Rockies' Pitching Prospects Make Exclusive List, Impress in Minors

Tyler ThompsonCorrespondent IJuly 9, 2009

TUCSON, AZ - FEBRUARY 24:  Esmil Rogers of the Colorado Rockies poses for a portrait during photo day at Hi Corbett Field in Tucson, Arizona on February 24, 2008.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Baseball America recently published a list of its top 50 prospects at the mid-point of the 2009 season.

Though there were no Rockies in the top 25, three of the team’s most promising young pitchers made the latter half of the list.

Jhoulys Chacin (Ranked #30)

Tulsa Drillers, age 21

Entering the season, Chacin was universally regarded as Colorado’s top pitching prospect, ranking alongside center fielder Dexter Fowler among the organization’s most promising youngsters.

Signed out of Venezuela in 2004, Chacin was dominant between Asheville and Modesto last season, finishing 2008 with a record of 18-3 and a cumulative ERA of 2.03. The 20- year-old struck out 160 batters and only walked 42 in nearly 180 innings.

This season, Chacin moved up to AA-Tulsa, where he has continued his winning ways. Though Chacin hasn’t been quite as dominant in the Texas League, he has begun to come around, lowering his ERA to 3.43 over 16 starts.

Chacin relies primarily on a troubling changeup and a heavy sinker that tends to induce a lot of ground balls. With his repertoire, he is well suited for Coors Field.

Chacin will be getting a chance to show himself to the world in the coming weeks when he joins Sky Sox second baseman Eric Young Jr. at the 2009 Futures Game.

Christian Friedrich (Ranked #32)

Modesto Nuts, age 21

Friedrich, chosen with the 25th pick in the 2008 draft, celebrated his 21st birthday on Wednesday, though he hasn’t pitched for nearly a month due to a minor injury.

Early in the season, Friedrich received a promotion from Asheville to Modesto after posting a 2.18 ERA and 66 strikeouts in his first eight starts. In 45.1 innings he was averaging over 13 strikeouts per game, a ridiculous number, even for the California League.

Since his promotion, Friedrich has started only three games, but has made the most of his opportunities, striking out 20 and walking only five batters in 20 innings of work. He has yet to give up more than two runs in a single game at Modesto.

Coming into the draft, Friedrich was heralded as one of the top left-handed pitchers available, and could have been selected in the top 15 picks. Instead, he fell to the Rockies by sheer dumb luck.


Esmil Rogers (Ranked #48)

Tulsa Drillers, age 23

The last name on the list may be the most intriguing for the Rockies organization. Rogers, who started his professional career as a hitter, has only been pitching for three seasons, but has quickly learned the craft.

The 2009 season could not be going better for this 23-year-old, who is near the top of the Texas League in wins, ERA, and strikeouts. He is currently 8-2 with 83 strikeouts and a sparkling 2.48 ERA.

Not counting a shaky game on June 6th, his ERA rests just a tick above 2.00, meaning he has given his team a very good chance to win in nearly every start he has made for Tulsa.

Given Rogers’ age, it would not be surprising to see him move up to Colorado Springs in the coming weeks. He has steadily improved every season in which he has pitched, and has proven that the Texas League cannot match his talent.

Though he is not a groundball pitcher, Rogers’ control is a definite plus. The right-hander has only allowed 19 walks over the course of 15 starts this season, a number that greatly appeals to Rockies’ upper management.

Say what you will about the Colorado’s management team, the front office has built a competitive product that has the potential to maintain a high level of play for years to come.

The Rockies’ rotation has been remarkably consistent over the 2009 season, and with Jeff Francis on the mend and Franklin Morales banging down the door, it is conceivable that the Rockies could carry seven quality starters into 2010.

Consider the fact that the Rockies will have these three prospects coming through the pipeline in addition to potential contributors like Chaz Roe, Greg Reynolds, Brandon Hynick, and Greg Smith.

Colorado seems to be building a level of rotational depth that few teams can match. The Rockies have the makings of a young staff that has the potential to be dominant for years to come.