Colorado Rockies Top 20 Prospects for 2013
The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2013 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders. Order early and order often!
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS:
Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a reasonable chance of becoming stars or superstars. Almost all Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don't intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.
Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.
Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Some end up as role players or bench guys. Many don't make it at all.
Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise, and some C+ prospects (especially at lower levels) turn out very well indeed.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for my full opinion about a player, the letter grade only tells you so much. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.
ALL GRADES ARE PRELIMINARY AND SUBJECT TO CHANGE. No grade is final until January 15th, 2013
1) Trevor Story, SS, Grade B+: Borderline A-: I want to see how his contact issues look against better pitching, but overall there are a lot of things to like here. . .power, speed, walks, defense, a complete package if the strikeouts don't eat him up. I don't expect they will. Ranks a bit ahead of Dahl due to defensive premium.
2) David Dahl, OF, Grade B+: Borderline A-. Almost went with the A-, but Story needs to rank ahead due to defensive premium and longer track record. I like them both. Like Story, Dahl can be a complete offensive player with power, speed, and defensive contributions. I just want to see him outside the Pioneer League.
3) Nolan Arenado, 3B; Grade B+: Glove is very good, should be a solid but not outstanding hitter in a neutral environment, say .275/.330/.450, however Coors Field should play to his strengths and goose those numbers.
4) Kyle Parker, OF, Grade B: Made very good progress cutting down on his strikeouts and improving plate discipline, and I don't think his power was a Cal League illusion. Not a .300 hitter in a neutral environment, but should be a 20+ homer guy.
5) Edwar Cabrera, LHP, Grade B-: He's got that killer changeup, low-90s fastball, and a decent-enough curve, plus he pitched well in Colorado Springs. Whether that's enough to survive Coors, I don't know, but in a neutral environment I think he'd be a solid fourth starter.
6) Eddie Butler, RHP, Grade B-: Sinker/slider combo with velocity plus movement gave him 2.13 ERA with 55/13 K/BB, 1.96 GO/AO in the Pioneer League. Poor changeup may limit him to relief at higher levels, but if it comes around he could be a number three starter.
7) Tyler Anderson, LHP, Grade B-: Average fastball but excellent changeup and control resulted in 2.47 ERA in Low-A, 81/28 K/BB in 120 innings. Breaking ball is so-so and limits his strikeout potential. Projects as a number four starter.
8) Corey Dickerson, OF, Grade B-: At some point people just have to admit that the guy can hit, mediocre tools and middling glove aside. May not be a big batting average guy, but the power is real in my view.
9) Tyler Matzek, LHP, Grade C+: Stuff isn't the problem, but will his command ever be good enough for the stuff to matter? I have no idea. Grade A arm, but Grade C/D+ in the control and consistency departments.
10) Rafael Ortega, OF, Grade C+: Line drive hitter with amazing defensive skills, but needs to prove that his bat will hold up against advanced pitching. Double-A will tell us if he can be a possible regular or just a good fourth outfielder.
11) Chad Bettis, RHP, Grade C+: Missed entire season with shoulder problems. He's a solid Grade B prospect if healthy, as a mid-rotation starter or (more probably) a relief option and potential closer due to his issues with the changeup. Both fastball and slider are plus/plus pitches.
12) Tom Murphy, C, Grade C+: Third round pick from University of Buffalo is somewhat raw as college players go, but is athletic, has power, and unlike Will Swanner he'll stay at catcher.
13) Will Swanner, C, Grade C+: Enormous power, 30-homer potential, but his strikeout problems (101 in 325 AB) may preclude batting average/OBP against better pitching. His defense is terrible, caught 10% of runners and gave up 120 stolen bases in 75 games behind the plate in Low-A.
14) Ryan Wheeler, 3B-1B, Grade C+: Acquired in trade with Diamondbacks. Adequate glove at third could keep position warm until Arenado is ready. Bat is average with decent power and should play well in Coors.
15) Tim Wheeler, OF, Grade C+: Hamate injury sapped power, hit just two homers in Triple-A after knocking 33 in Double-A in 2011. True level of talent is somewhere in between. Has problems hitting lefties, solid glove, platoon/fourth outfielder profile.
16) Jayson Aquino, LHP, Grade C+: Highly projectable lefty made brief but successful debut in Pioneer League (1.87 ERA in 43 innings) after dominating Dominican Summer League. 88-92 now with more heat possible, has a good changeup, working on breaking stuff, just turned 20.
17) Rob Scahill, RHP, Grade C+: Easy to overlook due to 5.68 ERA in Triple-A, but that's Colorado Springs and his FIP was two runs lower. Quality fastball/sinker/slider combination could be useful in pen if command is there, could also be fifth starter.
18) Joe Gardner, RHP, Grade C+: Another sinkerballer with 2.04 GO/AO in Double-A, should see the majors sometime this year. Like Scahill, he could be a back-end starter or a reliever that you can stretch out more than one inning.
19) Danny Rosenbaum, LHP, Grade C+: Rule 5 pick from Nationals could stick in bullpen with a chance to start at some point given good durability history, control, and ground ball tendency (2.29 GO/AO in Double-A). We should sense a theme here with sinker specialists Rosenbaum, Gardner, and Scahill all in line for trials.
20) , C, Grade C+: Seventh round pick out of high school in Puerto Rico is stocky at 5-10, 200, but quite mobile, should develop into a good defensive catcher, has power potential, hit .319/.370/.452 in Pioneer League. Long-term prospect but quite interesting.
OTHER GRADE C+ PLAYERS: Cristhian Adames, SS; Rosell Herrera, INF; Seth Willoughby, RHP. These guys could easily slot in the 16-20 range but I wanted to highlight guys closer to the majors.
OTHERS: Charlie Culberson, 2B; Taylor Featherston, INF; Ryan Garvey, OF; Angel Lezama, RHP; Kent Matthes, OF; Sam Mende, INF; Scott Oberg, RHP; Jeff Popick, OF; Harold Riggins, 1B; Helmis Rodriguez, LHP; Antonio Senzatela, RHP; Peter Tago, RHP; Ryan Warner, RHP; Max White, OF; Danny Winkler, RHP; Julian Yan, OF.
As everyone knows, the Rockies have a unique challenge in developing players for the extreme offensive conditions in Coors Field.
The strength is the hitting at the top of the system. Aside from a poor July, Arenado's 2012 season was in line with what he did in 2011 once league contexts are considered. His glove is coming along nicely and he should be a productive hitter, if a bit short of stardom. Story and Dahl have a few questions to answer, but if things go well both can be A-grade prospects a year from now. I am pro-Parker, so at the top of the chart you have four players who should be solid regulars at least and possibly (probably?) more. Dickerson, Ortega, and both Wheelers should all be valuable role players of some variety. There are also some interesting middle infield types with unproven bats to provide some depth beyond Story. I also like the catching depth, even if I doubt Swanner behind the plate both Murphy and Wilfredo Rodriguez from the 2012 draft are very promising.
Things are tougher on the pitching side. The most advanced pitching prospect is Cabrera, who is unconventional but successful, though whether that will work in Coors is unknown. Matzek and Bettis have higher upside, but Tyler's command troubles are legendary and Chad's shoulder is worrisome for me until he proves his health. Both could thrive, both could bust. We need higher level data from Butler and Anderson but neither of them have done anything wrong yet. Products of the Latin American program like Aquino and the successful pitchers in the Dominican Summer League like Rodriguez and Senzatela need innings but could be breaktroughs in the lower levels of the system. There is quite a bit of material that could fit in a bullpen, much of it close to the majors.
In short, the Rockies system has some weak points and needs some pitchers with fewer question-marks, but there is positional depth that many teams would envy, especially at the top.