Colorado Rockies' Top 10 Prospects Rankings, Spring Forecasts
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Entering the 2012 season, I ranked third baseman Nolan Arenado as a top-50 overall prospect and believed that he’d reach the major leagues by the end of the year. However, the 21-year-old didn't post as gaudy numbers outside of the hitter-friendly California League, and turned in an up-and-down campaign at Double-A Tulsa.
Arenado’s inconsistency ultimately opened the door for two other high-ceiling prospects, shortstop Trevor Story and outfielder David Dahl, to supplant him at the top of the team rankings.
Beyond the aforementioned three players, the Rockies lack projectable talent on the farm. More specifically, their inability to develop pitching prospects in recent years has been a serious problem and affected how they conduct business at the major league level.
While their first-round draft pick from 2009, left-hander Tyler Matzek, has the highest ceiling of any arm in their organization, his lack of control is still disconcerting and will prevent him from reaching the major leagues for at least a few more seasons. Their other left-handed pitching prospect, Tyler Anderson, definitely has a future in the major leagues, though he's regarded as more of a high-floor player.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Rockies’ prospect pool is comprised of young, inexperienced hitters with only modest ceilings. And don’t be surprised if a few of them are ultimately traded to improve the quality of on-field talent in the major leagues.
While the Rockies definitely house several intriguing prospects, it’s a weak system overall that ranks in the bottom-third among all organizations. For many of the players on this list, 2013 will be a crucial season as it pertains to their overall development.
10. Rosell Herrera, SS-3B
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DOB: 10/16/1992 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 180
Drafted/Signed: July, 2009 (Dominican Republic)
Scouting Notes: Wiry 6’3”, 180-pounder has a projectable frame with room to fill out; opened age-19 season at Low-A Asheville; struggled at the plate, batting .202/.271/.272 in 63 games; led to a demotion to Short-Season Tri-City, where his bat picked up; batted .284/.332/.351 in 47 games; has tools, needs experience.
Switch-hitter offers more projection from the left side; in general, swing involves too much wasted movement; needs to simplify leg kick and pre-pitch load; present gap power, but not much else; could be a double-digit home run guy if he adds strength to his lanky frame.
Split time between shortstop and third base between two levels last season; ability to stick at shortstop will ultimately depend how much he develops physically; speed is slightly above-average, but he’s a raw base stealer; overall, big gap between present and future ability.
Spring Training Forecast: A very raw prospect in all walks of the game, Herrera will receive some much-needed instruction in minor league camp.
2013 Outlook: Struggling to the point of a demotion after beginning the 2012 season at Low-A, Hererra will likely get another crack at the level begin the year.
9. Rafael Ortega, OF
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DOB: 5/15/1991 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 5’11”, 160
Drafted/Signed: Jan. 2008 (Venezuela)
Scouting Notes: 21-year-old outfielder possesses excellent athleticism highlighted by 70 speed; spent most of the season a High-A Modesto, where he batted .283/.344/.410 with 39 extra-base hits and 36 stolen bases; promoted to major leagues directly from High-A in late September; was 2-for-4 with a walk in stolen base in two big league games.
Speed is easily his loudest tool; lends to his plus range in the outfield and gives him a chance to stick in center field; glove is solid and he should be able to stick in center field; has enough arm strength for all three outfield positions.
Left-handed hitter has barrel control and drives the ball across the whole field; amount of current swing-and-miss hurts his projection as a top-of-the-order presence; not an efficient base stealer, but should always post fairly high SB totals due to natural speed; approach is raw and will need to be refined in coming seasons; enjoyed hitting in California League, so 2013 at Double-A Tulsa should be a telling season.
Spring Training Forecast: After making the jump from High-A to the major leagues at the end of the 2012 season, Ortega will use to the spring to convince the organization that he’s deserving of a return at some point this year.
2013 Outlook: Depending on his performance this spring, Ortega could conceivably make the jump to Triple-A to open the 2013 season. However, an assignment to Double-A with the chance of a late-season call-up in the majors may be more realistic.
8. Will Swanner, C-1B-DH
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DOB: 9/10/1991 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 185
Drafted/Signed: 15th round, 2010 (La Costa Canyon HS, Calif.)
Scouting Notes: Spent first two pro seasons in the rookie-level Pioneer League and posted a .925 OPS in 61 games; bat didn’t skip a beat in full-season debut with Low-A Asheville; batted .302/.385/.529 with 41 extra-base hits and 101/38 K/BB in 88 games; right-handed hitter with plus raw power; drives the ball across entire field; physically strong; quick wrists; hit tool could be average with better plate discipline; approach creates too much swing and miss; swing can drag through the zone when he gears up for a pitch.
Defensive projection behind the plate is sketchy; slow, choppy feet; minimal present speed; incredibly raw receiving skills that haven’t developed as expected; arm is average, but plays down due to wasted movement; consistently poor pop times; may not be long until he sees more playing time at first base; power projects favorably, other tools/skill sets do not.
Spring Training Forecast: Swanner will participate in minor league spring training with the obvious goal of improving his likelihood of remaining behind the plate.
2013 Outlook: Swanner will take the next step to High-A this season, which will place additional pressure for either his bat or defense to blossom in a big way.
7. Chad Bettis, RHP
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DOB: 4/26/1989 (Age: 23)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 200
Drafted/Signed: Second round, 2010 (Texas Tech)
Scouting Notes: Missed entire 2012 season with injury to throwing shoulder; profiles as a high-level reliever and potential dominant late-inning force out of the bullpen; closer potential; misses plenty of bats with two-plus pitches; candidate to be fast-tracked to major leagues once he proves he’s healthy.
Fastball is a plus pitch that registers in the mid-90s; can juice it up to flirt with triple-digits; uses both a two- and four-seam for different looks; pitch has late life and jumps on hitters; needs to consistently throw it on downward plane and avoid lingering up in the zone; throws plenty of strikes; slider is an easy plus offering; thrown with velocity and fast arm action; swing-and-miss offering with tilt and depth; ideal 1-2 combo; lacks a changeup but won’t need it; only thing holding him back from the major leagues is his health.
Spring Training Forecast: After missing the entire 2012 season, Bettis will likely be eased back into action as the spring unfolds.
2013 Outlook: Provided that he’s healthy, the Rockies may send him directly to Double-A with the hope of getting him to the major leagues by the end of the season.
6. Tyler Anderson, LHP
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DOB: 12/30/1989 (Age: 23)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 215
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2011 (Oregon)
Scouting Notes: Made professional debut in 2012 for Low-A Asheville; registered a 2.47 ERA, 6.1 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 in 120.1 innings; left-hander has a projectable frame at 6’4”; pitchability; mature presence on the mound; knows how to induce weak contact and keep opposing hitters off balance; effectively changes eye levels; feel for sequencing.
Has a power frame, but is nothing close to a power pitcher; fastball consistently works in the high-80s, low-90s; adept to adding/subtracting when necessary; changeup is his only plus offering; excellent fading action and ability to spot it to both sides of the plate; has two breaking balls in a curve and slider; latter is the better, more effective offering; curveball just offers a different look on occasion; deep arsenal, but it lacks projection; should be a solid innings-eater in the major leagues as a back-end starter.
Spring Training Forecast: Anderson should see some innings early in the spring before an inevitable assignment to minor league camp.
2013 Outlook: As a command-oriented lefty who lacks velocity, there’s a strong chance that the Rockies have him jump the hitter-friendly California League (High-A) and open the 2013 season at Double-A.
5. Kyle Parker, OF
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DOB: 9/30/1989 (Age: 23)
Height/Weight: 6’0", 200
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2010 (Clemson)
Scouting Notes: Former Clemson quarterback improved across the board last season at High-A Modesto; batted .308/.415/.562 with 23 home runs and 88/66 K/BB in 102 games; right-handed hitter showcases plus bat speed with excellent bat-to-ball ability; not tall, but possesses plenty of present strength; plus raw power; employs a consistent approach at the plate; has some swing-and-miss to his game, but also knows how to work a walk; future success likely tied to the development of his hit tool.
Prototypical right fielder with big power and a plus arm; although he’s athletic, Parker’s speed is below-average and he’ll never steal many bases; limits him to a corner outfield position; seems more likely to be a high-floor than high-ceiling prospect.
Spring Training Forecast: Participating in his first major league camp, Parker will see his share of playing time early in the spring as the organization gauges his proximity to the major leagues.
2013 Outlook: After a breakout campaign in 2012, Parker will head to Double-A where a strong follow-up season could put him on pace for a 2014 debut in the major leagues.
4. Tyler Matzek, LHP
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DOB: 10/19/1990 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 210
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2009 (Capistrano Valley HS, Calif.)
Scouting Notes: Bounced back from a dismal 2011 season in which he walked the world and even took a short break; spent entire 2012 season at High-A Modesto and registered a 4.62 ERA and 9.7 K/9, though it was somewhat tainted by a 6.0 BB/9; still a big fan of his frame and pure stuff; a lot of his struggles are mental at this point; mechanics are surprisingly efficient; fails to repeat release point with consistency; doesn’t utilize lower half in order to execute pitches.
Command is still below-average, though he does boast a deep, swing-and-miss arsenal; potential for three above-average-to-plus pitches; fastball is a present plus when he can command it, though his velo varies from start-to-start; curveball and slider both have depth and flash plus potential with tight break; love the difference in speed between fastball and changeup; there’s something to be said for his eagerness to work through issues without skipping starts.
Spring Training Forecast: Matzek will once again spend the spring working to improve both his control and command as he prepares for a potential make-or-break year at Double-A.
2013 Outlook: It’s taken much longer than expected, but Matzek will finally make the jump to Double-A. It’s a step in the right direction for the 22-year-old, but he’ll have plenty to prove at the more advanced level.
3. Nolan Arenado, 3B
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DOB: 4/16/1991 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 205
Drafted/Signed: Second round, 2009 (El Toro HS, Calif.)
Scouting Notes: Pre-2012 top-25 prospect had a solid but disappointing season, batting .285/.337/.428 with 12 home runs a 58/39 K/BB in 134 games; big drop-off from his .298/.349/.487 with 20 home runs at High-A Modesto in 2011; hit tool receives higher future grade than power; makes loud contact to all fields; bat travels through zone on unique, flat path; advanced plate discipline; impressive hand-eye coordination; swing is efficient with little wasted movements; still makes too much weak contact.
Size is a clean fit at third base; clean actions since losing weight last season; instinctual player with good reactions; range is limited, but enough for the hot corner; soft, giving hands; plus arm strength is an asset; has a path to playing time in Colorado, where his production could be inflated; plate discipline and hit tool should make him a major leaguer despite the lack of power.
Spring Training Forecast: Arenado enters big league camp as a long shot to make the Opening Day roster as the team’s third baseman. However, with a strong showing, the 21-year-old could force the organization to make a difficult decision.
2013 Outlook: Arenado appears ticketed for Triple-A to open the 2013 season, but could ultimately be one of the first position prospects recalled from the minors given his relatively clear path to playing time.
2. David Dahl, OF
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DOB: 4/1/1994 (Age: 18)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 185
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2012 (Oak Mountain HS, Ala.)
Scouting Notes: The 10th overall draft pick in 2012, Dahl made a big impression during his professional debut with rookie-level Grand Junction last summer. The 18-year-old outfielder was named the Pioneer League MVP after batting .379/.423/.625 with 106 hits (41 extra-base hits), 12 stolen bases and 42/21 K/BB in only 67 games.
Chance for a true plus hit tool; tremendous hand-eye coordination and barrel-to-ball ability; left-handed hitter with plus bat speed; advanced barrel control and feel for strike zone; balanced setup and swing; comfortable hitting all pitches and using entire field; refined approach relative to age; could develop better-than-expected power; consistent source of doubles and triples; plus runner, but not an aggressive base stealer.
Speed translates better in center field than on basepaths; plays position with confidence; potential to be above-average defensively; smooth actions; takes good angles; more than enough arm strength for the position; room for improvement in his jumps and routes.
Spring Training Forecast: While there’s no doubt that Dahl could handle himself in major league camp like many of the 2012 first-rounders, he’ll open his year in minor league camp with a chance to receive some at-bats later in the spring.
2013 Outlook: Dahl is more than ready to make the jump to Low-A, and if his performance last summer was a sign of what’s to come, the 19-year-old could finish the year at High-A.
1. Trevor Story, SS
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DOB: 11/15/1992 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 175
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2011 (Irving HS, Texas)
Scouting Notes: Story turned in a monster full-season debut at Low-A Asheville as a 19-year-old in 2012, as he batted .277/.367/.505 with 67 extra-base hits (18 home runs) and 15 stolen bases. In addition to the potential for at least above-average tools across the board, Story has considerably more athleticism than his size portends, while his baseball skills are mature for his age.
6’1”, 175-pound shortstop has a smooth, effortless right-handed swing; plus bat speed results in loud contact; drives the ball to right-center; understands how to drive through the baseball; above-average-to-plus raw power with developing power frequency; mashes fastballs; potential for above-average hit tool; needs to improve against southpaws; present swing-and-miss tendency should be ironed out over time.
Shortstop does everything on the field; above-average speed results in similar range in all directions; already showcases big league defensive actions; intuitive player who positions himself according to in-game scenarios; can stick at the position and handle it at the highest level; has the tools and skill set to play third base if he’s blocked at shortstop.
Spring Training Forecast: Story will head to minor league spring training where he'll continue to fine-tune his all-around game before departing for the hitter-friendly California League (High-A).
2013 Outlook: He should make a seamless jump to High-A to open the season, as he’ll likely post gaudy numbers in the California League en route to a promotion to Double-A.