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Colorado Rockies:
1999 Top 10

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Colorado Rockies Top 10 Prospects
Index of Top 10 Prospects for all 30 Major League Teams

By Tracy Ringolsby

1. Choo Freeman, OF
Age: 20  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-2  Wt: 200
Drafted: HS--Mesquite, Texas, 1998 (Supplemental 1st round)  Signed by: Dar Cox

Top Prospects of the 90s

1993 David Nied, rhp
1994 John Burke, rhp
1995 Doug Million, lhp
1996 Derrick Gibson, of
1997 Todd Helton, 1b
1998 Todd Helton, 1b
1999 Choo Freeman, of

Background: A three-sport start at Dallas Christian High, Freeman passed on a football scholarship to Texas A&M, where he was ticketed to be a wide receiver. His passion is baseball, so Freeman signed with the Rockies as the 36th overall pick in the 1998 draft, compensation for the free-agent loss of Andres Galarraga. He had set a $1.4 million price tag–regardless of where he was selected–and the Rockies didn’t hesitate to pay the price, feeling they were fortunate that Freeman slipped so far. He played on the same Connie Mack team with Vernon Wells, the Blue Jays’ 1997 first-round pick. Freeman actually grew up with the family of his grade school friend, Ryan Cox, though he maintained a relationship with his mother and father after moving out in fourth grade.

Strengths: Freeman is a pure athlete with legitimate five-tool potential. Speed is the one tool that needs no work and he is especially fun to watch run. He’s going to hit for power, which should be a bonus because of his ability to play center field. More than ability, though, what sets Freeman apart from others is a tremendous work ethic and mental toughness. He handled the jump from the Rookie-level Arizona League to full-season Class A without a hitch.

Weaknesses: Freeman is still refining his basestealing ability. Once he learns to read pitchers and get a good jump, he should be a threat to steal 60 bases in the majors. After showing good strike-zone judgment in Arizona, Freeman found South Atlantic League pitching much more challenging. As he progresses, he’ll need to make better contact and be more selective to take better advantage of his speed. On defense, he is still learning to play a shallow center field and get good reads on balls but if that doesn’t work out he would still be an above-average left fielder.

The Future: Freeman has enough bat to play a corner outfield position and most likely will wind up in left field when he breaks into the big leagues. For now, though, he will get a chance to remain in center field with the expectation he will move a step at a time. He should play at Class A Salem in 2000, with Juan Pierre skipping a level and going to Double-A Carolina.

1999 Club           AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
Asheville (A)      .274  485  82 133  22   4  14   66  39 132  16

2. Ben Petrick, C
Age: 22  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-0  Wt: 195
Drafted: HS--Hillsboro, Ore., 1995 (2nd round)  Signed by: Greg Hopkins

Background: Petrick jumped up to the big leagues after finally showing the run-producing bat scouts envisioned. A quarterback/defensive back, he was Oregon’s prep football player of the year as a senior.

Strengths: Petrick, a 20-plus stolen-base threat, has agility and speed rarely seen in a catcher. A great athlete with fluid actions, he showed in 1999 he could hit for power and average.

Weaknesses: Petrick has battled a hitch in his throwing motion the last two years, but that began to smooth out by the end of the season. He needs to be more reactive behind the player and loosen up. At the plate, he needs to lay off breaking pitches out of the zone.

The Future: If Petrick shows in spring training that he has improved his receiving and throwing, he could be in Denver. Otherwise, he will return to Triple-A. Some in the organization believe Petrick ultimately might be best served moving to left field or third base.

1999 Club           AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
Carolina (AA)      .309   68  18  21   5   1   4   22   9  15   3
Colo. Spr. (AAA)   .312  282  56  88  16   5  19   64  44  58   9
Colorado           .323   62  13  20   3   0   4   12  10  13   1

3. Jason Jennings, RHP
Age: 21  B-T: L-R  Ht: 6-2  Wt: 235
Drafted: Baylor, 1999 (1st round)  Signed by: Dar Cox

Background: The nation’s most decorated amateur of 1999, Jennings won the Golden Spikes Award after being named College Player of the Year. He served as both Baylor’s No. 1 starter and cleanup hitter as a DH. He is the grandson of the former public-address announcer for the Dallas Cowboys and Mesquite Rodeo.

Strengths: Jennings is polished and mature. He has three major league pitches, the best of which is an 88-92 mph fastball with exceptional sink. He throws a hard slider and has a solid changeup. He doesn’t have a prototypical pitcher’s body, but his size doesn’t keep him from being a good athlete who can field his position.

Weaknesses: There’s not much to find fault with. The only thing lacking is experience. Once he shows he can exploit a hitter’s weakness he will be in the big leagues, and that shouldn’t take long.

The Future: Jennings figures to come quickly. He most likely will start the 2000 season at Class A Salem with a move to Double-A Carolina before season’s end.

1999 Club         W  L   ERA   G  GS  CG  SV   IP   H  BB  SO
Portland (A)      1  0  1.00   2   2   0   0    9   5   2  11
Asheville (A)     2  2  3.70  12  12   0   0   58  55   8  69

4. Josh Kalinowski, LHP
Age: 23  B-T: L-L  Ht: 6-2  Wt: 186
Drafted: Indian Hills (Iowa) CC, D/F 1996 (33rd round)  Signed by: Jay Darnell

Background: Originally drafted by the Rockies out of a Wyoming high school, Kalinowski opted for two years of junior college before finally signing with Colorado. He missed winning the Carolina League’s pitching triple crown by two victories in 1999 after leading minor league pitchers in strikeouts in 1998 with 215.

Strengths: Kalinowski has developed three quality major league pitches. He has a dominating curveball that was enhanced last year when he began using his 88-90 mph fastball more often. An excellent athlete, he fields his position well.

Weaknesses: His changeup is usable, but it’s a pitch that could use more refining. His consistency has waivered at times. As he faces better competition, Kalinowski must develop a better feel for how to pitch, realizing he can’t just dominate hitters with pure stuff.

The Future: The next step for Kalinowski is Carolina. With another solid season, he could speed up his timetable and contend for a spot in the Rockies rotation in 2001.

1999 Club         W  L   ERA   G  GS  CG  SV   IP   H  BB  SO
Salem (A)        11  6  2.11  27  27   1   0  162 119  71 176

5. Juan Pierre, OF
Age: 22  B-T: L-L  Ht: 6-0  Wt: 170
Drafted: South Alabama, 1998 (13th round)  Signed by: Steve Payne

Background: One of three South Alabama players drafted by the Rockies in 1998, Pierre has moved to the head of the class with a two-year average of .330. He had a strong season in the South Atlantic League, leading all minor leaguers with 187 hits, and followed it by hitting .371 in the California Fall League.

Strengths: Pierre has the type of speed that disrupts a game, and he understands his limitations. He puts the ball in play and rarely strikes out–his average of a strikeout every 17.5 at-bats was the best in Class A. He will slap at balls and bunt for hits. He is a legitimate center fielder and has emerged as a team leader.

Weaknesses: Pierre doesn’t draw as many walks as he needs to with his speed. His throwing is also suspect, but he charges the ball well and gets rid of it quickly.

The Future: Pierre will skip a level to Carolina in 2000. If he continues to excel and has a solid Arizona Fall League showing next fall, he could surface in the big leagues in 2001.

1999 Club           AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
Asheville (A)      .320  585  93 187  28   5   1   55  38  37  66

6. Juan Uribe, SS
Age: 19  B-T: B-R  Ht: 6-1  Wt: 145
Signed: Dominican Republic, 1997  Signed by: Jorge Posada

Background: The Rockies’ limited efforts in Latin America have already produced shortstop Neifi Perez. Now along comes Uribe, signed out of a tryout camp. He handled the jump from the Rookie-level Arizona League to Asheville with relative ease.

Strengths: Uribe is so sleek in the field, even Perez admits, "He’s the reason I’m going to be a second baseman." Uribe has soft hands and a rifle for an arm. His range is better to the right than the left, but Uribe has instincts that allow him to cover more ground than expected. He has some power that will develop as he fills out.

Weaknesses: Uribe has decent speed, but he’s not going to be a big basestealer. He’s going to have to learn pitchers and read situations to maximize his ability on the bases. He needs to be more disciplined at the plate as he is going to make his living by making contact, not swinging for the fences.

The Future: The Rockies are in no hurry with Uribe. Like Perez, he will be brought along a step at a time and by natural progression will spend the 2000 season at Class A Salem.

1999 Club           AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
Asheville (A)      .267  430  57 115  28   3   9   46  20  79  11

7. Craig House, RHP
Age: 21  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-2  Wt: 195
Drafted: Memphis, 1999 (12th round)  Signed by: Ty Coslow

Background: House started in college and rarely flashed the dominant stuff that he did as a closer at short-season Portland. He was the team MVP and averaged 14.91 strikeouts per nine innings.

Strengths: House has legitimate closer stuff. His fastball, which topped out at 92 mph during the spring, was 95-98 in his new role. A funky drop-down delivery gives his pitches excellent sink. He has a mid-80s slider that buckles the knees of righthanded hitters with its late break. House isn’t afraid to go right after hitters.

Weaknesses: House has the type of mechanics that make your arm sore just watching him. He drops down, his body goes to the left, his head to the right and his arm splits the difference. He needs to find a consistent release point, which will help him develop better command.

The Future: If his arm holds up, House has the type of stuff to reach the big leagues quickly. With a strong spring, he figures to at least jump to Class A Salem and could force his way into the picture at Carolina quickly.

1999 Club         W  L   ERA   G  GS  CG  SV   IP   H  BB  SO
Portland (A)      2  1  2.08  26   0   0  11   35  28  14  58

8. Chin-Hui Tsao
Age: 18  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-1  Wt: 180
Signed: Taiwan, 1999  Signed by: Tim Ireland

Background: Tsao was the only amateur on the Taiwan team that finished third in Asia’s Olympic qualifying tournament, striking out 15 and allowing one hit in his only start. He also did not allow an earned run in three starts in the World Junior Championship.

Strengths: He has a legitimate mid-90s fastball, which is why clubs such as the Yomiuri Giants, Braves, Blue Jays and Dodgers made a strong push to sign him. Tsao has an advanced idea of how to pitch, mixing in a hard slider with a solid changeup. His delivery is smooth and he fields his position well.

Weaknesses: Tsao doesn’t speak English and will have a major cultural adjustment to make. The Rockies have enrolled him in an accelerated English program, but how well he handles the social aspects of professional baseball figure to be the major challenge he faces.

The Future: While Portland would seem Tsao’s most likely assignment in 2000, he has the arm strength and savvy to at least get an audition in the South Atlantic League before Portland’s season begins in June.

1999 Club         W  L   ERA   G  GS  CG  SV   IP   H  BB  SO
               Did Not Play–Signed 2000 Contract

9. Derrick Gibson, OF
Age: 25  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-2  Wt: 244
Drafted: HS--Haines City, Fla., 1993 (13th round)  Signed by: Pat Jones

Background: Gibson, Vladimir Guerrero and Andruw Jones were the talk of the Sally League back in 1995, but Gibson hasn’t kept pace. A standout high school football player, Gibson had a full ride to Auburn, but poor academics pushed him to baseball.

Strengths: Gibson has as much raw power potential as anybody in the game, though his recent lack of production has obscured it–he’s hit just 31 homers in two full seasons in Triple-A. He runs well for his size and has never lost the football work ethic. That has allowed him to become a decent outfielder.

Weaknesses: Gibson struggles with pitch recognition in the strike zone. He has to discipline himself to swing at strikes. He has averaged a strikeout every 3.78 at-bats in his career while drawing just 170 walks in 2,779 at-bats.

The Future: Gibson is out of options. The Rockies will have to keep him as a reserve in 2000 or risk losing him on waivers. They would love to send him back to Triple-A for more polish.

1999 Club           AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
Colo. Spr. (AAA)   .275  385  68 106  19   6  17   67  30  82  12
Colorado           .179   28   2   5   1   0   2    6   0   7   0

10. Brent Butler, 2B
Age: 22  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-0  Wt: 180
Drafted: HS--Laurinburg, N.C., 1996 (3rd round)  Signed by: Randy Benson (Cardinals)

Background: The Rockies acquired Butler from the Cardinals in a seven-player trade in November that sent Darryl Kile to St. Louis. Signed originally as a shortstop, Butler showed excellent versatility in 1999, playing 60 games at shortstop, 46 at third base and 38 at second base for Double-A Arkansas. His future is at second base.

Strengths: Butler’s strength is his determination. He is a fundamentally sound player who never lets up. He has the potential to be a good run producer for a middle infielder. He’s hit a minimum of 11 home runs in each of his three full pro seasons.

Weaknesses: Butler’s mediocre speed and range forced his transition to second base. After stealing eight bases in his first pro season, Butler has just nine steals the last three years and went 0-for-4 trying to steal in 1999.

The Future: Butler will make the full-time conversion to second base at Colorado Springs in 2000. Even with Mike Lansing signed for two more years, Butler’s versatility could allow him to make it to the big leagues as a utility player in 2001.

1999 Club           AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
Arkansas (AA)      .269  528  68 142  21   1  13   54  26  47   0

Rest of the Best:

11. Javier Colina, 2b
12. Ryan Kibler, rhp
13. Jody Gerut, of
14. Matt Holliday, 3b
15. Juan Ventura, 2b

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