Colorado Rockies: Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports

Colorado Rockies

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, 2007.

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Colorado Rockies

Few teams have broken as many quality young players into the big leagues the last two years as the Rockies have. Garrett Atkins, Clint Barmes, Brad Hawpe and Cory Sullivan all have become regulars in a predominantly homegrown lineup, while Jeff Francis has become the leader of the rotation.

Even with all that talent flowing to Colorado, the farm system remains one of the deepest in baseball. By the end of last season, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (the organization's No. 1 prospect), catcher Chris Iannetta and outfielder Jeff Baker also were playing regularly. Hard-throwing Manny Corpas was serving in middle relief, while 22-year-olds Ubaldo Jimenez and Juan Morillo made pitching cameos.

Many members of that second group will graduate to full-time status in the majors in 2007, as will offseason trade acquisition Jason Hirsh. There's another wave coming behind them—led by lefthander Franklin Morales, outfielder Dexter Fowler, third baseman Ian Stewart and righty Greg Reynolds—and then even more depth in the lower levels of the system.

The Rockies haven't placed higher than fourth in the National League West since 1997, finishing above .500 just once in that span. Years of losing have rewarded them with high first-round picks, and scouting director Bill Schmidt, who started running the team's drafts in 2000, has cashed them in for the likes of Francis (2002), Stewart (2003) and Tulowitzki (2005).

Colorado's scouts also have done fine work in later rounds, nabbing Fowler (14th), Iannetta (fourth), Baker (fourth) and slugging first baseman Joe Koshansky (sixth). Fowler and Baker were tough signs with whom the Rockies figured out a way to get a deal done, while Iannetta and Koshansky have proven better than the consensus thought they were.

The Rockies have made tremendous strides in the foreign market. The franchise's original general manager, Bob Gebhard, wasn't comfortable making a strong move into Latin American and wouldn't make the financial commitment to be a major player in Asia. But in 1999, Gebhard's final year as GM, ownership hired respected scout Gary Hughes. Not only did Hughes impress upon ownership the importance of the Latin market, but he also moved Rolando Fernandez into the club's Latin operations department.

With guidance from scouting director Bill Schmidt and vice president of baseball operations Bill Geivett, Fernandez has turned the Rockies into a legitimate Latin presence. They don’t shell out the signing bonuses of the big-market teams, but they have done an impressive job of finding arms, highlighted by Morales, Jimenez, Morrillo, Corpas and Samuel Dedeno. They're also starting to develop middle infielders, most notably Jonathan Herrera and Hector Gomez.

"What our guys have done is find good bodies, live arms, good projections,’’ GM Dan O’Dowd says. “The heart and soul of this has been the work of Rolando and the guys he has brought in to work with him, like Felix Feliz (in the Dominican) and Francisco Cartaya (Venezuela)."

Their efforts will be crucial, as the Rockies' division rivals include the Diamondbacks and Dodgers, who also are loaded with young talent. But with the system continuing to deliver quality players to the majors, Colorado should be able to return to contention in the near future.

1. Troy Tulowitzki, ss   Born: Oct. 10, 1984B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 205
 Drafted: Long Beach State, 2005 (1st round)Signed by: Todd Blyleven
Troy TulowitzkiBackground: Tulowitzki was in the big leagues 14 months after he was drafted, the quickest climb of any position player in Rockies history. He's part of an impressive trio of first-round shortstops to come out of Long Beach State this decade, sandwiched between Bobby Crosby (Athletics, 2001) and Evan Longoria (Devil Rays, 2006). Tulowitzki followed Crosby at shortstop for the 49ers and starred for three seasons. He missed 20 games with a broken hamate bone in his wrist during his draft year of 2005, though that didn't turn off scouts. The Rockies were both surprised and delighted to find him available with the seventh overall pick and signed him for $2.3 million. Another injury, this time a torn quadriceps, abbreviated his pro debut but he was back at full strength in 2006.

Strengths: Tulowitzki has inner confidence that allowed him to open his first full pro season at Double-A Tulsa and finish it in the big leagues, never looking overmatched. He has legitimate power, but what’s most impressive is he understands the need to use entire field and can drive the ball to right-center as easily as left-center. Tulowtizki spent most of his time in Double-A leading off. The Rockies don't envision him doing that in the majors, but it was a way to have him see more pitches and develop his plate discipline. He accomplished both goals. He has average speed and good baserunning instincts. He'll steal or take an extra base if the opportunity presents itself. At shortstop, Tulowitzki has one of the strongest and most accurate arms in the game. He has no fear defensively.

Weaknesses: At times, Tulowitzki can get too aggressive at the plate. He'll chase fastballs up in the zone and breaking balls in the dirt, though he improved as 2006 wore on. Most of the work he needs to do center around his defense. Like most infielders out of Long Beach State, he has a tendency to circle around grounders, which gives runners an extra step. He's also trying to improve his ability to make plays to his backhand. Tulowitzki has learned that pure arm strength isn't enough to make difficult plays in the majors, and he's trying to position himself better and get rid of the ball quicker. Given his size, he'll always have to work a little extra to maintain his agility.

The Future: Tulowtizki skipped Triple-A and assumed the everyday shortstop job with the Rockies in the final weeks of the regular season. He built off a solid September in the big leagues by being named the top prospect in the Arizona Fall League. Now he’s ready to establish himself as a big leaguer for good. Colorado will protect him by initially batting him toward the bottom of the order, but is counting on him evolving into a middle-of-the-lineup run producer. He also has the clubhouse mentality that will allow him to emerge as a leader on and off the field.
Tulsa (AA).291.370.47342375123342136146716
Colorado .240.318.292961523201610253
2. Franklin Morales, lhp   Born: Jan. 24, 1986B-T: L-LHt: 6-3Wt: 180
 Signed: Venezuela, 2002Signed by: Francisco Cartaya
Franklin MoralesBackground: Since posting a 7.62 ERA in his U.S. debut in 2004, Morales has made major strides in each of the last two seasons. He ranked as the top pitching prospect in the high Class A California League last year, when he led the circuit in ERA and strikeouts.

Strengths: A legitimate lefty power pitcher, Morales can blow hitters away with a 94-95 mph fastball or a hard-biting curveball. He does a good job of maintaining his arm speed with his changeup and throwing it for strikes. He's still growing, and his stuff has taken off as he has added three inches in height in the last three years.

Weaknesses: Morales still hasn't learned how to repeat his mechanics effectively, in part because he's still filling out. As a result, his control and command waver. So does his concentration, which doesn't help. He tends to rush and overthrow when he gets into a jam. His changeup is still a work in progress.

The Future: Morales has all the ingredients to be a top-of-the-rotation starter. He'll make the move to Double-A in 2007 and figures to reach Coors Field by season’s end. He'll stick in the majors as soon as he shows the ability to consistently throw strikes.
Modesto (HiA)1093.68272600154126989179.223
3. Jason Hirsh, rhp   Born: Feb. 20, 1982B-T: R-RHt: 6-8Wt: 245
 Drafted: California Lutheran, 2003 (2nd round)Signed by: Mel Nelson (Astros)
Jason HirshBackground: The Rockies added a lot of youth and saved a lot of money when they traded soon-to-be free agent Jason Jennings to the Astros in December for Hirsh, Willy Taveras and Taylor Buchholz. Hirsh was the pitcher of the year in the Double-A Texas League in 2005 and the Triple-A Pacific Coast League in 2006. Last year, he started the Futures Game, went 46 2/3 innings without giving up an earned run in June and July and won his last 12 PCL decisions before making his big league debut.

Strengths: Hirsh not only is intimidating at 6-foot-8 and 245 pounds, but he's also athletic for his size. He's more about polish than power, going after hitters with a 91-93 mph fastball, a late-breaking slider and an effective changeup he'll throw in any count. He has made huge strides with his slider and his ability to change speeds since signing in 2003.

Weaknesses: Hirsh likes to get a little more velocity by going to a four-seam fastball. When he does, he sacrifices movement and pitches more up in the zone, which proved to be a recipe for disaster in the majors. While he's confident, Hirsh tends to try to re-invent himself every time he reaches a new level. If he just pitches to his capabilities, he'll be fine.

The Future: Both Hirsh and Buchholz could open 2007 in Colorado's rotation. Hirsh should develop into a dependable No. 3 starter in time.
Round Rock (AAA)1322.1023231013794551118.193
Houston 346.0499004548112229.267
4. Dexter Fowler, of   Born: March 22, 1986B-T: B-RHt: 6-5Wt: 187
 Drafted: HS--Alpharetta, Ga., 2004 (14th round)Signed by: Damon Iannelli
Dexter FowlerBackground: Fowler and Rockies 2004 first-rounder Chris Nelson played together in the highly regarded East Cobb program in suburban Atlanta. Fowler had offers to play basketball at Harvard and baseball at Miami but elected to pursue baseball full-time when the Rockies gave him a $925,000 bonus in the 14th round. Colorado came up with the money after trading Larry Walker to clear salary.

Strengths: A legitimate five-tool prospect with great makeup, Fowler learned to switch-hit at Rookie-level Casper in 2005. A natural righty, he has made progress with his lefthanded swing and homers from each side of the plate on Opening Day in 2006. He has an athletic build and projects to add strength as he matures. His speed is well above average. Fowler evokes former Gold Glover Devon White for his defensive skills in center field, as he seems to glide in the gaps with his long strides. His average arm features good carry and accuracy.

Weaknesses: Fowler mainly needs experience. Still adapting to switch-hitting, he'll pull off the ball too often and lengthen his swing from the left side. He has stolen bases on pure speed but was caught 23 times last year, and he'll have to improve his awareness of situations and his leads at higher levels.

The Future: Ticketed for high Class A Modesto in 2007, Fowler could break into the Colorado lineup at some point in 2008 if everything clicks.
Asheville (LoA).296.373.46240592120316846437943
5. Ian Stewart, 3b   Born: April 5, 1985B-T: L-RHt: 6-3Wt: 215
 Drafted: HS--Garden Grove, Calif., 2003 (1st round)Signed by: Todd Blyleven
Ian StewartBackground: The first high school position player ever selected by the Rockies in the first round, Stewart went 10th overall in 2003 and ranked No. 1 on this list in each of the last two years. Both times, he ran into adversity afterwards—battling injuries in 2005 and posting the worst numbers of his pro career in Double-A in 2006. He married the daughter of Asheville manager Joe Mikulik in December.

Strengths: There's legitimate power in Stewart's bat. He hit just 10 homers last year, but his 41 doubles showed how he can drive the ball. He has a quick bat and he has excellent plate coverage when he stays in sync. He has average speed but is an excellent baserunner. His strong arm is his best defensive attribute.

Weaknesses: Last year, Stewart got carried away trying to jerk pitches. He lost his timing mechanism with his open stance and turned so quickly that he couldn’t square up the ball on the bat. He also started to guess with pitchers and wound up getting overpowered by fastballs when he was looking for something offspeed. He has to get back to trusting his reflexes.

The Future: This is a big year for Stewart. He should open at Triple-A Colorado Springs, though there's an outside chance he could find himself back in Double-A to start the season. The biggest question is where he'll play down the road. Garrett Atkins took hold of third base in Colorado with a breakout offensive performance, so Stewart could move to an outfield corner down the road.
Tulsa (AA).268.351.452462751244171071501033
6. Ubaldo Jimenez, rhp   Born: Jan. 22, 1984B-T: R-RHt: 6-4Wt: 200
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2001Signed by: Ronaldo Fernandez
Ubaldo JimenezBackground: The Rockies overhaul Jimenez' mechanics last spring, and he adapted surprisingly quickly. He toned down a hitch in his arm action, which tipped off his pitches and created concerns about long-term stress on his arm. He dominated Double-A and pitched well for a 22-year-old in the thin air of Colorado Springs.

Strengths: Jimenez has a four-pitch repertoire built around a 96-97 mph fastball that has reached triple digits. He has a plus changeup that has become more deceptive thanks to his new arm action, and he also throws a slider and an overhand curveball. He improved his command and his ability to set up hitters.

Weaknesses: Jimenez went down with the beginnings of a stress fracture in his shoulder in 2004, and scouts still worry that his mechanics will hurt his durability. On a positive note, he hasn't missed a start in the last two years. His curveball has good spin but can be inconsistent. He needs to throw more strikes.

The Future: Jimenez figures to return to Triple-A to open 2007, with the idea that he'll be ready to make the move into the big league rotation as soon as midseason. His profile also would fit in the closer's role, which could save some wear and tear on his arm.
Tulsa (AA)922.45131310734924086.194
Colorado Springs (AAA)525.06131300787474364.252
Colorado 003.52210085133.185
7. Greg Reynolds, rhp   Born: July 3, 1985B-T: R-RHt: 6-7Wt: 225
 Drafted: Stanford, 2006 (1st round)Signed by: Gary Wilson
Greg ReynoldsBackground: Coming out of high school, Reynolds had offers to play quarterback at Division I-A college programs. His decision to stick with baseball paid off, as he received a $3.25 million bonus as the No. 2 overall pick in 2006. His draft stock soared with an impressive streak of three complete-game wins, including defeats of top-10 draft choices Tim Lincecum and Brandon Morrow.

Strengths: Reynolds maintained his 90-94 mph velocity on his fastball and the command of his solid-average curveball and changeup throughout his pro debut. He throws strikes with ease because he repeats his clean, athletic delivery so well. He doesn't try to overpower hitters, getting easy outs and keeping his pitch counts down. He competes well.

Weaknesses: Though he has the stuff to do so, Reynolds doesn't manage to miss many bats, which could become an issue at higher levels, especially in Colorado. He had no problems in the hitter's havens of the California League, however. In the past, he fell into ruts where he wasn't aggressive with his fastball, though that was less of an issue in 2006.

The Future: Reynolds figures to move into the Double-A rotation at the start of this season. His experience and mound savvy give him a chance to move quickly, with a shot at the big league rotation in 2008.
Modesto (HiA)213.33111100495111429.271
8. Chris Iannetta, c   Born: April 8, 1983B-T: R-RHt: 5-11Wt: 195
 Drafted: North Carolina, 2004 (4th round)Signed by: Jay Matthews
Chris IannettarBackground: Part of a long line of big league catchers produced by North Carolina, Iannetta reached the majors last August, barely two years after signing as an unheralded fourth-round pick. He set career highs with a .336 average and 14 homers in the minors, and hit his first two big league homers of Jonathan Sanchez and Michael Wuertz.

Strengths: Iannetta has quality at-bat after quality at-bat, working counts and forcing pitchers to throw him strikes. He should be able to hit for average with decent pop in the majors. As a catcher, he has a strong arm and reliable receiving skills. He does a nice job of running a pitching staff.

Weaknesses: Though he's equipped to shut down the running game, Iannetta erased just 27 percent of basestealers in 2006. He has to get more consistent with his throws. Like most catchers, he's a below-average runner.

The Future: Iannetta's late-season performance convinced the Rockies that he's ready to stay in the majors. He'll be their primary catcher in 2007 and should develop into a solid regular.
Tulsa (AA).321.418.6221563850102112624261
Colorado Springs (AAA).351.447.503151235312132224290
9. Jeff Baker, of   Born: June 21, 1981B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 220
 Drafted: Clemson, 2002 (4th round)Signed by: Jay Matthews
Jeff BakerBackground: Recruited as a shortstop at Clemson, Baker made way for Khalil Greene and spent his college career at third base. With Garrett Atkins ahead of him and Ian Stewart right behind him, Baker moved to the right field in 2006. Signability and a poor history with wood bats dropped him to the fourth round of the 2002 draft, but he received a $2 million big league contact and has hit .306 in pro ball.

Strengths: Baker will go as far as his bat carries him. He has legitimate power and the ability to drive the ball to the opposite field. His professional approach at the plate allows him to stay on breaking balls. He has the arm strength and enough speed and athleticism to become a solid outfielder.

Weaknesses: Baker's development has been slowed by injuries, as he repeatedly missed time in his first three pro seasons with wrist and thumb ailments. Last year marked the first time he topped 400 at-bats in pro ball, and he finally achieved the success Colorado expected. He always has struck out frequently, which will be a tradeoff for his production. He's still learning the nuances of playing the outfield.

The Future: The Rockies will find a place for Baker, because he provides a valuable righthanded bat and the versatility to play at any of the infield and outfield corners. If he stays healthy, his bat will earn him more playing time.
Colorado Springs (AAA).305.369.5084827114730420108461107
Colorado .368.379.825571321725211142
10. Chaz Roe, rhp   Born: Oct. 9, 1986B-T: R-RHt: 6-5Wt: 180
 Signed: HS--Lexington, Ky., 2005 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Scott Corman
Chas RoeBackground: Roe had a chance to follow his father’s lead and play quarterback at Kentucky, but he opted to turn pro when the Rockies took him 32nd overall in 2005 and gave him a $1.025 million bonus. He opened last year in extended spring because Colorado doesn't have an extensive track record of developing high school pitchers—Aaron Cook is their best success story—and wanted to monitor his workload.

Strengths: Roe's fastball has good life in the low 90s and tops out at 95, with the chance to add more consistent velocity as his body continues to fill out. His curveball is a definite plus pitch with good biting action. A loose-bodied athlete, he has a tall build that allows him to get a good downward angle in his delivery. Despite pitching last year in low Class A Asheville's McCormick Field, notorious for its short right-field porch, he allowed just four homers and produced plenty of groundouts.

Weaknesses: Roe tends to rush his delivery out of the stretch. He shows signs of a decent changeup but still is working on making it more consistent. He can get lazy at times with his curveball.

The Future: Roe is slated for a full season in high Class A. The Rockies will move him slowly, wanting to make sure he's physically developed to try and guard against injury. He could be in the big leagues as a starter by late 2009.
Asheville (LoA)744.0619190010010544780.273

Photo Credits:
Tulowitzki: Andrew Wooley
Morales, Fowler, Stewart, Jimenez, Baker: Steve Moore
Reynolds: Bill Mitchell
Roe: Larry Goren