Minor League Keeper Thoughts: Colorado Rockies

Christian Petersen

Craig Goldstein takes a look at a few of the more interesting fantasy prospects from the Colorado Rockies organization.

Over the coming weeks, Jason and I will be taking a look at some of the more relevant prospects in each of the 30 MLB organizations. We won't be looking at each prospect in every organization, but rather to provide brief profiles of players that are either expected to make an impact as soon as next season, or are worth watching in dynasty and keeper formats. In general, they will be sorted in the order of when they are anticipated to be in the Majors, even though it is no guarantee that they will get there.

Our goal is to speak more to each prospect's fantasy value, so while we do look at a player's defense, it is really only in the context of where they will end up when they get to the Majors, and how that may affect their long term outlook. We will be going roughly in alphabetical order, and planning to have the series completed by the end of the year.

Previous Reviews

NL West: Arizona
NL Central: Chicago, Cincinnati
NL East: Atlanta
AL East: Baltimore, Boston
AL Central: Chicago

System Overview

The Rockies system entered 2012 in rough shape, and didn't get appreciably better over the course of the season. They had several top prospects graduate, and while they did draft high ceiling talent David Dahl, the losses of the likes of Drew Pomeranz, Wilin Rosario, and Josh Rutledge leave this system lacking impact talent, talent at the upper levels or much depth. They do have some bright spots in the lower minors in Dahl and potential 5-tool player Trevor Story, but both are a ways from helping. This isn't the worst system in the minors, but it is likely to be relegated to the bottom third of the league.

Graduates in 2012

Drew Pomeranz (SP), Wilin Rosario (C), Josh Rutledge (MI), Rex Brothers (RP), Charlie Blackmon (OF), Jordan Pacheco, Christian Friedrich (SP), Adam Ottavino (RP), DJ LeMahieu, Andrew Brown (OF), Edgmer Escalona (RP)

AAA or Higher in 2012

These are prospects who either reached the Majors, or the Rockies' Pacific Coast League affiliate in Colorado Springs. These players are likely to see time at some point during the 2013 season, although it may not be until the end.

Edwar Cabrera (BBRef Statistics)

Cabrera dethroned Matt Moore in 2011 as the minor league strikeout king after Moore had won the two previous years. Given his hefty strikeout totals, one might think more of Cabrera than they should. His best pitch is a plus to plus-plus change up that he's used to tear through the lower minors. While he sustained success at Double-A in 2012, he was hit around in his brief major league cameo. This is to be expected to some extent with pitchers who pitch off their change up. Unless Cabrera develops a consistent above-average breaking ball, he's going to struggle to sustain any success in the major leagues. He will likely be the first starter turned to in case of injury in Colorado, but between his home ballpark and lack of a viable third offering, he can be safely ignored.

AA or Higher in 2012

These are prospects who reached AA during the 2012 season, playing for the Rockies' Texas League affiliate in Tulsa. These players could see time in Colorado in 2013, but generally will be more likely to appear in 2014.

Nolan Arenado (BBRef Statistics, Profile)

Arenado might have been one of the hottest names entering 2012, coming off a .298/.349/.487 slash line as a 20 year old in Hi-A, with 20 home runs hinting at some developing power. There was even talk of Arenado breaking camp with the Rockies, and a mild expectation that he'd see time in the second half of the season at worst. However, there were some concerns that his power output was environmentally driven, as he benefited from playing in the high octane California League. Unfortunately, those concerns bore themselves out as Arenado saw his home runs decrease from 20 to 12, and his slugging from a robust .487 to a more moderate .428. Not that we should be denigrating a 21-year old for posting a .285/.337/.428 slash line in Double-A, but 2012 seemed to be a bit of a let down for Arenado. Additionally, Arenado had to confront issues with his makeup this season, as there were several reports that the Rockies had taken issue with his maturity level. It's hard to say how that could affect him going forward, as it is difficult to believe that the Rockies would hand a starting gig to someone who has questionable maturity, but if he proves himself he could be up in a hurry. I'd expect to see Arenado in Colorado at some point in 2013 either due to injury or performance, but it will be 2014 before he establishes himself in any way shape or form. Arenado is a good contact hitter who could flourish in the thin air of Coors field, although he doesn't have the power that would be standard in a third base prospect. He'll still have plenty of value as a high average, solid power third baseman.

High-A in 2012

These are prospects who reached Hi-A during the 2012 season, playing for the Rockies' California League affiliate in Modesto. These players are likely at least 3 seasons away from reaching the Majors.

Tyler Matzek (BBRef Statistics)

You may see Matzek's 4.62 ERA at Hi-A Modesto and wonder what exactly went wrong. Well, it turns out, so many things had to go right just for Matzek to get to this point. He more than halved his ERA from his last go round in Hi-A, and also halved his BB/9 from an unsightly 12.5/ to a still unpalatable 6, all while maintaining a K/9 of just under 10. Matzek achieved this by going back to his high school coach in an effort to rediscover the mechanics that got him drafted 11th overall. I still have some hope for Matzek, it's going to be a tough road to hoe, as he continues to struggle with control and command to an overwhelming degree. While adjustments were made, there are more needed for him to continue to progress. As a lefty who throws in the low-to-mid 90s there will always be some hope for him, but entering 2013 as a 22-year old, Matzek will have to show some improvement this season else people start jumping ship.

Kyle Parker (BBRef Statistics)

A late first round draft pick in 2010, Parker made an interesting deal with Colorado. He signed with the team for less money, contingent on them allowing him to finish his senior season as the quarterback of the Clemson Tigers. That being the case, Parker did not play at all in 2010, and so only has 2 full seasons under his best. He had a relatively quiet start to his 2012 season but caught fire in the second half, finishing with 23 home runs to go along with his .308/.415/.562 slash line. Parker has above-average power generated by good bat speed, but despite his good OBPs is an aggressive hitter who swing and misses too often. To his credit, after 133 strikeouts in his first season, Parker cut his strikeouts by 45 in 2012 (in 55 fewer at-bats) while also moving up a level. Part of Parker's impressive campaign is surely due to the hitter friendly environs of the Cal League, but he's got plenty of talent to back it up as well. Speed is not a part of his game, as he's stolen three of five bases over 835 minor league at-bats. 23-years old to begin 2013, the Rockies won't hold Parker back, so if he hits, he could move quickly.

Low-A in 2012

These are prospects who reached Low-A during the 2012 season, playing for the Rockies' South Atlantic League affiliate in Asheville. These players are likely at least 3 seasons away from reaching the Majors.

Trevor Story (BBRef Statistics)

This is where the Rockies have a little glimmer of hope. Story had a red hot start to the season and while he did cool off, the numbers are still enticing to prospect lovers as he recorded a .277/367/.505 slash line as a 19-year old in Lo-A. Story has the potential for at least an average grade on all five tools. With 18 home runs as part of a 67 extra base hit season, Story demonstrated his power stroke. While .277 isn't going to win batting titles, it's more than good enough for a shortstop with the type of power that Story has. While he is an aggressive hitter, Story also maintains a mature approach as evidenced by his 10.9% BB%. This could be the year to grab him for value as he will advance to the Hi-A California League where his power numbers could go through the roof. Defensively, he has good instincts which allow his other tools to play up, though a move to third down the line is a possibility. That would put more pressure on the stick, and would take him from a potentially special prospect to an above-average one. Story added 15 stolen bases with only 3 caught stealing, so speed remains part of his game as well. I wouldn't expect him to move quickly in this system, despite it's dearth of premium prospects. While the Rockies aren't afraid to challenge their prospects, they're also not afraid to let them go level by level, as evidenced by Nolan Arenado's full year stint at Double-A in 2012.

Will Swanner (BBRef Statistics)

Can I interest you in a .302/.385/.529 slash line from a 20-year old semi-catcher at Lo-A? If that intrigues you, let me tell you a little more about Will Swanner. Drafted in the 15th round in 2010, Swanner had a rough 2011 in the rookie level Pioneer League causing him to slip a bit on the organizational depth chart. He bounced back strong in 2012 however, posting the aforementioned slash line along with 16 homers and 41 extra base hits in 325 at-bats. Swanner shows a good eye at the plate with at 10% BB% but does have some swing and miss in his bat, ending the 2012 season with a K% of 27.2%, the lowest of his career. Behind the plate Swanner has some glaring deficiencies. His arm action is long, though he does have good arm strength. He's struggled with blocking balls in the dirt in the past as well. There remains a solid possibility that Swanner will end up at first base, putting a massive amount of pressure on the bat. He remains an above-average prospect as a catcher and until they move him off of it, that's how we have to view him.

Short Season in 2012

These are prospects who reached Short Season Ball during the 2012 season, playing for either of the Rockies' short season affiliates in the Northwest and Pioneer Leagues. These players are likely at least 3 full seasons away from reaching the Majors.

David Dahl (BBRef Statistics)

The 9th overall pick in the 2012 draft, Dahl outperformed any expectations that were had of him by laying waste to the Pioneer League to the tune of a .379/.423/.625 slash line with 9 home runs, 10 triples and 41 extra base hits in 280 at-bats, to go along with 12 stolen bases. Talk about an assault. Dahl takes an advanced approach to the plate, spraying the ball to all fields and he projects to have a plus hit tool to go along with power that could range from average to above. In the field, Dahl saw time at every outfield position while in the Pioneer league, but profiles as a centerfielder as he sports solid arm strength and good speed. He has enough speed to steal double digit bags, but how many will depend on if he is able to improve his reads and jumps. Dahl is worthy of a high pick in any minor league drafts in fantasy.

Others of Note

Tim Wheeler (BBRef Statistics)

Wheeler had an explosive 2011 season in which he hit 33 home runs, with 67 total extra base hits. He struggles to gain traction on the national prospect tween because scouting reports peg him as more of a tweener, who doesn't profile defensively in center or offensively in a corner outfield spot. Consensus was that while Wheeler had some pop, the 33 home run season was going to be an outlier, and perhaps he benefited from his home environment. Wheeler didn't get to play a full season in 2012, logging 92 games where he saw his power all but evaporate with only 2 home runs and 33 extra base hits, despite playing at the elevated Colorado Springs ballpark. He'll be 25 next season, and I think he'll reach the majors, though I wouldn't anticipate much production. He'll join the mix of Matt McBride and Andrew Brown as players who see time next to Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler.

Chad Bettis (BBref Statistics)

Bettis ranked third on the Rockies top ten list entering 2012, with many still unsure if he would remain a starter or would move back to the pen by the time he reached the majors. Bettis used 2011 as a full fledged audition to remain a starter has he struck out 9.8 per nine innings and walked only 2.4 per nine in 169.2 innings pitched. Unfortunately, Bettis suffered a shoulder injury that kept him out for all of 2012. This puts the Rockies brass to a decision. He could be eased back and still challenged by moving him to the bullpen (a role he fulfilled in college) or they could move slowly and reintroduce him in a more valuable role to the organization as a starter. If he remains a starter, he has middle of the rotation upside, and if he relieves he should operate towards the back of a bullpen. His value to fantasy players hinges greatly on the Rockies decision. He's a wait and see guy for now, but if he starts, he might be a value play late in drafts.

Statistics from Baseball Reference and Fangraphs
Scouting info drawn from BaseballAmerica, BaseballProspectus and Keith Law/ESPN

You can follow me on Twitter @cdgoldstein

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