Colorado Rockies Top 10 Prospects With 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, 2011.

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Colorado Rockies

The Rockies were Baseball America's Organization of the Year and advanced to the World Series in 2007, then returned to the playoffs in 2009. They fell short of the postseason in 2010, but still won 83 games and look positioned to continue contending in the National League West.

The constant in Colorado's recent success has been an emphasis on scouting and player development. The team has homegrown players throughout its roster, from franchise icon Todd Helton to ace Ubaldo Jimenez—who threw the first no-hitter in franchise history last April—to cornerstone Troy Tulowitzki, who signed a $158 million extension in November that will keep him under contract through at least 2020. Six of the eight hitters in the projected 2011 lineup and three of the five starters in the planned rotation were signed and developed by the Rockies.

And yet they weren't satisfied with the quality of players they were getting in recent drafts. So in 2009 they took lefthander Tyler Matzek in the first round, even though he was considered a challenge to sign. After playing the waiting game, they signed him for a club-record $3.9 million.

Last June, the Rockies selected Clemson quarterback/outfielder Kyle Parker in the first round, knowing that he still had three years of football eligibility remaining. They eventually signed him for $1.4 million, agreeing to allow him to play football last fall before focusing on baseball.

Colorado had a reputation for adhering to the bonus guidelines prescribed by the commissioner's office and for not gambling with its early picks. That has changed, as the organization realized it was putting itself at a disadvantage compared to others that routinely ignored MLB's informal slotting system.

"We just got fed up," general manager Dan O'Dowd said. "We just started taking the best player available. We felt we would make the effort to get them signed, and if it got to the point where we had to walk away, we would walk away and take the compensation pick for the next year."

The wakeup call came for the Rockies after they spent three consecutive first-round picks on pitchers Greg Reynolds, Casey Weathers and Christian Friedrich in 2006-08. Reynolds, taken No. 2 overall instead of Evan Longoria because Colorado had selected infielders with its previous three first-rounders, has been healthy enough to make 20 starts just once in four full pro seasons.

Weathers, taken ahead of Jason Heyward, has pitched just 29 innings since having Tommy John surgery following the 2008 season. Friedrich has been limited to 155 innings in three years as a pro because of shoulder ailments.

The residual effect is that the Rockies do have a gap in their farm system. They don't have any top rookie candidates for 2011 or an abundance of prospects in Triple-A, but they have done a good job of restocking their supply prospects and feel comfortable with a coming wave of talent at the Double-A level on down. Matzek and Parker are still a few years away, but catcher Wilin Rosario, lefty reliever Rex Brothers, righty Juan Nicasio and outfielder Charlie Blackmon may be able to make some big league contributions in the near future.

1.  Tyler Matzek, lhp   Born: Oct. 19, 1990B-T: L-LHt: 6-3Wt: 213
 Drafted: HS—Capistrano Valley, Calif., 2009 (1st round)Signed by: Jon Lukens
Tyler MatzekBackground: Matzek emerged as the top high school pitcher and top lefthander in the 2009 draft class, but his reported bonus demands and Oregon commitment drove him down many draft boards. The Rockies had a reputation for being conservative in the draft, but in their first major deviation from their previous draft philosophy, they took Matzek 11th overall. Though he had told teams he was looking for "unprecedented money," Colorado was able to land him for a club-record $3.9 million at the Aug. 17 deadline. He signed too late to make his pro debut, though he did make a strong impression in instructional league. The Rockies kept him in extended spring training for the first six weeks of the 2010 season, in an attempt to keep his innings down in his first pro season. Matzek didn't make his first start at low Class A Asheville until May 24, and even in August he worked with an 85-pitch limit. He also was slowed by biceps tendinitis at season's end, though he still ranked as the No. 3 prospect (and top pitching prospect) in the South Atlantic League.

Scouting Report: Matzek has a four-pitch assortment, with strong present stuff and plenty of room for improvement. His fastball sits at 88-92 mph and touches 96. He throws his fastball with good angle, and it jumps on hitters with late life. He pitched in the mid-90s more frequently toward the end of the season, and he flashed upper-90s heat leading up to the 2009 draft. At 20, he should get stronger as he fills out. Matzek is still developing feel for and consistency with his secondary pitches. He presently has more feel for his decent curveball, but his slider should develop into his more reliable breaking ball, a potential plus offering and perhaps a legitimate out pitch. His changeup shows promise in bullpen sessions, but he doesn't use it enough in games. Eventually he'll learn that he needs the changeup to combat righthanders, though for now he noticeably slows his arm when he throws it. Matzek has good arm action and a nice release, but he opens up too soon in his delivery and lands on a stiff front leg, which is why he has been so inconsistent with his command. He averaged 6.2 walks per nine innings in his pro debut, which makes his 2.92 ERA a testament to his ability to dominate hitters. A quality athlete, Matzek fields his position well. His biggest challenge has nothing to do with his physical ability, as he must do a better job of not showing his emotions on the mound. Having never dealt with failure, he got frustrated at times last season. He also got himself in trouble by being too analytical. He's meticulous in his approach, but Colorado would like him to simplify things.

The Future: Matzek has all the stuff to pitch at the top of a rotation, but he also has a lot to learn. If his control and command come together, he could move more quickly than a typical Rockies high school draft pick. He'll start 2011 at high Class A Modesto, with a midseason move up to Double-A Tulsa and a big league ETA of late 2012 not out of the question.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Asheville (Lo A) 5 1 2.92 18 18 0 0 89 62 6 62 88 .204
2.  Wilin Rosario, c   Born: Feb. 23, 1989B-T: R-RHt: 5-11Wt: 195
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2006Signed by: Rolando Fernandez/Felix Feliz
Wilin RosarioBackground: Rosario was in the midst of a breakout year when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during a rundown in early August. He had just played in the Futures Game and won the Double-A Texas League's player-of-the-month award for July when knee surgery ended his season. Colorado added him to its 40-man roster in November.

Scouting Report: Rosario is a rare catcher with an impact bat. He has a compact swing and can turn on any fastball, and he showed improvement handling breaking balls last year. He has power to all fields and could hit 20-30 homers a year if he taps into his strength, though he'll need to improve his strike-zone discipline. While he's a well below-average runner, Rosario has the athleticism to be a quality defensive catcher. He moves well behind the plate and blocks and receives balls well. He has a strong arm and threw out 44 percent of basestealers in 2010. He's refining his game-calling and working on keeping up his energy behind the plate even when he has a bad game at bat.

The Future: The Rockies hoped Rosario could reach the major leagues sometime in 2011, but the knee injury probably pushes that timetable back a year. His rehabilitation was progressing well, and he could be able to participate in spring training. When he's ready for action, he'll head to Triple-A Colorado Springs.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Tulsa (AA) .285 .342 .552 270 42 77 13 1 19 52 21 57 1
3.  Nolan Arenado, 3b   Born: April 16, 1991B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 223
 Drafted: HS—El Toro, Calif., 2009 (2nd round)Signed by: Jon Lukens
Nolan ArenadoBackground: The Rockies drafted Arenado 56th overall and signed him for $625,000 because of his bat. He hit .529 as a high school senior and then .300 in his pro debut, when he was the second-youngest everyday player in the Rookie-level Pioneer League. He got off to a slow start in 2010 because of a groin injury, reporting to Asheville on May 21, but still batted .308 and finished second in the South Atlantic League with 41 doubles.

Scouting Report: Arenado is strong and makes consistent, hard contact, so he should have above-average power. His inside-out stroke serves him well in two-strike situations, though there's some stiffness in his swing. He has a situational approach that allows him to turn on fastballs thrown on the inner portion of the plate. A middle-of-the-lineup hitter, he admits he has to draw more walks. A shortstop in high school, Arenado has moved to third base as a pro and has a strong, accurate arm. He needs to work on his first-step quickness to develop better range, and he could end up at first base. He's not athletic and has below-average speed.

The Future: Arenado will move up to high Class A to open the 2011 season, but if he hits he could earn a second-half promotion. He'll stay at third base for now, but he profiles as the eventual heir to Todd Helton at first base.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Asheville (Lo A) .308 .338 .520 373 45 115 41 1 12 65 19 52 1
4.  Christian Friedrich, lhp   Born: July 8, 1987B-T: L-LHt: 6-4Wt: 215
 Drafted: Eastern Kentucky, 2008 (1st round)Signed by: Scott Corman
Christian FriedrichBackground: Undrafted out of a suburban Chicago high school, Friedrich went 25th overall in the 2008 draft and signed for $1.35 million after three years at Eastern Kentucky. He ranked second in the minors with 12.0 strikeouts per nine innings in his first full season, but he has missed a month in each of the last two years with elbow inflammation. His 2010 season ended on Aug. 19 because of a strained lat muscle.

Scouting Report: Friedrich offers a pair of plus pitches and mixes his entire arsenal well. His fastball ranges from 89-93 mph, touching 95, and he loves to challenge hitters with it. His curveball has big bite when he finishes it but needs to get more consistent. He shows feel for a changeup and locates it well, and he has worked on a slider to give hitters a different look. Tulsa pitching coach Bryan Harvey worked with Friedrich to get him to stay back longer in his delivery, allowing him to create a better downhill plane on his pitches. His main challenge is to stay healthy.

The Future: Provided he's durable enough, Friedrich can be a No. 3 starter, and he's nearly ready for the big leagues. He'll open 2011 in Triple-A and figures to reach Colorado before the season ends.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Tulsa (AA) 3 6 5.05 18 18 0 0 87 100 10 35 78 .293
5.  Peter Tago, rhp   Born: July 5, 1992B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 190
 Drafted: HS—Dana Hills, Calif., 2010 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Jon Lukens
Peter TagoBackground: Jason Marquis won 15 games and made the all-star team in his lone season with Colorado, but his legacy well could turn out to be Tago, selected 47th overall in the 2010 draft with a compensation choice the Rockies received for losing Marquis to free agency. Of Samoan descent, Tago initially committed to UCLA and looked headed to Cal State Fullerton until he signed for $982,500 hours before the Aug. 16 deadline.

Scouting Report: Tago has the size and stuff to be a frontline starter. He first caught the attention of scouts when he hit 90 mph with his fastball at age 14. He now works at 91-93 mph, with a frame and arm action that portend more velocity, and he hit 98 in predraft workouts. His curveball has promise but needs tighter spin, and he's working on a changeup after not using it much as an amateur. Tago has a smooth, relaxed motion, but he needs to do a better job of incorporating his lower half in his delivery. He throws strikes and has a good demeanor on the mound.

The Future: Tago got his first taste of pro ball in instructional league and spent a month at the team's facility in the Dominican Republic. The Rockies don't rush young arms, but he could force his way into the Asheville rotation in 2011.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Did Not Play—Signed Late
6.  Kyle Parker, of   Born: Sept. 30, 1989B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 200
 Drafted: Clemson, 2010 (1st round)Signed by: Jay Matthews
Kyle ParkerBackground: In 2009-10, Parker became the first player in NCAA Division I history to throw 20 touchdown passes and hit 20 homers in the same school year. The 26th overall pick in the 2010 baseball draft, he declined a $2.2 million offer from the Rockies in mid-July that would have required him to immediately give up playing quarterback at Clemson. He signed for $1.4 million at the Aug. 16 deadline before throwing 12 touchdowns and 10 interceptions for a 6-6 Tigers team. His disappointing fall reaffirmed his decision to focus on baseball starting this spring. His father Carl is a former NFL wide receiver.

Scouting Report: Parker hit 46 homers in three seasons at Clemson and has tremendous bat speed to go with strength, so scouts think his power is legitimate. He shows a great feel for the game and improved his discipline last spring, giving him the ability to hit for a solid average as well. He's a good athlete but not an overwhelming one. He has average speed, range and arm strength and will fit on an outfield corner. The leadership he showed at quarterback translates into a no-nonsense mentality on the baseball field.

The Future: Parker's experience playing at the highest level of college baseball should allow him to hit the ground running in full-season ball, and he'll probably make his debut at Asheville. Colorado will fast-track him if he can handle it.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Did Not Play—Signed Late
7.  Rex Brothers, lhp   Born: Dec. 18, 1987B-T: L-LHt: 6-0Wt: 212
 Drafted: Lipscomb, 2009 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Scott Corman
Rex BrothersBackground: The 34th player taken in the 2009 draft, Brothers has moved quickly since signing for $969,000. Converted to a reliever after turning pro, he reached Double-A in July of his first full pro season, struggling initially but finishing with a 1.50 ERA and 18 strikeouts in his final 12 innings. He continued to perform well in the Arizona Fall League, where he appeared in the Rising Stars Game.

Scouting Report: Brothers has just two pitches, but they're both nasty and he goes right after hitters with them. His fastball touches 97 and sits comfortably in the low to mid-90s with running movement. His mid-80s slider has dramatic late tilt, allowing him to use it as an out pitch against both lefthanders and righthanders. Command and control are all that stand between him and a big league promotion. Tulsa pitching coach Bryan Harvey helped smooth out Brothers' mechanics, getting him to eliminate a shoulder rotation that caused his pitches to stay up in the zone. Harvey draws compares Brothers to Billy Wagner.

The Future: The Rockies will give Brothers a long look in big league camp after nearly promoting him to the majors last September. The team's closer of the future, he'll probably open 2011 in Triple-A and reach Colorado during the season.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Modesto (Hi A) 0 2 2.68 33 0 0 3 37 20 0 19 43 .165
Tulsa (AA) 2 1 3.94 24 0 0 4 23 14 2 18 27 .177
8.  Juan Nicasio, rhp   Born: Aug. 31, 1986B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 234
 Drafted: Dominican Republic, 2006Signed by: Rolando Fernandez/Felix Feliz
Juan NicasioBackground: Nicasio is a late bloomer, signing out of the Dominican Republic at age 19 and making his full-season debut three years later. He took a major step forward in 2010, leading the high Class A California League in wins (12), innings (177) and strikeouts (171). Despite blowing away his previous career high of 112 innings, he finished with a flourish, going 4-1, 2.30 ERA with just four walks in 43 innings over his final six starts.

Scouting Report: Nicasio has the stuff and size to pitch near the front of a big league rotation, and one Cal League scout compared him to a young Ubaldo Jimenez. Nicasio has an 89-94 mph fastball and the ability to reach back and hit 97. He throws two versions of a breaking ball, a true curveball and a slurvier version that some scouts call a slider. He's developing a changeup that elicits swings and misses at times. Nicasio posted a 5.5 K-BB ratio last year, and at times he's around the strike zone too much. He had more success one he adjusted and began pitching inside more, moving hitters off the plate.

The Future: Nicasio will take his four-pitch mix to Double-A in 2011. If all goes well, he could challenge for a job in Colorado's rotation by mid-2012.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Modesto (Hi A) 12 10 3.91 28 28 1 0 177 186 14 31 171 .266
9.  Chad Bettis, rhp   Born: April 26, 1989B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 210
 Drafted: Texas Tech, 2010 (2nd round)Signed by: Dar Cox
Chad BettisBackground: An eighth-round draft choice coming out of high school in 2007, Bettis was among seven Astros picks in the first 15 rounds that year who did not sign. He showed versatility at Texas Tech, working as a starter as a freshman, reliever as a sophomore and in both roles last spring. He also starred in the bullpen for Team USA in the summer of 2009, and signed for $477,000 as the 76th overall pick last June.

Scouting Report: An excellent competitor, Bettis has the fluid delivery and quick arm to allow him to look effortless while generating velocity and movement. He usually pitches at 92-94 mph with his fastball, and he has hit 98 out of the bullpen. His slider is a plus pitch at times, but it lacks consistency and he tends to overthrows it. He has a developing changeup that he uses against lefthanders. Bettis relies too heavily on his secondary pitches and needs to use his fastball more. He throws strikes and works down in the zone, giving up just one homer in 67 pro innings.

The Future: Bettis could open his first full pro season in high Class A and pitch his way to Double-A by midseason. While he has the stuff and resilience to thrives as a reliever, the Rockies will develop him as a potential middle-of-the-rotation starter.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Tri-City (SS) 4 1 1.12 10 9 0 0 48 44 0 10 39 .227
Asheville (Lo A) 2 0 0.96 3 3 0 0 19 14 1 3 17 .209
10.  Hector Gomez, ss   Born: March 5, 1988B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 180
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2004Signed by: Rolando Fernandez/Felix Feliz/Frank Roa
Hector GomezBackground: Injuries have slowed Gomez the last three years, but he had a much more significant obstacle to overcome last year. His first son, Hector Jr., died shortly after his birth in late June. Gomez also dealt with a stress fracture in his right leg, sustained in the second game of 2010. He fouled a ball off his left leg in the first game of 2008, then blew out his elbow while rehabbing a stress fracture and required Tommy John surgery. In 2009, he missed a month with a groin strain.

Scouting Report: Gomez has the prototypical tools of a modern shortstop. He has tremendous arm strength, soft hands and quick feet, which allow him to cover ground and make off-balance plays. His focus tends to wander on routine grounders, however. At the plate, Gomez can turn on any fastball and shows at least 15-homer potential. He's impatient and vulnerable to breaking pitches, which dents his average. He has plus speed but is still learning as a basestealer. The Rockies believe most of his deficiencies can be alleviated with playing time.

The Future: The two things holding Gomez back are his health and his position. With Troy Tulowitzki entrenched at Coors Field, Gomez will have to move to second base if he stays with Colorado. First on his agenda is getting in a full season of at-bats in Double-A.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Tulsa (AA) .314 .314 .429 35 6 11 4 0 0 3 0 8 0
Tri-City (SS) .246 .293 .381 68 8 17 2 1 2 7 5 15 0

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Photo Credits:
Tony Farlow (Matzek, Arenado)