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January 29, 2010

Future Shock

Rockies Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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top 11 prospects

Five-Star Prospects
1. Christian Friedrich, LHP
2. Tyler Matzek, LHP
Three-Star Prospects
3. Wilin Rosario, C
4. Jhoulys Chacin, RHP
5. Hector Gomez, SS
6. Esmil Rogers, RHP
7. Tim Wheeler, OF
8. Rex Brothers, LHP
9. Casey Weathers, RHP
10. Eric Young Jr., 2B
11. Michael McKenry, C

Four More:
12. Charlie Blackmon, OF: An athletic outfielder, Blackmon put up good numbers at High-A Modesto. He needs to prove himself at the upper levels.
13. Nolan Arenado, 3B: This 2009 second-rounder has a quick bat, but questions about his power ceiling and defensive upside remain.
14. Juan Nicasio, RHP: Nicasio has a live arm and dominated Low-A, but he's 23 and his secondary stuff is unrefined.
15. Sam Deduno, RHP: He's a curveball specialist and could be in the big-league bullpen as early as this year.

1. Christian Friedrich, LHP
DOB: 7/8/87
Height/Weight: 6-4/215
Bats/Throws: R/L
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2008, Eastern Kentucky University
2009 Stats: 2.18 ERA (45.1-35-15-66) at Low-A (8 G); 2.54 ERA (74.1-59-28-93) at High-A (14 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 4

Year in Review: After a surprising fall in the 2008 draft, Friedrich made many teams look foolish for passing on him by ending his full-season debut among the minor-league leaders in ERA (2.41), batting average against (.215), and strikeouts per nine innings (12.0).
The Good: Friedrich has two big-league swing-and-miss offerings. His fastball has above-average velocity, sitting at 91-94 mph, but it's his curveball that's truly special, with one scout rating it as a 70 on the 20-to-80 scouting scale and calling it the best one he saw in the minors this year. He's a big, physical pitcher who should eat up innings in the future, and scouts like his calm mound presence.
The Bad: Friedrich's changeup flashes average, but he needs to be more consistent. His command can come and go, and he can be over-dependent on his curveball at times. He had some elbow soreness during the year, and he needs to prove he can handle a full season's workload.
Ephemera: Lefties from the 1980s, Gene Walter (4) and Steve Engel (1), are the only pitchers drafted out of Eastern Kentucky to win a game in the big leagues.
Perfect World Projection: Friedrich's a front-end pitcher, at least a second starter. Is he a possible Barry Zito clone?
Path to the Big Leagues: Colorado shouldn't have much problem finding a spot for this kind of talent.
Timetable: Friedrich will begin the year at Double-A Tulsa, but he could get his first taste of the big leagues as early as September.

2. Tyler Matzek, LHP
DOB: 10/19/90
Height/Weight: 6-3/185
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2009, Capistrano Valley HS (CA)
2009 Stats: Did not play
Last Year's Ranking: Did not qualify

Year in Review: Seen by many as the top high school pitcher in the draft, Matzek fell to 11th overall due to perceived bonus demands. Many predicted he wouldn't sign, but he finally agreed to a $3.9-million bonus at the deadline.
The Good: Matzek is a classic elite-level high school arm, but the fact that he's left-handed makes him especially intriguing. Some put a potential 80 score on his fastball, as he was sitting at 92-95 mph in the weeks leading up to the draft, with occasional 97s on the gun. He throws both a curve and a slider, but the latter, which sits at 82-85 and features heavy break, shows the most potential. He has a thick, mature build, an easy, repeatable delivery, and no command issues.
The Bad: Matzek had an uneven spring. While he was outstanding late in the season, he had some downright poor starts in March and April, sitting at just 88-92 with flattened breaking balls. Like many high school power pitchers, he's rarely used or needed a changeup, and he will need to improve it.
Ephemera: The 11th overall pick has not been a kind one for teams drafting pitchers, as the best ever is arguably Shawn Estes.
Perfect World Projection: He has the tools to be an upper-echelon starter, with many believing that his ceiling is higher than that of Friedrich.
Path to the Big Leagues: Right now, his path is just getting to his pro debut, although he has the raw ability to move quickly.
Timetable: Depsite signing too late to get his pro feet wet, the Rockies feel Matzek has the talent and makeup to handle a full-season league, so he'll begin 2010 at Low-A Asheville.

3. Wilin Rosario, C
DOB: 2/23/89
Height/Weight: 5-11/190
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Dominican Republic, 2006
2009 Stats: .266/.297/.404 at High-A (58 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 3

Year in Review: He was a breakout player from the short-season leagues in 2008 who was pushed to High-A for his full-season debut. He struggled, but he also made late-season adjustments.
The Good: Rosario offers above-average skills for a catcher both offensively and defensively. Rosario's bat was just starting to come alive before a wrist injury put him on the shelf, as he hit .319/.365/.507 after the All-Star break and slugged .571 in the Arizona Fall League. He should hit for a good batting average down the road, while his raw power is plus. His arm is his best defensive tool, but he's also a good receiver.
The Bad: Rosario was overmatched by more advanced breaking balls early in 2009, and he needs to tone down his aggressive, free-swinging approach. He needs to improve his game-calling skills and be more aggressive in taking a leadership role on the field. He's compactly built and a slow runner.
Ephemera: While Rosario hit just four home runs during the regular season, he needed just nine AFL games to reach the same total.
Perfect World Projection: He's an everyday big-league catcher with All-Star possibilities.
Path to the Big Leagues: Chris Iannetta could be a roadblock, or he could be gone by the time Rosario is ready.
Timetable: Rosario will begin 2010 at Tulsa, and could be poised for another breakout year.

4. Jhoulys Chacin, RHP
DOB: 1/7/88
Height/Weight: 6-3/200
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Venezuela, 2004
2009 Stats: 3.14 ERA (103.1-87-35-86) at Double-A (18 G); 3.77 ERA (14.1-11-13-11) at Triple-A (4 G); 4.91 ERA (11.0-6-11-13) at MLB
Last Year's Ranking: 2

Year in Review: Entering the year as the top pitching prospect in the system, Chacin was cruising at Double-A and he even reached the big leagues, but his control fell apart during the second half of the year.
The Good: Chacin can flash up to four average-to-plus pitches at times. His two-seam fastball sits at 90-92 mph with explosive late life, while he can dial up a four-seamer to 94 when he needs a little extra. His slider shows good bite, and many scouts believe his changeup is the best offering in the bunch.
The Bad: Chacin's control fell apart following his big-league promotion, with some observers saying he pitched scared, trying to get hitters to chase pitches as opposed to challenging them. There's debate as to Chacin's ultimate upside, as while there are few weaknesses in his game, he also lacks that single big offering.
Ephemera: Big-league right-handed hitters facing Chacin went 1-for-17 with nine strikeouts but they also had eight walks, for a bizarre line of .059/.360/.118.
Perfect World Projection: Chacin's a good third starter.
Path to the Big Leagues: If he starts throwing strikes again, it shouldn't take long.
Timetable: There's little room for Chacin in the big leagues going into camp, but he'll get a long look this spring. He'll likely get enough big-league time to no longer be a prospect by the end of the year.

5. Hector Gomez, SS
DOB: 3/5/88
Height/Weight: 6-2/180
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Dominican Republic, 2004
2009 Stats: .275/.310/.423 at High-A (83 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 7

Year in Review: After missing nearly all of 2008 due to Tommy John surgery, this high-ceiling shortstop had a solid year at High-A Modesto.
The Good: Gomez's tools still give scouts plenty to dream on. He's a long, loose, fast-twitch athlete with enough bat speed and size to project for at least average power down the road. He's an above-average runner with plus range to both sides. Despite the surgery, his arm remains a cannon.
The Bad: Always on the raw side, Gomez is now a bit behind the standard development curve due to missed time. He's prone to silly errors on routine plays in the field, and his swing-at-anything-and-everything approach at the plate needs considerable refinement.
Ephemera: In 16 games for Scottsdale in the Arizona Fall League, and four more contests in the Dominican Winter League, Gomez did not draw a single walk.
Perfect World Projection: There's true star potential here, but it's not without considerable risk.
Path to the Big Leagues: Hey, this 'Tulo' kid is pretty good, huh?
Timetable: Gomez will move up to Double-A in 2010, where the focus will be on the fundamentals.

6. Esmil Rogers, RHP
DOB: 8/14/85
Height/Weight: 6-1/150
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Dominican Republic, 2003
2009 Stats: 2.48 ERA (94.1-87-19-83) at Double-A (15 G); 7.42 ERA (60.2-77-35-46) at Triple-A (12 G); 4.50 ERA (4.0-3-2-3) at MLB (1 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not ranked

Year in Review: Rogers is a converted infielder who took a big step forward at Double-A. He reached the big leagues for one start at the end of the year.
The Good: Rogers' pure arm strength rates highly in the system, as his fastball sits in the low 90s and can get up to 96 mph on occasion. He throws a power curveball that flashes plus. Unlike most converted players, Rogers actually looks like a pitcher on the mound, with a classic delivery and clean arm action.
The Bad: Rogers doesn't have much of a changeup, as he currently telegraphs the pitch with a much slower delivery. He has a tendency to overthrow at times, causing all of his pitches to flatten out.
Ephemera: Rogers allowed zero earned runs in seven of his 15 starts for Tulsa.
Perfect World Projection: He's a third or fourth starter if the changeup comes around.
Path to the Big Leagues: He's behind Chacin on the depth chart, and Friedrich is breathing down his neck.
Timetable: After struggling in the thin air of Triple-A Colorado Springs late last year, Rogers will return there in 2010.

7. Tim Wheeler, OF
DOB: 1/21/88
Height/Weight: 6-4/205
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2009, Cal State Sacramento
2009 Stats: .256/.332/.381 at Short-season (68 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Did not qualify

Year in Review: One of the best statistical performers on the college circuit, Wheeler was expected to go in the second half of the first round. He ended up being selected with the round's final pick.
The Good: Wheeler's game has few weaknesses. He's a big athlete who works the count well, makes consistent contact, and has at least average power. He's a good outfielder with enough speed to play center in a pinch, and his arm is solid.
The Bad: Scouts wonder about Wheeler's ultimate upside, as while he doesn't have a single below-average tool, nothing about him says he will be a star, either. With his size, he'll likely lose a step down the road and be limited to right field, meaning that his bat will need to develop that much more. His swing can get long at times.
Ephemera: While Wheeler is the highest=drafted player ever from Sacramento State, he went unselected out of El Camino High in Sacramento, the same school that graduated Cubs All-Star Derrek Lee.
Perfect World Projection: Wheeler won't be an impact player, but he will be a solid everyday outfielder.
Path to the Big Leagues: While he's hardly big-league ready, the Rockies don't have a long-term answer in right field.
Timetable: Wheeler is advanced enough to make a full-season debut at Modesto in 2010.

8. Rex Brothers, LHP
DOB: 12/18/87
Height/Weight: 6-0/205
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2009, Lipscomb
2009 Stats: 3.38 ERA (10.2-10-5-18) at Short-season (8 G); 3.38 ERA (10.2-6-3-10) at Low-A (9 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Did not qualify

Year in Review: Seen by many as a potential first-round pick, Brothers fell just out of the round, going two picks after Wheeler.
The Good: Brothers has impressive power stuff for a short left-hander, beginning with a fastball that touched 97 mph on several occasions last spring. His slider is a true plus offering that can make hitters look silly, and he thrived in a bullpen role following his signing.
The Bad: While a starter in college, Brothers' size and lack of a changeup has his pro career firmly entrenched in the bullpen. His fastball can get straight at times, and he tends to work in the upper half of the zone. He was very inconsistent this spring, in terms of both performances and velocity.
Ephemera: Left-handed hitters facing Brothers in his pro debut went 3-for-21 with 11 strikeouts.
Perfect World Projection: He's a late-inning reliever and possible closer.
Path to the Big Leagues: With no need to develop a third pitch or starter's stamina, Brother could rocket through the system.
Timetable: Brothers will likely begin 2010 at Modesto, but he could be at Double-A by mid-season. He's expected to play an integral role in the Rockies' bullpen by 2011.

9. Casey Weathers, RHP
DOB: 6/10/85
Height/Weight: 6-1/200
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st Round, 2007, Vanderbilt
2009 Stats: Did not play
Last Year's Ranking: 5

Year in Review: The Rockies' top pick in 2007 missed the entire season recovering from Tommy John surgery.
The Good: Weathers' game is all about power, and his fastball sits at 94-97 mph while often touching 98-99. He throws a hard slider that flashes plus at times, he's an intelligent pitcher with the mindset of a closer, and he wants to be on the mound with the game on the line.
The Bad: Weathers' delivery was always violent, and the hope is that smoother mechanics can keep him healthy while also combating his control issues. He can overthrow the slider at times, causing it to simply sweep across the plate and making him highly susceptible against left-handed hitters.
Ephemera: Weathers did not start pitching until junior college, when he took the mound on a bet to see how hard he could throw and touched 94 mph.
Perfect World Projection: If the arm returns to form, he has closer potential.
Path to the Big Leagues: For now, it's a path back to the mound, as he hasn't pitched in a minor-league game for nearly 18 months.
Timetable: Expected to be 100 percent for spring training, Weathers' performance will dictate his 2010 assignment, with the most likely starting point being Tulsa.

10. Eric Young Jr., 2B
DOB: 5/25/85
Height/Weight: 5-10/180
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted/Signed: 30th round, 2003, Chandler-Gilbert CC (AZ)
2009 Stats: .299/.387/.430 at Triple-A (119 G); .246/.295/.316 at MLB (30 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 9

Year in Review: A fourth straight nearly identical season finally got Young to the big leagues in September, where he made the post-season roster.
The Good: Young's game is all about speed and knowing how to use it. He works the count well and laces lines drives all over the field. With 177 stolen bases over the past three minor-league seasons and a nearly 80-percent success rate, he's a threat to run every time he's on base, and scouts love his makeup.
The Bad: Young is a poor defensive second baseman who needs to improve his footwork, double-play turn, and throwing fundamentals. He's been tried in the outfield as well, with mixed results. He's an is-what-he-is player who offers little upside beyond his current abilities.
Ephemera: In a true rarity for minor leaguers, when Young was called up to the big leagues last August, it was the first time in his career he'd ever played for more than one team in a single season.
Perfect World Projection: He looks like his dad, and plays just like him, too. It's the easiest comp in the world of prospects.
Path to the Big Leagues: It depends on if the Rockies want to get value out of him now or try to develop him more.
Timetable: Young could break camp as a utility player, or he could get more consistent at-bats with a return to Triple-A.

11. Michael McKenry, C
DOB: 3/4/85
Height/Weight: 5-10/200
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 7th round, 2006, Middle Tennessee State
2009 Stats: .279/.376/.455 at Double-A (102 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 6

Year in Review: A solid catching prospect, McKenry didn't have the breakout campaign some expected, although he had a solid year at Double-A.
The Good: While he'll never hit for a high average, McKenry still brings a lot to the table offensively, as his understanding of the strike zone ranks with anyone in the system, and his raw power is average to a tick above. He's a very good defensive catcher with excellent catch-and-throw skills, and he earns high praise for his leadership skills.
The Bad: McKenry's swing is long and has a bit of an uppercut. He's short, stocky, and a well below-average athlete who can be a bit of a base clogger.
Ephemera: Of McKenry's 12 Texas League home runs in 2009, five came against Springfield (Cardinals).
Perfect World Projection: He's a second-division starting catcher.
Path to the Big Leagues: Rosario is behind him, so there's a competition here.
Timetable: McKenry will move up to Triple-A in 2010, and he could end up in the big leagues at some point in the season.

The Sleeper: Constantly beset by injuries, Australian right-hander Shane Lindsay has true big-league swing-and-miss stuff, a career rate of 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings, and could finally get to the big leagues this year (if he stays healthy, of course).

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (Born 4/1/84 or later)

1. Troy Tulowitzki, SS
2. Carlos Gonzalez, OF
3. Dexter Fowler, OF
4. Christian Friedrich, LHP
5. Tyler Matzek, LHP
6. Franklin Morales, LHP
7. Ian Stewart, 3B
8. Wilin Rosario, C
9. Jhoulys Chacin, RHP
10. Hector Gomez, SS

Tulowitzki is nothing short of a superstar, and Gonzalez has always had the potential to earn the same title, with many hoping that 2009 was the year that he learned that effort and dedication could be just as important as talent. Fowler's rookie year was definitely a success, and it should only get better from here. That's three under-25 talents already in the big leagues with perennial All-Star possibilities. Reports from Venezuela over the winter had Morales reportedly looking excellent, and the pure stuff has always been there. Consistently overrated during his prospect days, Stewart remains so as a big leaguer, as a power-only third baseman with a career line of .234/.314/.439 away from Coors.

Summary: While the organization is desperately short of position players, that fact is mitigated with the amount of young, potentially elite-level players already in the big leagues. Two potential left-handed monsters lead an impressive number of arms, leaving the Rockies as a likely consistent contender in the National League West.

Next up: the Florida Marlins.

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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