Colorado Rockies: Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports

Colorado Rockies: Scouting Reports




Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2009.

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Colorado Rockies

After a dream season the year before, 2008 was a bit of a nightmare for the Rockies.

Colorado was Baseball America's Organization of the Year in 2007, winning a franchise-record 90 games with a largely homegrown team that blazed into the postseason with wins in 14 of its final 15 games. The Rockies then blew through the playoffs and reached the World Series for the first time ever before getting swept by the Red Sox.

With a young core of players who all seemed to still be on the way up, along with a farm system that BA rated as the game's seventh-best entering the year, Colorado had high expectations heading into the season. The front office made few moves and was willing to rely on its farm system to fill any holes that appeared.

The major league team never got it together, however, limping along on the fringes of contention all season in the mediocre National League West. The Rockies finally fell out of the running in September and finished 74-88, a decline of 16 wins from 2007.

Troy Tulowitzki, depended on as a franchise cornerstone, was hurt much of the year and batted a lackluster .263/.332/.401 when he did play. Several other young players took steps back as the offense scored 113 fewer runs than it had the year before. On the pitching front, Jeff Francis saw his ERA balloon to 5.01. Former No. 1 prospect Franklin Morales, who looked like a future ace at the end of 2007, went 1-2, 6.39 in five starts and found himself back in Triple-A.

Reflecting the disappointment of the season, the front office made wholesale changes to the big league staff after the season, keeping manager Clint Hurdle but getting rid of just about everyone else. The Rockies also traded their best player, Matt Holliday, to the Athletics ahead of his impending free agency.

The news wasn't any better on the farm, where Morales' performance was reflective of a system where most of the top prospects regressed. Ian Stewart and Greg Reynolds did graduate to the big leagues, though neither marked himself as a surefire regular going forward. Shortstop Hector Gomez and righthander Casey Weathers both had Tommy John surgery.

One bright spot for the organization was the continued development of outfielder Dexter Fowler, who becomes the Rockies' top prospect after playing for Team USA in the Olympics. He'll be expected to step in at center field after the Rockies cleared the way by nontendering Willy Taveras after last season.

Fowler is a great example of Colorado's aggressive nature in recent drafts. In August 2004, the Rockies saved $2 million when they traded Larry Walker to the Cardinals. They used a chunk of that money to sign Fowler, days before he planned to enroll at Miami.

The Rockies' increased presence in Latin America continues to pay dividends. Venezuelan righthander Jhoulys Chacin and Dominican catcher Wilin Rosario were two of their few prospects who significantly boosted their stock in 2008. Chacin led all minor leaguers with 18 wins, while Rosario ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Rookie-level Pioneer League.

1.  Dexter Fowler, of   Born: March 22, 1986B-T: B-RHt: 6-4 Wt: 175
 Drafted: HS—Milton, Ga., 2004 (14th round)Signed by: Damon Iannelli
Dexter FowlerBackground: Fowler had a breakthrough season in 2008 after injuries limited him to 164 games the two previous seasons. A Double-A Texas League all-star for Tulsa, he was selected to play in the Futures Game at Yankee Stadium, played for the U.S. Olympic team, and made his big league debut in September. A 14th-rounder in 2004, Fowler didn't debut until the following season because the Rockies didn't sign him until August, after a trade of Larry Walker provided payroll savings that were used for his $925,000 bonus. Fowler scared teams off because he had offers to play baseball at Miami, where he was headed before signing with the Rockies, and basketball at Harvard. A High School All-American, he was ranked by Baseball America as the 10th-best high school position player available in the 2004 draft. He played in summer league programs with Chris Nelson, the Rockies' first-round draft choice in 2004.

Strengths: There are few players with as complete a package of tools as Fowler, from physical ability to his personality. Constantly smiling, he plays center field and runs the bases with a flair that conjures up memories of a young Garry Maddox and Willie Wilson. His feet don't seem to ever leave the ground with his effortless stride. He is a plus runner who gets good breaks on balls defensively and has a plus arm for a center fielder. He continues to make strides offensively and started to show an ability to drive the ball in 2008. Having not begun to switch-hit until he got into pro ball, Fowler is stronger from the right side of the plate, batting .405 in 84 at-bats against lefthanders last season. But he has good technique from the left side, even though he does use a split grip. He said it gives him a feeling of bat control, and the organization has taken a hands-off approach to that situation.

Weaknesses: Fowler has no glaring holes. It's a matter of how quickly he'll make adjustments. Fowler has a sleek, athletic build that figures to steadily get stronger, although he will never be bulky, and with that strength will come run-production power. However, that is still a projection at this point.  At each level he has had to adjust to the command of pitchers, and learn not to be in a hurry to chase pitches out of the zone. He has too much speed to give away at-bats and needs to make more contact with two strikes. He has excellent speed, but needs to learn how to use it as an offensive weapon in terms of stealing bases and bunting.

The Future: Fowler is expected to be a key part of the Rockies' long-term foundation with his ability to play center field in spacious Coors Field. He might hit leadoff but could develop enough power to move lower in the order, perhaps as a No. 3 or No. 5 hitter. Natural progression will have him open this season with Triple-A Colorado Springs, but with his raw abilities, Fowler has the ability to push up the development plan. Fowler's ability to make quick adjustments at Tulsa last year has moved him onto the fast track.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Tulsa (AA)
.335
.431
.515
421
92
141
31
9
9
64
65
89
20
Colorado
.154
.185
.154
26
3
4
0
0
0
0
0
5
0
 
2.  Jhoulys Chacin, rhp   Born: Jan. 7, 1988. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 179.
 Signed: Venezuela, 2004. Signed by: Francisco Cartaya.
Jhoulys ChacinBackground: In his first full season, Chacin shot up the Rockies' charts, splitting time with their two full-season Class A affiliates. He led the minor leagues with 18 wins, ranking third overall in innings and sixth in ERA and strikeouts. He boasts a 23-5 record in his last 37 professional starts.

Strengths: Chacin has mastered his fastball and changeup, capable of throwing either pitch in any situation. The fastball has picked up velocity and now sits around 92 mph, touching 94, with heavy sinking action. He uses the same arm action for his change, which has become an out pitch, particularly against lefthanded hitters. He's a strong athlete with the ability to repeat his mechanics.

Weaknesses: His curveball doesn't have the sharpness that Chacin will need to be a big league starter. He can throw the pitch for strikes, and it has some power at 78-80 mph, but right now it's below-average.

The Future: Chacin will step into the middle of a big league rotation, and if his curveball develops into a plus pitch, he can be a top-of-the-rotation starter. After reaching high Class A in his first full season, he should be challenged again in 2009 and could even reach Colorado at some point.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Asheville (LoA)
10
1
1.86
16
16
2
0
111.1
82
3
30
98
.205
Modesto (HiA)
8
2
2.31
12
12
0
0
66.1
61
3
12
62
.247
 
3.  Christian Friedrich, lhp   Born: July 8, 1987. B-T: R-L. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 218.
 Drafted: Eastern Kentucky, 2008 (1st round). Signed by: Scott Corman.
Christian FriedrichBackground: Undrafted out of high school, Friedrich bloomed at Eastern Kentucky into one of the best lefthanded pitchers at the college level in 2008. The son of a dentist, Friedrich was 20-7, 1.83 in his three years at Eastern Kentucky, and caught the attention of scouts by dominating the wood-bat New England Collegiate and Cape Cod leagues.

Strengths: Friedrich has a feel for pitching, with a solid-average fastball ranging from 89-92 mph. He complements his fastball with two good breaking balls: a big-time curveball that has a 12-to-6 movement and a slider. His changeup is evolving, as it's not a pitch he needed at the amateur level. It should develop into an average pitch down the line with his feel for pitching.

Weaknesses: At times Friedrich's fastball command can be spotty, an important area for improvement as he lacks overpowering velocity.

The Future: Friedrich figures to be a solid big league starter and could find his way to Coors Field at some point in the 2010 season. He could move quickly, akin to Jeff Francis' rapid rise, and while this year figures to begin at high Class A Modesto, it's not out of the question he could earn a midseason promotion.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Tri-City (SS)
2
1
3.25
8
8
0
0
36
31
2
8
50
.228
Asheville (LoA)
0
1
7.50
3
3
0
0
12
14
2
7
15
.269
 
4.  Wilin Rosario, c   Born: Feb. 23, 1989. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 195.
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2006. Signed by: Felix Feliz.
Wilin RosarioBackground: Rosario seeks to join in the growing number of impact Latin American players the Rockies have produced under the guidance of director of Latin operations Rolando Fernandez. He impressed the organization with his maturity level, considering he was one of the youngest players in the Pioneer League, and he was the league's No. 1 prospect.

Strengths: Rosario has shown the bat speed to handle good fastballs, promising run production ability at a position where offense is a luxury. He is athletic and moves well behind the plate. Throwing out 46 percent of basestealers in a league where pitchers are more focused on throwing strikes than holding runners underscores his arm strength.

Weaknesses: The physical skills are there, but Rosario is still young and honing those skills. Catching requires a mental maturity, learning to isolate personal struggles or successes so they don't affect the handling of a staff. It also takes time to learn the nuances of pitch selection.

The Future: Rosario will make the move to a full-season team this year, and the low Class A South Atlantic League should prove a good test of his endurance. With Chris Iannetta in the big leagues there is no reason to rush Rosario, so he will be given a chance to prove himself at each step in the minor leagues.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Casper (R)
.316
.371
.532
263
48
83
15
3
12
49
24
57
4
 
5.  Hector Gomez, ss   Born: March 5, 1988. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 164.
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2004. Signed by: Felix Feliz.

Hector GomezBackground: After earning all-star honors in the South Atlantic League in 2007, Gomez hit a roadblock in 2009. In the season-opening game for Modesto, he fouled a ball off his left shin, causing a stress fracture. During his rehab he injured his right elbow, requiring Tommy John surgery on July 1. The hope is he can be ready by Opening Day.

Strengths: Gomez excels defensively. He has excellent range, and before the troubles of a year ago had the strongest arm of any player in the organization. He has a quick bat and can't be overpowered. As he fills out he should add the strength to collect extra-base hits.

Weaknesses: The Rockies will watch Gomez's arm carefully as he returns from surgery, though most players return with as much—if not more—arm strength. Plate discipline has been a problem, marginalizing what little power he has.

The Future: With Troy Tulowitzki entrenched at Coors Field, the team won't rush shortstops through the system, which benefits Gomez. After losing the 2008 season to injuries, Gomez will be handled carefully during the spring to make sure his elbow has healed fully. Then he figures to return to Modesto for a second shot. With youth on his side, Gomez has plenty of time to regain his stature as a premier shortstop prospect.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Modesto (HiA)
.333
.333
.333
3
0
1
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
 
6.  Casey Weathers, rhp   Born: June 10, 1985. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 200.
 Drafted: Vanderbilt, 2007 (1st round). Signed by: Scott Corman.
Casey WeathersBackground: Converted from outfielder to pitcher in junior college, Weathers was on a fast track to the big leagues until he threw a pitch in the Arizona Fall League and felt something pop. He tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right forearm, requiring ligament transplant surgery that will knock him out of the 2009 season. He was coming off a solid season at Double-A Tulsa that included an Olympic bronze medal with Team USA.

Strengths: Weathers' fastball can hit the mid-90s but loses movement when the velocity rises. In the low 90s he has late life that makes hitters jump. He complements the fastball with a late-breaking slider that will sit in the mid-80s. The combination provides swing-and-miss opportunities for Weathers, who has a late-inning mentality.

Weaknesses: Command and health are Weathers' two biggest challenges. He has to not only throw strikes, but also quality strikes. He can be timid at times against lefthanded hitters, who batted .319 against him (as opposed to .165 for righthanded hitters).

The Future: Weathers will get a chance to get stronger while rehabbing in 2009. He should return in 2010 without any problems and will be in the big leagues as soon as he shows there are no lingering concerns from the injury.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Tulsa (AA)
2
1
3.05
44
0
0
2
44.1
34
1
28
54
.210
 
7.  Esmil Rogers, rhp   Born: Aug. 14, 1985. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 176.
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2003. Signed by: Felix Feliz.

Esmil RogersBackground: Signed as a shortstop, Rogers struggled with the bat. After hitting .209 in three years in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League, he agreed to give up hitting in 2006 and has made a solid adjustment to the mound.

Strengths: For a converted player, Rogers has adapted well to the craft of pitching. He has a solid delivery and good arm action, producing a 92-94 mph fastball with late life. The curveball came quickly. It has a hard break and can be a strikeout pitch. He has shown solid control.

Weaknesses: Rogers' inexperience with pitching shows in nuances such as defense and holding runners. The only below-average pitch in his arsenal is a changeup, which lacks consistency. Rogers was protected in his workload the first two years he pitched, but last season he took his regular turn all year in the California League.

The Future: Rogers is ready for the move to Double-A, and the Rockies believe he can be in their rotation by 2010. If his changeup doesn't make progress, his two-pitch arsenal and live arm should allow him to be an effective reliever quickly.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Modesto (HiA)
9
7
3.95
25
25
0
0
143.2
146
9
45
116
.264
 
8.  Seth Smith, of   Born: Sept. 30, 1982. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 225.
 Drafted: Mississippi, 2004 (2nd round). Signed by: Damon Iannelli.
Seth SmithBackground: Smith is a quality athlete who went to Mississippi as a quarterback, but got stuck behind Eli Manning and never took a snap in three years as the backup. A 48th-round pick of Arizona out of high school, he was a member of Team USA when it won a silver medal in the 2003 Pan American Games.

Strengths: Smith has the best swing of any player in the organization. He is a prototypical lefthanded bat, a low-ball hitter who has shown the ability to drive balls into the gaps. He has an excellent feel for the strike zone, and while his home run totals have been modest, he gave the Rockies reason to believe his power is coming on by hitting opposite-field homers in Washington and San Francisco last year.

Weaknesses: Smith has the ability to play any of the three outfield positions and has a strong, accurate arm, yet he still hasn't shown the ability to stay focused defensively. He will get himself out of rhythm at the plate when he exaggerates the leg kick he uses as a timing mechanism.

The Future: Smith is ready to stay in the big leagues. He already has shown the awareness to handle the challenge of coming off the bench (14-for-42 as a big league pinch-hitter), and with the departure of Matt Holliday he'll get his shot to lay claim to an everyday job.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Colorado Springs (AAA)
.323
.426
.524
248
55
80
16
2
10
53
46
46
11
Colorado
.259
.350
.435
108
13
28
7
0
4
15
15
23
1
 
9.  Michael McKenry, c   Born: March 4, 1985. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 200.
 Drafted: Middle Tennessee State, 2006 (7th round). Signed by: Scott Corman.
Michael McKenryBackground: McKenry has shown steady improvement in his three pro seasons, and capped off his rise to legitimate prospect status when he was one of the stronger offensive players in the Arizona Fall League. He followed up a team-high 18 home runs at high Class A Modesto last season by finishing second in the AFL with nine homers.

Strengths: McKenry has been a quality defensive catcher since his youth, and he has only added to that reputation, throwing out 46 percent of basestealers in 2008. He moves well behind the plate, likes to work a pitcher through a game and has a plus arm, augmented by a quick release. Now the offense is starting to come, too. He has shown legitimate power the last two years, quickly gets into hitting position and plants his front leg firmly.

Weaknesses: McKenry can get in a hurry at the plate and will chase pitches. He needs to make more consistent contact to turn into an everyday catcher in the big leagues. Some scouts question his athleticism and consider him a bad-body player.

The Future: McKenry is moving a step at a time, and that means an assignment Tulsa for 2009. He has the defensive ability and mental toughness to ensure at least a backup job in the big leagues. If he becomes more disciplined at the plate, he has the potential to handle starting duties on a contender.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Modesto (HiA)
.258
.360
.468
400
59
103
28
1
18
75
55
101
2
 
10.  Charlie Blackmon, of   Born: July 1, 1986. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 185.
 Drafted: Georgia Tech, 2008 (2nd round). Signed by: Alan Matthews.
Charlie BlackmonBackground: A pitcher at Young Harris (Ga.) JC, Blackmon moved to the outfield during the summer of 2007 in the Texas Collegiate League. He was drafted out of high school (2004, 28th round, Marlins) and again out of Young Harris (2005, 20th round, Red Sox) before heading to Georgia Tech, where he ranked fourth in the Atlantic Coast Conference in batting in 2008.

Strengths: Blackmon shows five-tool potential. He runs well enough to play all three outfield positions, primarily playing right field in college and moving to center field in his pro debut. He has a textbook lefthanded swing and has shown line-drive power into the alleys. He has plus-plus speed and the arm strength that would be expected from a converted pitcher.

Weaknesses: Blackmon's inexperience as a hitter shows. He makes contact but will chase pitches out of the strike zone. With his speed he has to realize that walks are of value. He has quick hands but tends to get started too soon in his swing.

The Future: Signed for $563,000 as a college senior, Blackmon needs to be challenged in the minor leagues, with a jump to Modesto likely. With his defensive ability, he already has what it takes to be a fourth outfielder, but with continued maturation offensively he could be an everyday center fielder.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Tri-City (SS)
.338
.390
.466
290
42
98
21
5
2
33
16
37
13

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