Raben Adjusts To The Pro Game

Rosario is drawing attention in Casper

After cruising through his first two seasons at Miami (Fla.), Dennis Raben was a talent that many scouts had eyed. Then Raben showcased his abilities with a wood bat in the Cape Cod League in 2007 and it seemed like he was headed for the first round of the 2008 draft.

It was not to be.

Raben pulled a muscle in his back and was shelved until March of this year, then hit just .292 with 10 home runs the rest of the way. His first round dreams never materialized.

"Personally, I feel like I had a very average year there," Raben said. "I feel like I didn't tap into my full potential."

Seattle selected Raben in the second round with the 66th overall selection. The Mariners believed he could fulfill his reputation as a power hitter, even on the heels of his sub-par college season in the spring.

For the first eight games of the season, Raben did not disappoint. He hit an insane .667/.760/1.111 and hit safely in his first nine games overall.

"With the season I had, I can't complain about where I was drafted," Raben said. "I'm sure a change of scenery did me good. I've always had success with wood bats. It was one of those streaks where you think you're never going to get out at the plate."

"When he got here, he was a great addition," Everett manager Jose Moreno said. "He was seeing the ball, hitting the ball, making good contact."

What happened next to Raben, he had experienced before. As fast as his start was, Raben's productivity fell off dramatically. Following his eight-game tear, he had just five hits in his next 37 at-bats. Raben knows that each game will be different than games prior and that each hot streak can be countered by a cold streak.

"That's the thing about having a bad game," Raben said. "As soon as a game is over, it doesn't matter because you have a game that next day. You come back that next day."

Through 23 games, Raben had fallen to .291/.440/.595, still a very good line for a first-year player. His knack for driving the ball was still intact, as 14 of his 23 hits had gone for extra bases.

The approach Raben uses at the plate with Everett is different than the way he approached games when he was with the Hurricanes.

"In college you try to knock out the starter and get to the bullpen," Raben said. "But I've noticed that (in professional baseball) the bullpen is just as tough, if not tougher, than the starter."

Moreno and hitting coach Henry Cotto continue to try to improve his approach and can see him hitting for average in the future.

"We are trying to get him to hit the ball to the other side occasionally," Moreno said. "If he can hit and drive the ball everywhere, he's going to be fine in the future."

Defensively, Raben has manned left field and right field for most of the season, but the Mariners may eventually explore the possibility of playing him at first base. Although he has taken ground balls in practice, Raben had yet to play a game in the infield as a pro.

"His defense in the outfield has been pretty good," Moreno said. "He has good range."

Raben, who said he played first base in high school, made highlight films during the College World Series with his outfield defense and strong throwing arm.

The top-ranked Hurricanes went 1-2 in Omaha, and Raben has already experienced the highs and lows of baseball, as an amateur and as a pro. He knows that one day he will smack extra-base hits, while the next he might go hitless.

"All I can do is have a professional attitude and go about (my) business the right way," Raben said.

—Anthony Tynan

Rosario Draws Attention

If you didn't make it a point to pay attention to Casper catcher Wilin Rosario coming into the 2008 season, don't worry—you weren't alone. Expectations weren't high for Rosario outside of the Rockies organization, as he entered 2008 after struggling through his professional debut in Casper.

Very few took note of Rosario's miserable .209 average or the fact that 38 of his 115 at-bats ended in strikeouts in 2007, but you couldn't blame the Rockies for being a bit troubled by his poor start.

"You saw (his potential) last year in batting practice. The tools and skills were all there, it just didn't always translate to game situations," farm director Marc Gustafson said.

Rosario may have been a batting practice hero in Casper last year, but this year he has been outstanding from the moment he sets foot in the park until the time he leaves. Rosario's offensive numbers have been outstanding for Casper, as he led the Ghosts to a second-place spot in the South Division of the Pioneer League. Rosario's .337/.392/.574 line has put him near the top of the leaderboard in almost every major offensive category in the league.

The highlight of Rosario's year offensively so far has been his pair of two home run games that he put together in the first month of the season. Rosario's first pair came in game one of a doubleheader against Idaho Falls on June 21. He followed up on his impressive display on July 8 with two more home runs in a game at Missoula.

Rosario's huge games and consistent performance throughout the year has raised his profile in the Rockies' system, but the true test of his offensive prowess will come as he climbs the organizational ladder.

"With the rookie ball club you dream big. He could be right up there with the best of them," Gustafson said. "But you try not to put to many expectations on him at the same time."

What may set Rosario apart from other catching prospects in the low minors is the Rockies' confidence in his ability to remain behind the plate. Rosario is naturally a catcher and was scouted as one by Rolando Fernandez in the Dominican Republic, and his defense behind the plate at Casper this year has been excellent. Rosario's first error of 2008 didn't come until 38 games into the season.

"(Catching) is what he does," Gustafson said. "He can block balls, he can throw, he can call a game and he's learning quickly."

Much of Colorado's run to the World Series last year came thanks to a number of young players who skyrocketed through the system to contribute quickly to the big league club. While Rosario is only 19, due to his repeat-status in Casper, he could be do for a late season promotion to a short-season Tri City or low Class A Asheville.

Right now, the known future for Rosario is that he will get plenty of more time behind the plate the rest of the summer and during the offseason. The Rockies plan to send Rosario to instructional league in the fall and possibly the Dominican Winter League.

—Austin Maloney