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, 2008.

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Colorado Rockies

Ten years ago, the Rockies were a non-factor in Latin America. Now they're among the teams getting the most impact talent out of the region.

It's no coincidence that they just won the first National League pennant in franchise history, not to mention had just their second winning season in the last decade.

Manny Corpas, who converted 19 of 20 save opportunities after seizing the closer's role in July, signed out of Panama. Franklin Morales and Ubaldo Jimenez, who stabilized the rotation at midseason, were found in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. Two more Dominicans, shortstop Hector Gomez and righthander Pedro Strop, join No. 1 prospect Morales on this Top 10 list.

Before the recent surge of talent, the only Latin Americans whom Colorado originally signed and brought to the major leagues were Neifi Perez and Juan Uribe. "It takes a long time to build a Latin program, but we now have a solid infrastructure," general manager Dan O'Dowd says.

Getting this to point has been a challenge. Under O'Dowd's predecessor Bob Gebhard, the Rockies budgeted $50,000 for its entire Latin American operation. In the last year alone, they spent $1.9 million on signing bonuses for Latin players.

The change began in 1999, Gebhard's final year as GM, when ownership hired legendary scout Gary Hughes. Colorado moved out of the three-bedroom home it had been using as its Dominican "academy" and shared a top-flight facility with the Diamondbacks that included well-groomed fields, a dormitory for housing, a weight room and a cafeteria. Hughes also moved Rolando Fernandez from a roving coordinator in charge of Latin American instruction to director of Latin operations.

"For us, the Latin program is integrated into the rest of the organization," vice president of baseball operations Bill Geivett says. "We treat it just like we treat any of our minor league teams. We send all our roving instructors down there to work with the players, providing consistency in the message we are sending to everyone in our system."

So far, the Latin program's impact has shown up on the big league staff. But with strong arms developing out of Latin America, scouting director Bill Schmidt has been able to target position players with early picks in recent drafts. The Rockies have spent first-rounders on infielders Jayson Nix (2001), Ian Stewart (2003), Chris Nelson (2004) and Troy Tulowitzki (2005). Tulowitzki had a spectacular rookie season in 2007, while Stewart is the system's top position prospect and Nix could take over the second-base job in 2008.

The Rockies originally signed six of the eight regulars in their postseason lineup. The only exceptions were free agents Yorvit Torrealba and Kazuo Matsui, who likely will be replaced by homegrown products Chris Iannetta, Clint Barmes and Nix. Colorado has done a fine job of developing players, as Todd Helton and Tulowitzki were the only regulars who were first-round picks. Matt Holliday batted just .271 with 61 homers in six minor league seasons before blossoming into the NL's reigning batting and RBI champion.

Four of the five pitchers who started postseason games for the Rockies were originally signed by the club, including staff ace Jeff Francis, a first-round pick in 2002. All told, 16 of the 25 players on the World Series roster were homegrown.

1.  Franklin Morales, lhp   Born: Jan. 24, 1986B-T: L-LHt: 6-0Wt: 190
 Signed: Venezuela, 2002Signed by: Francisco Cartaya
Franklin MoralesBackground: After leading the high Class A California League with a 3.68 ERA and 179 strikeouts in 154 innings in 2006, Morales found success harder to come by at the beginning of the 2007 season. Thirteen starts into the year, he was winless at Double-A Tulsa and had just given up six runs in two-thirds of an inning in his latest outing. Selected to pitch in the Futures Game as part of the All-Star Game festivities, he hit 97 mph with his fastball and struck out Rockies DH Ian Stewart, Twins second baseman Matt Tolbert and Reds outfielder Jay Bruce in an inning of work. The outing seemed to give Morales confidence, as he went 3-0 in four starts at Tulsa afterward, then won two of his three starts at Triple-A Colorado Springs and made the jump to the big leagues. At 21, Morales became the fourth-youngest player in Rockies history, but quickly proved he belonged. He tied a franchise record for starters by spinning 20 straight scoreless innings. He made starts in the first two rounds of the playoffs before pitching out of the bullpen in the World Series. Morales wasn't as sharp in the postseason, getting tagged for 11 earned runs in 10 innings. The Rockies first spotted him as an outfielder but immediately converted him to the mound after signing him for $40,000. The first big league lefthander to come out of Colorado's Latin American program, he has posted a winning record in each of his five pro seasons.

Strengths: Morales can reach the upper 90s with his fastball, but he achieves his best command and life when he pitches at 92-93 mph, still plenty hard for a lefthander. He features two curveballs, a slower version that he throws for strikes and a harder, sweepier one that hitters will chase. He made major strides with his changeup in 2007. The Rockies consider Moraels a big-game pitcher who gets better with a challenge. He has a short-term memory and is able to shake off struggles, make adjustments and move on in his next start. He shows the athleticism of a position player, and his experience as an outfielder is evident when he's at the plate. He went 4-for-13 (.308) in the big leagues.

Weaknesses: Morales still has to work on throwing more consistent and more quality strikes. He can make a pitch when he has to, but he can cut down on his walks and refine his command. His hard curveball isn't as reliable as his slower bender, and he needs to smooth out his arm action and add deception to his changeup. An improved changeup would help him against righthanders, who hit .273 off him in the majors (compared to a .129 average by lefties). Morales can get a little to emotional at times on the mound. When he first got to the majors, he got himself into trouble by becoming so obsessed with videos and scouting reports that he lost touch with his own strengths.

The Future: Morales has the ability to be a top-of-the-rotation starter. He projects as Colorado's No. 4 starter in 2008, but the spot won't be handed to him. Because he'll be 22 and has spent just one year above Class A, the Rockies would have no qualms about sending him to Triple-A if he doesn't have a strong spring.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Tulsa (AA)
3 4 3.48 17 17 1 0 96 77 8 45 77 .226
Colorado Springs (AAA) 2 0 3.71 3 3 0 0 17 20 1 13 36 .323
Colorado (MLB)
3 2 3.43 8 8 0 0 39 34 2
14 26 .241
2.  Ian Stewart, 3b   Born: April 5, 1983B-T: L-RHt: 6-3Wt: 210
 Drafted: HS—La Quinta, Calif., 2003 (1st round)Signed by: Todd Blyleven
Ian StewartBackground: Teaming with Ian Kennedy to help La Quinta High win the 2003 California Southern section title, Stewart set Orange County records with 16 homers and 61 RBIs. The 10th overall pick that June, he signed for $1.95 million and ranked No. 1 on this list in 2005 and 2006. He made his big league debut late last season, primarily serving as a pinch-hitter in the Rockies' pennant drive.

Strengths: Stewart hasn't had a strong followup to his 2004 breakout in low Class A Asheville (.319, 30 homers), but he has big-time power potential along the lines of Matt Holliday, who failed to put up big numbers in the minors. Stewart has a quick bat and good plate coverage. Because he grew up hitting against his father, a lefty, he had good feel against southpaws and hit .312 with a .522 slugging percentage against them in 2007. He's a gifted athlete with a strong arm, allowing him to make spectacular plays at third base. He has average speed and some basestealing instincts.

Weaknesses: Stewart's swing can get a bit long and he can become too pull-conscious. He needs to develop more patience and trust his ability to drive balls to the opposite field. He get lackadaisical on routine plays, leading to careless errors.

The Future: Because Garrett Atkins is at the hot corner in Colorado, Stewart has worked out at second base and in center field. He fits best as a run-producing third baseman, however, and soon may force the Rockies to make room for him. He'll return to Triple-A to begin 2008.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Colorado Springs (AAA) .304 .379 .478 414 72 126 23 2 15 65 49 92 11
Colorado (MLB) .209 .261 .372 43 3 9 4 0 1 9 1 17 0
3.  Dexter Fowler, of   Born: March 12, 1986B-T: B-RHt: 6-4Wt: 175
 Drafted: HS—Milton, Ga., 2004 (14th round)Signed by: Damon Iannelli
Dexter FowlerBackground: Fowler projected as a possible first-round talent in the 2004 draft, but teams shied away from him because his college options included playing basketball at Harvard or baseball at Miami. The Rockies took a flier in the 14th round, and after they saved $2 million by dealing Larry Walker to the Cardinals that August, they signed Fowler for $925,000. He has played in just 164 games the last two years because of injuries.

Strengths: Fowler is a graceful athlete, particularly in center field, where he has plus range and a slight above-average arm, which will be assets at spacious Coors Field. He began switch-hitting after signing and now has a technically stronger swing from the left side. He has well above-average speed, intriguing power potential and a willingness to draw walks.

Weaknesses: An ankle sprain in 2006 and a broken hand in 2007 have cost Fowler much-needed at-bats. He needs to make more consistent contact, and quieting his swing would be a step in that direction. He still needs to get stronger, which would allow him to drive balls more often. He can make better use of his speed by bunting more.

The Future: Fowler will move to Double-A, and a strong first half could put him in Triple-A. Colorado's center fielder of the future, he could be ready by mid-2009.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Modesto (Hi A) .273 .397 .367 245 43 67 7 5 2 23 44 64 20
4.  Hector Gomez, ss   Born: March 5, 1988B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 160
 Drafted: Dominican Republic, 2004Signed by: Felix Feliz
Hector GomezBackground: In his first year in a full-season league, Gomez was a low Class A South Atlantic League all-star at age 19. The best of a deep crop of Rockies shortstop prospects, he recovered from a .227 start in April to bat .317 over the next three months before tiring in August.

Strengths: Gomez has the physical tools to be an exceptional shortstop. His range and arm strength are both above average. He has plus speed, getting from the right side of the plate to first base in 4.2 seconds. His bat isn't as advanced as his glove, but he has some pop and should have average power once he fills out.

Weaknesses: At this point, Gomez is too aggressive and pull-happy at the plate. As long as he can reach a pitch, he's not worried if it's a strike. He needs to improve his basestealing after getting caught 10 times in 30 tries, and his defensive consistency after making 39 errors.

The Future: With Troy Tulowitzki entrenched in the majors, Colorado has no need to rush Gomez. He'll move one level at a time, with high Class A Modesto his next step.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Asheville (Lo A) .266 .309 .421 534
89 142 34 8 11 61 29 120 20
5.  Greg Reynolds, rhp   Born: July 3, 1985B-T: R-RHt: 6-7Wt: 225
 Drafted: Stanford, 2006 (1st round)Signed by: Todd Blyleven
Greg ReynoldsBackground: Recruited to play quarterback by several college programs, Reynolds opted instead to pitch at Stanford. That decision paid off when he went second overall in the 2006 draft and signed for $3.25 million. He made just eight starts in 2007 because of rotator-cuff inflammation that led to minor surgery in August.

Strengths: Reynolds has a 91-93 mph that he can spot to both sides of the plate and elevate in the strike zone when he wants. His curveball gives him a second plus pitch, and his changeup is an effective third offering. He's athletic and repeat his delivery easily, giving him good command. He has a good sense of himself and how good he can become.

Weaknesses: After working once a week in college, Reynolds must adapt to pitching every fifth day in pro ball. He can aggravate his shoulder problem when he puts too much torque on the joint when he throws his curveball. His fastball doesn't have a great deal of movement, so he doesn't get a lot of strikeouts.

The Future: If he hadn't gotten hurt, Reynolds would have been called up to Colorado for the stretch drive. A likely No. 3 starter, he's expected to be fully healthy for spring training and to open the season in Triple-A.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Tulsa (AA) 4 1 1.42 8 8 0 0 51 32 2 9 35 .180
6.  Casey Weathers, rhp   Born: June 10, 1985B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 200
 Drafted: Vanderbilt, 2007 (1st round)Signed by: Scott Corman
Casey WeathersBackground: Originally an outfielder at Sacramento (Calif.) CC, Weathers began to blossom on the mound in the summer of 2006, when he was named closer of the year in the summer Alaska League. The highest-drafted college senior in 2007, he went eighth overall after an All-America season at Vanderbilt and signed for $1.8 million.

Strengths: Weathers has a power arm with two swing-and-miss pitches. His fastball sits at 96-97 mph and becomes even nastier because he throws it on a nice downhill plane despite his short stature. His power slider can reach the low 90s. He has the confidence, cockiness and aggressiveness needed to be a closer.

Weaknesses: Weathers can get long with his arm action and too quick with his delivery, costing him command and life on his pitches. He doesn't have a changeup or a third pitch, but won't need on in a bullpen role. He needs to work on controlling the running game, so in instructional league he broke out a slide step that has potential.

The Future: Weathers is on the fast track. He most likely will open the 2008 in Double-A Tulsa and could reach the big leagues later in the year. He eventually can become a closer but figures to break into the majors as a setup man to Manny Corpas.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Asheville (Lo A) 0 1 4.61 13 0 0 2 14 6 2 7 19 .130
Modesto (Hi A)
0 0 0.00 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 2 2 .000
7.  Chris Nelson, ss   Born: Sept. 3, 1985B-T: R-RHt: 5-11Wt: 180
 Drafted: HS—Redan, Ga., 2004 (1st round)Signed by: Damon Iannelli
Chris NelsonBackground: A two-way star in high school, Nelson concentrated on shortstop after having Tommy John surgery as a junior. The Georgia state player of the year in 2004, he went ninth overall in the draft and signed for $2.15 million. He struggled in two years in low Class A in 2005-06, but had a breakout season in the hitter-friendly California League in 2007.

Strengths: Nelson has excellent bat speed, drawing comparisons to a young Gary Sheffield. Once he lowered and quieted his hands in his stance in July, he hit .333 with 13 homers in the last two months. He showed marked improvement looking for a pitch to hit and not missing it when he got it. He has plus speed and arm strength, as well as excellent work habits.

Weaknesses: Nelson needs to smooth out his footwork defensively, particularly when he gets into throwing position. But he did make improve his range and reliability at shortstop and no longer seems on the verge of moving to second base or center field.

The Future: In his fifth pro season, he's ready for Double-A. He'll continue to stay at shortstop, though Troy Tulowitzki ahead of him and Hector Gomez behind make it unlikely Nelson will play there in Colorado. He has more upside than Clint Barmes and Jayson Nix, who figure to be the Rockies' second basemen in 2008.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Modesto (Hi A) .289 .358 .503 529 97 153 42 7 19 99
55 92 27
8.  Brandon Hynick, rhp   Born: March 7, 1985B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 205
 Drafted: Birmingham-Southern, 2006 (8th round)Signed by: Damon Iannelli
Brandon HynickBackground: A two-way star at Birmingham-Southern, Hynick has won pitcher-of-the-year honors in the Rookie-level Pioneer League in his pro debut and again in the California League last season. He led the Cal League with 16 wins and a 2.52 ERA, and all minor leaguers with 182 innings.

Strengths: Hynick's stuff won't wow anybody, but he makes up for that with command, poise and preparation. He develops a plan of attack and stays with it, and his ability to throw quality strikes is the key to his success. He can locate his fastball where he wants, and mixes in a splitter, a straight changeup and a curveball.

Weaknesses: Hynick operates with little margin for error. He'll flash above-average velocity at times, but he usually pitches at 87-89 mph with his fastball. His curveball isn't very good but his splitter makes up for it by serving as his out pitch.

The Future: He'll have to keep proving himself at higher levels in the system, but Hynick isn't far from the majors. He actually was next in line for a big league callup in September if the Rockies had another injury. He'll probably open 2008 in Double-A but could force his way to Triple-A with a solid spring.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Modesto (Hi A) 16 5 2.52 28 28 3 0 182 170 13 31 136 .243
9.  Pedro Strop, rhp   Born: June 13, 1985B-T: R-RHt: 6-0Wt: 190
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2002Signed by: Rolando Fernandez/Felix Feliz
Pedro StropBackground: Signed as a shortstop, Strop hit .212 with 231 strikeouts in 221 games in his first four pro seasons, playing just four games above the short-season level. Noting his live arm, the Rockies moved him to the mound prior to the 2006 season. After successfully sneaking him through the Rule 5 draft that year, they protected him on their 40-man roster after the 2007 season.

Strengths: Having pitched just 81 pro innings, Strop has a fresh arm that delivers power stuff. His fastball ranges from 92-96 mph, while his slider runs from 85-88 mph. He can make hitters look silly with his splitter, giving him three swing-and-miss pitches. He has adapted quickly to the nuances of pitching, most likely because of the feel for the game he showed at shortstop, and is an elite fielder, another sign of his shortstop background.

Weaknesses: Strop needs to polish his mechanics and throw more strikes. He'll open up too soon and also cock his arm like a catcher and use a dart-throwing motion. He has made some adjustments to lengthen his delivery. He's still learning to keep his emotions in check.

The Future: Strop figures to start 2008 in Double-A and can reach Colorado later in the year. Along with Manny Corpas and Casey Weathers, he gives the Rockies three strong closer options for the future.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Modesto (Hi A)
5 2 4.28 48 0 0 7 55 43
4 29 75 .215
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
Chaz RoeBackground: Roe turned down a chance to follow in his father's footsteps as a quarterback at Kentucky, signing instead for $1.025 million as a supplemental first-round pick. The Rockies have developed Roe patiently, limiting his innings in his first two seasons before turning him loose in 2007. He finished strong in high Class A, with a 4-0, 2.15 record in his final eight starts.

Strengths: Roe has a big-time curveball that's a swing-and-miss pitch. His low-90s fastball plays off his curveball well. He still has a lot of projection remaining in his 6-foot-5, 180-pound frame and should develop into a workhorse with two consistent plus pitches. He's very tough when he uses his height to pitch on a steep downward angle.

Weaknesses: Roe is walking that fine line of trying to harness his power without losing command of his pitches. He tends to slip into a more side-to-side motion, causing and his pitches flatten out. He still has a lot of work to do with his changeup.

The Future: Roe will continue to move one level at a time, advancing to Double-A in 2008. A potential No. 3 starter, he should be ready for the majors by 2010.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Modesto (Hi A)
7 11 4.33 29 29 2 0 170 148 17 73 131 .235

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Photo Credits:
John Williamson (Morales)
Steve Moore (Fowler, Reynolds, Nelson)
Tony Farlow (Weathers)
Bill Mitchell (Gomez, Hynick, Strop, Roe)