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Matzek first gained the attention of scouts early in his junior season of high school in 2008, when he outpitched Gerrit Cole (who would become the Yankees' first-round pick that June) in a preseason matchup. Matzek entered 2009 as the top-rated pitcher in the high school draft crop, and he saved his best for last. After pitching a shutout in the California Interscholastic Federation Division I semifinals, he took the mound with the bases loaded and two out in the sixth inning of the finale. He pitched out of the jam, hit an opposite-field homer for a 1-0 lead in the bottom half, then got out of another bases-loaded situation in the seventh to preserve the victory. Matzek didn't allow a run in 18 1/3 innings in the CIF playoffs while touching 97-98 mph and maintaining both his velocity and quality breaking stuff deep into his starts. With his strong finish, he pushed himself to as high as No. 2 on some clubs' draft boards, but he fell to the Rockies at No. 11 after stating that he was looking for "unprecedented money." At the Aug. 17 signing deadline, Matzek passed up a full scholarship and the opportunity to play both ways at Oregon in order to receive a club-record $3.9 million bonus. Scouts thought he was the best high school lefthander to come out of Southern California since Cole Hamels in 2002, and Matzek has better stuff. He has a legitimate four-pitch arsenal, starting with a fastball that sat at 90-94 mph for most of the spring before jumping to the upper 90s right before the draft. His curveball and slider are two distinct breaking pitches and both have the potential to become plus offerings. He also shows feel for a changeup, though he didn't need the pitch very often as an amateur. Matzek has an exceedingly smooth delivery and the ball comes out of his hand easily. He's athletic and repeats his mechanics well, which bodes well for his future control and command. His leadership is another trait that has him destined to be a staff ace. While he hasn't faced much adversity on the mound, he proved his toughness after his father Jeff, who had coached him since T-ball, was diagnosed with throat cancer while Matzek was a sophomore. He didn't let his father's illness affect his performance, and Jeff 's cancer is now in remission. Matzek sometimes lands on a stiff front leg, causing his fastball to sail high and out of the strike zone. He'll need to improve his fastball command and use his changeup more often, but that should come with more innings. There's really little he needs more than experience, and he has the aptitude and confidence to make any adjustments that he'll need to address. The Rockies are normally reluctant to push young players, particularly pitchers, but they were very impressed with how Matzek handled instructional league. The first high school pitcher they've picked in the first round since the Matt Harrington debacle in 2000, Matzek is ticketed for low Class A Asheville, which would make him the first high school player that Colorado has allowed to debut in full-season ball. He should move very fast for a prep product and projects as a frontline starter.
Friedrich went from undrafted as an Illinois high schooler to a first-round pick in 2008 after three years at Eastern Kentucky. The Rockies didn't expect him to be available with the 25th overall pick and gladly signed him for $1.35 million. In his first full pro season, he rated as the top prospect in the high Class A California League and ranked second in the minors in strikeouts per nine innings (12.0). Friedrich has added velocity, pitching consistently in the low 90s and topping out at 95 last season. He has a 12-to-6 curveball and a hard slider, both emerging as plus pitches. He rarely threw his changeup before pro ball, but it is becoming an average offering. He does a good job of throwing strikes, but Friedrich must continue to improve his fastball command. Once he can locate his fastball consistently, he'll be ready for the big leagues. He missed a month at midseason with left elbow inflammation, but it's not a long-term concern. Friedrich will open 2010 in Double-A Tulsa, where he would have finished last season if the Rockies hadn't decided to handle him carefully after his elbow problems. If he develops as quickly as he did in 2009, he could make his major league debut by the end of the season.
Rosario and Hector Gomez are the first potential impact position players to come out of the Rockies' Latin American program, which initially emphasized finding pitching. After Rosario rated as the top prospect in the Rookie-level Pioneer League in 2008, Colorado jumped him to high Class A Modesto last season, where he worked with catching guru Jerry Weinstein. He missed all of August after hurting his left wrist on a tag at the plate, but returned to impress scouts in the Arizona Fall League. Rosario has the physical abilities to be the complete package behind the plate. He has a quick, compact swing and can drive the ball. He has a strong arm and threw out 47 percent of basestealers who tested him in 2009. He's agile behind the plate. In order to get the most out of his offensive potential, Rosario needs more discipline at the plate. He's too anxious to hit and tends to chase hard breaking balls out of the zone. He loses his concentration at times, affecting his receiving. He's a below-average runner, though he's not a baseclogger. With Chris Iannetta in the majors, the Rockies don't need to push Rosario more aggressively. He's scheduled for a full season in Double-A at age 21 and should battle Iannetta for the big league starting job in 2012.
Chacin led the minors with 18 wins in 2008 before making his big league debut last July. He allowed just two runs in eight relief appearances with Colorado, though the Pirates roughed him up in his lone major league start. Chacin's size and athleticism allow him to throw a hard sinker that ranges from 89-92 mph. His best pitch is a changeup that negates lefthanders. He throws it with the same arm action that he uses for his fastball. His slider is a plus pitch at times. He's poised well beyond his years. His slider and curveball need refinement, but for some reason Chacin made them his primary pitches when he got to the big leagues. He fell behind in the count too often and fell prey to walks. He has to pitch off his fastball and changeup, and use his breaking pitches only intermittently, to be effective. He lacks fastball command at times, particularly when he overthrows. Chacin will open the season in the Triple-A Colorado Springs rotation, and figures to return to the big leagues to stay later in the year. His ultimate ceiling depends on his ability to develop a consistent breaking ball to complement his fastball and changeup.
A low Class A South Atlantic League all-star as a 19-year-old in 2007, Gomez has been slowed by injuries the last two years. In his first at-bat of 2008, he fouled a ball off his shin, sustaining a stress fracture, then hurt his elbow during his rehab and required Tommy John surgery. He returned to the diamond late last April, then missed almost all of June with a groin strain. Gomez has the tools to be an all-around shortstop. Managers rated him as having the California League's best infield arm last year, and he also has excellent range and soft hands. He has a quick bat that can catch up to quality fastballs, and the power to eventually hit 15 or more homers per season. He has plus speed. After losing so much development time the last two years, Gomez still needs work on the nuances of the game. His lack of plate discipline cuts into his power production. He has a tendency to chase breaking pitches, which the Rockies hope to alleviate by shortening his stroke. He's still learning how to steal bases and he sometimes gets careless in the field. Gomez got some much-needed at-bats in the AFL, paving the way for him to step up to Double-A. Troy Tulowitzki's presence in Colorado means there's no need to rush Gomez, and also could mean he'll move to second base when he's ready for the big leagues.
Like his father Eric Sr., the Rockies' first starting second baseman and now an ESPN analyst, Eric Jr. could have played college football. Instead, he turned down Villanova and attended junior college to focus on baseball. Young has led his league in stolen bases three times in the last four years, topping the minors with 87 in 2006. Young's ability to disrupt a game with his plus-plus speed earned him a spot on Colorado's postseason roster. He embraces the value of small ball, though he does have some strength and can drive the ball if a pitcher makes a mistake, as he showed with a Futures Game home run in St. Louis. He's a tireless worker who has put in the effort to improve his defense. Young lacks soft hands and has fringy arm strength. He's just adequate at second base, where he'll make an occasional spectacular play but also get caught on his heels by a routine grounder. He has been given limited playing time in center field, and he still has a lot to learn there. At the plate, he needs to get more selective and make more contact. Young fits into the Rockies big league picture as a role player for now, serving as a pinch-runner, alternative at second base to Clint Barmes, and a double-switch candidate in the outfield.
Wheeler led the Cape Cod League with 15 steals in the summer of 2008, then set Sacramento State records for single-season (72) and career (142) RBIs while batting .385 last spring. One of the best all-around college players in the 2009 draft, he surprisingly lasted until the 32nd overall choice, which made him the highest pick in Hornets history. Signed for $900,000, he finished his pro debut on a 12-game hitting streak. Wheeler has solid tools across the board. With a pretty lefthanded swing and a strong, athletic build, he has the potential to hit for a high average with 20 or more homers per season. His slightly above-average speed and strong arm give him a chance to play center field. He has a good feel for the game, allowing his tools to play up. Wheeler fits better defensively in right field, and to play regularly on a corner he'll have to deliver on his power potential, which currently is more evident in batting practice than in games. He expanded his strike zone and got under balls rather than squaring them up in his pro debut. He can improve his reads and routes on fly balls. If Wheeler has a strong spring training, he could skip a level and head to high Class A. Brad Hawpe's contract expires after 2011, and Wheeler could be ready to take over in right field by then if needed.
After setting a Lipscomb record with 132 strikeouts in 94 innings, Brothers projected to go in the middle of the first round of the 2009 draft. The Rockies gladly scooped him up with the No. 34 pick, making him the second-highest drafted player in school history behind Bo McLaughlin--who's now Colorado's minor league pitching coordinator. Brothers signed for $969,000. Though he was a starter in college, Colorado envisions him as a power lefthanded closer in the mold of Randy Myers. Brothers' fastball sits at 94-96 mph and touches 97, while his slider parks in the mid-80s and peaks at 89. He has plenty of life on his pitches to go with his velocity, making it very difficult for hitters to square him up. He has a resilient arm that will serve him well in the pen. Brothers' pitches move so much that he has trouble commanding them at times. He focused on developing his changeup during instructional league, though it will always be his third option and he won't need it as much as he would as a starter. Brothers reached low Class A at the end of his pro debut and could advance to Double-A to start 2010. He should move very quickly as a reliever, and if he throws enough strikes, he has the type of stuff that could land him in Colorado by the end of the season.
Originally signed as a shortstop, Rogers hit .209 in three years in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League before moving to the mound in 2006. He dominated Double-A hitters in the first half of 2009 before getting knocked around in Triple-A and making his big league debut in September. Rogers made the transition to pitching more easily than most former position players, quickly developing smooth mechanics. His fastball ranges from 92-95 mph and features good life, and he can rack up strikeouts with his hard curveball. Until he got to Triple-A, he did a good job of challenging hitters. Rogers seemed intimidated when he got to Colorado Springs, consistently fell behind in the count and got hit harder than ever before. He just has to trust his power stuff. Lefthanders batted .367/.453/.608 against him in Triple-A, reinforcing his need to develop a changeup. Though he's a good athlete, he's still learning how to control the running game and has committed 18 errors the last three years. Rogers will return to Colorado Springs and try to conquer Triple-A to start 2010. If he can clean up his changeup, he'll be a starter. If not, his fastball and curveball are more than enough for him to succeed in a late-inning relief role.
Arenado hit safely in 27 of 28 games as a high school senior last spring, batting .529 overall and earning most outstanding hitter honors at the National Classic tournament in April. After signing him for $625,000 as a second-round pick, the Rockies moved him from shortstop to third base. Their lack of a complex league team necessitated sending him to the Pioneer League, where he hit .300 despite being the second-youngest regular in the circuit. Arenado has the impact bat teams want from a corner infielder. He has a balanced approach, advanced plate discipline and excellent hand-eye coordination, so he should hit for average. His bat speed and strength should give him at least average power in the future, and he already drives balls into the gaps. He has good reactions and first-step quickness at the hot corner, along with soft hands and a strong arm. Some scouts think he could be an impact catcher if given the chance. He has strong leadership skills and work ethic. He's a below-average runner, though Arenado moves well enough for his size and has good instincts on the bases. He doesn't have a lot of range and will have to continue to work on his defense at his new position. The Rockies usually avoid rushing high school players, but they're excited about Arenado's bat. He could open 2010 in low Class A.
Deduno missed the 2008 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, and he returned looking better than ever. He won the Double-A Texas League pitching triple crown, going 12-4, 2.57 with 123 strikeouts in 133 innings. He finished so strong at Tulsa that the Rockies cleared him to pitch in his native Dominican Republic during the winter. Deduno has a quality fastball that sits at 92-93 mph, as well as a power curveball. He's still working on a changeup, which will be important for him to control lefthanded hitters. He has leverage in his delivery that gives him a good downhill plane and helps him keep the ball down in the zone. He allowed just three homers last season. The key for Deduno will be command. He almost won a quadruple crown in the Texas League, finishing second with 72 walks, and he has averaged 5.0 walks per nine innings as a pro. Deduno can be a solid major league starter if he sharpens his command and develops a changeup. His two strikeout pitches should make him a good bullpen arm regardless. He'll move to Triple-A in 2010, and could get a big league callup.
Blackmon was drafted out of high school (Marlins, 28th round, 2004) and out of Young Harris (Ga.) JC (Red Sox, 20th round, 2005)--both times as a lefthander. After he transferred to Georgia Tech and redshirted for a year, he pulled a joke on his coach in the summer Texas Collegiate League by playing in the outfield. It worked out well, and he stayed there for his junior season at Georgia Tech, playing his way into the second round of the 2008 draft. Blackmon has a simple, consistent stroke and a feel for driving the ball gap to gap. His splits are strikingly similar against lefthanders and righthanders, day and night, home and road. The Rockies think he could turn some of his doubles turn into homers as he gets older. His well above-average speed makes him a stolen-base threat, though he could improve his efficiency. Blackmon handles center field well despite his limited experience. He needs to improve his jumps and reads so he doesn't have to rely as much on his speed. He has a solid arm but tends to wind up rather than using a crow hop and quick release. He'll continue to refine his game as he moves up to Double-A in 2010.
A freak injury slowed McKenry down late in the 2009 season after he made significant progress the last couple of years. USA Baseball had selected him to be one of its catchers for the World Cup in Europe, but the day before he was to leave Tulsa he was hit in the ear by a bat on a backswing, giving him a concussion and requiring stitches in his ear. He also had a negative reaction to the local anesthesia, but he has a clean bill of health for the 2010 season. Typically a slow starter, McKenry gets himself in trouble offensively when he becomes home run happy and tries to pull everything, opening up too quickly. At his best, though, he has a quality line-drive stroke and uses the middle of the field. He's also willing to work counts for walks. McKenry handles pitchers well and has strong makeup, intelligence and work habits. He moves well behind the plate and has a strong arm. When he focuses on his footwork and technique he can slow a running game. He sometimes tries to be too quick with his throws, wrapping his arm behind his head. He threw out 33 percent of basestealers last season. He has such a thick, strong body that it can inhibit him behind the plate and at bat, and he has well below-average speed. McKenry is ready for Triple-A and is knocking on the big league door, though his best role may be as a highenergy backup. The Rockies added him to the 40-man roster for the first time in November.
When they drafted him eighth overall and paid him a $1.8 million bonus in 2007, the Rockies expected that Weathers could make their big league bullpen by last season. That was before he blew out his elbow in the Arizona Fall League after the 2008 season, causing him to miss all of 2009. He did throw bullpen sessions during instructional league and should be ready to go in the spring. Converted from an outfielder to a pitcher in junior college, Weathers has to re-establish his quality fastball. It's most effective in the low-90s, when it has late life, and can reach the mid-90s. He throws a late-breaking slider that sits in the mid-80s, giving him two swing-andmiss pitches. Weathers has the aggressive mentality that teams want from a closer, and he needs to show it more often against lefthanders, who at times appear to intimidate him. He has to refine the command of both of his pitches. The Rockies will take it slowly with him to open 2010. He's expected to spend the year in Triple-A, but it's not out of the question that he could start the season in Double-A.
After three years of Rookie and short-season action, Nicasio had an eye-opening effort in low Class A last year, showing the ability to throw strikes and dominating hitters. He had a 5-1 strikeout-walk ratio and led the South Atlantic League with a 2.41 ERA, pitching his way onto the 40-man roster because the Rockies feared losing him in the Rule 5 draft. Nicasio sits in the low-90s with his fastball, which he complements with a plus changeup. He uses a curveball for his primary breaking pitch, but he'll probably refine a slider to use more than the curve. Nicasio's breakthrough year was the result of adjustments in his delivery, improving his downhill angle to the plate and giving him better sink on his pitches. He's a strike-thrower, though he becomes hittable if he flattens out his delivery. After his first summer with a heavy workload, the Rockies brought him to instructional league and then sent him to their Dominican academy, but they declined to have him pitch winter ball. Nicasio will open 2010 in high Class A, and Colorado will accelerate his progress if he continues to dominate.
Primarily a shortstop in high school, Balcom-Miller felt he had a future on the mound so he decided to focus on pitching. The Royals made him a 35th-round draft choice after his freshman year at West Valley (Calif.) JC, and he turned them down to return for his sophomore season. The gamble paid off when the Rockies picked him in the sixth round last June and signed him for $125,000. He debuted at Rookie-level Casper and went 4-0, 1.58 to win Pioneer League pitcher of the year honors. Returning to West Valley allowed Balcom-Miller to add velocity to his fastball, which is now a solid 89-91 mph pitch that hits 93 and shows good sink. The extra year in junior college also gave him time to develop an average changeup and refine a slider that has become his best pitch. His herky-jerky motion helps with his deception, and he has a bulldog approach. Balcom-Miller throws strikes, but he needs better command within the strike zone to consistently get outs as he moves to higher levels. He should jump to low Class A this year and has the ceiling of a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter.
Cleary is the kind of raw athlete who Rockies scouting director Bill Schmidt looks for in the late rounds of the draft. He was a quarterback on his high school football team and a guard on the basketball team that won the Arkansas Class 6-A state title his junior year. Since signing for $250,000 as a 37th-rounder in 2008, Cleary often has been referred to as a poor man's Dexter Fowler, a testament to his exciting potential. The cousin of NBA forward Shawn Marion, Cleary has above-average speed and some raw power. A switch-hitter, he must continue to work on his lefthanded swing and his strength, because he too often gets overpowered by hard-throwing righthanders. He also has to tighten his strike zone and avoid getting overly anxious at the plate. He's still learning how to tap into his power and may be better off concentrating on putting the ball on the ground and getting on base to maximize his speed. Clearly can steal bases and cover a lot of ground in center tfield. He has a decent arm that should get stronger with more baseball repetitions. Cleary will spend 2010 in high Class A.
A middle infielder at New Mexico, Pacheco made the transition to catching in his first full pro season in 2008. He won the South Atlantic League MVP award last season, finishing second in the league batting race (.322). Pacheco's bat is what got him drafted, but he lacked the quickness to play second base and the power potential to profile as a corner infielder. The Rockies believed that if he could be an adequate defender behind the plate, he could hit his way to a backup/utility role in the big leagues. Now the thought is that Pacheco could be a regular catcher. He handles the bat well and knows the strike zone. He understands his limitations and looks to drive balls in the gaps. He's a below-average runner but moves well for a catcher. Pacheco has average arm strength, though he's still working on his throwing mechanics after throwing out just 16 percent of basestealers in 2009. His receiving also is a work in progress, though he made strides by committing just eight passed balls in 69 games after giving up 21 in 44 contests in 2008. He has the leadership qualities a team looks for in a catcher. Pacheco will advance to Modesto, where he'll benefit playing for catching guru Jerry Weinstein.
Matthes was an Aflac All-American in high school and performed well as a sophomore and junior at Alabama, yet he went undrafted until putting up big numbers his senior season in 2009. Matthes became the first Alabama player to earn Southeastern Conference player of the year honors, hitting .358 with an NCAA Division I-leading 28 homers. After signing for $200,000 as a fourth-round pick, Matthes built on that success with a solid pro debut, topping the short-season Northwest League with 23 doubles. His power started to blossom when he began to improve his pitch-recognition skills during Alabama's tour of Cuba in the fall of 2008. He has a sound swing and drives the ball to all fields, but needs to be more selective. He's a solid athlete and runner who could become an above-average defender on an outfield corner. He has enough arm to play right field but would fit better in left. Given his age and performance record, Matthes could jump over Class A and open 2010 at Tulsa.
Alburquerque came to the Rockies from the Cubs in a trade last July for Jeff Baker, who had been squeezed out of the big league lineup by the arrival of Ian Stewart. Much like Baker, Alburquerque has had a career plagued by injury. He missed the entire 2005 season following Tommy John surgery and all of 2008 after a shoulder operation. Fully healthy again, he put up his best season yet in 2009, when he became a full-time reliever. The Rockies added him to the 40-man roster after he sat in the mid-90s and touched 99 mph in the Dominican Winter League. In addition to his overpowering fastball, he also has a quality slider with depth that sits at 87-88 mph. Alburquerque had better success against lefthanders following the trade, and if he can get lefties out consistently, he'll soon fit into the back of Colorado's bullpen. He'll open 2010 in Triple-A.
The son of former big leaguer and current Rockies broadcaster George Frazier, Parker was on the verge of jumping to high Class A as a 20-year-old last season before developing elbow problems. Following Tommy John surgery, he's expected to miss at least the first half of the 2010 season, though his rehab is progressing ahead of schedule over thanks to his conditioning and dedication to his rehab. Frazier operates primarily with two pitches, a low-90s sinker with late movement and a hard slider. He throws strikes and thrives off pitching to contact, generating plenty of grounders. His numbers should improve as he moves up the minor league ladder because he'll have better defenses behind him. Colorado will err on the side of caution with Frazier as he comes back from elbow surgery. But if he returns to form quickly, it's possible he could reach Double-A by the end of the season.
After Baker finished second in the minors with 33 saves last season, the Rockies sweated when they left him off their 40-man roster. But he went unpicked in the major league Rule 5 draft, so he'll continue his climb toward Colorado in 2010. Because of a heavy college workload and biceps tendinitis, Baker didn't pitch in his first pro summer after signing in 2006. Shoulder problems cost him the last month of the 2007 season, and he returned to low Class A in 2008 before taking off last season. Baker uses a high three-quarters delivery to his advantage in creating deception on his four-seam fastball, which ranges from 89-94 mph. He complements his heater with a 12-to-6 curveball. He has good control but will need to sharpen his command of both pitches as he moves up. He also has a slider but could use a pitch to combat lefthanders, perhaps a two-seamer. He's ready to advance to Double-A.
The biggest question about Lindsay is if he will ever stay healthy enough to capitalize on his raw ability. He tore his labrum late in 2006 and missed all of the following season. He then broke his hand in a barroom brawl, cutting short his comeback in 2008. A strong Arizona Fall League performance in 2008 renewed hope, but then he missed nearly three months last season with a strained ribcage. The Rockies wanted him to build up innings in winter ball, but he struggled in six appearances in the Dominican League and was sent home. Lindsay has worked just 255 innings since signing out of Australia 2003, but he remains intriguing because he owns a mid- 90s fastball that can touch 98 mph, as well as a knuckle-curve that he throws for quality strikes. His changeup never has materialized, but that's less of an issue after Colorado made him a full-time reliever in 2009. His twopitch assortment gives him plenty with which to attack hitters coming out of the bullpen. Lindsay could open this season in Triple-A and finally get his first big league callup later in the year.
A quality athlete who could have followed in his father's footsteps and played quarterback at Kentucky, Roe instead chose to sign for $1.025 million as a sandwich pick in 2005. He made steady progress until he was slowed by arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in spring training in 2008. He missed time again in 2009 with a strained oblique and got little out of instructional league after coming down with a serious case of the flu. Nevertheless, Roe has reaffirmed his ability as a starting pitcher. He went back to his high school mechanics last season and regained velocity on his fastball, sitting in the low-90s. His curveball is a swing-and-miss pitch, yet he gets hit harder than his stuff would indicate he should because his command is very much a work in progress. He's still refining the changeup that will be a necessity for him to negate lefthanders. His command also remains very much a work in progress. After earning a spot on the 40-man roster, Roe will see how effective his curveball will be at high altitude when he gets to Colorado Springs this year.
An unheralded 20th-round pick in 2007, Reynolds has pitched well enough that the Rockies debated bringing him to the big leagues for their pennant drive last year until they were able to acquire veteran Joe Beimel. Reynolds has dominated at times as a lefty set-up man in the minors. His fastball sits at 90 mph and appears quicker because of the deception in his delivery, which is similar to that of Jeff Francis. Both southpaws use their height as leverage in getting quality downhill action. Reynolds has a curveball with good bite, and his splitter gives him an out pitch against righthanders. A starter at Austin Peay State, he has settled into a bullpen role, showing a resilient arm and the ability to get loose quickly. The plan is for Reynolds to open 2010 in Triple-A, but he could force himself into the big league equation with a strong spring.
After spending three years in the Dominican Summer League and dealing with a bout of appendicitis in 2000, Vargas finally came to the United States last season and pitched his way into the Rockies' long-term plans. After giving up 10 earned runs in his first two starts at Casper, he allowed just 19 more over his final 11 starts. Vargas has solid velocity for a lefthander, sitting in the low-90s with his fastball, and he has the makings of a good curveball and solid changeup. Having thrown just 145 innings in four pro seasons, Vargas needs more innings to refine his pitches and command. He has yet to pitch in a full-season league, yet Colorado will have to protect him on its 40-man roster after the 2010 season or risk losing him in the major league Rule 5 draft. He'll get a shot at making the Asheville club out of spring training.
Escalona has made tremendous strides in the last two seasons, improving his control while reaching Double-A as a 22-year-old. He has one of the best fastballs in the system, pitching at 92-96 mph and hitting 98 on occasion while coming out of the bullpen. He has good sink on his heater, inducing a lot of weak contact. Escalona has a decent slider, but to be more than a middle reliever he needs to refine his splitter to give him something offspeed that he can use against lefthanders. In a rarity for a pitching prospect, he never has started a game in five pro seasons. The Rockies gave him permission to pitch for Caracas in the second half of the Venezuelan League, and he continued to make progress. He'll get the chance to make the Colorado Springs roster out of spring training after getting added to the 40-man roster this offseason.
Massey played football for his father Phil at the Baylor School in Chattanoogan and could have played the sport in college as well. He accepted a baseball scholarship offer from Virginia, which scared teams away from him in the 2008 draft, but the Rockies persuaded him to turn pro with a $525,000 bonus in the 14th round. His pro debut was cut short when he ran into an outfield wall and tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, requiring surgery. Colorado challenged Massey with a jump to low Class A last season, and his numbers weren't pretty. Some scouts from other clubs question his feel for hitting after he posted the third-worst OPS (.551) among South Atlantic League regulars. The Rockies aren't as concerned. They point to his short stroke and ability to use the whole field, and believe he'll be more productive with more experience. He has good raw power but needs to do a better job with his plate discipline and pitch recognition. Massey has the drive to put in the work to make improvements. His arm is solid but his speed is average at best, so he fits best in left field or at first base. He may return to Asheville until his bat gets going.
It was considered a coup when the Rockies landed Nelson with the ninth overall pick in the 2004 draft, but the $2.15 million bonus baby is starting to run out of time. A summer league teammate of Dexter Fowler when they were Georgia high schoolers, Nelson hit .299 with 19 homers at Modesto in 2007 but has been held back by injuries ever since. A broken hamate bone in his left hand limited him to 81 games and muted his bat in 2008, while a cartilage problem in his left wrist ended his 2009 season in late May. The bat speed that wowed scouts when Nelson came out of high school is still there, but he has lost too much playing time and has yet to develop plate discipline. He has plus speed and a terrific arm--he was clocked at 99 mph as a junior in high school before he had Tommy John surgery--but hasn't fulfilled his potential as a basestealer or defender. He gets careless at shortstop and likely will wind up at second base or center field. In light of his inability to put together a full season, Nelson is likely headed for a third stint in Double-A to start 2010.
Roling has as much raw power as anyone in the system, but whether he can find a position remains to be seen. A Colorado high school product who signed as a sixth-rounder out of Arizona State in 2008, he led the South Atlantic League in batting (.331) and slugging (.593) in his first full pro season. He uses his strength, bat speed and leverage to drive balls a long way. His swing can get long, but he has the ability to make adjustments. He needs better plate discipline. Though he's a decent athlete, Roling is bulky and slow. He had knee surgery in college and missed time with quadriceps and knee injuries last season. He did some catching at Arizona State but is raw behind the plate. He has soft hands but a below-average arm, and he's pretty much limited to first base. Roling will start 2010 in Modesto but could reach Tulsa before season's end.
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