Rockies Prepare Dominican Lefty For U.S. Debut





DENVER—Just as they did a year ago, the Rockies brought the best prospect from their Rookie-level Dominican Summer League team to instructional league.

It worked well with shortstop Rosell Herrera in 2011, and the Rockies hope lefthander Jayson Aquino will see similar benefits in 2012.

Instructional league allowed Aquino, 19, to make his initial appearance in the United States in a relaxed environment and to gain more familiarity with staff members and other Rockies minor leaguers. It will serve as a steppingstone to minor league spring training in March.

Herrera, 19, took that path and hit .284/.361/.449 with six homers and 34 RBIs at Rookie-level Casper in 2011. Aquino will play next year at the same level but a new city: Grand Junction, Colo., where the Rockies have moved the Pioneer League franchise after 11 years in Casper.

Aquino spent the past two seasons in the DSL and went 8-2, 1.30 in 2011, with 22 walks and 80 strikeouts in 90 innings and a .175 opponent average.

"In instructional league he showed some nerves, but he got over it quickly," farm director Jeff Bridich said. "Being in the United States for the first time and facing hitters, he probably had his preconceived notions of how this was going to go and who he was going to be facing and how he was going to throw. And he hit a little speed bump early, but he got over it quickly and showed some really good confidence . . . and pitchablity for a teenager."

At 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, Aquino has a projectable body. He worked a lot on his curveball in instructional league and is developing a feel for it. He has good arm speed on his changeup, which is already a workable pitch but lacks consistency. He pitches at 88-91 mph with his fastball, touches 92 mph and throws the pitch for strikes.

"He's got plenty of arm in there," Bridich said. "We're not concerned about that at all."

ROCKY ROADS

• Catcher Wilin Rosario was hitting .269/.306/.577 with six homers and 25 RBIs for Aguilas in the Dominican League, with five walks and 20 strikeouts in 78 at-bats.

• Center fielder Delta Cleary Jr. separated his left (non-throwing) shoulder toward the end of instructional league but is rehabbing and should be ready to start spring training. Cleary hit .235/.337/.296 in 130 games for high Class A Modesto in 2011.