Colorado Rockies Top 20 Prospects for 2012
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 of course. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2012 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 good 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. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don't make it at all.
A major point to remember is that grades for pitchers do NOT correspond directly to grades for hitters. Many Grade A pitching prospects fail to develop, often due to injuries. Some Grade C pitching prospects turn out much better than expected.
Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise coming from me, and some C+ prospects 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.
1) Nolan Arenado, 3B, Grade A-: I love the combination of power production and a very low strikeout rate, just 53 whiffs in 517 at-bats. I also like his defense at third base, where he combines steadily-improving reliability with a strong arm and decent range. Scouts love his bat as much as the numbers do. Only negative is lack of speed, but he has All-Star potential.
2) Drew Pomeranz, LHP, Grade A-: Lost velocity late in the year, but had extenuating circumstances (two-week layoff because of the trade with Cleveland, followed by appendectomy) and was still effective even with less zip on the fastball. Projects as a number two starter but could use some Triple-A action to polish up his changeup.
3) Chad Bettis, RHP, Grade B: Borderline B+. 95 MPH sinker and a nasty slider were too much for California League hitters. Still working on curveball and changeup, preventing B+ at this time, but I like him a lot. Could be a number three starter or possibly a closer
4) Trevor Story, SS, Grade B: More power than most shortstops, and he can stick at the position. Great arm, error rate should improve with experience. Also takes walks and steals bases. Main concern is tendency to uppercut, which could reduce batting average at higher levels. With proper development he can be a B+/A- prospect a year from now. . .perhaps more.
5) Tim Wheeler, OF, Grade B: Broad range of skills: tapped into his power last year with 33 homers (plus three more in Arizona Fall League), could also steal 20 bases a year, draws some walks. Problems with left-handed pitching and a high strikeout rate preclude higher grade right now.
6) Tyler Anderson, LHP, Grade B: Borderline B-. Polished strike-thrower from University of Oregon, stuff is a tick better than the typical college finesse pitcher. Should be a fine number three starter assuming he doesn't catch whatever contagion messed up Christian Friedrich.
7) Wilin Rosario, C, Grade B-: Terrific throwing arm and plenty of power, but strike zone judgment has deteriorated. Looks like he may end up something like Miguel Olivo.
8) Kyle Parker, OF, Grade B-: Former Clemson quarterback has excellent power, but also has serious contact issues. We need to see what he can do outside the South Atlantic League and friendly Asheville.
9) Joe Gardner, RHP, Grade B-: I like him more than the numbers say I should, but I love the movement on his fastball. Could end up in relief if secondary pitches remain inconsistent.
10) Josh Rutledge, SS, Grade C+: Borderline B-. Hit .348/.414/.517 in the California League, stole 16 bases. Plate discipline has improved since college at Alabama but could still use work. Likely to wind up at second base.
11) Kent Matthes, OF, Grade C+: Borderline B-: California League MVP hit .334 with 23 homers in just 371 at-bats, season cut short by broken hand. Turns 25 next month, has strike zone issues, need to see at higher levels.
12) Charlie Blackmon, OF, Grade C+: Perfect fourth outfielder profile: some power, some speed, makes contact, solid glove.
13) Edwar Cabrera, LHP, Grade C+: Overmatched A-ball hitters with decent fastball and incredible changeup, still working on breaking ball. Scouts remain lukewarm despite superior numbers and we need to see him in Double-A.
14) Christian Friedrich, LHP, Grade C+: Two disappointing Double-A seasons and this time he doesn't have excuse of a sore elbow. Stock has slipped, but still has a live arm and a chance to be a fourth starter or a relief option.
15) Tyler Matzek, LHP, Grade C+: He's still got the stuff. After going back to his high school mechanics, his command improved from abysmally awful to merely quite poor. Very difficult to get a read on. He had some good games late for Asheville, but some lousy ones, too. You could order Cabrera, Friedrich, and Matzek in any way, depending on if you are most scared of Cabrera's lack of breaking ball, Friedrich's crappy seasons in Double-A, or Matzek's command collapse.
16) D.J. LeMahieu, INF, Grade C+: I haven't given up hope that he can add some power, at least more doubles, and I think his defense is underrated.
17) Rosell Herrera, SS, Grade C+: Will wind up at third base or outfield. Scouts like his switch-hitting offensive potential despite so-so numbers in the Pioneer League. Young at 18, still raw, high upside.
18) Rafael Ortega, OF, Grade C+: Didn't wow with his stats in the Sally League, but has tools, some speed and power potential, good glove, still just 20.
19) Rob Scahill, RHP, Grade C+: Inning-eater with a nice sinker, good slider, chance to surprise in 2012 if he can improve his command.
20) Hector Gomez, SS, Grade C: Strong glove, has some power and speed, injuries and plate discipline problems have held him back, could be a solid utility guy.
OTHERS: Cristhian Adames, SS; Jayson Aquino, LHP; Andrew Brown, OF; Albert Campos, RHP; Corey Dickerson, OF; Tommy Field, INF; Parker Frazier, RHP; Dan Houston, RHP; Jordan Pacheco, C; Ben Paulsen, 1B; Josh Slaats, RHP; Will Swanner, C; Peter Tago, RHP; Dillon Thomas, OF; Carl Thomore, OF; Dan Winkler, RHP.
This is a solid farm system. On offense you have a future star third baseman in Arenado. Wheeler and Rosario have weaknesses but should be solid regulars or good role players. Story could be/should be excellent if he develops at a normal pace. Parker, Matthes, and Rutledge could all become regulars as well, although they all have weaknesses that could get exposed in Double-A. Blackmon and LeMahieu won't be stars but both can contribute in the majors now. Herrera and Ortiz are a long way off but have upside. Gomez and Tulsa teammate Tommy Field will battle for utility roles. Gomez has the tools advantage but Field is a scrapper who should not be underestimated.
Corey Dickerson is a tough one. He couldn't hit outside Asheville and scouts don't like him much, but 32 homers is a lot in any context and he deserves a full shot at higher levels. Let's see what he does in the California League.
I am pro-Pomeranz and I also like 2011 draftee Tyler Anderson. Friedrich is an enigma who could still develop but might need a change of scenery. Cabrera and Matzek are both extremely interesting but for opposite reasons. Of the A-ball lefties, Matzek has the highest ceiling but also the highest bust potential.
Bettis and Gardner both have power sinkers coveted by the organization. Either or both could end up in the bullpen, but Bettis' secondary stuff is better and I think he has the best shot at remaining a starter.
Overall, I like the system. They have depth and a balance of players with tools and polish.