given to the Nuts bullpen for holding those leads. David Patton has been particularly effective down the stretch.
Asheville: Jeff Cunningham's month of August has been mostly forgettable, but two-run homeruns both Saturday and Sunday may help him finish on high note. Cinningham leads the Tourists with 18 homers on the year. Everth Cabrera's 71 stolen bases are one ahead of the tally by Tigers prospect Freddy Guzman for tops in the minor leagues. Cabrera was rated as both the SAL's best and fastest baserunner by league managers according to Baseball America in their survey of best tools. Other Rockies prospects to be rated include Darin Holcomb for having the best strike zone judgement in the SAL, Juan Morillo and Casey Weathers for the best fastballs of their respective leagues, Dexter Fowler as the best defensive outfielder and most exciting player in the Texas League, and Jhoulys Chacin for having the best changeup in both the SAL and California Leagues.
Tri-City: At the beginning of Tri-City's season, I extolled all three Dust Devil outfielders as athletes to watch. And while Charlie Blackmon certainly proved that to be true, and Scott Robinson offered several glimpses of promising future, Leonardo Reyes was a holdout until this month, where he's hitting .296/.354/.521.
Casper: With Wilin Rosario and Kiel Roling, the Rockies already had two promising catching prospects playing with the Ghosts, so the next player down on the depth chart, Jose Gonzalez, drew scant attention. That might be changing after Gonzalez went 10 for 21 this past week with a homerun and three doubles. Of course, eight of those hits came on one day, a double-header sweep over Billings last Thursday, but it's a good way for the 21 year old Gonzalez to remind us not to forget about him. Delta Cleary has nothing to worry about in that regard, a fantastic August slowed down with a 1 for 14 weekend, but he had six hits of his own, including two homeruns on that same double-header day.
Thanks to everybody for reading! Have a great offseason.