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TOP 10 PROSPECTS
|1. Brendan Rodgers, ss|
|2. Riley Pint, rhp|
|3. Jeff Hoffman, rhp|
|4. Raimel Tapia, of|
|5. German Marquez, rhp|
|6. Ryan Castellani, rhp|
|7. Tom Murphy, c|
|8. Kyle Freeland, lhp|
|9. Ryan McMahon, 3b/1b|
|10. Antonio Senzatela, rhp|
The transformation has been quick, but virtually unnoticed from afar. With the emergence of a new leadership approach in Colorado two offseasons ago, the Rockies’ focus returned to the basics of baseball.
No more gimmicks. No more moaning about altitude. No more attempts to reinvent the wheel. And look what has happened.
A franchise built on scouting and player development finds itself so confident in the talent it has developed—and the talent that is on the way—that it signed free agent Ian Desmond, not to patch a hole, but to play first base and bring playoff experience.
In other words, the Rockies believe they will be a factor in the National League West in 2017.
It all starts with the homegrown nucleus and confidence in the farm system.
The Rockies will go to spring training with a lineup in which five of the eight projected regulars will be homegrown: third baseman Nolan Arenado, shortstop Trevor Story, left fielder David Dahl, center fielder Charlie Blackmon and catcher Tom Murphy. At least three members of the rotation will be players originally signed and developed by the Rockies—Jon Gray, Tyler Anderson and Chad Bettis—and the farm system should provide other pieces as well, such as righthander Jeff Hoffman and lefthander Kyle Freeland.
At 27, Bettis is the elder statesman. Gray posted a Rockies-record 16 strikeouts in a September shutout, while fellow rookie Anderson, a 2011 first-round pick who didn’t even rank among the Top 30 Prospects a year ago, recorded a 3.54 ERA in 19 starts after an injury-plagued tour of the minor leagues.
And there is more on the way.
Scouting director Bill Schmidt, long praised for his ability to uncover young hitting talent, is now also earning respect for the ability of his staff to find quality big league pitchers.
What a difference a change in organizational philosophy can make. With the hiring of Jeff Bridich as general manager and the departure of Bill Geivett from the front office, the Rockies’ approach to pitching development changed drastically. For one thing, the Rockies no longer fear pitchers throwing curveballs at altitude.
The Rockies are building a pitching staff around power pitchers focused on doing what they do best, regardless of the environment. The 4.79 ERA the rotation compiled in 2016 was the ninth-best in the franchise’s 24-year history.
The NL West has two mega-franchises at the top—the Dodgers and Giants—but the Rockies have more than enough offense to do the job if the pitching develops. The ingredients for Colorado to contend in 2017 and beyond are in place, and they came primarily from within the organization.
1. Brendan Rodgers, ss |
Born: August 6, 1996. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 185. Drafted: HS—Lake Mary, Fla., 2015 (1st round). Signed by: John Cedarburg.
Background: Rodgers grew up in a family that had a focus on soccer, but his attention turned to baseball at the age of 5. His best friend’s father, Ralph Nema, introduced Rodgers to baseball and coached him a good part of his youth. He was a multi-sport participant during his youth, but in kindergarten he proclaimed he would be a baseball player when he grew up. He certainly had big league touches to his development. While Nema was his youth coach, former big leaguers Dante Bichette, an original Rockies outfielder, and all-star closer Tom Gordon also coached Rodgers. He was considered the top prospect in the 2015 draft but slipped to the Rockies with the No. 3 pick when the two teams ahead of them opted for college shortstops. The Diamondbacks took Vanderbilt’s Dansby Swanson at No. 1 and the Astros selected Louisiana State’s Alex Bregman at No. 2, and they both reached the majors in 2016. The Rockies signed Rodgers to a franchise-record $5.5 million bonus. His pro beginning was a challenge. He battled nagging foot, hamstring and hip injuries at Rookie-level Grand Junction in 2015, limiting him to 37 games and leading scouts who hadn’t seen him as an amateur to question his attitude and potential. At low Class A Asheville in 2016, Rodgers reaffirmed his elite status. He finished third in the South Atlantic League in home runs (19) and fourth in slugging (.480) despite being one of only 14 players in the SAL who was younger than 20.
Scouting Report: Don’t be misled by the fact Rodgers saw time at second and third base as well as shortstop in 2016. The Rockies still feel he has a strong future at shortstop, but the front office is trying to create flexibility with its prospects so that they will be able to fill various holes. With Rodgers’ athleticism and power potential he could fit anywhere in the infield. He has elite bat speed and good feel for the bat head, and he punished fastballs before SAL pitchers adjusted and fed him a steady diet of offspeed stuff. He made adjustments but will have to do so against quality sliders he rarely saw as an amateur. He has a polished approach for such a young hitter with solid plate discipline. With strength and conditioning in the offseason, he will add strength and durability. He has quality actions at shortstop and a solid, at times plus, arm that will improve in its consistency with added strength. Rodgers does not have the speed of a player who would be considered a basestealing threat, but his athletic ability and instincts give him surprising range.
The Future: The Rockies see Rodgers as an eventual all-star and feel confident he can attain that goal at shortstop if he can stay healthy. A hamstring problem landed him on the disabled list in May 2016, and he went through a dead-arm period in his first full season that he must learn from. The Rockies will allow Rodgers to force the issue when he is ready—they have Trevor Story in Colorado, and he just set an NL record for homers by a rookie shortstop—but the next step is high Class A Lancaster.