The Colorado Rockies youth movement, particularly on the mound, took a strenuous road to start the season. Recently, the young players are appearing to find their niche and are big contributors to the Rox recent winning streak. Many are products of Colorado’s farm system, a tiered set of grooming leagues held in high regard by the club.
The Rox have long been ridiculed for their inability to draft, but some players in the minors are generating a buzz throughout the franchise. Read on for a list of 10 players the Rockies could call up within the next couple years. If this season falls apart, we can expect to see them even sooner.
The former first-round pick of the Indians landed in Denver last season and has nine major league starts under his belt. He was optioned to Triple-A earlier in the year to work on his command, but Pomeranz has all the tools to excel at the next level.
He is a big, strong lefty who owns an accurate fastball and impressive curveball. An issue at this point in his career is the lack of a changeup, which will hopefully develop with a little more seasoning in the minors. Consistency is also a bit of a problem, though one that should lessen as the Ole Miss alum gains more experience. Colorado is counting on Pomeranz to become a fixture in its rotation very soon.
Blackmon’s stint in the majors last season was cut short by a fractured foot. During his 25 game stay, the second-round selection from 2008 showed exceptional athleticism in the field and posted a decent .255 average. His persistent hustle endeared the Rockies faithful, and he quickly became a fan favorite.
Blackmon was impressive in training camp before suffering another injury to his left big toe that has hindered his play for months. The Georgia native is currently in Arizona carefully rehabbing the toe and hoping this recent string of injuries is just a coincidence.
Colorado currently has quite a deep outfield, so Blackmon’s return to the majors this season is unlikely. If he’s able to stay healthy, a roster spot should be all his in a couple seasons.
Wheeler reminds some of Dexter Fowler. He owns a similar, 6-4, 200 lb frame. He has all-around ability, is an excellent outfielder, and is no pushover at the plate. The former Sacramento State star blasted 33 homers for Double-A Tulsa last year and is currently getting his feet wet for the Sky Sox.
Wheeler plays the game with a lot of hustle, but some question how far his lack of pure talent will take him. Despite his good numbers at Tulsa, he also struck out roughly one quarter of his at bats. Defense will likely always be his calling card, but Wheeler may get the jump on Blackmon for a promotion if his fellow outfielder is still on the mend.
Rockies pitching has always drawn the ire of fans, but they will probably like what Bettis has to offer. The Rox snagged Bettis in the second round of 2010, and he took the single-A league by storm. The Texas Tech Raider finished with a sparkling 4.09 Ks/BB ratio to complement a 12-5 record. The hard throwing righty was set to begin 2012 in Double-A but has been on the shelf due to a shoulder injury.
His assets include a fastball capable of reaching the high 90s and a deadly slider that makes scouts drool. He is also very durable, and has been clocked throwing harder in the eighth inning than in the first. Some are concerned about his two-pitch arsenal, but many eagerly await Bettis’ debut in Tulsa.
He is a long shot to make the parent club this season, but two years from now would not be a stretch.
McBride is a somewhat forgotten piece of the Ubaldo Jimenez trade, but his presence on the Sky Sox is invaluable. The 27-year-old journeyman is hitting a remarkable .359, tops among all catchers in Triple-A and fifth overall. His play this year has been a tremendous improvement from years past, but he has never cracked a big league roster.
Unfortunately, the Rox have a bit of a log jam at the catching position, with Wilin Rosario impressing and Ramon Hernandez currently on the DL. However, Rosario could certainly sustain an injury, due to his gung-ho style of play. If so, McBride is more than deserving of a long-awaited promotion.
Ok, so the 19-year-old Story isn’t a prodigy who will break into the majors before he reaches the legal drinking age, but he warrants recognition on this list. He is currently paying his dues in Single-A, but he is hitting .300 with 10 bombs and is fourth in the league in total bases.
Story is remarkably athletic and has a cannon for an arm, but hitting is his forte. The youngster is very smart at the plate and uses the whole field, but he is also adept at earning walks. A step up the ladder to Tulsa is on the horizon. We may not see him in a Rockies uniform for a few more years, but Colorado’s management is watching his development with great interest.
Rutledge has seen action at both shortstop and second base for the Tulsa Drillers. His batting stats are not flashy but are indeed respectable. Some scouts say he lacks high-end power, but he can hit for average. The native of Alabama possesses some decent wheels, with 13 swiped bases thus far.
Rutledge doesn’t have any standout skills, but scouts can’t really find a weakness in his game either. The word “versatile” appears often in scouting reports. Due to the Rockies consistently trying out experiments at second base, Rutledge could get his chance when we least expect it.
Never heard of him? Don’t worry, he’s used to being relatively unnoticed.
Cabrera was signed at the age of 20 out of Colorado’s Latin America system. Surprisingly, his age is a handful of years older than most free agents signed from the area, so the move to Single-A flew under the radar. Cabrera quickly gained notice, and his incredible changeup gave hitters fits.
The Dominican averaged over a strikeout per inning in A-ball, and he is now leading his Double-A rotation in WHIP and innings pitched, while placing second in ERA. He vehemently attacks the strike zone (hence his 6-1 K/BB ratio) but occasionally leaves a ball up in the zone. In turn, he also leads his team by allowing roughly two homers every nine innings.
Nevertheless, the Rockies have to be pleased with their diamond in the rough. If Cabrera continues to progress, he’ll be walking into Coors Field in the near future.
Yet another piece of the Jimenez deal, the Rox view the big righty as a future reliever. Gardner’s stats in Double-A may not be overly impressive (4.59 ERA), but he fits in well with Colorado’s home ball park. He relies heavily on ground ball outs and is adept at keeping ball down in the zone.
Gardner is still somewhat raw and doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but is working on developing extra pitches to complement his above average fastball and sinker. He isn’t ready for big league action just yet, but refining some extra pitches to his repertoire may make him a piece in the Rockies pen within a couple seasons.
A glance at Arenado’s numbers makes it easy to see why he’s the top prospect in the Rockies organization. In fact, he’s one of the most recognized infield prospects in the game. Arenado is a very talented and rare batter who can hit for both power and average. Such assets will allow him to wreak havoc at the notorious grounds of Coors Field.
Some scouts view him as a potential All Star. He is also very difficult to strike out, averaging a K in about 10 percent of his at bats at both minor league levels. Arenado is currently in Double-A, but he appears capable of making the leap straight to The Show.
Fans have been clamoring all season to see the 21-year-old get his first taste of the majors but have come up empty-handed. But don’t fret; he can’t be held in the dark for much longer. If Jordan Pacheco’s noteworthy play begins to tail off, Arenado will be knocking on the door.