Does 10 prospects per team only whet your appetite? How does 30 sound? If you want the more of in-depth information you're finding here on three times as many players, Baseball America's 2003 Prospect Handbook is for you.
Two winters after shelling out $172 million to sign lefthanders Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle to provide a veteran foundation for the Rockies rotation, general manager Dan ODowds focus turned to unloading both Hampton and Neagle.
Reality had set in. Though Neagle ended up staying, the Rockies have realized that in the long term theyre better off with collection of quality young pitchers. Theyre faring better trying to establish themselves than veterans have done trying to adapt to Coors Field.
The first indication came in 2001 with the arrival of Shawn Chacon. In 2002, Jason Jennings was selected National League rookie of the year, Denny Stark also received votes and No. 1 prospect Aaron Cook made four quality starts in September.
"If you put the right people together, we could develop a very good staff here," ODowd said. "Is it all going to happen in 2003? Probably not. But theres going to be excitement with the disappointment. There are at least two kids on every (minor league) staff that we look at and feel are going to be big league pitchers. We should have a steady flow of pitchers coming through."
This season, the Rockies figure Jason Young will be ready to make a move to the big leagues. Chin-Hui Tsao, who showed he was recovered from Tommy John surgery with a strong second half in high Class A, could surface late in the season.
"We have more pitchers closer to the big leagues than we have in past years," said Rick Mathews, promoted during the offseason from roving pitching coordinator to major league bullpen coach. "Consequently, thats going to give Dan more opportunities and options to work with the salary structure he has to deal with. Our higher-level pitching prospects, Im not going to say are better, but theres more of them than in past year."
Colorados supply of position players isnt quite as close. Outfielder Jack Cust and utilityman Pablo Ozuna could capture reserve roles this spring. By 2004, higher-ceiling players should be knocking on the door. The nucleus of the teams that won the Carolina League championship in 2001 and a Southern League first-half division title in 2002 will move to Triple-A this year. The most promising prospects among that group are outfielders Rene Reyes, Choo Freeman and Matt Holliday; third baseman Garrett Atkins; shortstop Clint Barmes; and second baseman Javier Colina.
Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 170. Drafted: HSHamilton, Ohio, 1997 (2nd round). Signed by: Ed Santa
Background: After five years in pro ball without getting past high Class A Salem, Cook built on his emergence in the second half of 2001 to move quickly up the final three rungs on the ladder. He started 2002 at Double-A Carolina, where managers voted him the Southern Leagues best pitching prospect. After a brief visit to Triple-A Colorado Springs, he finished the season with the Rockies. He turned in quality starts in his first four attempts. Colorado decided to shut him down in mid-September after he reached 195 innings, surpassing his previous career high. Cook led the system with a 2.37 ERA, pitched in the Futures Game at midseason and was named the organizations minor league pitcher of the year.
Strengths: Cook is a power pitcher with excellent command. His calling card is a heavy sinker that ranges from 93-96 mph. He also uses a four-seam fastball that hits 96-98 mph. He shows stamina, carrying his velocity into late innings and working at least 155 innings in each of the last three seasons. Cook has an exceptional 85-89 mph slurve that looks like a forkball with its late explosion. He refined his mechanics in 2001 and has a compact and smooth delivery that helped his command and velocity. Hes an excellent athlete.
Weaknesses: Cook has to continue to work on his offspeed pitch, particularly at Coors Field, where varying speeds is mandatory. He has experimented with a couple of grips and figures to develop a forkball. His slurve is a key pitch, but he can get a little lazy with it, particularly when he is ahead in the count. He has a tendency to try to overpower hitters when he gets ahead in the count instead of just getting them out. For a pitcher with such electric stuff, Cook doesnt miss as many bats as would be expected.
The Future: Colorado is counting on Cook to fill a rotation spot and pick up where Jason Jennings left off. The Rockies limites Cook to 36 innings in the majors last seasonkeeping him eligible for the National League rookie of the year award, which Jennings won in 2002. Cook eventually will take over as the Rockies No. 1 starter.