Colorado Rockies Top 10 Prospects
Index of Top 10 Prospects for all 30 Major League Teams
By Tracy Ringolsby
1. Chin-Hui Tsao, rhp
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 190. Signed: Taiwan, 1999. Signed by: Tim Ireland.
Background: Tsao was the Rockies first impact move on the international market. He was given a then-franchise-record $2.2 million bonus as the franchises first Asian signee after he went 3-0 with 23 shutout innings for Taiwan in the 1999 World Junior Championships. The only amateur to participate in the Asia Cup (a qualifying tournament for the 2000 Olympics), he pitched a 15-strikeout one-hitter against China in his lone start. Tsao continued to dominate in his pro debut. He got the attention of big league scouts when he pitched a perfect inning in an exhibition game against Seattle, which was televised live back to Taiwan. Among the honors he earned were selection to the Futures Game, Class A Asheville team MVP honors, South Atlantic League midseason and postseason all-star recognition, and selection as the SAL pitcher of the year. He was slowed briefly by a midseason blister problem and a late-season tender elbow, but neither injury was considered serious and he finished strong. He tied for second in the SAL in strikeouts and finished fourth in ERA.
Strengths: Tsao is a legitimate power pitcher. He has a fastball that is consistently in the 93-94 mph range, a hard slider, curveball and a changeup. His fastball, slider and curve already are quality big league pitches. The fastball has good sinking action and hell pitch inside. And he does throw strikes. He walked only 40 batters, although hitting five, in 145 innings.
Weaknesses: Tsao needs to maintain his focus. His changeup has the makings of a top-quality pitch but he hasnt had to use it enough to gain total command of it yet. He also is working to adjust to the U.S. culture, including taking advanced English courses. The Rockies kept him at Asheville all of last season so they wouldnt disrupt his lifestyle off the field and have that interfere with his development on the field.
The Future: Tsao has the ability to be a quality No. 1 starter in the big leagues. He could be pushed to Double-A Carolina in 2001 but more likely will go to high Class A Salem. Dont look for him to be moved once the season starts, as the Rockies again want to give him time to adjust culturally.
2. Juan Uribe, ss
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 173. Signed: Dominican Republic, 1997. Signed by: Rodolfo Rosario.
Background: Signed as a 16-year-old out of a tryout camp in his native Dominican Republic, Uribe has put together three quality seasons since coming to the United States. He even has shown power in his two years at full-season Class A, hitting a total of 22 home runs.
Strengths: Uribe is defensively capable of playing in the big leagues right now. He has a rifle arm thats accurate, soft hands and quick feet. Neifi Perez, the National Leagues Gold Glove shortstop in 2000, says he expects Uribe to push him to second base before long. Uribe has basestealing speed and showed a better feel for the art last year, getting caught just five times. He has plus power potential for a middle infielder.
Weaknesses: Uribe is still young and learning. He needs to have a more consistent approach at the plate, working deeper counts and making more frequent contact.
The Future: With the Rockies finally showing depth with middle infielders, theres no reason to rush Uribe. Hell make the natural progression to Double-A this year, and could be in the big leagues by the end of the 2002 season.
3. Choo Freeman, of
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 200. Drafted: HSDallas, 1998 (1st round supplemental). Signed by: Dar Cox.
Background: Freeman was the first sign the Rockies were going to start taking chances with the draft. Having lived by signability in previous years, they didnt hesitate to draft Freeman and give him the $1.4 million it took to keep him from accepting a football scholarship from Texas A&M. A three-sport star at Dallas Christian High, he was a Connie Mack teammate of Blue Jays outfield prospect Vernon Wells. Freeman was selected with a supplemental first-round pick gained for the loss of free agent Andres Galarraga.
Strengths: Freeman is a pure athlete. He has the physical abilities to be an impact center fielder, as well as the power potential to play left field. Hes mentally tough and willing to put in the time it takes to be successful.
Weaknesses: Freeman just needs to play so he can turn his tools into skills. He has started to develop timing at the plate but needs to be more selective. He has the speed to steal 50-plus bases once he gets a better feel for that part of the game.
The Future: Freeman could start at Salem for the second year in a row, with the possibility of moving to Carolina during the season. He would benefit from being allowed to dominate a league.
4. Aaron Cook, rhp
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 175. Drafted: HSLoveland, Ohio (2nd round). Signed by: Ed Santa.
Background: Cook was considered the top talent of the Rockies 1997 draft, in which first-round pick Mark Mangum was a pure signability decision. Cook blossomed last year when he returned to Asheville, finishing eighth in the SAL with a 2.96 ERA. His combined 11 victories were one more than the total from his three previous pro seasons.
Strengths: Cook has good pitchability. He has three quality pitches, and builds off a mid-90s fastball. Hes durable and competes well, responding to the challenge of being in the same rotation as Chin-Hui Tsao last year.
Weaknesses: Like so many young pitchers who always have been able to dominate with their fastball, Cook still is gaining confidence in his changeup. He has the makings of a quality offspeed pitch but doesnt use it enough. As he moves up in pro ball, hell realize how useful changing speeds can be.
The Future: Cook got a taste of Salem at the end of last season and struggled. Like Freeman, hell probably return there to start 2001 in hopes he can dominate.
5. Jason Young, rhp
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 210. Drafted: Stanford, 2000 (2nd round). Signed by: Tom Wheeler.
Background: Considered a possible No. 1 pick in the 2000 draft before the college season began, Young was slowed by tightness in his right shoulder. As a result, the Rockies, who had planned to take him in the first round until Matt Harrington slipped, were able to get Young in the second round. He didnt come cheap. The NCAA Division I strikeout leader as a sophomore, he received a franchise-record $2.75 million bonus, fourth highest given anybody in the 2000 draft.
Strengths: Young has size and strength. His fastball was clocked at 97 mph when he was healthy. He also has command of a hard slider that dominates hitters.
Weaknesses: Young needs to use his changeup better. Once he masters that pitch, he has the potential of being a legitimate No. 1 starter. His command was inconsistent during the college season, which might have been the result of his shoulder troubles.
The Future: Because of prolonged negotiations, Young wont make his pro debut until this spring, most likely at Salem. With his background and arm he could move quickly, and he figures to get to Double-A by midseason. He could arrive in Colorado sometime in 2002.
6. Jason Jennings, rhp
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 230. Drafted: Baylor, 1999 (1st round). Signed by: Dar Cox.
Background: One of just three college players the Rockies have taken with their top pick in nine years of drafting, Jennings was Baseball Americas 1999 College Player of the Year. He went 13-2, 2.58 with 172 strikeouts in 147 innings that year, and also hit .386-17-68 as a DH. His father Jim played baseball for the University of Texas and in the Rangers farm system.
Strengths: Jennings has three pitches he can command in the strike zone. What makes him so attractive for Coors Field is a solid low-90s sinker. He complements it with a hard slider. He draws physical comparisons to Rick Reuschel, who like Jennings was a deceivingly good athlete despite his bulk.
Weaknesses: Jennings can be a bit stubborn at times, but hes competitive enough that he eventually will make the adjustments necessary to succeed at the upper levels. Hes still getting the confidence necessary to throw his changeup in key situations.
The Future: Jennings got a taste of Double-A at the end of last season and will open 2001 back with Carolina. He could be promoted quickly and figures to be in the big leagues in 2002 with a future as a No. 3 starter.
7. Craig House, rhp
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 221. Drafted: Memphis, 1999 (12th round). Signed by: Ty Coslow.
Background: House made a rapid rise in his first year of pro ball, opening 2000 in Class A and making stops at Double-A and Triple-A before finishing the season in the big leagues. A starter in college, he has worked exclusively out of the bullpen in 81 professional appearances.
Strengths: Combine a funky delivery that has his body going in different directions with an upper-90s fastball that could be headed just about anywhere, and House is very intimidating. He also has a mid-80s slider and a changeup that understandably freezes hitters when he throws it for strikes.
Weaknesses: House must find a consistent release point to have better command. He got hitters to chase pitches in the lower minors, but advanced hitters forced him to throw strikes. When he had trouble doing so in the majors, he got hammered.
The Future: House has closer potential, but theres work to be done before hes ready to return to Colorado. Hell start 2001 at Triple-A Colorado Springs.
8. Shawn Chacon, rhp
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 212. Drafted: HSGreeley, Colo., 1996 (3rd round). Signed by: Mike Ericson.
Background: After two years wasted by injuries and off-field problems, Chacon reaffirmed his enormous potential in 2000. He led the Double-A Southern League in strikeouts and shutouts (three), while finishing second in complete games and third in innings. He had turned down a scholarship to Arizona State to sign with the Rockies.
Strengths: Chacon has power-pitcher potential. He has a solid 94 mph fastball and hard slider, which have allowed him to consistently rack up strikeouts. Hes a tough competitor who doesnt back down to hitters.
Weaknesses: Whether Chacon winds up a starter or reliever will depend on how well he develops a changeup. Right now its a raw pitch, though he does throw it with decent action. He needs to get on the mound and get experience after pitching just 128 innings combined in 1998-99. He also still needs to refine his command to take the final step.
The Future: Chacon will make the jump to Triple-A in 2001. Hes on pace to get his first taste of the big leagues in September if he continues the progress he made last year.
9. Josh Kalinowski, lhp
Age: 24. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 210. Drafted: Indiana Hills (Iowa) CC, D/F 1996 (33rd round). Signed by: Jay Darnell.
Background: Kalinowski is a product of Natrona County High in Casper, Wyo., which also produced big leaguers Tom Browning, Mike Devereaux and Mike Lansing. Kalinowski led his league in strikeouts in each of his first two years of full-season ball and was named the high Class A Carolina League pitcher of the year in 1999. But a nagging elbow problem sidelined him for the bulk of 2000 and resulted in arthroscopic surgery.
Strengths: Kalinowski has three-pitch potential. His strikeout pitch is a curveball, and there are no concerns about how Coors Field will affect its break because he learned to throw it in Wyoming. He also has a quality fastball that touches 90 mph. An all-state selection as a high school football and basketball player, hes an excellent athlete who fields his position well.
Weaknesses: Kalinowski must learn to work off his fastball instead of the curveball. He also has to refine a changeup, an important pitch for him to claim a rotation spot. His command will need to improve.
The Future: Kalinowski has been given a clean bill of health after his surgery. He figures to open 2001 back at Carolina with the possibility of a quick promotion to Colorado Springs.
10. Matt Holliday, of
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 220. Drafted: HSStillwater, Okla., 1998 (7th round). Signed by: Lance Nichols.
Background: Holliday comes from a baseball family. His father Tom is the head coach at Oklahoma State, his uncle Dave scouts for the Rockies and his brother Josh is a first baseman in the Blue Jays system. Matt was one of the nations top prep quarterbacks when he came out of high school, but the Rockies signed him for $865,000, the most ever for a seventh-round draft choice.
Strengths: Hollidays bat is the key to his future. His size, bat speed and swing equate to big league power, and he has a good understanding of hitting.
Weaknesses: Holliday has struggled at third base, committing 32 errors last year. His future most likely will be in left field, where he has the power to be an impact player. Hes not a burner, but he does have a feel for the game. It shouldnt take long for him to get comfortable in the outfield. Hell improve at the plate if he develops a little more discipline.
The Future: Its uncertain where Holliday will begin his transition to the outfield. Hes in line for a move to Double-A, though he might be sent back to Salem to have the benefit of a comfortable environment while changing positions. Hes at least two years away from Colorado.
Rest of the Best:
11. Luke Hudson, rhp
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