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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 when he learned that he had been named to the World Team in the Futures Game. There, he hit 97 mph with his fastball and struck out fellow Rockies farmhand Ian Stewart, Twins second baseman Matt Tolbert and Reds outfielder Jay Bruce in an inning of work. He went 3-0 in four starts at Tulsa afterward, then won two of his three starts at Triple-A Colorado Springs before becoming the fourth-youngest player in Rockies history at 21. He tied a franchise record for starters by spinning 20 straight scoreless innings. 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. He is the first big league lefthander to come out of Colorado's replenished Latin American program. Morales can reach the upper 90s with his fastball, but he achieves his best command and life when he pitches at 92-93 mph, more than enough velocity for a lefty. He features two curveballs, a slower version that he throws for strikes, and a harder, sweepier pitch that hitters will chase. He made major strides with his changeup in 2007. The Rockies consider Morales 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. Morales still has to work on throwing more consistent and better 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. He needs to smooth out his arm action and add deception to his changeup to help him against righthanders, who hit .273 off him in the majors. Morales can get a little too 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. 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's young and has spent only 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.
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. 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. 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 gets lackadaisical on routine plays, leading to careless errors. Because Garrett Atkins is at the hot corner in Colorado, Stewart has worked out at second base and the outfield. 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.
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. Fowler is a graceful athlete, particularly in center field, where he has plus range and a slightly above-average arm. 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. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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, limiting his power potential. He needs to improve his basestealing after getting caught 10 times in 30 tries, and his defensive consistency after making 39 errors. 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.
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. 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 repeats his delivery easily, giving him good command. He has a good sense of himself and how good he can become. 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. 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 could open the season in Triple-A.
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. 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. 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 one in a bullpen role. He needs to work on controlling the running game, so in instructional league he broke out a slide step. 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.
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 high Class A California League in 2007. 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. Nelson needs to smooth out his footwork defensively, particularly when he gets into throwing position. The Rockies say he improved his range and reliability at shortstop and no longer seems on the verge of moving to second base or center field. In his fifth pro season, he's ready for Double- A. He'll continue to stay at shortstop, though Tulowitzki ahead of him and 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.
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 led all minor leaguers with 182 innings. 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. 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. He'll have to keep proving himself at higher levels in the system, but Hynick isn't far from the majors. He 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.
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. 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 remains an elite fielder. 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. 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.
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. Roe has a big-time curveball that's a swing-and-miss pitch. His low-90s fastball plays off his curve 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 with a steep downward angle to his pitches. 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. 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.
Morillo is at a turning point in his career. He has drawn attention ever since the Rockies clocked him at 104 mph in 2004, but he has yet to harness his electric arm. He's out of options, which means he has to make the big league roster out of spring training or be placed on waivers. While Morillo's fastball frequently hits triple digits, he best commands the pitch when he throws it at 95 mph. He still lacks a second plus pitch. His slider did go from inconsistent at the start of 2007 to average by season's end. He had been working on a splitter, but tightness in the top of his forearm had him back off that pitch last season. Once he put the splitter on hold, he returned to throwing a changeup. Morillo needs to throw strikes more consistently. If he can do that and develop a reliable second pitch, he could be a power closer. For now, Colorado would be content if he could make the club as a sixth- or seventh-inning reliever.
A backup quarterback to Eli Manning at Mississippi--he never took a snap in three years--Smith has made rapid strides in baseball since signing with the Rockies and concentrating on one sport. He played a key role down the stretch in 2007, going 8-for-14 as a pinch-hitter. He provided a crucial triple in the wild-card playoff against the Padres and the game-winning double in the pennant-clincher against the Diamondbacks. Smith has a pure swing and was able to maintain his mechanics even while coming off the bench. He has shown more power as he has advanced to higher levels, setting new career highs for homers in each of the last two years, though he doesn't get caught up trying to drive the ball over the fence. His plate discipline has improved as well. He can fall into slumps when he gets too carried away with the leg lift he uses as a timing mechancism. Smith has above-average speed but needs to work on his baserunning. He can play center field on at least a part-time basis but fits better in right field. He has a strong arm and has recorded 44 assists in the last three seasons. Blocked by Matt Holliday and Brad Hawpe in Colorado, Smith will have to be content as a backup in 2008.
Of the top eight pitchers on this list, Rogers is the fourth who began his pro career as a position player, and that doesn't include Brandon Hynick, a two-way star in college. Originally a shortstop, Rogers hit just .209 in three years in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League before moving to the mound in 2006. He advanced to low Class A in 2007 and established himself as a legitimate pitching candidate. For a converted infielder, Rogers has a surprisingly solid delivery and startling command of a curveball. He also showcases his arm strength with a 92-94 mph fastball that has late life. The Rockies kept him in extended spring training last year to keep his innings down, and he's still working on building his durability. He also has to develop a changeup if he's to remain in the rotation. Though he was placed on the 40-man roster, Rogers doesn't project to be in Colorado's big league plans until 2010. He'll move up to high Class A this year.
A walk-on at Louisiana Tech, Rike exploded as a junior and became the 72nd overall pick in the 2007 draft, signing for $450,000. A conditioning program helped him add 25 pounds after arriving at Louisiana Tech, and he led the Western Athletic Conference with 20 homers last spring after totaling nine in his first two seasons. He also cut his 60-yard-dash time from 7.1 seconds as a freshman to 6.7 seconds as a junior. Rike reminds the Rockies of a young Brad Hawpe, showing power potential that will develop as he starts to get a book on how pitchers are working him. He has an idea of the strike zone and will draw walks, though he'll need to make more consistent contact. Rike played some center field at Louisiana Tech and in his pro debut, but he's more of a right fielder and has the arm to play there. He needs to focus better on his defense, as his routes and angles can get him in trouble. He could put up impressive power numbers at hitter-friendly Asheville in 2008.
The Rockies' top draft pick (supplemental first round) in 2001, Nix was in line to be their second baseman of his future after his first three seasons in the minors. Then he hit the wall hard, batting .213 and .236 in back-to-back seasons in Double-A and doing little better in his first taste of Triple-A. He got back on track in 2007, which he capped by earning MVP honors as Team USA won the World Cup for the first time since 1974. He batted .387, scored a team-high nine runs, drilled two homers (including one in the championship game) and played terrific defense. Nix is an excellent situational hitter, though he doesn't trust his hands as much as he should. He tends to go into funks when he hits home runs, seeming caught up in trying to hit more longballs rather than letting his gap power come naturally. A shortstop and pitcher in high school, he developed excellent game awareness from those experiences. He has solid speed and good baserunning instincts. Carney Lansford, his hitting coach in Triple-A, called him the best defensive second baseman he has ever seen. Nix has brilliant instincts and reactions, as well as a solid arm for his position. He's fearless turning the double play and led Triple-A Pacific Coast League second basemen with a .986 fielding percentage last season. Now that Kaz Matsui has left as a free agent, Nix has pushed himself to the front of the line to take over at second base.
McKenry was a bit disappointed that he slipped to the seventh round in the 2006 draft, but signed quickly because he was the first catcher the Rockies drafted that year and he figured that meant he'd get plenty of playing time. He was correct and capitalized on that opportunity in his first full season. He made the South Atlantic League's midseason and postseason all-star teams, and he earned the same honors in Hawaii Winter Baseball, where he hit .281 with five homers. McKenry has a good all-around game. While Asheville's McCormick Field is a nice hitter's park, his 22 homers were eight more than any other player on the club and he showed power in Hawaii as well. He has a good idea of the strike zone, draws walks and doesn't panic when he gets behind in the count. Though he has below-average speed, he runs better than most catchers. Roving catching instructor Marv Foley worked with McKenry on his mechanics, helping him shorten his arm action in the back and finishing his throws better rather than hurrying them. Though he's still straightening out his footwork, he has a strong arm and threw out 34 percent of basestealers in 2007. His receiving skills are solid as well. He's ready to move up to high Class A.
Primarily a pitcher his first two years at Virginia, Koshansky took to playing first base so well that he became the first Cavalier to be named Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year. That came in 2004, when he hit 16 homers while going 8-3 on the mound as a senior after going undrafted the previous year. Koshansky's main tool is his raw power. He'll hit home runs at the big league level, but he's going to have to make better adjustments if he's going to be a true threat. He went just 1-for-12 with five strikeouts as pitchers weren't afraid to bust him inside. He sometimes falls into the trap of guessing too much at the plate. He will strike out, a tradeoff for his power, but he also draws a healthy share of walks. His biggest problem is the one that Ryan Shealy once dealt with: Todd Helton owns Colorado's first-base job and Koshansky can't play another position. He's a good athlete for his size and has some arm strength, but his below-average speed would make playing the outfield a stretch. He also needs to be pushed to become a better first baseman. His footwork and throwing mechanics get loose, and it's a challenge for him to make the toss to second base.
After two years in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League, Chacin came to the United States for the first time last summer and quickly established himself as one of the premier pitchers in the Pioneer League. He went 5-2, 1.20 in his final 10 starts, allowing more than one earned run only once in that stretch, and tied for the league strikeout lead with 77 in 92 innings. Chacin already has a solid fastball at 89-92 mph and can touch 94. The key is that he can command his heater to both sides of the plate. He still needs to develop his secondary pitches, though he does throw his curveball and changeup for strikes and they do have plus potential. His changeup is more reliable at this point. Chacin figures to fill out and add more strength and durability. He's a good athlete, though he can get into a hurry with his mechanics and must be reminded to stay closed and finish his delivery. He'll advance to low Class A this year, though the Rockies may limit his workload by keeping him in extended spring training at the start of the season.
After missing the 2006 season when he tore the labrum in his shoulder during an offseason basketball game, Speier was a pleasant surprise last year. He bounced back strong and the Rockies called him up multiple times and kept him on their postseason roster. He made a scoreless appearance in each of the first two rounds of the playoffs before walking three straight Red Sox in a disastrous World Series outing. Speier went just 8-14, 5.09 at Radford and went unselected in the 2001 draft, signing with Colorado as a free agent after a strong performance in the Cape Cod League. He forced his way to the majors by steadily proving himself at each level in the system. Speier most often works from a sidearm slot but he'll use as many as four different arm angles in a single inning. His funky delivery throws hitters off but also can create some command problems. Despite his low slot, he can hit 91 mph with his fastball, though he achieves better sink when he works at 88-89. He attacks lefthanders with his hard slider and also has confidence in his changeup. He has a sweeping curveball that isn't very effective. As long as he can throw strikes, Speier can continue to help Colorado out of the bullpen.
Mayora has been a league postseason all-star in each of the last two seasons. After primarily playing shortstop in 2006, he made a smooth transition to second base because the Rockies have so much depth at short and had Hector Gomez stationed there in Asheville. Mayora maintained consistent production throughout the year, batting third for much of 2007 and showing good pop for a middle infielder. His plate discipline is still developing and his swing can get long when he tries to power up, leading to strikeouts. He has above-average speed underway but a slow initial step, which limits him down the line and as a basestealer, though he did swipe 26 bags in 35 tries. Mayora made a quick adjustment to second base, showing impressive range, especially to his left, and the ability to turn the double play. He and Gomez will move up to high Class A together in 2008.
The question with Clarke is whether he can ever stay healthy enough to get more than the two-game cameo he had with the Rockies last May. He had Tommy John surgery in 2004 and has yet to make more than 25 appearances in a season since becoming a full-time reliever in 2005. He strained his elbow that season and his right lat muscle in 2006, and the lat muscle knocked him out for three months last year. Clarke has a 1.98 ERA since moving to the bullpen but has worked just 59 innings in that time. He has overpowering stuff and could contribute to the Colorado bullpen if he could remain on the active roster. Clark's fastball consistently registers in the mid-90s, and he backs it up with an 85-88 mph slider. He also has a changeup that elicits swings and misses from lefthanders. With his size, Clark throws on a downhill plane that adds some movement to his pitches. He has learned to control his emotions and doesn't let even tight situations faze him. He pleased the Rockies by dedicating himself to conditioning in 2006, but he still hasn't been able to stay on the mound.
Much like his father Eric, a 43rd-round draft pick who became an all-star for the Rockies, Eric Jr. is driven to be successful. Seeing no value in sitting at home after the 2007 season, he invited himself to instructional league and offered to pay his own expenses so he could spend six weeks continuing to refine his game. Young has game-changing speed, and thanks to tutoring from his father, he uses it aggressively. He led the minors with 87 steals in 2006 and finished second with 73 last season, improving his success rate to 80 percent, up from 74 the year before. He already has made bunting a staple in his offensive game, and realizes that trying to hit for power only will get him into trouble. His plate discipline slipped in 2007, however, and he needs to tighten his strike zone in order to be a true leadoff hitter. Though Young showed better range and footwork at second base, his future could be in center field. He has a questionable arm and stiff hands, which will limit his opportunity to play in the middle infield for a contender. He'll move up to Double-A in 2008.
One of the younger players in the 2006 draft, Velazquez played his first two seasons in pro ball before turning 19 and already has displayed big league defensive ability. He has exceptional arm strength that allows him to make plays from a variety of angles. He has soft hands and shows agility that belies his gangly body. Though he has a big frame and has seen time at second and third base, he should be able to stay at shortstop. Velazquez' challenge is going to be his bat. He has a long swing and lacks the strength to survive that approach. He should get stronger as he fills out and has the hands to hit for some power, but his utter lack of plate discipline is a problem. He has walked just eight times in 113 pro games, and more advanced pitchers will exploit his impatience. Velazquez' speed rates as average to a tick above, and he has the instincts to steal a few bases. He likely will advance to low Class A in 2008, but at his age a return to short-season Tri-City wouldn't be a setback.
Wimberly won two batting titles in 2005, leading NCAA Division I with a .462 average and then topping the Pioneer League with a .381 mark in his pro debut. He has become one of the Rockies' more advanced middle-infield prospects, but repeated muscle pulls in his legs have restricted him to a total of 179 games over the last two years. Wimberly understands that his value is based on his elite speed and that his job is to get on base. The fastest runner in the system, he works counts, makes contact, puts the ball on the ground and lets his quickness do the rest. His bunting is an asset but he needs to take more walks, something that shouldn't be an issue for someone whose listed height of 5-foot-8 may be two inches too generous. He has no power and pitchers showed little fear of him in Double-A, where his average dipped to .268 and his OBP to .323, which won't cut it. Wimberly also needs to improve his defense, which was the focus of his efforts after the season in the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .407. He has the range to get to balls but drops his arm angle and doesn't finish his throws. He needs to pay more attention to detail this year, when he may return to Tulsa at the outset.
Herrera rebounded from a 15-game suspension for violating baseball's performance-enhancing drug policy in 2005 to become a California League all-star while repeating high Class A in 2006. His batting average dropped 53 points last year in his first shot at Double-A, though he was selected to play in the Texas League all-star game. A natural righthander before he started switch-hitting, Herrera was better from the left side of the plate in 2007. He's decent but nothing special with the bat. He makes contact but has only modest power, and he has above-average speed but isn't much of a basestealing threat. He was caught 12 times in 30 attempts last year. Though he played solely at shortstop in 2007, Herrera's biggest asset is his ability to also handle second and third base, and he projects as more of a utilityman than a regular on a contender. He has good range and enhances his plus arm with a quick release. Herrera tends to wear down over the course of a long season and lose his focus. He didn't show much progress in the Venezuelan Winter League this offseason and could benefit from repeating Double-A, but fellow shortstop prospect Chris Nelson is ready to move up.
An all-province volleyballer as a high schooler in Grand Prairie, Alberta, Davis is very athletic for a catcher. He became a part-time backstop at Lethbridge (Alberta) CC in 2005 and didn't move behind the plate full-time until he transferred to Illinois. The Big 10 Conference player of the year last spring, he hit .400 with 13 homers before going in the third round of the draft and signing for $337,000. He struggled learning to use wood bats in his pro debut and must tighten up his swing to stay back on offspeed pitches. He still projects as an offensive catcher with some pop, and as a bonus, he bats lefthanded. His speed is below average but good for a catcher. Defensively, Davis has solid arm strength which will improve as he smooths out his throwing mechanics. He threw out 30 percent of basestealers in his debut. His receiving skills are adequate, but with his work ethic--he was a microcellular biology major at Illinois--they should get better. Davis will spend his first full season in low Class A.
After going 10-0, 2.73 as a sophomore at Miami, Weiser had a relatively disappointing junior season but that didn't deter the Rockies from taking him in the third round. He repaid their faith in his first full season in 2007, leading the South Atlantic League with 17 victories and 175 innings. The typical crafty lefthander, Weiser has excellent command of an 86-88 mph fastball that occasionally hits 90. His secondary pitches are a slurvy breaking ball and a changeup. He has excellent feel for adjusting to hitters and setting them up. Weiser has little margin for error, however, and he's susceptible to homers if he leaves pitches up in the strike zone. He won't turn heads with his stuff, which is why he stayed in low Class A all season despite his success. He'll have to keep proving himself as he moves up the ladder, and the hitter's haven that is the California League will provide a stern test in 2008.
Rodriguez has been on the fast track since signing, coming to the United States as a 17-year-old and taking a regular turn in the low Class A rotation last year at age 19. His 160-48 K-BB ratio was a more telling statistic than his 5.15 ERA. Rodriguez has good stuff, with a fastball that already ranges from 88-94 mph and should pick up more velocity as he continues to grow and fill out. With his bone structure and the size of his hands, the Rockies think he could wind up as tall as 6-foot-6. His curveball has a chance to become a power breaking ball, and his changeup is advanced for his age. Rodriguez just needs to get stronger and more consistent with his delivery. He's still in the beginning stages of his education as a pitcher and can't always fight his way out of jams. He's doing well in English classes and Colorado praises his work habits. Because he's still so young and the California League is hard on pitchers, Rodriguez could return to Asheville to start 2008. Once he matures physically, he could become a dominant pitcher.
A year after drafting Keith Weiser out of Miami (Ohio) in the third round, the Rockies went back to the Redhawks for Graham in the fifth round last June. Signed for $143,000, he was a project when he arrived at Tri-City. It wasn't until the end of the summer that he started to get in shape, and he drew attention when he hit 98 mph with his fastball in his final outing. He pitched at 93-94 mph for most of his debut and also flashed a swing-and-miss slider. Graham also throws a curveball, and his changeup ranks as his fourth-best pitch. He was a reliever in his first two college seasons and most area scouts projected him to eventually return to that role, but Colorado will give him a chance to develop as a starter. To remain in the rotation, Graham will need to find a trustworthy offspeed offering and improve his control so he can keep his pitch counts down. He does throw on a steep downhill angle, but his delivery relies too much on his arm and not enough on lower body, which will have to be addressed to ease strain on his shoulder. He'll probably move up one step to low Class A this year.
Last spring Riordan became just the third Fordham pitcher ever to strike out 100 batters in a season. The first two, Dick Egan and Hank Borowy, went on to long big league careers, and Riordan has the raw stuff to do the same. He was inconsistent in his junior season with the Rams, allowing the Rockies to draft him in the sixth round and sign him for $120,000. He led the Northwest League in ERA until fading late in the summer. Riordan's fastball ranges from 88-94 mph, and when he's on he'll show a hard curveball with good tilt and an average changeup. He has a smooth delivery and throws strikes, but his command comes and goes. Scouts questioned his desire and focus while he was at Fordham, but if Riordan becomes more consistent he can reach his ceiling as a No. 3 or 4 starter.