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Tsao was the Rockies' first impact move on the international market. He signed for a then-franchise-record $2.2 million bonus as the franchise's first Asian signee after he went 3-0 with 23 shutout innings for Taiwan in the 1999 World Junior Championship. The only amateur to participate in the Asia Cup (a qualifying tournament for the 2000 Olympics), he pitched a 15-strikeout one-hitter against China in his lone start. Tsao continued to dominate in his pro debut. He got the attention of big league scouts when he pitched a perfect inning in an exhibition game against the Mariners, which was televised live back to Taiwan. Among the honors he earned were selection to the Futures Game, Class A Asheville team MVP honors, South Atlantic League midseason and postseason all-star recognition, and selection as the league's pitcher of the year. He was slowed briefly by a midseason blister problem and a late-season tender elbow, but neither injury was considered serious and he finished strong. He tied for second in the SAL in strikeouts and finished fourth in ERA. Tsao is a legitimate power pitcher. He has a fastball that is consistently in the 93-94 mph range, a hard slider, curveball and a changeup. His fastball, slider and curve already are quality big league pitches. The fastball has good sinking action and he'll pitch inside. And he does throw strikes. He walked only 40 batters, although hitting five, in 145 innings. Tsao needs to maintain his focus. His changeup has the makings of a top-quality pitch but he hasn't had to use it enough to gain total command of it yet. He also is working to adjust to American culture, including taking advanced English courses. The Rockies kept him at Asheville all of last season so they wouldn't disrupt his routine off the field and have that interfere with his development on the field. Tsao has the ability to be a quality No. 1 starter in the big leagues. He could be pushed to Double-A Carolina in 2001 but likely will go to high Class A Salem. Don't look for him to be moved once the season starts, as the Rockies again want to give him time to adjust.
Signed as a 16-year-old out of a tryout camp in his native Dominican Republic, Uribe has put together three quality seasons since coming to the United States. He even has shown power in two years at full-season Class A, hitting a total of 22 home runs. Uribe is capable of playing in the big leagues right now defensively. He has a rifle arm that's accurate, soft hands and quick feet. Neifi Perez, the National League's Gold Glove shortstop in 2000, says he expects Uribe to push him to second base before long. Uribe has basestealing speed and showed a better feel for the art last year, getting caught just five times. He has plus power potential for a middle infielder. But he is still young and learning. He needs to have a more consistent approach at the plate, working deeper counts and making more frequent contact. With the Rockies finally showing depth with middle infielders, there's no reason to rush Uribe. He'll make the natural progression to Double-A this year, and could be in the big leagues by the end of the 2002 season.
Freeman was the first player who showed that the Rockies were going to start taking chances with the draft. After living by signability in previous years, they didn't hesitate to take Freeman and give him the $1.4 million to keep him from accepting a football scholarship from Texas A&M. A three-sport start at Dallas Christian High, he was a Connie Mack teammate of Blue Jays outfield prospect Vernon Wells. He is a pure athlete with the physical abilities to be an impact center fielder, as well as the power potential to play left field. He's mentally tough and willing to put in the time it takes to be successful. Freeman just needs to play so he can turn his tools into skills. He has started to develop his timing at the plate but needs to be more selective. He has the speed to steal 50 bases once he gets a better feel for that part of the game. Freeman could start at Salem for the second year in a row, with the possibility of moving to Carolina during the season. He has been pushed each of the last two years and would benefit from being allowed to dominate a league.
Cook was considered the top talent of the Rockies' 1997 draft, in which first-round pick Mark Mangum was a pure budget decision. Cook blossomed last year when he returned to Asheville, finishing eighth in the Sally League with a 2.96 ERA. His combined 11 wins were one more than the total from his three previous pro seasons. Cook has good pitchability. He has three quality pitches, and builds off a mid-90s fastball. He's durable and competes well, responding to the challenge of being in the same rotation as Chin-Hui Tsao last year. Like so many young pitchers who always have been able to dominate with their fastball, Cook still is gaining confidence in his changeup. He has the makings of a quality offspeed pitch but doesn't use it enough. As he moves up in pro ball, he'll realize how useful changing speeds can be. Cook got a taste of Salem at the end of last season and struggled. He'll return there to start 2001.
Considered a possible No. 1 pick in the 2000 draft before the college season began, Young was slowed by tightness in his right shoulder. So the Rockies, who had planned to take him in the first round until Matt Harrington slipped, were able to get Young in the second round. He didn't come cheap. The NCAA Division I strikeout leader as a sophomore, he received a franchise-record $2.75 million bonus, fourth-highest for any player in the 2000 draft. Young has size and strength. His fastball was clocked at 97 mph when he was healthy. He has command of a hard slider that dominates hitters. Young needs to use his changeup better. Once he masters that pitch, he has the potential of being a legitimate No. 1 starter. His command was inconsistent during the college season, which might have been the result of his shoulder troubles. Because of prolonged negotiations, Young won't make his pro debut until this spring, most likely at Salem. With his background and arm he could move quickly, and he figures to get to Double-A by midseason. He could arrive in Colorado sometime in 2002.
One of just three college players the Rockies have taken with their top pick in nine years of drafting, Jennings was Baseball America's 1999 College Player of the Year. He went 13-2, 2.58 with 172 strikeouts in 147 innings at Baylor that year, and hit .386-17-68 as a DH. His father Jim played baseball at Texas and in the Rangers farm system. Jennings has three pitches he can command in the strike zone. What makes him so attractive for Coors Field is a solid, low-90s sinker. He complements it with a hard slider. He draws physical comparisons to Rick Reuschel, who like Jennings was a deceptively good athlete despite his bulk. Jennings can be a bit stubborn at times, but he's competitive enough that he eventually will make the adjustments necessary to succeed at the upper levels. He's still getting the confidence necessary to throw his changeup in key situations. He got a taste of Double-A at the end of last season and will open 2001 back with Carolina. He could be promoted quickly and figures to be in the big leagues in 2002 with a future as a No. 3 starter.
House made a rapid rise in his first full year of pro ball, opening 2000 in Class A and making stops at Double-A and Triple-A before finishing the season in the big leagues. A starter in college, he has worked exclusively out of the bullpen in 81 professional appearances. Combine a funky delivery that has his body going in different directions with an upper-90s fastball that could be headed just about anywhere, and House is very intimidating. He also has a mid-80s slider and a changeup that understandably freezes hitters when he throws it for strikes. House must find a more consistent release point in order to have better command. He got hitters to chase pitches in the lower minors, but more advanced hitters forced him to throw strikes. When he had trouble doing so in the majors, he got hammered. House has closer potential, but there's work to be done before he's ready to return to Colorado. He'll start 2001 at Triple-A Colorado Springs.
After two years wasted by injuries and off-field problems, Chacon reaffirmed his potential in 2000. He led the Double-A Southern League in strikeouts and shutouts (three), while finishing second in complete games and third in innings. He turned down a scholarship to Arizona State to sign with the Rockies. Chacon has power-pitcher potential. He has a solid 94 mph fastball and hard slider, which have allowed him to consistently rack up strikeouts. He's a tough competitor. Whether he winds up a starter or reliever will depend on how well he develops a changeup. Right now it's a raw pitch, though he does throw it with decent action. He needs to get on the mound and get experience after pitching just 128 innings combined in 1998-99. Chacon will make the jump to Triple-A in 2001. He's on pace to get his first taste of the big leagues in September.
Kalinowski is a product of Natrona County (Wyo.) High, which also churned out big leaguers Tom Browning, Mike Devereaux and Mike Lansing. Signed as a draft-and-follow, Kalinowski led his league in strikeouts in each of his first two full years and was named the high Class A Carolina League pitcher of the year in 1999. But a nagging elbow problem sidelined him for the bulk of 2000 and resulted in arthroscopic surgery. Kalinowski has three-pitch potential. His strikeout pitch is a curveball, and there are no concerns about how the mile-high altitude of Coors Field will affect its break because he learned to throw the pitch at altitude in Wyoming. Kalinowski also has a quality fastball that touches 90 mph on a consistent basis. An all-state selection as a high school football and basketball player, he's an excellent athlete who fields his position well. He must learn to work off his fastball instead of the curveball. He also has to refine a changeup, an important pitch for him to claim a rotation spot. His command will need to improve as he rises up the ladder. Kalinowski has been given a clean bill of health after his surgery. He figures to open 2001 back at Carolina with the possibility of a quick promotion to Colorado Springs.
Holliday comes from a baseball family. His father Tom is the head coach at Oklahoma State, his uncle Dave scouts for the Rockies and his brother Josh is a first baseman in the Blue Jays system. Matt was one of the nation's top prep quarterbacks when he came out of Stillwater (Okla.) High, but the Rockies gambled a pick on him and signed him for $865,000, the most ever for a seventh-round draft choice. Holliday's bat is the key to his future. His size, bat speed and swing equate to big league power, and he has a good understanding of hitting. He has struggled at third base, committing 32 errors last year, and his future likely will be in left field, where he has the power to be an impact player. He's not a burner, but he does have a feel for the game and it shouldn't take long for him to get comfortable in the outfield. He'll improve at the plate if he develops a little more discipline. It's uncertain where Holliday will begin his transition to the outfield. He's in line for a move to Double-A, though he might be sent back to Salem to have the benefit of a comfortable environment while changing positions. He's at least two years away from Colorado.
As an amateur, Hudson won two California state high school titles and national championships in Pony League (13-14) and Colt League (15-16) competition. He has had elbow soreness as a pro, but shook it off to finish strong in 2000. With his size, Hudson projects to add velocity to a fastball that already reaches the low 90s with regularity. He also has command of a slider and changeup, but has to be more aggressive throwing strikes. His biggest need is staying healthy. He was hit in the face by a line drive during instructional league in 1998 and has faced nagging, unrelated injuries ever since. His 100 innings last year were the most he has worked in three pro seasons. He'll pitch in Double-A to start this season.
Vazquez is the type of low-round pick who can make a draft a success. He showed his offensive tools in the Rookie-level Arizona League but played his first pro season at 17 and will have to be brought along slowly. He has legitimate power potential and decent speed (10-for-12 in stolen bases). He is still a bit raw, as evidenced by his 73 strikeouts and 11 errors, but he did show a good eye at the plate. He split the first season between first base and the outfield, but figures to wind up in the outfield. He'll play for the Rockies' new short-season Casper affiliate in 2001.
Dorame was the 1999 California League pitcher of the year after leading the high Class A circuit in wins and ERA. He was the key to the July trade that netted three players from Los Angeles for speedster Tom Goodwin. It was a curious decision by the Dodgers to trade Dorame, because he was one of their better prospects and Goodwin is a limited big leaguer. Dorame was slowed by elbow problems late last year but was able to pitch during the winter in the Mexican Pacific League. He has a build that can get stronger, which should add to the velocity on his average fastball. He throws an excellent curveball and a changeup. He has good arm action and throws strikes. Dorame probably will go back to Double-A to start 2001 and move up to Triple-A during the season.
Pena has made a dramatic move into prospect status, ranking among the batting leaders in the Carolina and Southern leagues over the last two years. He also led the Southern League with 48 stolen bases, giving him 231 in his pro career. Pena is adept at either second base or shortstop, though his arm is probably best suited for second base. He has soft hands and quick feet. A close friend of Rockies shortstop Neifi Perez, Pena isn't a power guy and understands his job is to get on base, which he does with regularity. He could be forced into a utility role in 2001 but most likely will get to play every day at shortstop in Triple-A.
Vance was the second Georgia Tech lefty drafted in the fourth round by the Rockies in as many years, following Chuck Crowder in 1999. Vance led the Atlantic Coast Conference with 13 victories last year before turning pro. He has command of three pitches, and his best is a big-breaking curveball. His fastball comes in at 87-90 mph, enough velocity for a lefthander. After a lengthy negotiation he was impressive in his brief debut at short-season Portland. His durability is a key asset and he projects as a third or fourth starter in the majors. He figures to open his first full season at Class A Salem.
Averette led the Southern League in wins and complete games while ranking seventh in ERA last year. As with the deal that brought Randy Dorame from Los Angeles, this was another example of Colorado general manager Dan O'Dowd doing a masterful job of turning a one-dimensional big leaguer into a pitching prospect. Averette has won in double figures in each of his three full minor league seasons. He has an impressive curveball and an average fastball, and he throws strikes. He'll have to improve his changeup if he's going to pitch in a big league rotation. He does throw strikes. He'll open the 2001 season at Colorado Springs, which always provides a stern test for finesse pitchers.
Atkins collected several awards in 2000. He was a third-team All-American and an all-Pacific-10 Conference pick at UCLA during the spring, then shared MVP honors in the short-season Northwest League in his pro debut. Atkins has power potential with a compact approach at the plate and an ability to hit the ball to all fields. Now that he's in a pro program and will be put through a year-round conditioning routine, his body should firm up and he should become more of a home run threat. Atkins handles himself well around the bag, and he's a good enough athlete that he could see time in the outfield to create versatility in light of Todd Helton's presence in Colorado. Atkins figures to skip Asheville and open 2001 at Salem.
Hawpe batted .362 with an NCAA Division I record-tying 36 doubles for Louisiana State's College World Series championship team this spring. He was a second-team All-America first baseman, relegating Garrett Atkins to the third team. Hawpe made such a good impression in his pro debut that Portland manager Billy White actually mentioned him in the same breath as Todd Helton among hitters White has seen come through the organization. Hawpe has a beautiful lefthanded swing with line-drive power, and he concentrates on hitting the ball to left field. As he gets stronger and develops a better understanding of how pitchers work him, there's every reason to expect he'll lift the ball more and turn some of his doubles into homers. He also showed that he's capable of playing the outfield as a pro. Like Atkins, he'll probably bypass Asheville and head straight to Salem this year.
The Rockies had hoped to sign Lincoln immediately, but a lengthy negotiation turned him into a draft-and-follow and he didn't make his pro debut until 1999. A member of a Florida state championship team at Sarasota High, he's expected to make the conversion from shortstop to third baseman this spring after leading the organization with 39 errors in 2000. He definitely has the arm strength to play on the hot corner, and he has shown glimpses of the power he'll need to stick there. Lincoln will have to develop better plate discipline and make more contact to become a true threat, however. He'll probably move up to Salem in 2001.
Montero caught the organization's attention in a hurry. He's an exciting middle infielder with a strong arm, soft hands, quick feet and an aggressive approach to the game. He does need to play under control more after making 26 errors in 47 games at shortstop, but that should come with maturity. He has a natural tendency to try and make the impossible play, which led to several of his miscues. He hit for average with gap power in his pro debut, and contributed more than his share of stolen bases and walks. Montero will need to make more contact, however, if he’s going to hit at the top of a lineup. As he benefits from the conditioning and diet programs in the Rockies organization, he should get stronger and drive the ball more. Portland is his likely destination this season.
Crowder was drafted in the third round out of high school by the Orioles in 1995, and again in the eighth round as a Georgia Tech junior by the Pirates in 1998, before finally signing as a fourth-rounder in 1999. He might have been drafted higher if not for arm problems while in college. He's healthy now and came on strong in 2000, his first full pro season. He led the Carolina League in innings while ranking third in victories and strikeouts. He set a Salem franchise record with 16 strikeouts in one game. Crowder has three quality pitches: a low-90s fastball, a curveball and a changeup. He has fairly good command of his fastball, though he sometimes fights himself to keep his pitches down in the strike zone. Crowder should be part of an all-prospect rotation in Carolina this year. Because he ranks down the list of Colorado's pitching prospects, he could wind up in the bullpen when he reaches the majors.
After the Rockies lost Walt Weiss as a free agent, they selected Winchester with the supplemental first-round pick they received as compensation. Though he played in the South Atlantic League all-star game in 1999, Winchester was questioning his decision to play pro ball after his first full pro season. He repeated at Asheville last year, was an all-star again, and enjoyed the type of success that has him looking forward to now continuing a baseball career. He's the best catching prospect in the system. He has a legitimate power bat and a strong arm, but he still has work to do. He needs better plate discipline and faces the challenge of refining his skills as a receiver. After two years in the Sally League, he's ready for high Class A.
Bard was a local Denver star at Cherry Creek High, leading his team to consecutive Colorado state titles and a 45-1 overall record in games he started. He teamed with Jason Jennings on the U.S. team that won a bronze medal at the 1996 World Junior Championship, where Bard hit a team-high .462. His brother Mike is an assistant coach at the University of Kansas. Josh has strong leadership qualities and is a polished defensive catcher who could handle the chores behind the plate in the big leagues now. The question will be how much he hits, though he fared well in his pro debut in high Class A last year. He makes contact, but he has a bit of a loop in his stroke and didn't produce much power or many walks. He has the size that leads to expectations of pop, which will be the key for him to get a chance to play every day in the big leagues. This year, Bard will be the regular catcher on a Carolina team loaded with pitching prospects.
Esslinger was a starter in college and in his pro debut at Portland in 1999. Last year, however, he was converted into a reliever, and two months into the season emerged as a legitimate closer candidate. He led the system with 24 saves despite earning just three in the first two months of the season. Esslinger was more aggressive coming out of the bullpen, going after hitters and throwing strikes. He has a power fastball that's consistently in the mid-90s, plus a back-door slider. He struggled with offspeed stuff, which is why the the Rockies decided to work him in relief. Now it's a matter of just letting him pitch more and get acclimated to the closer's role.
Christman was on the verge of making the jump from Class A to the big leagues last spring. But after eight Double-A appearances he had surgery for a torn labrum in his shoulder, his second major operation in three years. He missed the 1998 season following reconstructive elbow surgery. Now it's a question of Christman bouncing back and proving he's healthy. He's not overpowering, but he has mastered the command of his fastball. His out pitch is a big-breaking curveball. Toss in a funky delivery that gives him deception and he can be particularly tough on lefthanders. Christman has averaged more than a strikeout an inning as a pro and hasn't allowed a homer since 1998. If he's 100 percent in 2001, he could surface in Colorado at some point.
Butler came to the Rockies after the 1999 season as part of a seven-player trade that also brought closer Jose Jimenez to Colorado. Butler originally was signed as a shortstop and has been tried at all the infield positions except first base. He settled in at second base at Colorado Springs in 2000, though he also made 25 starts at shortstop. There's nothing about Butler that stands out physically, but he has a good feel for the game and doesn't make mistakes. He makes contact, hits for average and can provide an occasional double or walk. He likely will wind up as a utility player in the big leagues, but if he develops more upper-body strength he could win a full-time job at second base. He figures to return to Colorado Springs to open 2001 and share the middle-infield chores with Elvis Pena.
Kibler was part of an impressive rotation at Asheville last year in which all five starters threw 90 mph or harder. He has a lively fastball with sinking action that's considered vital for success at Coors Field. An excellent competitor, he has confidence in a changeup that's a solid No. 2 pitch. More than anything, Kibler needs to physically mature and get stronger so he can handle the demands of starting every fifth day. He also needs to develop an effective breaking pitch. Kibler was jumped from Rookie ball to full-season Class A in 2000, and because of a growing pitching depth in the system he could return to Asheville so he can maintain steady work.
A lanky righthander with whiplike arm action and a lively fastball, Pacheco draws comparisons to a young Pedro Martinez. Then again, every short Dominican righty with good stuff is compared to Martinez these days. Pacheco struggled at Asheville in 1999 and was sent back to the Northwest League, where he finished eighth in ERA. He was ready for the Asheville challenge in 2000, however, and will make the move to Salem for 2001. Along with his fastball, Pacheco has a hard slider that ties up lefthanders. He needs to build upper-body strength, and if he wants to remain a starter he’ll have to come up with a changeup. With the resiliency his arm has shown, there’s a growing sentiment that the bullpen could be his future, regardless.
DePaula has the makings of a dominating pitcher, but whether it will be as a starter or reliever remains to be seen. After finishing fourth in the Northwest League in strikeouts in 1999, he finished second in the South Atlantic League in the same category last season. Despite his lackluster record, there were glimpses of his ability to overpower in 2000, including a no-hitter in which he hit the first batter and retired the next 27. He can reach the mid-90s with his fastball and maintain his velocity into the late innings. He's an innings eater with strain-free mechanics and an exceptional work ethic. If DePaula is going to remain a starter as he moves up the ladder, he'll need to improve his breaking ball and changeup.
In addition to getting Jeff Winchester with a 1998 sandwich pick after they lost free agent Walt Weiss, the Rockies also got a second-rounder from the Braves, which they spent on Gerut. He spent that summer holding out but since has moved up quickly. He can play all three outfield positions and projects as a fourth outfielder in the big leagues. Gerut doesn't have the speed needed for a center fielder at Coors Field, and so far hasn't shown the power expected from a corner outfielder. He is, however, a fundamentally sound player with a short, quick stroke. As he gets stronger he could surprise with power, learning to lift the line drives in the gaps. He'll spend 2001 in Triple-A.
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