Rockies prospects: Who’s among the best of the rest?
Quite a bit has been written this season about some of the Colorado Rockies’ top prospects, particularly the left-handed pitching duo ofand and catcher , all of whom are currently injured. But as the minor-league season nears an end — only high Class-A Modesto is still playing in the postseason — it’s worth looking at a few other prospects not currently with the Rockies who had notable seasons but haven’t gotten as much attention.
, outfielder, Triple-A Colorado Springs: A 26th-round pick in 2003 and former high-school teammate of Rockies third baseman , Garner has emerged as a major-league prospect rather late in his development. In his first season at Triple-A, Garner hit .304 with 31 doubles, 13 home runs and 61 RBI in 111 games. He had an outside shot at joining the Rockies in September, but the team elected to go with veteran Jay Payton for the stretch run. Garner, a right-handed hitter, could fit with the Rockies as a fourth or fifth outfielder in the next couple seasons.
, pitcher, Double-A Tulsa: A 30th-round pick in 2007, Billings started throughout his minor-league career until 20 games into the 2010 season, his first at Double-A. Billings set a Texas League record with 38 consecutive innings as a starter, but was moved the bullpen — his likely destination in the major-leagues — midway through the season. He struck out 46 in 30 1/3 innings as a reliever. Overall, Billings was 11-6 with a 3.28 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 109 2/3 innings. He will pitch in the Arizona Fall League.
, outfielder, Double-A Tulsa: The 2008 second-rounder started the season in extended spring training and didn’t join the Drillers until late May. He got off to a solid start, but turned things on in August, hitting .348 with 10 doubles, three home runs and 23 RBI in the month. For the season, Blackmon, 24, hit .297 with 22 doubles, 11 home runs, 55 RBI and 19 stolen bases in 86 games. A left-handed hitter, Blackmon actually hit better against left-handed pitchers: .303 compared to .293 against right-handers. He will play in the Arizona Fall League and could see time in the Rockies outfield as early as next season.
, pitcher, Double-A Tulsa: A supplemental first-round pick in 2009, Brothers has moved quickly through the Rockies system. He dominated at Modesto to start the season and after a couple rough outings at Double-A following his promotion, followed suit there. In August for Tulsa, Brothers is 1-1 with a 1.93 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings. For the season at Modesto and Tulsa, Brothers was 2-3 with seven saves, a 3.15 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 60 innings. He will pitch in the Arizona Fall League and will be in the mix for a bullpen spot in 2011.
Adam Jorgenson, pitcher, Double-A Tulsa: A 26th-round pick in 2008, Jorgenson has moved through the Rockies’ system with surprising swiftness and anonymity. The right-handed reliever started the season as the closer at high Class-A Modesto where was 0-2 with 24 saves and a 1.60 ERA in 41 games. He was promoted to Double-A Tulsa in August and continued to pitch well — his 5.40 ERA was distorted slightly by two rough outings, his first and final games with the Drillers. He will pitch in the Arizona Fall League along with Tulsa teammates Billings and Brothers.
, catcher, Double-A Tulsa: The Rockies promoted Pacheco, a ninth-round pick as a second baseman in 2007, to Double-A earlier than expected in August when Wilin Rosario was lost for the season. Pacheco hit .321 with 27 doubles, 5 home runs and 70 RBI for high Class-A Modesto and .333 with a home run and 19 RBI in 21 games after his promotion. Pacheco will play in the Arizona Fall League, but how soon he fits into the major-league picture will depend on how quickly Rosario returns from his injury and what the Rockies do with an already-crowded catching corps that includes , , Paul Phillips and on their expanded major-league roster.
, first baseman, high Class-A Modesto: The Rockies challenged their 2009 third-round pick by pushing him to high Class-A Modesto in 2010 after a solid debut in Tri-City last season. He responded well by hitting .311 with 29 doubles, 12 home runs and 83 RBI for Modesto. The organization has a dearth of first-base prospects and the left-handed hitting Paulsen has plenty of room to move quickly.
Thomas Field, shortstop, high Class-A Modesto: A 24th-round pick in 2008, Field emerged this season as a prospect who Jack Etkin describes as a grinder type in the mold of Jamey Carroll and Randy Velarde. Field, 23, hit .284 with 15 home runs, 72 RBI and 16 stolen bases for Modesto. His season was cut short by an oblique injury, but he will play in the Arizona Fall League where he will see plenty of playing time in a spot the Rockies had initially designated for, who is injured.
, outfielder, high Class-A Modesto: The second of two first-round picks in 2009 for the Rockies, Wheeler, like Paulsen, was pushed to a high Class-A Modesto after a solid debut in 2009 at Tri-City. Wheeler hit. 249 with 21 doubles, 12 home runs, 63 RBI, 22 stolen bases and scored 88 runs. While his numbers appeared flat, Wheeler met the Rockies’ expectations in his first full minor-league season and he is hitting well in the California League postseason.
Baseball America suggested earlier this month Arenado could be ‘s eventual replacement at first base — but the 19-year-old has made a quick impression with his bat., third baseman, low Class-A Asheville: The Rockies held their 2009 second-rounder in extended spring training to start the season and he didn’t join Asheville until May. He got off the a great start and hit .381 in his first 10 games, but began to slump in June and July. He exploded again in August and hit .360 with 18 doubles, five home runs and 24 RBI in the month. In just 92 games for the Tourists, Arenado hit. 308 with 41 doubles, 12 home runs and 65 RBI. His ultimate position in the major leagues may not yet be determined —
, pitcher, low Class-A Asheville: The Rockies’ second-round pick this summer was the first member of the draft class to make an impact, earning a promotion from short-season Tri-City to low Class-A Asheville and dominating a both levels. Bettis, a reliever in college, started in 12 his 13 appearances and went a combined 6-1 with a 1.07 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 67 innings between his two stops.
Joshua Slaats, pitcher, short-season Class-A Tri-City: A fifth-round pick this summer, Slaats, a 22-year-old left-hander who pitched for the University of Hawaii, was solid after signing late and joining Tri-City. In eight appearances — five starts — Slaats was 1-3 with a 1.95 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 32 1/3 innings.
Rafael Ortega, outfielder, Rookie Casper: The lack of a bottom-of-the-rung team in the Arizona Rookie League often has forced the Rockies to put their Casper roster up against more advanced teams in the Pioneer League. But this season the Ghosts held their own thanks to strong collection of prospects like outfielder Juan Crousset, shortstop Christhian Adames and pitcher Albert Campos from their Latin America program as well as 2010 draft picks like outfielder Corey Dickerson and catcher Will Swanner, The 19-year-old Ortega, though, led the way, hitting .358 with 17 doubles, three triples, seven home runs, 45 RBI and 23 stolen bases in 71 games.