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Top Ten Prospects: Colorado Rockies
Complete Index of Top 10s

By Tracy Ringolsby
December 12, 2005


Chat Wrap -- Tracy Ringolsby took your questions
Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2006.

The Rockies’ rebuilding began in earnest in 2005. While enduring their fifth straight losing season and tying the Pirates for the worst record in the National League, they used a franchise-record 19 rookies, including nine from last year’s Top 30 Prospects list. Rookies made more starts (584) and appearances (942) for Colorado than for any other team.

Clint Barmes took over at shortstop and emerged as an early NL rookie-of-the-year favorite before he fell down a flight of stairs and broke his left collarbone. Jeff Francis joined revitalized Aaron Cook and Jason Jennings to give the Rockies three homegrown arms at the front of the rotation. Third baseman Garrett Atkins, right fielder Brad Hawpe and center fielder Cory Sullivan all became regulars, with varying degrees of success, with only catcher J.D. Closser a disappointment. Marcos Carvajal and Scott Dohmann had their moments pitching in relief.

Though the influx of talent in Colorado drained the system of much of its depth at the upper levels, the Rockies do have some more prospects on the verge of contributing. First baseman/outfielder Ryan Shealy, righthander Ryan Speier and outfielder Ryan Spiborghs all could play roles for the Rockies in 2006. So too could infielder Omar Quintanilla, acquired in a midseason trade with the Athletics.

Most of Colorado’s next wave of impact talent spent 2005 at high Class A Modesto, one of the club’s two affiliates to make the postseason. Third baseman Ian Stewart and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki are elite players and the organization’s top two prospects. Other Modesto standouts to watch include righthanders Ubaldo Jimenez and Juan Morillo, catcher Chris Iannetta and shortstop Matt Macri.

Scouting director Bill Schmidt and his staff turned in another promising draft in 2005, starting with Tulowitzki. Expected to go to the Mariners with the No. 3 overall pick before the draft, he fell to the Rockies at No. 7 when Seattle changed directions. Righthander Chaz Roe (supplemental first round) asserted himself as one of the system’s best pitching prospects, and a pair of late-rounders starred in the Rookie-level Pioneer League. Infielder Corey Wimberly (sixth) followed up an NCAA Division I batting title with a pro crown by hitting .381, while righty Andrew Johnston (ninth) used a heavy sinker to tie a league mark with 18 saves.

The Rockies’ Latin American scouting department continues to thrive under the guidance of Rolando Fernandez. Dominicans Franklin Morales, Jimenez, Morillo, Samuel Deduno and Manuel Corpas all have flashed mid- to upper-90s fastballs. Australian righty Shane Lindsay, another hard thrower, ranked as the top prospect in the short-season Northwest League. After failing miserably by trying to import free-agent pitching—the Rockies lavished $172 million in contracts for Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle, who went 40-51 for Colorado—they’re trying to find a different solution.


1. IAN STEWART, 3b      Born: April 5, 1985 B-T: L-R Ht: 6-3 Wt: 205
Drafted: HS—Garden Grove, Calif., 2003 (1st round)   Signed by: Todd Blyleven

Background: In their first 11 drafts, the Rockies took a position player in the first round just once—Todd Helton in 1995. Since then, they have taken Stewart with the 10th overall pick in 2003, followed by shortstops Chris Nelson in 2004 and Troy Tulowitzki in 2005. Before signing for $1.95 million, Stewart starred as an amateur, winning a bronze medal with Team USA at the 2002 World Junior Championships and leading La Quinta (Calif.) High to a No. 3 national ranking in 2003. He ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Rookie-level Pioneer League in 2003 and No. 2 in the low Class A South Atlantic League in 2004 before facing adversity for the first time in 2005. A pulled hamstring forced him to spend April in extended spring training, and a sprained right wrist cost him a week in June. But he reinforced Colorado’s confidence in his potential by rallying to hit .299-11-52 in his final 60 games at high Class A Modesto to rate as the fourth-best prospect in the California League. He batted .333-3-12 in 12 Arizona Fall League games before reinjuring his wrist sliding into second base.

Strengths: Stewart should be a quality run producer in the middle of a big league lineup. He has quick hands that allow him to wait on pitches, and his pitch recognition is strong. He’s a natural hitter with bat speed, strength and a slight uppercut which generates loft power. He can drive balls out of the park to the opposite field. He handles lefthanded pitching better than most lefty hitters, in part because his father is a southpaw and has thrown him batting practice for years. Stewart is driven to be an elite player, and he makes no qualms that he expects to become not only an all-star, but also a Gold Glover. He has average speed and plus arm strength.

Weaknesses: Stewart’s swing can get a little long, but his bat is quick enough to compensate. He did have some problems early on in 2005 when pitchers fed him a steady diet of breaking balls and offspeed pitches. He showed the ability to adjust and took advantage of that pitching pattern later in the season. Stewart’s third-base defense needs the most work. He made impressive strides in 2004 but seemed to level off in 2005. He reacts a little slowly and has trouble with hard-hit balls directly at him. If Garrett Atkins builds on his rookie season in Colorado, it’s possible that Stewart could move to right field, a shift some scouts thought was inevitable when he was in high school. However, he has improved and won’t change positions any time soon.

The Future: Stewart didn’t suffer any structural damage when he reinjured his wrist and is expected to be 100 percent by spring training. He’ll move to Double-A Tulsa and could reach Triple-A Colorado Springs by midseason if he stays healthy. If all goes according to plan, his bat could earn him a trip to the majors in September, but a more likely scenario is a mid-2007 arrival at Coors Field. He should follow in Helton’s footsteps and become the organization’s second homegrown star.

2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Modesto (Hi A) .274 .353 .497 435 83 119 32 7 17 86 52 113 2 2


2. TROY TULOWITZKI, ss        Born: October 10, 1984 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-3 Wt: 205
Drafted: Long Beach State, 2005 (1st round)   Signed by: Todd Blyleven

Background: Tulowitzki has been compared to Bobby Crosby since succeeding him at shortstop for Long Beach State. The seventh overall pick in the 2005 draft, he signed for $2.3 million. He went straight to high Class A, and the only negative in his pro debut was a torn quadriceps that limited him to 22 games.


Strengths:
Most scouts think Tulowitzki is slightly ahead of Crosby, the 2004 American League rookie of the year, at the same stage of their careers and a better fit at shortstop. Tulowitzki has the stroke, strength and bat speed to hit 25-30 homers annually. Though he’s big, he doesn’t sacrifice any athleticism. He has above-average range and arm strength, and his exceptional instincts allow him to extend his range.

  

Weaknesses:
Tulowitzki sometimes can get out of control and too aggressive at the plate. He could control the strike zone a little better. A broken hamate bone in the spring and the torn quad restricted his development in 2005.

  

The Future:
Despite the injury, Tulowitzki should be able to handle the jump to Double-A for his first full season. He could be Colorado’s starter by 2007.

2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Modesto (Hi A) .266 .343 .457 94 17 25 6 0 4 14 9 18 1 0


3. FRANKLIN MORALES, lhp       Born: January 24, 1986 B-T: L-L Ht: 6-0 Wt: 170
Signed: Venezuela, 2002 Signed by: Francisco Cartaya

Background: The Rockies brought Morales along slowly in his first full season in the United States. Signed out of the Dominican Republic at 16, he worked in relief early in 2005 before moving into the low Class A Asheville rotation. He improved greatly from his 7.62 ERA at Rookie-level Casper in his U.S. debut.


Strengths:
Morales has a live arm. His fastball ranges from 92-98 mph and sits at 94-95. Working from a three-quarters arm slot, he shows a good curveball and an average changeup already. He’s tough to run on. He demonstrates a flair and confidence beyond his youth on the mound.

  

Weaknesses:
Like most young pitchers, Morales lacks consistency. He tends to overthrow when he gets in trouble, costing him control. He needs to throw more strikes, especially when he faces more advanced hitters who will wait him out. He has the basics of a good delivery, though he doesn’t always maintain it.

  

The Future:
Morales will open 2006 in high Class A. The Rockies have shown a willingness to be patient with young Latin pitchers, but they think he has a chance to be special and could accelerate his timetable.

2005 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Asheville (Lo A) 8 4 3.08 21 15 0 1 96 73 6 48 108 .214


4. CHAZ ROE, rhp        Born: October 9, 1986 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-5 Wt: 180
Drafted: HS—Lexington, Ky., 2005 (1st round, supplemental pick)   Signed by: Scott Corman

Background: Roe had a chance to follow in the footsteps of his father Donald and play football at Kentucky, but he decided to focus on baseball after having two concussions in high school. The Twins and Braves considerd him in the late first round of the 2005 draft, but he slipped to the Rockies with the 32nd pick. He signed for $1.025 million and made the Pioneer League all-star team in his debut.


Strengths:
Roe has a low-90s fastball with hard downward movement and tops out at 95. He has the makings of a downright nasty curveball, which one national crosschecker called the best he’d seen from a high school pitcher in the last decade. Loose and athletic, he has the ideal build for future projection. His work ethic and feel for the game stood out in Rookie ball.

  

Weaknesses:
Roe’s curveball is still inconsistent and gets slurvy at times. He also needs to polish up his changeup. He’s also working on his control, which is hindered when he rushes his delivery and loses balance. He can get too aggressive at times.

  

The Future:
If everything clicks, Roe can be a front-of-the-rotation starter. He’ll probably open his first full season in low Class A.

2005 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Casper (R) 5 2 4.17 12 12 0 0 50 31 2 36 55 .175


5. UBALDO JIMENEZ, rhp        Born: January 22, 1984 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-4 Wt: 200
Signed: Dominican Republic, 2001   Signed by: Rolando Fernandez

Background: Jimenez was on a roll in high Class A in 2004 when the Rockies discovered the beginnings of a stress fracture in his right shoulder. He started slowly in 2005 but earned a promotion to Double-A and adapted well by season’s end.


Strengths:
Jimenez is a pure power pitcher capable of reaching 96-98 mph, and he worked consistently around 92-94 in 2005. His 12-to-6 curveball is a swing-and-miss out pitch, and he has the confidence to throw it when he’s behind in the count. He flashes a plus changeup at times. His confidence has grown with his mastery of English.

  

Weaknesses:
Jimenez’s mechanics had to be completely overhauled to get him back into a compact motion directed at the plate. He still needs to improve his command and his changeup. Though his shoulder woes appear behind him, questions about his health and his delivery prompt some to project him as a future closer.

  

The Future:
Though he’ll return to Double-A to begin 2006, Jimenez could finish the season in Colorado. He has shown too much potential as a starter to consider moving him to the bullpen at this time.

2005 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Modesto (Hi A) 5 3 3.98 14 14 0 0 72 61 5 40 78 .232
Tulsa (AA) 2 5 5.43 12 11 0 0 63 58 12 31 53 .243


6. SHANE LINDSAY, rhp        Born: January 25, 1985 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-1 Wt: 205
Signed: Australia, 2003  Signed by: Phil Allen

Background: The first major Australian free agent signed by the Rockies, Lindsay emerged as the short-season Northwest League’s top prospect in 2005. He led the league in strikeouts while ranking second in wins and third in ERA. He left the league a week early to pitch at the World Cup.


Strengths:
Lindsay is aggressive with his fastball, which sits at 91-92 mph. As a game goes on, his velocity will climb as high as 95-97 mph. He features a good spike curveball that he used with better judgment after throwing it too often in his shaky 2004 pro debut. His circle change should become a solid third pitch.

  

Weaknesses:
Command issues were a major problem for Lindsay in his 2004 debut. A back problem led to bad mechanics that he since has ironed out, but like most of the Rockies’ top arms he’ll have to throw more strikes. His ability to locate his curve comes and goes. He’s hesitant to throw his changeup, which he’ll need to be a dominant starter.

  

The Future:
The challenge for Lindsay in 2006 is to prove he can excel at the full-season level. If he passes the test in low Class A, he could move quickly.

2005 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Tri-City (SS) 6 1 1.89 13 13 0 0 67 37 1 34 107 .163


7. CHRIS IANNETTA, c       Born: April 8, 1983 B-T: R-R Ht: 5-11 Wt: 195
Drafted: North Carolina, 2004 (4th round)    Signed by: Jay Matthews

Background: North Carolina has produced big league catchers Dwight Lowry, Scott Bradley, B.J. Surhoff, Matt Merullo and Jesse Levis in the last three decades, and Iannetta is the next in line. Rockies pitcher Aaron Cook raved about his receiving ability while on a rehab assignment at Modesto. Iannetta played in the Futures Game in his first full season.


Strengths:
Iannetta has a compact swing and good pitch recognition, and his bat has been a pleasant surprise. He should hit for average with gap power. His calling card is his defense. He has soft hands, good agility and a plus arm with a strong release. His poise and leadership enable him to help pitchers work through tough situations.

  

Weaknesses:
Iannetta can tie himself up when he gets technical with his approach. He tried to play with a broken left hand late in the season, but he couldn’t grip the bat properly and his performance suffered.

  

The Future:
Iannetta will stay in Double-A to start 2006, but he should be able to make another midseason jump. There’s no one standing in his way to becoming Colorado’s starting catcher in 2007.

2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Modesto (Hi A) .276 .381 .490 261 51 72 17 3 11 58 45 61 1 2
Tulsa (AA) .233 .329 .417 60 7 14 3 1 2 11 8 15 0 0


8. JUAN MORILLO, rhp      Born: November 5, 1983 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-3 Wt: 190
Signed: Dominican Republic, 2001  Signed by: Rolando Fernandez

Background: The Rockies have developed Morillo cautiously, keeping him in Rookie and short-season leagues for his first four years. He made his full season debut in 2005 and advanced to high Class A after six weeks.


Strengths:
Morillo fires easy, effortless gas, and the White Sox reportedly clocked him at 104 mph in 2004. He regularly pops 100 mph and pitches at 95-97. Durable and resilient, he never has missed a start as a pro.

  

Weaknesses:
He may light up radar guns, but Morillo is primarily a one-pitch pitcher. He still needs to learn to command his fastball and improve his secondary pitches. He has a hard slider and a changeup, but he doesn’t have enough command to throw them with confidence. His slider reaches the upper 80s, but he’ll try to throw it too hard and lose break. He led the California League in walks, and even when he throws strikes he often leaves his pitches up in the zone.

  

The Future:
Because he only has one reliable pitch, several scouts foresee Morillo moving to the bullpen, where he could develop into a big league closer. He’ll stay in the rotation in Double-A in 2006.

2005 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Asheville (Lo A) 1 3 4.54 7 7 0 0 34 40 2 14 43 .290
Modesto (Hi A) 6 5 4.41 20 20 0 0 112 107 10 65 101 .258


9. RYAN SHEALY, 1b       Born: August 29, 1979 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-5 Wt: 240
Drafted: Florida, 2002 (11th round)   Signed by: Mike Day

Background: The Rockies took Shealy in the fifth round out of high school in 1998 but didn’t sign him until drafting him again as a college senior. He won two home run titles in his first three pro seasons and would have challenged for the Triple-A Pacific Coast League crown in 2005 if not for his big league time.


Strengths:
Shealy has tremendous strength and makes pitchers pay if they miss on the inner third of the plate. He has the patience to work counts and is comfortable hitting the ball the other way. He has soft hands and has improved at first base.

  

Weaknesses:
The last job for Shealy is to turn on pitches more regularly. Though he’s a big man with limited range and speed, he has lost 30 pounds since spring training in 2005. Blocked at first base by Todd Helton, he hopes his work on conditioning and agility will make him an option as a corner outfielder.

  

The Future:
Coming off an inspiring showing with the Rockies, Shealy has earned a spot on the roster. Finding regular playing time will be a bigger challenge.

2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Colorado Springs (AAA) .328 .383 .601 411 85 135 30 2 26 88 41 81 4 0
Colorado .330 .413 .473 91 14 30 7 0 2 16 13 22 1 0


10. CHRIS NELSON, ss       Born: September 3, 1985 B-T: R-R Ht: 5-11 Wt: 176
Drafted: HS—Decatur, Ga., 2004 (1st round)    Signed by: Damon Iannelli

Background: The Orioles planned on taking Nelson with the eighth overall pick in 2004 until owner Peter Angelos mandated they choose a college pitcher. The Rockies gladly selected him at No. 9 and signed him for $2.15 million. He never got untracked in 2005 while battling groin and hamstring injuries.


Strengths:
Nelson is a line-drive hitter with plus speed. The Rockies think he can hit 25-plus homers on an annual basis once he matures physically and develops lift in his swing. One of the best athletes in the system, he has the size, instincts, quick feet and arm to play shortstop.

  

Weaknesses:
Nelson’s plate discipline left something to be desired in 2005, robbing him of the ability to drive the ball with authority. He also developed a bit of a hitch in his throwing motion, a possible side effect after having Tommy John surgery prior to his senior year in high school. He didn’t square up to the target on throws during the regular season and focused on correcting that during instructional league.

  

The Future:
Nelson profiles at shortstop, but so does Tulowitzki, who should beat him to Colorado. Nelson, who will open 2006 in high Class A, could move to second base or center field if needed.

2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Asheville (Lo A) .241 .304 .330 315 51 76 13 3 3 38 25 88 7 4


Photo Credits:
Troy Tulowitzki: Rich Abel
Stewart: Larry Goren
Roe: Paul Jasienski
Iannetta: Bill Mitchell
Jimenez, Morillo: Steve Moore
Nelson: Sports on Film

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