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Fowler had a breakthrough season in 2008 after injuries limited him to 164 games the two previous seasons. A Double-A Texas League all-star for Tulsa, he was selected to play in the Futures Game at Yankee Stadium, played with Team USA, which defeated Japan to claim the bronze medal in the Beijing Olympics, and made his big league debut in September. A 2004 draft choice, Fowler didn't debut until the following season, the Rockies signing him in August, after a trade of Larry Walker provided payroll savings that were used for his $925,000 bonus. A projected early draft, teams shied away from Fowler because he had offers to play baseball at Miami, where he was headed before signing with the Rockies, and basketball at Harvard. A high school All-American, he was ranked the 10th best high school position player available in the 2004 draft. He played in summer league programs with Chris Nelson, the Rockies' first-round draft choice in 2004. There are few players with as complete a package of tools as Fowler, from physical ability to his personality. Constantly smiling, he plays center field and runs the bases with a flair that conjures up memories of a young Garry Maddox and Willie Wilson. His feet don't seem to ever leave the ground with his effortless stride. He is a plus runner who gets good breaks on balls defensively and has a plus arm for a center fielder. He continues to make strides offensively and started to show an ability to drive the ball in 2008. Having not begun to switch-hit until he got into pro ball, Fowler is stronger from the right side of the plate, batting .405 in 84 at-bats against lefthanders last season, but has good technique from the left side, even though he does use a split grip. He said it gives him a feeling of bat control, and the organization has taken a hands-off approach to that situation. Fowler has no glaring holes. It's a matter of how quickly he'll make adjustments. Fowler has a sleek, athletic build that figures to steadily get stronger, although he will never be bulky, and with that strength will come run-production power. However, that is still a projection at this point. At each level he has had to adjust to the command of pitchers, and learn not to be in a hurry to chase out of the zone. He has too much speed to give away at-bats and needs to make more contact with two strikes. He has excellent speed, but needs to learn how to use it as an offensive weapon in terms of stealing bases and bunting. Fowler is expected to be a key part of the Rockies' long-term foundation with his ability to play center field in spacious Coors Field. He might hit leadoff but could develop enough power to move lower in the order, perhaps as a No. 3 or No. 5 hitter. Natural progression will have him open this season with Triple-A Colorado Springs, but with his raw abilities, Fowler has the ability to push up the development plan. The quick adjustment he made at Tulsa last year led to the belief that the game clicked and Fowler suddenly moved on to the fast track.
In his first full season, Chacin shot up the Rockies' charts, splitting time with their two full-season Class A affiliates. He led the minor leagues with 18 wins, ranking third overall in innings and sixth in ERA and strikeouts. He boasts a 25-5 record in his last 38 professional starts. Chacin has mastered his fastball and changeup, capable of throwing either pitch in any situation. The fastball has picked up velocity and now sits around 92 mph, touching 94, with heavy sinking action. He uses the same arm action for his change, which has become an out pitch, particularly against lefthanded hitters. He's a strong athlete with the ability to repeat his mechanics. His curveball doesn't have the sharpness that Chacin will need to be a big league starter. He can throw the pitch for strikes, and it has some power at 78-80 mph, but right now it's below average. Chacin will step into the middle of a big league rotation, and if his curveball develops into a plus pitch, he can be a top-of-the-rotation starter. After reaching high Class A in his first full season, he should be challenged again in 2009 and could even reach Colorado at some point.
Undrafted out of high school, Friedrich bloomed at Eastern Kentucky into one of the best lefthanded pitchers at the college level in 2008. The son of a dentist whose client list includes several Cubs execs such as GM Jim Hendry, Friedrich was 20-7, 1.83 in his three years at Eastern Kentucky, and caught the attention of scouts by dominating the wood-bat New England Collegiate and Cape Cod leagues. Friedrich has a feel for pitching, with a solid-average fastball ranging from 89-92 mph. He complements his fastball with two good breaking balls--a big-time curveball that has a 12-to-6 movement and a solid-average slider. His changeup is evolving, as it's not a pitch he has needed at the amateur level. It should develop into an average pitch down the line with his feel for pitching. At times Friedrich's fastball command can be spotty, an important area for improvement as he lacks overpowering velocity. Friedrich figures to be a solid big league starter and could find his way to Coors Field at some point in the 2010 season. He could move quickly, akin to Jeff Francis' rapid rise, and while this year figures to begin at high Class A Modesto, it's not out of the question he could earn a midseason promotion.
Rosario seeks to join in the growing number of impact Latin American players the Rockies have produced under the guidance of Rolando Fernandez. He impressed the organization with his maturity level, considering he was one of the youngest players in the Pioneer League, and he was the league's No. 1 prospect. Rosario showed the bat speed to handle good fastballs, promising run production ability at a position where offense is a luxury. He is athletic and moves well behind the plate. The fact he threw out 46 percent of basestealers in a league where pitchers are more focused on throwing strikes than holding runners underscores his arm strength. The physical skills are there, but Rosario is still young and honing those skills. Catching requires a mental maturity, learning to isolate personal struggles or successes so that it doesn't affect the handling of a pitcher. It takes time to learn the nuances of pitch selection. Rosario will make the move to a full-season team this year, and the low Class A South Atlantic League should prove a good test of his endurance. With Chris Iannetta in the big leagues there is no reason to rush Rosario, so he will be given a chance to prove himself at each step in the minor leagues.
After earning all-star honors in the South Atlantic League in 2007, Gomez' career hit a roadblock in 2009. In the season opening game for Modesto, he fouled a ball off his left shin, causing a stress fracture. During his rehab he injured his right elbow, requiring reconstructive surgery on July 1. The hope is he can be ready by Opening Day. Gomez excels defensively. He has excellent range, and before the troubles of a year ago had the strongest arm of any player in the organization. He has a quick bat and can't be overpowered. As he fills out he should add the strength to collect extra-base hits. His arm strength will be watched carefully as he returns from surgery, but most players return with as much--if not more--arm strength. Plate discipline has been a problem, marginalizing what little power he has. With Troy Tulowitzki entrenched at Coors Field there is no need to rush shortstops through the system, which benefits Gomez. After losing the 2008 season to injuries, Gomez will be watched carefully during the spring to make sure his elbow has healed fully before he is sent out. Then he figures to return to Modesto for a second shot. With youth on his side, Gomez has plenty of time to regain his stature as a premiere shortstop prospect.
Converted from outfielder to pitcher in junior college, Weathers was on a fast track to the big leagues until he threw a pitch in the Arizona Fall League and felt something pop. Turned out he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right forearm, requiring ligament transplant surgery that will knock him out of the 2009 season. He was coming off a solid season at Double-A Tulsa that included a bronze Olympic medal with Team USA. His fastball can hit the mid-90s but loses movement when the velocity rises. In the low 90s he has late life that makes hitters jump. He complements the fastball with a late-breaking slider that will sit in the mid-80s. The combination provides swing-and-miss opportunities for Weathers, who has a late-inning mentality. Command and health are Weathers' two biggest challenges. He has to not only throw strikes, but also quality strikes. He can be timid at times against lefthanded hitters, who batted .319 against him (as opposed to .165 for righthanded hitters). Weathers will get a chance to get stronger while rehabbing in 2009. He should return in 2010 without any problems and will be in the big leagues that season as soon as he shows there are no lingering concerns from the injury.
Signed as a shortstop, Rogers struggled with the bat. After hitting .209 in three years in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League, he agreed to give up hitting in 2006 and has made a solid adjustment to the mound. For a converted player, Rogers has adapted well to the craft of pitching. He has a solid delivery and good arm action, producing a 92-94 mph fastball with late life. The curveball came quickly. It has a hard break and can be a strikeout pitch. He has shown solid control. Rogers' inexperience with pitching shows in nuances such as defense and holding runners. The only below-average pitch in his arsenal is a changeup, which lacks consistency. Rogers was protected in his workload the first two years he pitched, but last season he took his regular turn all year in the California League. He is ready for the move to Double-A, and the Rockies believe he can be in the rotation by 2010. If his changeup doesn't make progress, his two-pitch arsenal and live arm should allow him to be an effective reliever quickly.
Smith is a quality athlete who went to Mississippi as a quarterback, but got stuck behind Eli Manning and never took a snap in three years as the backup. A 48th-round pick of Arizona out of high school, he was a member of Team USA when it won a silver medal in the 2003 Pan American games. Smith has the best swing of any player in the Rockies organization. He is a prototypical lefthanded bat, a low-ball hitter who has shown the ability to drive balls into the gaps. He has an excellent feel for the strike zone, and while his home run totals have been modest, he has given the Rockies reason to believe his power is coming on by hitting opposite-field homers in Washington and San Francisco last year. Smith has the ability to play any of the three outfield positions and has a strong, accurate arm, but still hasn't shown the ability to stay focused defensively. He will get himself out of rhythm at the plate when he exaggerates the leg kick he uses as a timing mechanism. Smith is ready to stay in the big leagues. He already has shown the awareness to handle the challenge of coming off the bench (14-for-42 as a big league pinch-hitter), and with the departure of Matt Holliday gets his shot this year to lay claim to an everyday job.
McKenry has shown steady improvement in his three pro seasons, and capped off his rise into legitimate prospect status when he was one of the stronger offensive players in the Arizona Fall League. He followed up a team-high 18 home runs at high Class A Modesto by finishing second in the AFL with nine homers. McKenry has been a quality defensive catcher since his youth, and has only added to that reputation, throwing out 46 percent of opposing basestealers in 2008. He moves well behind the plate, likes to work a pitcher through a game and has a plus arm, augmented by a quick release. Now the offense is starting to come, too. In two years in full-season leagues he has shown legitimate power. He quickly gets into hitting position and plants his front leg firmly. McKenry can get in a hurry at the plate and will chase pitches. He needs to make more consistent contact to turn into an everyday catcher in the big leagues. Some scouts question his athleticism and consider him a bad-body player. McKenry is moving a step at a time, and that means Tulsa for 2009. He has the defensive ability and mental toughness to ensure at least a backup job in the big leagues. If he becomes more disciplined at the plate, he has the potential to handle starting duties on a contender.
A pitcher at Young Harris (Ga.) JC, Blackmon moved to the outfield during the 2007 summer in the Texas Collegiate League. He was drafted out of high school (2004, 28th round, Marlins) and again out of Young Harris (2005, 20th round, Red Sox) before opting to transfer to Georgia Tech, where he ranked fourth in the Atlantic Coast Conference in batting in 2008. Blackmon shows five-tool potential. He runs well enough to play any of the three outfield positions, primarily playing right field in college and moving to center field in his pro debut. He has a picture-book lefthanded swing and has shown line-drive power into the alleys. He has plus-plus speed and the arm strength that would be expected from a converted pitcher. Blackmon's inexperience as a hitter shows, however. He makes contact but will chase pitches out of the strike zone. With his speed he has to realize that walks are of value. He has quick hands but tends to get started too soon in his swing. Signed as a college senior, Blackmon needs to be challenged in the minor leagues, with a jump to Modesto likely. With his defensive ability, he has what it takes to be a fourth outfielder, but with continued maturation offensively he could be an everyday center fielder.
A quarterback on his high school football team in Jonesboro, Ark., and a guard who averaged 13 points per game for the Arkansas Class 6-A state championship basketball team, Cleary is a pure athlete. He had opportunities to play basketball and football at the Division I level but opted to play baseball, going the junior college route. After hitting .411 and helping Louisiana State-Eunice win its second Division II national juco title his freshman year, Cleary signed with the Rockies, who were so impressed with his solid summer effort they gave him a $250,000 bonus. The cousin of Miami Heat forward Shawn Marion, Cleary shows power potential to all fields but does get caught off-balance on his front foot when he gets too anxious. He is a plus runner but can get bogged down getting out of the box by a big swing. Cleary's athleticism is most apparent when he is in center field. He gets good breaks on balls, covers plenty of ground and has a slightly above-average arm. As he focuses on baseball and refines his game, Cleary has the ability to become an impact center fielder. He could put up big numbers in 2009 at low Class A Asheville.
Primarily a reliever his first two years in college, Graham moved into a rotation role with the Rockies because the team simply wanted him to log innings. After spending his pro debut getting in shape at the short-season level, Graham started to change the thinking about his future. He flourished in the role of a starter at Asheville, ranking second in the South Atlantic League (to Giants top prospect Madison Bumgarner) in ERA despite the hitter-friendly environment. His two plus pitches are a mid-90s fastball with movement and a hard slider, which he sometimes struggles to command. He ranked second in the SAL in walks. He messes with a curveball and has the makings of a changeup, and will have to refine one of those pitches to make the move to the big leagues as a power starter. If he can't add an offspeed pitch, he still has the ability to be an impact late-inning reliever. Given his age and his success in the SAL, Graham should move to Tulsa in 2009.
After a second half in 2007 that had Rockies officials thinking that Nelson was ready to live up to expectations of being a first-round pick, he took a step backward last season. He struggled early at Tulsa, and then was sidelined with a broken hamate bone. Nelson returned in the Arizona Fall League, and his offensive performance started to trend upward again. Considered the best high school prospect in the 2004 draft, Nelson--a summer league teammate of Dexter Fowler in high school--still has exceptional bat speed that evokes Gary Sheffield. He lacks the plate discipline to take advantage of his fast hands, however. He will chase breaking pitches, which was exposed when he moved up a level. He has a laser arm, but never looks comfortable at shortstop (18 errors in 44 games at Tulsa). He projects as a second baseman and would have been moved last year, but coming off that strong second half in 2007 the Rockies did not want to disrupt the offensive development. With a return to Tulsa this year, he'll move to second.
Massey was a mid-round find for the Rockies. Teams shied away from him because he had a baseball ride to Virginia, but by the 14th round, Rockies scouting director Bill Schmidt couldn't resist and opted to select Massey, whose father is the football coach at the Baylor School in Chattanooga. Massey's season was cut short when he ran into a wall at Rookie-level Casper in late August, leading to surgery to repair a torn left anterior cruciate ligament. He is expected to be ready by the start of spring training. Given a $525,000 signing bonus spread over four years, Massey shows the mentality of a player who also had Division I football options. He has raw power and a feel for hitting. With a short lefthanded stroke and good body balance he uses the whole field. A pitcher and first baseman in high school, Massey is an average runner best suited for first base or a corner outfield spot.
The son of former big league pitcher and current Rockies television analyst George Frazier, Parker had a lot of interest from colleges when he came out of high school. But his focus has always been on professional baseball and he never gave schools such as Arkansas and Oral Roberts serious consideration. Early indications are it was a wise decision. He has started to get stronger and fill out, and as a result his late-sinking fastball has clicked from the upper 80s to a consistent 92-93 mph. That helped him have success last year after an ugly pro debut at Casper. He has a hard slider and quality changeup to go with the heat. Most important, Frazier throws quality strikes. He has walked just 38 batters in 132 professional innings. He doesn't get many strikeouts but makes up for it with ground balls, posting a 1.99 groundout/airout ratio at short-season Tri-City. The Rockies have been cautious with Frazier, who has yet to pitch in a full-season league. Now he is ready to move quicker, and could jump up to Modesto.
Rodriguez just turned 21 in December, but he's already moving up to Double-A. Having come to the United States at the age of 17, Rodriguez has a feel for pitching beyond his years, but when he gets into a jam he will overthrow and add to his problems. He has walked only 144 batters in 446 professional innings. He has a fastball that is a solid 91-92 mph with late movement, and his curveball is a good complementary offering, with out-pitch potential. He already has a feel for a changeup and is quite pitch-efficient for his age. He led the Cal League with two complete-game shutouts. The Rockies are still looking for him grow into his body, feeling not only that he could bulk up but he could still add an inch or two of height given the size of his hands. Even with a second-half stumble at Modesto last year, Rodriguez remains on the fast track and will take on the challenge of the hitter-friendly Texas League.
An injury-plagued career got a major boost during the Arizona Fall League. Healthy for the first time in three years, Lindsay got his fastball back to hitting the upper 90s again, forcing the Rockies to put him on the 40- man roster so they would avoid losing him in the Rule 5 draft. The 2005 Northwest League pitcher of the year, Lindsay was bothered by a torn labrum that cut short his 2006 season and forced him to miss all of 2007. He was making his comeback in 2008 before a barroom brawl resulted in a broken hand. He returned in time to pitch for Asheville in the Sally League playoffs, striking out 10 in six innings in a loss to league champion Augusta. Lindsay, who has thrown just 222 innings in four pro seasons, needs to put together a full season and show that his dominance can be sustained. He will pitch in the 92-94 range but can hit 98, and he has a knuckle-curve that he can consistently throw for strikes. He needs to refine his changeup to give him something offspeed that would allow him to be a key factor in a big league rotation.
The son of original Rockies second baseman and current ESPN analyst Eric Young Sr., the younger Young is strikingly similar to the player his dad was, albeit with more strength. His game is built on speed, as he led the minor leagues in stolen bases in 2006 while playing for Asheville and still turns in big steals totals at higher levels. Even though Young missed a month at Tulsa with a broken hamate bone in his left hand last year, he stole 46 bases for the Drillers, and then exploded offensively in the AFL, where he led the league with a .430 average, .504 on-base percentage, 37 runs and 20 stolen bases. Young has embraced the small-ball approach, but needs to become more consistent with his strike zone to take advantage of the speed tool he possesses. The biggest challenge for Young is defense. He is a stiff-fielding infielder, which led the Rockies to give him a look in center field in the AFL. He adapted quickly to tracking balls, but arm strength became an issue. He's on the 40-man roster and headed to Triple-A for 2009, where he will continue to work on center field as well as second base.
Brought over to big league camp during spring training when the Rockies needed an extra arm as insurance, Mattheus caught the attention of manager Clint Hurdle with his ability to consistently throw strikes. It led to the decision to move Mattheus from the rotation to the bullpen at Tulsa last year, and it worked. For the first time in four full professional seasons, he had an ERA below 5.00 and he showed the necessary resiliency to work late innings. His control also improved significantly, perhaps because he no longer needed to worry about a third pitch. He has a hard sinking fastball, a four-seamer that can reach 94 mph and a plus slider. His inability to develop a changeup or split-finger pitch has left him vulnerable to lefthanded hitters, who tagged him for a .318 average last year (compared to .210 for righthanders). Added to the 40-man roster, Mattheus will get a long look in the spring, but first he will have to prove he has overcome right shoulder tendinitis problems that forced him to come home early from the Arizona Fall League.
Holcomb doesn't open eyes when he walks onto the field, but so far he has put up the kind of results that force scouts to pay attention. He has a bit of Ron Cey in him, with a small, stout build, and modest athleticism but a toughness and determination to succeed. Consider the fact that he was the MVP in the South Atlantic League last year, but still ranked just 17th on the list of prospects. A grinder who can hit, he led the league in doubles and RBIs, finished second in on-base percentage and batting average and showed the plate discipline to draw more walks than strikeouts. He stays back on the ball and has good pitch recognition. He has extra-base power, but isn't the home run hitter teams usually look at from the corner infield spots. He doesn't have the quick reflexes at third base, and isn't built like a player that would seem fit to move to second base, which could result in an eventual move to left field. Holcomb wore down late and didn't perform with the bat--a first--in Hawaii Winter Baseball, batting .163. He could push for a jump to Tulsa with a strong spring or take it one step at a time and report to Modesto.
Right shoulder tendinitis forced Weatherford to miss the month of March at Mississippi State and wound up costing him his entire first pro season, after the Rockies signed for $350,000. The Rockies are confident that the problems are minimal, but there are concerns in some circles that he will battle arm problems throughout his career because of a max-effort delivery and slight frame. The Rockies see him as a legitimate late-inning relief candidate, which will allow him to be monitored on pitch counts and innings. He can dominate hitters. He allowed only 20 baserunners--10 walks and 10 hits--and struck out 62 in 32 innings of relief for Mississippi State last spring. He struck out 177 batters in 169 career innings at Mississippi State, helping lead an upstart Bulldogs team to the College World Series in Ron Polk's penultimate season in 2007. Weatherford has an overthe- top arm slot with a fastball that will sit in the 92-94 mph range. He has shown command of both sides of the plate with the fastball. His second pitch is a split-finger fastball. A swing-and-miss pitch that is rarely a strike, the splitter becomes an out pitch when he commands his fastball and can get ahead in the count. Weatherford also throws a hard curveball. He could wind up as a closer long-term as his splitter gives him a weapon to neutralize lefthanded hitters, which Weathers lacks.
After winning pitcher of the year honors in his first two professional seasons, Hynick faced his first real challenge at Double-A in 2008. He got knocked around in two of his first three starts, lasting past the fifth inning only once. Then he adjusted, going at least six innings in 23 of his last 24 starts, and he finished the season strong, capped off by a 1.56 ERA in August. He is a control pitcher in the Brad Radke mold, with durability as his best attribute. He ranked ninth in the minors in innings in '08 after leading the minors in that category the year before. He throws quality strikes with his two-seam fastball, which has good sink. Hynick doesn't produce exceptional ground-ball numbers and can be susceptible to home runs if he doesn't command his stuff. He has issued just 71 walks in 426 professional innings. He complements a high 80s fastball with a splitter, quality changeup and curveball. His curveball remains inconsistent, but the split-finger is a swing-and-miss out pitch. Hynick has little margin for error, and hitters knows he's going to be around the strike zone. If he misses his spots he will get hit hard. He profiles as a durable innings-eater but strictly as a back-of-the-rotation option. He's headed to Triple-A to try to prove himself again.
It is now or never time for Morillo, who has made three brief trips to the majors. He is out of options, so either the Rockies will keep him in their bullpen out of spring training, or they'll have to run him through waivers to send him to the minors. Teams would be tempted to put in a claim on Morillo because of his raw arm strength. He has hit 100 mph in the past according to scouts from other organizations, though the Rockies say he pitches best at 95. The problem is throwing strikes. His slider can be an out pitch, but is too inconsistent for Morillo to count on. He dabbled with a split-finger pitch, but that created soreness so he is back to using a changeup, which hasn't come easily to him. Converted to a reliever two years ago with the hope it would help him be more aggressive and throw more strikes, he responded well in 2007, his best statistical season, but gave back that progress back last year. Given his roster situation. Morillo figures to be in the big leagues this year, but it's a question of which big league team will find roster space.
Riordan doesn't grab a scout's attention when he is warming up. He is an acquired taste. The Atlantic-10 Conference rookie of the year in 2005, he attracted the most attention as an amateur when he was one of the top starters in the Cape Cod League in 2006. He became Fordham's highest draft pick since 1966. Riordan has a knack for making the right pitch at the right time. He isn't afraid to pitch backward and catch a hitter off balance. He isn't going to overpower hitters with a fastball ranging from 87-92 mph, but it does tail away from lefthanded hitters. There's a bit of bend in his slider, which currently grades as below-average, but he has a good feel for changing speeds and has a solid curveball that is in the mid-70s. The key is he throws strikes. He not only walked 29 batters in 168 innings at Asheville while ranking second in the league in strikeouts, behind only Giants stud prospect Madison Bumgarner. He could pick up some velocity if he would use his lower body better and lengthen the stride in his delivery. If the slider continues to elude him, he could become a dependable, durable bullpen workhorse.
Roe had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee during spring training, which delayed the start of his 2008 season to May 22. Roe, however, was able to add innings at the end by pitching in the Arizona Fall League. He is 23, but still has a body with projection that hasn't filled out. A quality athlete who had the option of following in his father's footsteps and playing quarterback at Kentucky but opted for pro baseball instead, Roe is reaching a turning point in his career. A decision has to be made on whether he would be better served in the bullpen. He has a quality fastball that sits in the low 90s, and a big-time curveball that is a definite swing and miss pitch. Roe's changeup, however, remains mediocre, and without a third pitch it's tough turning over a lineup enough times to start. He also hangs too many curves and leaves his fastball up in the zone, making him homer-prone. Roe needs to either improve his changeup or significantly improve his fastball command, which is made more difficult by his long, not-yet-mature frame.
The Rockies dodged a bullet during the Winter Meetings when Wimberly slid through the Rule 5 draft. He's an Eric Yelding/Bip Roberts type, with plus makeup in addition to the speed aspects to his game. Wimberly understands that he is a speed player and his success depends upon getting on bases and creating turmoil. He is a small-ball guy. In three full minor league seasons he has only 52 extra-base hits, but he also has 145 stolen bases. He has been hampered by leg muscle pulls, limiting him to 287 games the last three years. He will bunt and slap at the ball but has struck out more times (166) than a speed-oriented hitter should. The Rockies want Wimberly to focus more on making contact. A good fastball will overmatch him. Defensively he provides value in that he can fill in at second, shortstop, third base and center field, but he doesn't have the hands to take advantage of his range, and will drop his arm angle, keeping him from finishing his throws. Wimberly is ready to move up to Triple-A after consecutive seasons at Tulsa.
Herrera made his big league debut last year, yet was removed from the 40-man roster in November. The Rockies say that was more a statement on the organization's middle infield depth than Herrera's abilities. The club did immediately re-sign him to a minor league deal and invited him to big league spring training. A natural righthanded hitter, Herrera has worked on switch-hitting hard enough that he is actually more in sync from the left side of the plate now. He is a contact hitter, but after stealing 34 bases in Modesto in 2006, he has a combined total of 34 thefts at Tulsa (18), Colorado Springs (15) and in the big leagues (1) the last two years. He was originally a shortstop, which gives him utility infielder potential, and he worked in the outfield last season to add to his versatility. Herrera has little power to speak of, limiting his offensive upside and preventing him from being a big league regular.
Colonel has versatility that creates value at the big league level. Primarily a corner infielder, he also played second base, left field and right field for Colorado Springs in 2008, and was the emergency catcher for the SkySox in 2008. He is not a home run hitter, so given his positions, the ability to move around will allow him to get some at-bats. Colonel can provide offensive help, even while lacking the kind of power that would profile him as a regular at a corner spot. His career-best for home runs, 17, came in his second try at the Double-A Texas League, but he's hit .300 or better in each of the last three seasons, makes consistent contact with gap power and doesn't strike out much. An all-star selection each of the last two seasons, Colonel has decent speed, particularly once he is on the bases. He has an accurate arm and soft hands, which allows him to move around defensively without concerns. He isn't on the 40-man roster at age 27, meaning time is running out even for a versatile player like Colonel. He will have to earn a reserve spot on Colorado's roster to avoid a return to Triple-A.
Koshansky is trapped, with Todd Helton and Garrett Atkins both standing between him and the big leagues. An all-star in each of his five minor league seasons, Koshansky has legitimate big league power. He has hit at least 31 home runs in three of the last four years, and has driven in at least 99 runs in each of those four seasons with a full-season minor league team. With the power, however, comes an aggressiveness at home plate that works against him. He has struck out 663 times (and walked just 280 times) in 2,242 professional at-bats, including 22 strikeouts in 50 big league at-bats the last two years. Koshansky has a long, sweeping swing that produces raw power but is grooved, with plenty of holes for advanced pitchers to exploit. Defensively he is adequate at first and has a strong arm for a first baseman, owing to his background in college, when he pitched as well as hit. However, Koshansky's baseclogging below-average speed and limited athleticism precludes a move to the outfield that would possibly give him a shot at playing time. Unless Helton and Atkins are unable to play, Koshansky--who is on the 40-man roster--will return to Colorado Springs for a third season.
The Rockies signed Martinez as a 16-year-old to a $650,000 signing bonus in July of 2005, the biggest bonus they ever gave a Latin player, and as much as landing Martinez the idea behind the bonus was to send a message throughout the Caribbean that the Rockies were ready to be a player. Martinez spent 2006 in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League and played part-time with Casper in 2007 before finally getting everyday duty with the Ghosts last year. He has surprising line-drive power despite his size, but gets anxious at the plate and gets caught out front when facing soft stuff. He has agility in the field and a strong arm, but carelessness, particularly with his throws, causes errors. He made 25 of them in just 65 games. He's a good runner who tied for second in the Pioneer League in stolen bases, though his baserunning needs polishing. After two years in Casper, Martinez needs to make a significant move, which should mean earning a spot in Asheville instead of staying back in extended spring for a third season.