The Coors Effect

April 2, 2010 12:18 PM

Preseason Top 50 prospects, Part 3

We continue today with the listing of top 50 Rockies prospects.  Today we tackle the guys in the 11-20 range.  Now, here is where we start getting into the real prospects.  Below 20, we're talking mostly about future utilitymen and middle relievers.  Or, guys who have a chance of becoming a star player, but that chance isn't very good.  Once you get into the top 20, though, we're no longer discussing longshot prospects or guys who project to play limited roles in the majors.  Now, this isn't the same as the top 10, where you can legitimately call some of the players future stars, but in this range the prospects start to look a lot less iffy.

20.  Cory Riordan, RHP: On the surface, Riordan didn't have a great year in 2009, but a lot of that is related to struggles in April and May.  As he adjusted to a new level, he began to pitch better.  Now, Riordan doesn't have the big strikeout numbers, which keeps him from being a top pitching prospect, and he isn't particularly adept at getting grounders.  I might be overrating Riordan here, but given a couple more years he could be a competent back-of-the-rotation starter.  Double-A will tell us a lot.

19.  Kiel Roling, 1B: Roling absolutely destroyed the Sally League in 2009.  Yes, I'd call a .326/.388/.587 "destruction."  In all the numbers, though, there are quite a few caveats that make me rate him down here instead of higher.  Number one, he's a first baseman.  While some teams have sent offensive stiffs out there to play first, that's usually just dumb, and you normally have to be a really good hitter to play first base in the majors.  Roling will have to hit really well to make the big leagues, since at 6'3" and 245 pounds it's really difficult to imagine him playing somewhere else (especially given that defensively, he's not a particularly good first baseman.)  Second, while 22 isn't old for the Sally League, it's not particularly young for the league, either.  Roling had a .394 BABIP last season, suggesting that he got quite a bit lucky as he does strike out a ton.  Asheville tends to inflate offensive numbers, too.  At one point, I thought Joe Koshansky was the next big thing after he killed the ball at Asheville, but further evidence showed that he was just another Quad-A slugger and not a big-league first-sacker.  And that's where we have to take caution with Roling.  Yeah, he has legitimate power (20 homers in a little more than half a season's worth of at bats), but he also strikes out quite a bit and may not keep up this sort of production at higher levels.  More like a "wait and see" approach before we anoint him as Todd Helton's successor.

18.  Jordan Pacheco, C: Likewise another good offensive season from an Asheville player.  The difference between him and Roling is that Pacheco doesn't strike out nearly as much, so his offensive numbers aren't tied up with a high BABIP.  As for the catcher part... well, you're probably wondering why a catcher who hits so well is ranked this low, and it's because he's really not a catcher at this point.  The Rockies are determined to make him one, and he improved last season, having 8 passed balls instead of 20 while catching almost 200 more innings.  But he only threw out 10 of 74 baserunners who attempted to steal on him.  The issues here are that he's not really young (24 on Opening Day) and he needs a lot of work behind the dish.  Improvement there could make him a real prospect, but until now, he'll have to hit really well because it looks like the bat will have to play somewhere else.

17.  Chaz Roe, RHP: Roe is a classic example of a pitcher where the results don't match the stuff, and not in a good way, either -- I'm not referring to a soft-tosser who pitches well despite the lack of overwhelming stuff, but a guy with legitimately good stuff who gets mediocre results.  And that's not good.  In Asheville in 2006, Roe struck out 6.95 batters per 9 innings -- and that's been the high-water mark, as the number has gone down since then.  It was 5.66 in Tulsa in '09.  That looks more like the strikeout number of a career minor leaguer, not a future rotation ace.  The scouting reports say that Roe should be one of the Rockies' top pitching prospects, but the numbers don't reflect that.  And that's not a good sign.

16.  Delta Cleary, OF: Again, the results don't match the scouting reports.  Guys like Cleary and Roe drive a team crazy, where it's obvious that they have talent, but despite that talent they just don't perform all that well.  Now, Cleary isn't as maddening as, say, David Christensen, but right now there really isn't an area of his game that's decidedly above average: mediocre batting average, mediocre plate discipline, mediocre power numbers.  Even his defense in CF, despite excellent athleticism, is well below average at this point.  Cleary can be a major leaguer, but he has a lot of work to do to get there.

15.  Chris Balcom-Miller, RHP: The counterpoint to pitchers like Roe are pitchers like Balcom-Miller, guys who don't make the scouts drool over them but put up very good numbers (albeit in an environment where they should be putting up very good numbers.)  Balcom-Miller dominated the Pioneer League last year, but then he's at an age where he should be dominating the Pioneer League.  The scouting reports aren't great, but do suggest that he could be a mid-rotation starter.  The caveat is that Brandon Hynick dominated the Pioneer League in similar fashion a few years back and then turned out to be nothing special.  Balcom-Miller could take that path, or he could turn out to be legitimately a good prospect.

14.  Samuel Deduno, RHP: Deduno is something of a less risky version of Shane Lindsay.  Not that it's hard to be less risky than Lindsay, but Deduno has similar problems (injuries, command) and similar potential.  He's never pitched more than 154 innings in a season, which makes you wonder whether the Rockies will try to stretch him out -- but ultimately, he's probably best-suited for the bullpen anyhow.

13.  Charles Blackmon, OF: Less advanced than your typical 23-year-old, largely because he only moved off the mound during his junior year of college.  Blackmon is still developing, but shows flashes of being a guy who can hit .300 with some power, play good defense in CF, and steal a base here and there.  While he does strike out quite a bit and doesn't really draw enough walks, neither is at the typical point where you see tools guys turn into busts -- his plate discipline is merely below average, not a bad joke.

12.  Juan Nicasio, RHP: I'm not really sure what Nicasio was doing before his 20th birthday, really, as he surfaced a lot later than you normally see Latin American prospects come up.  He's 23, but the level of dominance he showed in the Sally League suggests that he could be truly special, and the Rockies went out and protected him on the 40-man roster.  12 might actually be too low, but it's really as high as I can go for a player his age who's still in A-ball.  Show me what you can do in AA, Juan, and then we'll talk.

11.  Nolan Arenado, 3B: Arenado was drafted in the second round last year, and word was that he was a toolsy player who would need time to develop.  But in the Pioneer League, his skills looked to be a lot better than the pre-draft speculation suggested: strong plate discipline to go with solid defense at third, and some power, though he should develop more.  All this means is that Arenado could advance more quickly than we had initially thought.  Good, good prospect, and a real breakout season could have him ranking near the top of next year's prospect list.

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