Rockies' Winkler Could Be Late-Round Steal

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.—The Rockies hope they struck paydirt again in the 20th round, just as they did in 2007.

That year, their 20th-round pick was lefthanded reliever Matt Reynolds out of Austin Peay State, who has gone on to become a member of the major league bullpen.

Last year, the Rockies took righthander Danny Winkler in the 20th round out of Central Florida. He made his pro debut at Rookie-level Casper, where he went 4-3, 3.92 in 12 starts, allowing 64 hits in 57 innings with 19 walks and a team-leading 65 strikeouts.

"He profiles as a prospect based on the stuff and the arm speed he possesses," said Tony Diaz, who managed Casper and will manage Grand Junction, after that Pioneer League franchise moved. "You've got to like the package. He's pretty aggressive on the mound. He goes after hitters. He has no fear. And he's got a pretty nice combination of fastball and slider right now going for him."

Winkler, 22, touches 94 mph with his fastball and pitches at 91-92 mph. He has a swing-and-miss slider and a changeup that is a work in progress. Concerns about his durability ultimately might result in Winkler moving to the bullpen.

A native of Effingham, Ill., Winkler was drafted by the Cubs in the 43rd round in 2010 out of Parkland (Ill.) JC but went to Central Florida, where he finished 3-4, 4.70 with 24 walks and 92 strikeouts and three homers allowed in 82 innings.

The combination of 140 innings at Central Florida and Casper took its toll. Shoulder soreness kept Winkler from pitching in instructional league last fall, but he is healthy and competing this spring.

"Definitely, you got to like the quickness in his arm," Diaz said, "and he throws strikes."


• Ryan Kibler, 31, will begin his professional coaching career as the Grand Junction pitching coach, replacing Craig Bjornson, whom the Astros hired as their bullpen coach. The Rockies drafted Kibler out of high school in the second round in 1999, and two years later he went a combined 14-5, 2.15 in 184 innings at low and high Class A and Double-A with 62 walks and 161 strikeouts. He went 7-8, 4.91 in 2002 at Double-A but suffered a career-ending shoulder injury.

• Grand Junction had sold 920 season tickets as of early March, well beyond Casper's final total of 264 last year.