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In their first 11 drafts, the Rockies took a position player in the first round just once--Todd Helton in 1995. Since then, they have taken Stewart with the 10th overall pick in 2003, followed by shortstops Chris Nelson in 2004 and Troy Tulowitzki in 2005. Before signing for $1.95 million, Stewart starred as an amateur, winning a bronze medal with Team USA at the 2002 World Junior Championships and leading La Quinta (Calif.) High to a No. 3 national ranking in 2003. He ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Rookie-level Pioneer League in 2003 and No. 2 in the low Class A South Atlantic League in 2004 before facing adversity for the first time in 2005. A pulled hamstring forced him to spend April in extended spring training, and a sprained right wrist cost him a week in June. But he reinforced Colorado's confidence in his potential by rallying to hit .299-11-52 in his final 60 games at high Class A Modesto to rate as the fourth-best prospect in the California League. He batted .333-3-12 in 12 Arizona Fall League games before reinjuring his wrist sliding into second base. Stewart should be a quality run producer in the middle of a big league lineup. He has quick hands that allow him to wait on pitches, and his pitch recognition is strong. He's a natural hitter with bat speed, strength and a slight uppercut which generates loft power. He can drive balls out of the park to the opposite field. He handles lefthanded pitching better than most lefty hitters, in part because his father is a southpaw and has thrown him batting practice for years. Stewart is driven to be an elite player, and he makes no qualms that he expects to become not only an all-star, but also a Gold Glover. He has average speed and plus arm strength. Stewart's swing can get a little long, but his bat is quick enough to compensate. He did have some problems early on in 2005 when pitchers fed him a steady diet of breaking balls and offspeed pitches. He showed the ability to adjust and took advantage of that pitching pattern later in the season. Stewart's third-base defense needs the most work. He made impressive strides in 2004 but seemed to level off in 2005. He reacts a little slowly and has trouble with hard-hit balls directly at him. If Garrett Atkins builds on his rookie season in Colorado, it's possible that Stewart could move to right field, a shift some scouts thought was inevitable when he was in high school. However, he has improved and won't change positions any time soon. Stewart didn't suffer any structural damage when he reinjured his wrist and is expected to be 100 percent by spring training. He'll move to Double-A Tulsa and could reach Triple-A Colorado Springs by midseason if he stays healthy. If all goes according to plan, his bat could earn him a trip to the majors in September, but a more likely scenario is a mid-2007 arrival at Coors Field. He should follow in Helton's footsteps and become the organization's second homegrown star.
Tulowitzki has been compared to Bobby Crosby since succeeding him at shortstop for Long Beach State. The seventh overall pick in the 2005 draft, he signed for $2.3 million. He went straight to high Class A, and the only negative in his pro debut was a torn quadriceps that limited him to 22 games. Most scouts think Tulowitzki is slightly ahead of Crosby, the 2004 American League rookie of the year, at the same stage of their careers and a better fit at shortstop. Tulowitzki has the stroke, strength and bat speed to hit 25-30 homers annually. Though he's big, he doesn't sacrifice any athleticism. He has above-average range and arm strength, and his exceptional instincts allow him to extend his range. Tulowitzki sometimes can get out of control and too aggressive at the plate. He could control the strike zone a little better. A broken hamate bone in the spring and the torn quad restricted his development in 2005. Despite the injury, Tulowitzki should be able to handle the jump to Double-A for his first full season. He could be Colorado's starter by 2007.
The Rockies brought Morales along slowly in his first full season in the United States. Signed out of the Dominican Republic at 16, he worked in relief early in 2005 before moving into the low Class A Asheville rotation. He improved greatly from his 7.62 ERA at Rookie-level Casper in his U.S. debut. Morales has a live arm. His fastball ranges from 92-98 mph and sits at 94-95. Working from a three-quarters arm slot, he shows a good curveball and an average changeup already. He's tough to run on. He demonstrates a flair and confidence beyond his youth on the mound. Like most young pitchers, Morales lacks consistency. He tends to overthrow when he gets in trouble, costing him control. He needs to throw more strikes, especially when he faces more advanced hitters who will wait him out. He has the basics of a good delivery, though he doesn't always maintain it. Morales will open 2006 in high Class A. The Rockies have shown a willingness to be patient with young Latin pitchers, but they think he has a chance to be special and could accelerate his timetable.
Roe had a chance to follow in the footsteps of his father Donald and play football at Kentucky, but he decided to focus on baseball after having two concussions in high school. The Twins and Braves considerd him in the late first round of the 2005 draft, but he slipped to the Rockies with the 32nd pick. He signed for $1.025 million and made the Pioneer League all-star team in his debut. Roe has a low-90s fastball with hard downward movement and tops out at 95. He has the makings of a downright nasty curveball, which one national crosschecker called the best he'd seen from a high school pitcher in the last decade. Loose and athletic, he has the ideal build for future projection. His work ethic and feel for the game stood out in Rookie ball. Roe's curveball is still inconsistent and gets slurvy at times. He also needs to polish up his changeup. He's also working on his control, which is hindered when he rushes his delivery and loses balance. He can get too aggressive at times. If everything clicks, Roe can be a front-of-the-rotation starter. He'll probably open his first full season in low Class A.
Jimenez was on a roll in high Class A in 2004 when the Rockies discovered the beginnings of a stress fracture in his right shoulder. He started slowly in 2005 but earned a promotion to Double-A and adapted well by season's end. Jimenez is a pure power pitcher capable of reaching 96-98 mph, and he worked consistently around 92-94 in 2005. His 12-to-6 curveball is a swing-and-miss pitch, and he has the confidence to throw it when he's behind in the count. He flashes a plus changeup at times. His confidence has grown with his mastery of English. Jimenez' mechanics had to be overhauled to get him back into a compact motion directed at the plate. He still needs to improve his command and his changeup. Though his shoulder woes appear behind him, questions about his health and his delivery prompt some to project him as a future closer. He'll return to Double-A to begin 2006, but could finish the season in Colorado. He has shown too much potential as a starter to consider moving him to the bullpen at this time.
North Carolina has produced big league catchers Dwight Lowry, Scott Bradley, B.J. Surhoff, Matt Merullo and Jesse Levis in the last three decades, and Iannetta is the next in line. Rockies pitcher Aaron Cook raved about his receiving ability while on a rehab assignment at Modesto. Iannetta played in the Futures Game in his first full season. Iannetta has a compact swing and good pitch recognition, and his bat has been a pleasant surprise. He should hit for average with gap power. His calling card is his defense. He has soft hands, good agility and a plus arm with a strong release. His poise and leadership enable him to help pitchers work through tough situations. Iannetta can tie himself up when he gets technical with his approach. He tried to play with a broken left hand late in the season, but he couldn't grip the bat properly and his performance suffered. Iannetta will stay in Double-A to start 2006, but he should be able to make another midseason jump. There's no one standing in his way to becoming Colorado's starting catcher in 2007.
The Rockies have developed Morillo cautiously, keeping him in Rookie and short-season leagues for his first four years. He made his full season debut in 2005 and advanced to high Class A after six weeks. Morillo fires easy, effortless gas, and the White Sox reportedly clocked him at 104 mph in 2004. He regularly pops 100 mph and pitches at 95-97. Durable and resilient, he never has missed a start as a pro. He may light up radar guns, but Morillo is primarily a one-pitch pitcher. He still needs to learn to command his fastball and improve his secondary pitches. He has a hard slider and a changeup, but he doesn't have enough command to throw them with confidence. His slider reaches the upper 80s, but he'll try to throw it too hard and lose break. He led the California League in walks, and even when he throws strikes he often leaves his pitches up in the zone. Because he only has one reliable pitch, several scouts foresee Morillo moving to the bullpen, where he could develop into a big league closer. He'll stay in the rotation in Double-A in 2006.
The Rockies took Shealy in the fifth round out of high school in 1998 but didn't sign him until drafting him again as a college senior. He won two home run titles in his first three pro seasons and would have challenged for the Triple-A Pacific Coast League crown in 2005 if not for his big league time. Shealy has tremendous strength and makes pitchers pay if they miss on the inner third of the plate. He has the patience to work counts and is comfortable hitting the ball the other way. He has soft hands and has improved at first base. The last job for Shealy is to turn on pitches more regularly. Though he's a big man with limited range and speed, he has lost 30 pounds since spring training in 2005. Blocked at first base by Todd Helton, he hopes his work on conditioning and agility will make him an option as a corner outfielder. Coming off an inspiring showing with the Rockies, Shealy has earned a spot on the roster. Finding regular playing time will be a bigger challenge.
The Orioles planned on taking Nelson with the eighth overall pick in 2004 until owner Peter Angelos mandated they choose a college pitcher. The Rockies gladly selected him at No. 9 and signed him for $2.15 million. He never got untracked in 2005 while battling groin and hamstring injuries. Nelson is a line-drive hitter with plus speed. The Rockies think he can hit 25-plus homers on an annual basis once he matures physically and develops lift in his swing. One of the best athletes in the system, he has the size, instincts, quick feet and arm to play shortstop. Nelson's plate discipline left something to be desired in 2005, robbing him of the ability to drive the ball with authority. He also developed a bit of a hitch in his throwing motion, a possible side effect after having Tommy John surgery prior to his senior year in high school. He didn't square up to the target on throws during the regular season and focused on correcting that during instructional league. Nelson profiles at shortstop, but so does Tulowitzki, who should beat him to Colorado. Nelson, who will open 2006 in high Class A, could move to second base or center field if needed.
A projected second-round pick out of high school, Fowler slipped in the 2004 draft because he had the options of playing basketball at Harvard and baseball at Miami. The Rockies' strategy to take a 14thround flier on him paid off when they freed up money by dealing Larry Walker at the 2004 trade deadline, then landed Fowler with a $925,000 bonus. Because he signed late, he didn't play in a pro game until last year. Compared to Andre Dawson and Andruw Jones for his raw talent and athleticism, Fowler had a solid debut, especially considering he began to switch-hit for the first time. His swing can get lengthy, tying him up at times and leading to strikeouts, but the natural righty still managed to bat .258 from the left side of the plate. Like most young players he has trouble with inside pitches but drives balls on the outer half to all fields. A talented athlete with fluid actions, Fowler still is filling out and figures to get stronger as he matures. He glides in the outfield, and his well above-average speed helps him project as a plus defensive center fielder in the future. His arm is just fringe average. He has a bright future, and the Rockies will try to follow a step-by-step approach knowing that his development will require patience. He'll play in low Class A this year.
Looking for a quality middle infielder, the Rockies jumped at the opportunity to pick up Quintanilla in the Joe Kennedy-Eric Byrnes trade last July. Quintanilla never had played above Double-A and was rushed to the majors after 13 Triple-A games because Colorado needed bodies. In a perfect world, he'd get at least a half-season of Triple-A seasoning in 2006, but he may earn a spot on the big league roster by default because of the Rockies' limited infield depth. A sparkplug on Texas' 2002 College World Series championship club, he has the makeup to handle the challenge if needed. A career .320 hitter in the minors, Quintanilla not only can hit for average but also can sting the ball into the gaps. Scouts like the way he uses the opposite field, though he got into trouble in the majors by becoming too pull-conscious, leading to problems with breaking pitches. He controls the strike zone and is aggressive because of the confidence he has in his ability to handle the bat. Quintanilla doesn't have the range teams look for at shortstop, but he makes plays thanks to his quick hands and strong instincts. He had no problem adapting to second base at the big league level. He has average speed and is a smart baserunner.
Macri was a two-way standout and a potential first-round draft choice out of high school, but he intended to fulfill his scholarship commitment to Notre Dame. The Twins still drafted him in the 17th round in 2001 as a backup plan in case No. 1 overall pick Joe Mauer didn't sign. Macri's career with the Fighting Irish was sidetracked by Tommy John surgery during his freshman year. He went undrafted as a sophomore-eligible in 2003, and went in the fifth round a year later because concerns about his bat arose after he hit .172 with wood in the Cape Cod League. He has answered those questions with two solid years as a pro. After using an inside-out swing in college, he has begun to turn on pitches and show budding power in the minors. He still strikes out too much, which may be his undoing at higher levels. A good athlete who earned Iowa Mr. Football honors in 2000, he has average speed and is one of the top defensive infielders in the system. Where he'll wind up remains in question. He played third base at Notre Dame and in his debut, but the Rockies are loaded at the hot corner, starting with No. 1 overall prospect Ian Stewart. As a result, Macri moved to shortstop in 2005, but Colorado's last two first-round picks (Chris Nelson and Troy Tulowitzki) are better suited for the position than he is. He has good hands, and while his arm action isn't smooth in the wake of his elbow surgery, he has plenty of arm strength. Macri is a true professional, working hard to improve and showing a very good feel for the game. His biggest problem as a pro has been staying healthy. He missed time in 2004 with plantar fascitis in his foot, and again in 2005 with a sprained left wrist. He's ticketed for Double-A along with Stewart and Tulowitzki, so Macri could move to second base this year.
The first major Australian free agent signed by the Rockies, Lindsay emerged as the short-season Northwest League's top prospect in 2005. He led the league in strikeouts while ranking second in wins and third in ERA. He left the league a week early to pitch at the World Cup. After making so much progress, Lindsay received bad news about his shoulder during the offseason. An MRI exam in Australia revealed what the Rockies believed was a torn labrum, though they planned a further examination in January. If he needs surgery, he would miss the entire 2006 season. Lindsay is aggressive with his fastball, which sits at 91- 92 mph. As a game goes on, his velocity will climb as high as 95-97 mph. He features a good spike curveball that he used with better judgment after throwing it too often in his shaky 2004 pro debut. His circle change should become a solid third pitch. Command issues were a major problem for Lindsay in his 2004 debut. A back problem led to bad mechanics that he since has ironed out, but like most of the Rockies' top arms he'll have to throw more strikes. His ability to locate his curve comes and goes. He's hesitant to throw his changeup, which he'll need to be a dominant starter. If Lindsay is healthy, his next challenge is to prove he can excel at the full-season level. But that's a big if.
Baker is headed into the final year of a four-year, $2 million contract he signed as a fourth-rounder in 2002, after plummeting from first-round status because of his contract demands coupled with a poor history in wood bat leagues. Plagued by injuries, he never has played in more than 96 games in any of his three seasons as a pro. Problems with his left wrist limited him during his first two years, requiring three surgeries, and bad luck got the best of him in 2005. He started the year at third base as an emergency replacement for Garrett Atkins and would have returned to the big leagues when Clint Barmes went on the disabled list, but Baker was suffering from a deep bone bruise on his right thumb. A month later, he broke his left thumb when a batted ball struck him during batting practice. Clemson's all-time leader with 59 home run--breaking Matthew LeCroy's mark--Baker understands hitting and employs a solid approach. He stays back well on offspeed stuff and consistently drives the ball to the big part of the field. He doesn't have overwhelming raw power and isn't going to hit tape-measure shots, but he's a legitimate homer threat who smokes hard line drives. Strikeouts always have been a tradeoff for his power. He has played mostly third base, but he'll probably move to right field with Atkins in the big leagues and Ian Stewart coming up behind him. Baker has the speed and arm to handle the outfield and looked comfortable there during workouts last spring with big league coach Dave Collins. Baker likely will head back to Triple-A in 2006.
The Rockies have had success with quarterbacks giving up football for baseball, with Todd Helton and Matt Holliday as the prime examples. Now comes Smith, who served as Eli Manning's backup at Mississippi, though he never took a snap in his three years. Colorado was pleased to land him in the second round in 2004. He overmatched the Pioneer League in his pro debut but wasn't nearly as dominant in the hitter-friendly California League last year. Smith has a smooth swing and he stays inside the ball. He has to guard against getting power-conscious, a problem that caused some concerns during his junior year at Mississippi and caused him to slip out of the first round. He didn't control the strike zone very well in 2005. His homer output (nine) also was disappointing, but he did hit 45 doubles and should have more over-the-fence power as he matures as a hitter. Smith is a strong athlete who runs well underway but doesn't figure to be a basestealing threat. His arm is average, though he needs a lot of work defensively in the outfield. A center fielder in college, he played primarily in right field last year. The Rockies would like to see him show a better work ethic to address his shortcomings in Double-A this year.
Miller went undrafted as a junior in 2003 at Louisiana-Monroe, and he turned down free agent opportunities after starring at the National Baseball Congress World Series because he wanted to complete his mathematics degree. After graduating in 2004, he signed for $12,000 as an eighth-round pick and led the Northwest League in saves during his pro debut. He tallied 34 more to lead the system last year, when he was untouchable following a second-half promotion to Double-A. He can overpower hitters with a 93-95 mph fastball. It doesn't have much life, but he can blow his fastball by hitters up in the zone and locate it on both sides of the plate. He also uses a slider and an occasional changeup, though he hasn't shown the confidence to throw either consistently. Despite his success thus far, he'll have to refine a second pitch to use against more advanced hitters. If he can do that, he could reach Colorado by September.
An eighth-round senior sign like Jim Miller, Salazar narrowly missed a 30-30 season and led the South Atlantic League in homers and RBIs in his first full year as a pro in 2003. He reached Triple-A last year and continued to show flashes of being a total-package center fielder, but his previous consistency was missing. For the first time in pro ball, he struck out more than he walked. Salazar needs to learn to stay back on pitches and use the opposite field if he wants to reach his potential. A top-of-the-lineup candidate, he offers power and speed as well as good on-base and bunting ability. Defensively, he has excellent instincts and the confidence that's mandatory for a center fielder. His arm is below-average. He could prove to be a nice fit in Colorado, possibly by midseason. Cory Sullivan impressed the Rockies with his hustle and defense as a rookie last year, but Salazar offers more upside.
Deduno had an encouraging U.S. debut in 2004 and won his first five starts in 2005, then fell prey to inconsistency. Minor shoulder soreness sidelined him for much of May and June, and he lost eight of his final 11 decisions. Upon returning from the disabled list, he developed some bad habits with his mechanics. He started separating his hands too early, throwing off his timing and affecting his command and pitch quality. He got to the point where the only pitch he had confidence in throwing for strikes was his curveball. Deduno did make adjustments and got back on track in the Rockies' Dominican instructional league program. Besides his hard curveball, he also has a plus fastball that sits at 92-94 mph and has good cutting action. He can dominate hitters, averaging 12.4 strikeouts per nine innings over the past two seasons. To remain a starter, Deduno will have to make significant improvement to his changeup. He also needs to stop worrying about being too fine with his pitches and just let his natural stuff work for him. If he doesn't begin 2006 in high Class A, he should get there later in the season.
Koshansky went undrafted after leading Virginia in homers and pitching wins as a junior in 2003, and responded by tearing up the Valley League that summer and winning Atlantic Coast Conference player-of-the-year honors in 2004. Since signing for $40,000 as a sixth-round pick, he has hit 50 homers in 198 pro games, including 38 to rank second in the minors last year. He did much of his damage at Asheville's McCormick Field, where the cozy right-field porch plays to the strengths of a 6-foot-4, 225-pound lefthanded slugger like Koshansky. He hit .355 with 25 homers in 61 games in Asheville, as compared to .227 with 11 homers in 59 road games in the South Atlantic League. There was some thought he was just an older hitter taking advantage of younger pitchers and his ballpark, and even the Rockies were somewhat skeptical. They resisted promoting him until late August, but when they did Koshansky held his own in a short stint in Double-A. He has huge lefthanded power, and though his swing can get long, he can catch up to good fastballs. He does strike out a lot but is willing to take a walk. Koshansky is a good defender at first base, with surprising agility for his size and a plus arm for his position. He is a well-below-average runner, however. He may be a lefty version of Ryan Shealy, and Koshansky could get a chance to further prove himself in Double-A this year.
Spilborghs was a two-time all-Big West Conference selection at UC Santa Barbara. He couldn't match Rockies farm director Bill Geivett's .412 average for the Gauchos in 1985, but Spilborghs hit .375 and set a school record with a 35-game hitting streak as a sophomore in 2001. He didn't hit much in his first three years as a pro and looked more like an organizational player. He became more consistent with his approach in 2005 and took off, batting .340 between Double-A and Triple-A. He even earned a surprise one-day callup to Colorado on July 15 and went 2-for-4 with an RBI against the Reds. Now the Rockies are talking about him being a fourth outfielder in 2006. Spilborghs did a better job last year of recognizing which pitches he can turn on. He's also willing to stay back and drive balls to the opposite field. He's capable at all three spots, and enhances average arm strength with a quick release and impressive accuracy.
The Rockies have been protective of Lo since signing him for $1.4 million out of Taiwan's Kolo Yuan High, also the alma mater of Chin-Hui Tsao. That strategy hasn't paid off, as Lo repeated low Class A last season and yet made little progress. He developed looseness in his shoulder, and his fastball dropped from 94 mph at the end of spring training to 86 by the end of the season. After not allowing him to throw his splitter in his first three years as a pro, Colorado gave it back to him in 2005, but it didn't help much. His slider is still inconsistent, and he uses the splitter for the most part in lieu of a changeup. The one area in which he did make notable progress was command, as he cut his walk rate per nine innings from 4.3 to 2.8. Lo probably needs a third year in Asheville, which wouldn't be the worst thing in the world because he's still just 20.
The first player drafted out of Alcorn State since the Blue Jays selected outfielder Kevin Campbell in the 12th round in 1991, Wimberly made a strong impression with his speed and versatility. His size and explosive speed prompted comparisons to Chone Figgins, whom the Rockies signed as a fourth-rounder in 1997. Wimberly flies down the first-base line in 3.9 seconds form the left side and 4.0 from the right, making him the fastest player in the system. He won two batting titles in 2005, leading NCAA Division I with a .462 average and the Pioneer League with a .381 mark. A natural righthanded hitter, he didn't begin switch-hitting until he got to Alcorn State and made the adjustment quickly. He still needs to work on hitting the ball hard on the ground to best utilize his skills. He focuses on making contact and using the middle of the field, and he stays back on pitches well. Like Figgins, Wimberly could be groomed as a super-utility player. He saw extensive action at third base, second base and shortstop last summer, and also worked out in center field during instructional league. He's still raw defensively and made 22 errors in 67 games, but he has quick hands and an average if erratic arm. He should move up to low Class A this year.
Johnston's sterling relief work helped Missouri to its best season since 1996 and continued after he signed for $72,500 as a ninth-round pick. He tied a Pioneer League record with 18 saves last summer while posting a 1.06 ERA. Johnston operated primarily with one pitch, but it's a nasty one: a power 92-94 mph sinker that's tough to pick up from his low threequarters arm slot. He's a groundball machine who didn't allow a homer and had a 3.8 groundball/flyball ratio in his pro debut. He has a resilient arm that can handle multiple innings or appearances on consecutive days. Johnston backs up his sinker with a slider and changeup, but neither is trustworthy because he struggles to stay on top of them. He'll continue to develop in the minors as a closer, but he'll likely fit in as a middle reliever at the big league level. He'll jump to one of Colorado's Class A affiliates in 2006.
A feel-good story, Speier wasn't recruited out of high school and went undrafted after three years at Radford, where he went 8-14, 5.09. Following his junior season, Speier finally garnered the attention of scouts by setting a Cape Cod League record with 16 saves while not allowing a run all summer. He was inked for $10,000 as a free agent by area scout Jay Matthews, and he joined Jeff Baker and Cory Sullivan as rookies signed by Matthews on Colorado's 2005 Opening Day roster. Speier thrives on deception, stepping across his body and varying his slots from a funky three-quarters slot to a drop-down submarine look. His pure stuff is ordinary, consisting of an 88-90 mph fastball with life, a slider and a changeup. He struggled in the big leagues at the start of last year because he wasn't finishing off his delivery, leaving pitches up in the strike zone. He ironed out that flaw when he returned to the minors in May, though he still battled control issues in September with the Rockies. Like many righties who throw across their body, Speier can be very tough on righthanders but has trouble with lefties. They hit .367 off him in Triple-A and reached base at a .467 clip against him in the majors. Improving his changeup might solve that problem, and he also needs to hone the command of his fastball. He should spend most if not all of 2006 in the majors.
He has yet to spend a day above the Class A level, but Corpas received the Rockies' lone offseason promotion to the 40-man roster. His power fastball and strong finish in 2005 created fears that he could be targeted in the major league Rule 5 draft if left unprotected. Corpas regularly throws 95-97 mph from a low three-quarters slot. He has a tendency to get too low, slinging the ball at times. He creates better movement and sink on his fastball when he stays on top of the pitch. His second pitch, a slider, is more of a hard slurve. Corpas answered concerns about his command last year. He also did a good job of keeping the ball on the ground and in the park. His changeup is not a factor, which leaves Corpas destined for bullpen duty. If he can learn to repeat his arm slot and delivery, he has the potential to dominate in the late innings. He'll move up a level to Double-A.
It would have been easy to slip through the cracks with Jacksonville, Baseball America's 2005 Minor League Team of the Year, but Gonzalez did get noticed after his performance out of the Suns bullpen--so much so that when the Dodgers didn't protect him on their 40-man roster, the Rockies took him in the major league Rule 5 draft. He has to stick on Colorado's big league roster throughout 2006, or else clear waivers and be offered back to Los Angeles for half his $50,000 draft price. An outfielder and a high school teammate of Brewers prospect Prince Fielder in high school, Gonzalez moved full-time to the mound as a pro. He diligently has crafted a three-pitch repertoire, highlighted by a 91-94 mph fastball. Gonzalez has a sturdy, durable frame and a simple delivery with some deception. He relies heavily on his fastball, which he spots well to all four quadrants of the strike zone. His 79-81 mph slider is an average offering that's effective against lefties. He has developed a slightly above-average changeup that has good fade against righties. Gonzalez has some feel for pitching, and when he gets on top of the ball, some life to his stuff. He struggled in his first taste of Triple-A in July, and will get another chance there in 2006. He profiles as a middle reliever or lefty specialist in the big leagues.
The Rockies selected Mattheus (pronounced Matthews) in the 34th round out of high school in 2002, and then again in the 19th round the following year out of Sacramento CC. One of the top draft-and-follows in the spring of 2004, Mattheus gave up a commitment to Arizona State to sign for $700,000. He has yet to live up to that lofty bonus, perhaps because Colorado tried to change his motion. Mattheus had success as an amateur despite separating his hands very early in delivery, which isn't ideal but created some hesitation and deception. The Rockies tried to make his mechanics more fluid, but he was hit hard in low Class A last year. His raw stuff remains intriguing, however. Mattheus relies on a hard sinker-slider combination, and he can top out at 94 mph with a four-seam fastball. His changeup is below average. Colorado is now trying to help him regain his old delivery and may have him repeat low Class A.
Van Kooten first registered on the Rockies' radar through special assistant to the general manager Walt Weiss, who volunteers time at Regis High in the Denver suburb of Aurora. Weiss worked with Van Kooten at Regis, and Colorado took him in the 46th round in 2003 as a draft-and-follow. He signed after one season at Seward County (Kan.) CC, where he was the Jayhawk Conference freshman of the year. Van Kooten is a good athlete who draws comparisons to Rockies shortstops past (Weiss) and present (Clint Barmes). He's also solid at second base and has played some third base as well. He has soft hands and gets excellent reads on balls, though he has had to work on learning to trust his backhand. He also has a little twist in his wrist when he throws but doesn't lose any accuracy. Offensively, Van Kooten profiles as a No. 2 hitter. His priorities are making contact and getting on base, and he's a good bunter. His speed is average. With all the middle-infield talent in the system, Van Kooten's eventual role with the Rockies figures to be as a utilityman. He'll get his first shot at full-season ball this year in Asheville.
The son of former all-star third baseman Gary Gaetti, Joe hit just .270 with 14 home runs as a junior for North Carolina State in 2003. Scouts questioned his bat, but his bloodlines and a solid performance in the Northwoods League the previous summer got him drafted in the 12th round. Gaetti has played himself into prospect status since signing. Much like his father, there's nothing smooth about his approach at the plate or in the field, but he produces. He has a short stroke with power, and he learned to trust his quick hands last year. He also stopped pushing himself quite so hard after burying himself when he struggled in his first two pro seasons. Gaetti will work counts and draw walks. His range and arm are just adequate, so he projects as a left fielder, though he has played some center and right as a pro. Headed for Double-A, he'll have to keep producing to one day earn a shot as an extra outfielder.
Asheville has produced the last two South Atlantic League MVPs. He isn't the top prospect that 2004 winner Ian Stewart is, but Miller chased the SAL triple crown in his first full season. He was helped by Asheville's McCormick Field, batting .366 with 20 homers in 65 home games, but he has legitimate hitting ability. After a dislocated right shoulder limited him in his pro debut, Miller soared in 2005 after refining his two-strike approach. He maintained his aggressiveness but didn't chase as many pitches and started using the whole field. He doesn't walk much, in part because he makes contact so easily. Miller has average speed and a strong arm, but he played mostly left field last year because he needs to improve his reads and routes on flyballs. The Rockies may skip him a level and send him to Double-A this year.