The Coors Effect

March 31, 2010 5:59 PM

Preseason Top 50 Prospects, Part 2

After a long wait, we continue with the much-anticipated Coors Effect Rockies prospect rankings, 2010 preseason edition.

We already ran through prospects 31 through 50 last month.  Considering that the Rockies have something like 200 players in the organization, and 50 is a quarter of 200, we're really stretching the definition of the term "prospect" by going 50 deep.  Baseball America goes thirty deep, and even when you get to the bottom of that list, those guys are iffy prospects.  We define a prospect as anybody who hasn't exceeded rookie qualifications.  Or the same definition that BA uses.  Now, really, that's misstating it quite a bit, since not every guy who's playing in the minor leagues and hasn't exceeded rookie qualifications is a prospect.  Since the major league clubs want their real prospects to play actual baseball games, and playing baseball games requires having nine players on the field at any given time, and all sorts of utilitymen and middle relievers because they don't want their prospects playing every day or having to pitch every inning of every game, there are a lot of guys in the minor leagues who will never sniff the majors.  There are also a bunch of guys who could be major league players if a lot goes right, but probably won't be for one reason or another.  That description seems to fit the guys you see in the 20-30 range of most "prospect" lists.  The real prospects are the guys who are more than likely going to be major leaguers at some point, though even the best scouts can totally miss on that from time to time.  At one point, Choo Freeman was considered the Rockies' best prospect, which really says a lot about the Rockies' farm system in the late 1990s/early 2000s period.  In other words, take these rankings with a grain of salt.

30.  Cole Garner, OF: Some of the commenters over at Purple Row casually refer to Garner as Matt Holliday, which is an insult to Matt Holliday.  Garner's not a bad player, he has a lot of tools, and he struggled early in his minor league career.  That's about as deep as the similarities to Holliday go.  Garner also doesn't draw walks, which Holliday did in the minor leagues (and still does.)  He also hits for some power, but I'm really not seeing a future 30-homer guy here.  Garner's more Ryan Spilborghs than he is Matt Holliday, a competent bench player who hits lefties well and can play the corner outfield spots (though Spilborghs can at least fake center field, which I'm not sure that Garner can do.)  The Rockies didn't even extend him the courtesy of protecting him on the 40-man roster this offseason, which turned out to be a smart move since they would have protected a guy that other teams weren't interested in taking anyway.  He'll populate the crowded outfield in Colorado Springs this season.

29.  Daniel Mayora, IF: I say "infielder" because it's not really clear what position Mayora plays.  After once being a sort of hot prospect, Mayora's star has faded since it's been figured out that he's not a particularly good hitter, and not really a good fielder either.  And he's already 24, so it's not as if you can scream "age relative to league!" to conveniently ignore his .737 OPS at AA.  However, if Omar Quintanilla can spend an entire season on the Rockies' 25-man roster, basically any halfway-competent middle infielder can dream, right?

28.  Matt Reynolds, LHP: I really should have been left-handed.  If I had known when I was two years old that you can get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars annually for having the good fortune to be born left-handed so that I could pitch to one or two batters a day and be no better than the average pitcher with my handedness in that situation at getting them out, I would have had my parents tie my right hand behind my back.  Possibly even remove it completely.  That said, Reynolds is a pretty good pitcher, but most people seem to see him as a future LOOGY, evidently because of his handedness and his draft position (20th round.)  Reynolds actually wasn't bad against right-handed hitters last year, but his meal ticket, clearly, is his ability to get lefties out.

27.  Edgmer Escalona, RHP: See what I said about left-handed pitchers?  Escalona is good at getting right-handed hitters out, but there's really no such thing as a ROOGY (Righty One Out Guy).  While Reynolds can make a living off his ability to get lefties out, Escalona at some point will have to stop giving up a batting average of less than .315 to left-handed hitters (and AA left-handed hitters at that) if he wants to pitch in the major leagues.

26.  Shane Lindsay, RHP: Lindsay throws really hard and strikes a lot of people out.  He also has almost zero control and is frequently hurt.  If Lindsay can stay healthy and stop walking so many damn batters, he can be a major league pitcher.  In related news, politicians don't always tell the truth, and if you don't break the law, you won't go to prison.  Yes, Lindsay has the potential to be a major league pitcher, and a good one at that, but the odds of that actually happening are seem to be roughly equal to the odds that I will date Hilary Duff.

25.  Al Alburquerque, RHP: Alburquerque is a prospect for two reasons: one, he has a really cool name, and two, the Rockies traded Jeff Baker for him, after which point Baker immediately became a competent major league hitter, and we don't want it to look like we traded Baker for nothing.  Like Edgmer Escalona, Alburquerque has, ahem, issues with left-handed hitters in AA, which means that major league lefty hitters will probably kill him, and unlike with a lefty, we can't ignore this.  There isn't a lot to distinguish him from a bunch of other right-handed relief prospects in the Rockies farm system.  It's more a question of which of them will actually develop into a major league relief pitcher.

24.  Casey Weathers, RHP: In recent years, a bunch of teams have spent high draft picks on college relief pitchers whom they specifically groom to be late-inning relievers, expecting that they'll zoom through the minor leagues and be helping out in the major league bullpen in short order.  By my count, this strategy has worked exactly once, with Huston Street, but teams continue to practice this, and the Rockies were not immune to this phenomenon when they spent their first-round pick in 2007 on Weathers.  Okay.  Let's backtrack a tad and point out that the last time Weathers pitched, he was actually pretty good and looked to be close to fulfilling that prophecy.  The only problem, of course, is that the last time Weathers pitched was in 2008.  Weathers was very high on most prospect lists before undergoing Tommy John surgery, and despite the fact that a whole lot of pitchers have come back from said surgery as good as they were before, I'm now seeing him mostly in this range.  I'm on that bandwagon as well, but more because the acquisition of Huston Street to close games probably relegates Weathers to being a middle reliever, which frankly isn't all that valuable.  And, again, aside from his draft position, what distinguishes Weathers from the mass gathering of right-handed relief prospects?

23.  Chris Nelson, SS: I've generally thought the Rockies' scouting department has done a good job drafting, but oftentimes that has more to do with them finding gems in the later rounds (like Brad Hawpe, Eleventh-Round Draft Pick) than it does with getting good players in the rounds where you usually find good players.  Case in point: from 2004-2007, the Rockies used their first-round picks on Nelson, Troy Tulowitzki, Greg Reynolds, and Weathers, and from that group, the Rockies have probably gotten one major league player.  Under most circumstances, I'd look at a player with a .659 OPS in Modesto and Tulsa in 2008 and conclude, this guy sucks.  Except when that player was once a first-round draft pick.  The Rockies did protect Nelson on the 40-man roster, which means that apparently somebody wanted him, though I'm at a loss to figure out who that was.  Or, since they didn't protect Everth Cabrera and he was taken in the Rule 5 draft (and stuck in the majors all of last season), they think Nelson is a lot better than he actually is.  There's a shot that Nelson turns into a useful major league player, but his window of opportunity is closing pretty quickly with all the middle infield prospects in the Rockies' farm system.

22.  Darin Holcomb, 3B: While a lot of prospects are excellent athletes who have no real skill at playing baseball, Holcomb is really good at playing baseball, but doesn't have a lot of tools (scout speak for "he looks like a beer-guzzling couch potato, not a baseball player.")  The Rockies treated Holcomb like a real prospect when they jumped him past a level to open 2009, and Holcomb started slow but came on strong later in the year.  He walks more than he strikes out (good) and has some power (also good), but there's just not a lot that jumps out at you about him.  I actually really like Holcomb, and I'm probably underrating him quite a bit.

21.  Parker Frazier, RHP: Another, er, victim of Tommy John surgery, which is a shame for Parker since this was probably the year he was hoping to stop being best known for being the son of Rockies announcer George Frazier.  Young Frazier is good at two things: inducing groundballs, and avoiding walks.  Both of those skills are rarely seen among 21-year-old pitchers in the low minors, but unfortunately for Parker he doesn't have a big fastball or huge strikeout numbers to get scouts drooling.  Also, he's listed at 6'5" and 160 pounds, so he probably needs to put on some weight, and I don't mean that he should go out to McDonald's and slam a couple of double quarter pounders every night.  There's major league potential here, but the bigger problem is that while a guy with a high-90s fastball and a nasty curveball can actually learn to control his pitches (see: Ubaldo Jimenez), it's a lot harder for a guy who already has good command to suddenly start throwing a high-90s fastball and a nasty curveball.

We'll continue this tomorrow whenever I get around to it.

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