SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 28: Drew Pomeranz #47 of the Colorado Rockies pitches against the San Francisco Giants during an MLB baseball game at AT&T Park on September 28, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
So far, we've looked at 8 of the systems in the Majors, and seen some good and some not-so-good. The goal with each team I look at is to discuss a few players who are likely to have an impact in the Majors in 2012, a few who could be ready by the start of 2014, and a few more who are a long ways away, but could be interesting as well. You can find links to the previous teams below:
The Rockies had a decent system coming into the 2011 season, and saw that system improved with the trade of Ubaldo Jimenez to the Indians. Overall, the system should start to produce high-level players who are ready to contribute by the end of the 2012 system. They are led by a likely top 20 overall prospect in 3B Nolan Arenado, as well as top starting pitching prospect Drew Pomeranz.
Ready in 2012
Rosario missed the last month of the 2010 season after tearing his ACL in a rundown play, and it was wondered whether he would be the same when returned. He was sent back to AA Tulsa for another season, and posted better counting numbers, but a worse batting average and slugging percentage. However, he did end up receiving a September callup. The 3 homeruns in just 16 games were nice; the 20 strikeouts in just 57 at bats, not so much. The biggest concern continues to be the plate discipline, as he posted a 4.5% walk rate and a 21.4% strikeout rate in the minors last year. Here's what John Sickels had to say about Rosario as a part of this year's top 20 prospects over at Minor League Ball:
Terrific throwing arm and plenty of power, but strike zone judgment has deteriorated. Looks like he may end up something like Miguel Olivo.
Overall, I think that if he turns into Olivo he has the potential to be a starting fantasy catcher, especially given that he will likely play a lot of games at Coors Field. That said, the reports on him have cooled substantially from last season, and I don't know how much we will learn about him if he plays all season in AAA Colorado Springs. Realistically, the plate discipline numbers are what I will look at, as the power numbers will be almost useless there.
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The biggest name acquired in the Ubaldo Jimenez trade, Pomeranz had an up-and-down year in his first professional season. He started the season with the Indians' high-A affiliate, was promoted to AA shortly before the trade was announced sending him to Colorado. He wasn't allowed to pitch for nearly two weeks after the trade because he was a player to be named later, and technically still a part of the Indians organization. He then came down with appendicitis and missed time with that as well. Despite all of that, he still finished the season with 4 starts for the Rockies down the stretch, and showed some of why he's expected to be a top starting pitcher. Here's what Tony Lastoria of Indians Prospect Insider had to say about Pomeranz prior to the start of last season:
The two main areas of focus for Pomeranz as he transitions to the pro game will be the development of his changeup and his pitching mechanics. His fastball and curveball are no doubt plus major league quality pitches, but to remain a starter and be effective at the pro level he needs to develop his changeup as an effective third pitch. Also, his delivery is not clean and his mechanics fall apart at times which results in inconsistent velocity and command. By refining his mechanics and developing a better rhythm in his delivery it should help improve the command of all of his pitches.
I think he's likely to start the season down in AAA, especially given the large group of starting pitchers that the team has to choose from in Spring Training. Despite that, I think that if he shows the same set of skills in AAA that he did last year in his stops, he'll be in Colorado to stay before too long.
The Rockies' top pick from the 2009 draft, Wheeler really put it all together during the 2011 season. He spent the full year with the Rockies' AA affiliate, and posted excellent power and speed numbers while playing center field all year. Here's what John Sickels had to say about Wheeler in this year's top 20 prospects:
5) Tim Wheeler, OF, Grade B: Broad range of skills: tapped into his power last year with 33 homers (plus three more in Arizona Fall League), could also steal 20 bases a year, draws some walks. Problems with left-handed pitching and a high strikeout rate preclude higher grade right now.
The strikeout rate is definitely a bit concerning (142 K in 561 AB), and the splits aren't great either (723 OPS vs. L, 986 OPS vs. R), but I think he still can provide a lot of fantasy value even if he continues to struggle with his plate discipline. I think he'll start the season in AAA, but it remains to be seen whether or not Wheeler will be able to break into the Rockies' outfield rotation in 2013 or not. With Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler, and Michael Cuddyer all locked into outfield spots, Wheeler could potentially become a trade candidate. I would be more inclined to think he'd be in the Majors earlier if he were with another organization, but he may still force the issue by the end of 2013.
Could Be Ready by 2014
Arenado has emerged as one of the top prospects in all of baseball after his excellent season in the California League in 2011. The numbers are excellent, and here's what Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus had to say about Arenado as a part of his Rockies' top 11 prospects:
The Good: Arenado is a fantastic pure hitter with a seemingly supernatural feel for contact. He had more extra-base hits (55) than strikeouts (53) thanks to great hands, and has the strength to hit 20-25 home runs annually. He's honed his approach to avoid pitches he can hit but not drive, and he's worked hard to improve his physique and his defense at third base. Scouts now think he can be an average third baseman, if not slightly above average.
The biggest concern about Arenado in previous seasons seemed to be whether or not he could stay at 3B long term, but it would appear based on multiple scouting reports that he has made himself at least passable there, and should be able to stay there long-term. It sounds like he will start the season at AA, and I don't think it necessarily serves the Rockies well to rush him unless he continues to destroy pitching like he did in the AFL. Realistically, I think he's up to stay at some point in 2013, and could see a callup near the end of the 2012 season.
What's not to like here from Bettis? His performance in a definite hitters' league (albeit in a pitchers' park) looks great, and his home-road splits don't look bad either. He also finished the season strong, striking out nearly 12 batters per 9 and posting a K/BB rate of over 6 in August and September. Here's what Michael over at Rockies Prospects had to say about him in his starting pitching prospect rankings:
Split the difference if you wish and see him as a no. 3. Strike thrower, limits walks. Possesses plus-fastball. Excelled in system since signed so he has take-notice consistency. Would easily rank no.1 in most other years.
He's likely to start the season in AA, and I could see him potentially moving up to AAA at some point this season if he dominates like he did at the end of last season. I always like to see pitchers who can maintain their strikeout rates while keeping down the walk rate, and I could see Bettis moving up near the top of many rankings if he repeats his performance in 2012. Long term, I think he's likely to be up sometime during the 2013 season, although it might not be until the end of the season.
Long-Term Prospects (Won't Be Ready Until at Least 2015)
The Rockies' top draft pick in the 2011 draft, Story signed early enough to get into 47 games for the Rockies' Rookie League team. Here's what Baseball America had to say about him after the draft (via Inside the Rockies):
Scouts who believe in Story’s bat see him as close to a five-tool shortstop. . . . He has smooth actions along with plus range and arm strength. . . . Story has good pop for a middle infielder, though the 6-foot, 175-pounder generates his power by collapsing on his backside and using an uppercut. His quick hands generate plenty of bat speed and allow him to barrel balls, though he may need to tone down his swing against professional pitchers. He has above-average speed and runs the bases well.
I hadn't read a lot about Story, but the fact that he should be able to stay at shortstop should help his prospect value overall. He's far enough away still that he may not be blocked by Troy Tulowitzki by the time he is ready. He also could be moved off the position by then as well, so at this point I'm more interested to see what his bat will turn into. Realistically, I see him starting the season again in a short-season league, or possibly in the Sally League (Low-A) if they want to push him a bit more aggressively. Either way, he's not likely to be near the Majors for at least 3 or 4 seasons unless he forces the issue substantially.