2013 Colorado Rockies Top 10 Prospects Chat With Jack Etkin

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.

    Goose (Maine): What happened to Drew Pomeranz? Normal bump in the developmental road or something more significant?

Jack Etkin: Let's get the Rockies chat started. There are a lot of questions already, so without further ado....Drew Pomeranz is 24 and has played two professional seasons. During that time, he has pitched a total of 267 innings, and 115 have been in the big leagues. So he has done a lot of his learning at the highest level, which is hard, and he needs and will get experience. The four-man rotation worked against Pomeranz, because he can strikeouts that elevate his pitch count. He was sent back to Triple-A in May for about six weeks to work on his delivery _ get more over the top and regain his velocity. He basically just needs to pitch and at the outset of 2013, there is no certainty that will be with the Rockies or Triple-A Colorado Springs.

    Greg (Fullerton, CA): How close were the top two guys? Arenado seemingly took a little step back last season while Dahl started incredibly strong.

Jack Etkin: Numbers-wise Arenado's year wasn't that impressive. But he took a big step forward in learning not to let things he cannot control affect him _ like will he get called up _ and that's an important part of the development process. Arenado put a lot of pressure on himself last year, starting in his first big league camp. He's not likely to fall into that trap again. Pick any superlative you want and it doesn't quite describe Dahl's season. He exceeded the organization's expectations, which were obviously high when they took him 10th overall. You can say let's not go overboard, since what he did was accomplished at the Rookie level. And while that's true, the fact is he dominated the Pioneer League as an 18-year-old.

    Robert (San Diego): From everything I read I know Will Swanner's defense in behind his power bat. Before a late season injury it seemed like his SAL stats were MVP type numbers

Jack Etkin: Swanner's defense could result in him moving out from behind the plate to, say, first base. He has trouble hitting breaking pitches, but let's not forget he's 21 and has had just 560 professional at-bats and played just one year at the full-season level. That said, there are some who question whether his is the type of swing that will enable him to make adjustments as he moves up and faces better pitching.

    Darryl (Toronto): Just how soon do you see Brothers taking over the 9th inning duties? Has he lost some of his stock as the future closer at all?

Jack Etkin: There's no question the stuff is there for Brothers to close, but he needs to refine his command. This could well be Betancourt's final season closing for the Rockies. If so, that role in 2014 could go to Wilton Lopez, who closed the final two months of last year for the Astros, or Brothers. At some point, the Rockies could well move Bettis to the bullpen. He has the stuff, command and mentality to close, but getting him back on the mound in his familiar starter's role is paramount at this point after he missed all last season.

    John Elway (Rocky Mountain High): Thanks for the chat Jack! Any chance Story pushes Tulo off SS in a few years? If not, can Story hit enough in the bigs to be a quality 3B?

Jack Etkin: I would say it's more likely that if Tulo stays healthy, he pushes Story to another position simply because Tulo is more athletic. Story should hit enough to be fine at 3B. His 67 XBH at Asheville last year at age 19 were remarkable, as are his intangible qualities. His 121 strikeouts were obviously too many, but as he gains experience at how pitchers are attacking him and tones down his aggression when needed, he should be fine.

    Ben (Leland Grove): How close was it between Arenado and Dahl for the top spot?

Jack Etkin: Dahl certainly got some consideration. But in the end, the fact that Arenado is further along, played at 21 at Double-A last year and dealt with _ and profited from _ more adversity than before were factored in the equation.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): Is Tim Wheeler still on your radar? Does he project to have a regular spot in the Rockies' OF in the future, or do you see him as a 4th OF/utility guy only?

Jack Etkin: It's a little hard to get a read on Wheeler since he hit for extreme power and had a great season at Double-A in 2011 and hit for minimal power at Triple-A last year. He broke his right hamate bone early in the season but wasn't hitting for power before that. Wheeler wanted to a better job hitting LHPs last year and cutting his strikeouts and was successful in those areas, and if that happened at the expense of some power, so be it. At this point, he likely projects to a fourth OF type. But that could change in part because Wheeler is so competitive and focused and such a hard worker.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Is Edwar Cabrera still in your top 30? Could he have a shot at Coor's this year?

Jack Etkin: Cabrera is still in the top 30 but needs to command his fastball much better than he did in two brief starts for the Rockies last year and either greatly improve his curve or come up with a cutter. His changeup is a plus pitch, and Cabrera is fearless. But to have any chance to be a back-end starter at some point this year or future seasons, he has to do the above.

    Grant (NYC): How many of the top 10 do you believe are worthy of making BA's top 100?

Jack Etkin: I've got to take a pass on that question, since that list is made by those at BA who are familiar with every organization and can appropriately slot the Rockies prospects. That said, I would think Arenado, Dahl and Story might have a chance to make it _ "might" being the key word.

    Dan (Denver, CO): How close to the top 10 was Ryan Warner? What's the skinny on him?

Jack Etkin: He wasn't close at all, which is no knock at all. Warner was on a 65-pitch limit at Rookie Grand Junction, understandable considering he pitched at 18 last summer in his first pro season. Warner's numbers don't reflect the maturity he showed that is beyond his years, his intelligence on the mound and his ability to make adjustments.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): We saw two Tyler Matzek's last season - the dominant one and the one who walked almost everybody. By ranking him in your top 10 once again, how confident are you we will see the former version going forward?

Jack Etkin: I don't think anyone can be confident about the "good" Matzek showing up to start the season. Hopeful? Yes, based on how he finished and he mentally seemed to have found the way to use his physical gifts. But not necessarily confident, given his extreme peaks and valleys to date. And that's probably true of those in the organization, too. He'll pitch at Double-A this year, so the season looms large for Matzek.

    Frank (Chicago): Did Christian Bergman get a ranking in the top 30? What's his projection likely to be?

Jack Etkin: He did end up toward the bottom of the list. He compensates for ordinary stuff with exceptional command _ of all his pitches. This will be a big season for Bergman, facing better hitters at the Double-A level. Pitchers like Bergman tend to fall short of the big leagues, and a recent one who is similar who was in the Rockies organization is Brandon Hynick. But Bergman has been pitcher of the year in his league in two consecutive seasons, so maybe he just keeps plowing forward on the strength of his plus command. If he gets to the majors, he profiles as a back-end starter or middle reliever.

    Grant (NYC): What did scouts have to say about Max White last season?

Jack Etkin: Scouts like his tools. And his ability to run will help him on both sides of the ball. Obviously pro ball was an adjustment, but he came out of high school and improved as the season went on. Chalk it up as a good learning experience.

    Ryan (Dallas, TX): Was Tom Murphy considered for the top 10?

Jack Etkin: He was somewhat short of the top 10. But he made the top 30 and far from the bottom after his very good pro debut at short-season Class A Tri-City.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Who are the biggest hitting/pitching sleeper prospects in the organization right now? Thanks, Jack.

Jack Etkin: I'm not sure if they would qualify as the "biggest" sleepers, but LHP Mike Mason, who thrived after going to the bullpen at Grand Junction, bears watching. And so does 2B Taylor Featherston, who played well at Asheville last year.

    Jon (Charlottesville): Jack, despite sitting out the whole 2012 season with a "strain," Chad Bettis only dropped two spots from his #3 ranking in last year's Rockies Top 30 and is billed as the team's best pitching prospect. Is this more a testimonial to his natural stuff, or a cautionary note about Colorado's pitching development program?

Jack Etkin: Bettis was fully healthy and regained his velocity in instructional league, so those things factored heavily into his ranking. After the season, Mark Wiley was hired to oversee the pitching in the entire organization, so clearly the Rockies, by bringing an experienced hand like Wiley back into the organization and giving him this much authority, are looking to improve the development of pitchers.

    Ken (Lakewood CA): Where would Rutledge be on this list if he were still eligible?

Jack Etkin: Moot point, since half his 2012 season was in the big leagues. But assuming he had stayed in the minors longer, maybe until September, and kept performing as he did at Tulsa, Rutledge could have ended up in the top three.

    Jon (Charlottesville): All Corey Dickerson has done as a pro is hit and hit some more. Maybe there was a small dropoff at Double-A Tulsa, but has he earned a more solid place in BA's prospect rankings and in the Rockies' plans? Break out your crystal ball: Do you see him needing a full season further at Tulsa and at Triple-A? Maybe Coors sometime in 2014? Trade bait?

Jack Etkin: Dickerson parlayed an offseason of dedication after 2011 at Asheville right into spring training and a big 2012. He should have a chance to make the Triple-A team out of spring training. If he has a good season, it's possible to envision a September call-up. Keeping with that reasoning, Coors sometime in 2014 is certainly possible. So is getting traded, since the Rockies don't lack for OFs.

    Ken (Lakewood CA): Will guys like Blackmon, Eric Young Jr & Pacheco ever be looked at as starters, or are they destined to be bench players?

Jack Etkin: Blackmon is seen as a bench player at this point, certainly more than the other two. Young had an incredible two weeks before he got hurt in August and has really, really worked hard and improved his outfield play. That said, he's probably more of an occasional starter, assuming Gonzalez, Fowler and Cuddyer are healthy. Pacheco's versatility makes him someone who can start regularly but move around rather than hold down one position; that seems to be his future at this point.

    Ken (Lakewood CA): How high are you on Pomeranz? He didn't seem to pitch well in 2012, yet you have him as the future #1 for the Rockies. More a result of nobody else to put there right now or do you see him straightening things out and becoming very good?

Jack Etkin: Pomeranz should certainly improve but to say he'll become a true No. 1 could be a reach. Butler, who has only played half a season, may have the highest ceiling of all the starting prospects.

    Jon (Charlottesville): Last June's catcher draftee, Tom Murphy: how far does he have to progress as a receiver, and where does he rank in your 30?

Jack Etkin: He has work to do as a receiver, not surprising for a college catcher from upstate NY, but showed a strong arm in addition to his physical strength and ability to hit. He ended up somewhere around No. 15.

    Ken (Lakewood CA): Parker going from 48 BB & 133 K in 2011 to 66 & 88 in 2012 - that seems like a huge improvement for him in just one year? Should we all be impressed? I am.

Jack Etkin: Everyone should be impressed.

    Ken (Lakewood CA): I'm a little surprised that Arenado was #1. Not really impressive numbers in AA last year. And then comments about his attitude and maturity. Guessing the work on his defense helps him and there appears to be nobody in his way until Story makes his way to the big club. Was he the obvious #1 for you or was it close among the top 3?

Jack Etkin: It was very close among the top three. Arguments can be made for each player.

    Jason (Dallas): Where would you rank Dahl among the other top prep bats (Buxton, Correa, Almora, Russell) drafted last summer? Also, do you think Coors would potentially allow his power to play up into the 25HR range?

Jack Etkin: I'm not familiar enough with the other prep bats to rank them. Twenty-five HRs is probably a stretch at this point. More like 15-20.

    Not Jaypers (Wi): Jack, does Harold Riggans profile as a potential All Star if he can get his BB rate up?

Jack Etkin: I wouldn't go so far as to project Riggins as a future All-Star. But he's an intriguing player, who moves really well and has nimble feet for someone his size.

    Not Jaypers (Wi): Jack, who ranks behind Kyle Parker for power in the system?

Jack Etkin: Julian Yan would be next and very close.

    Fred (Buffalo): What's Tom Murphy's path this year?

Jack Etkin: Fred, can't help notice that Buffalo reference, which obviously is where Murphy went to college and where I grew up. Murphy could have a chance to make high Class A Modesto in spring training or get there during the season should he start at Asheville.

    Dan (New Haven, CT): Hi Jack. Thanks for the chat. Did Harold Riggins merit any consideration after flashing some power in the SAL this season?

Jack Etkin: He made the top 30.

    Lester (Omaha): Should we expect Peter Tago to take a leap forward this year?

Jack Etkin: It's about time that happened. There were good signs in instructional league that he had matured and had made some adjustments in his mechanics. But let's see if Tago can carry them over to spring training and, more importantly, to games that matter. I'm afraid I have to end the chat here after two hours. The questions were insightful. I hope my answers were helpful, and I apologize to those whose questions I didn't get to. Thanks again.