Rockies in 2017: What the team might look like

January 11, 2011 | 3:16 pm | 40  

The extensions signed this offseason with Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez keep the heart of the Colorado Rockies lineup together at least through the end of 2017, the final year of Gonzalez’s seven-year extension announced Tuesday. Between now and then, however, the rest of the roster could take on a much different look as the current group surrounding Tulowitzki and Gonzalez moves on and a new group of prospects currently in the minors emerges.

What follows is pure speculation and involves only players currently in the organization — seven years of drafting will certainly bring in other promising prospects and increased revenue will open up the possibility for new signings and extensions. It assumes contract extensions for only a handful of few players — Ubaldo Jimenez, Jhoulys Chacin and Matt Reynolds — but beyond those three and possibly Esmil Rogers or Chris Nelson, relies on players who are under the organization’s control at least through the end of the 2017 season. That means the players are either under contract through that period — like Tulowitzki and Gonzalez — or won’t have a full year of major-league service time by the end of 2011. The earliest that any player with less than a full year of service time by the end of next season could become a free agent would be after the 2017 season.

So what might the Rockies look like seven years from now? Maybe something like this:

Starting lineup
C Wilin Rosario
1B Ben Paulsen
2B Hector Gomez
3B Nolan Arenado
SS Troy Tulowitzki
LF Carlos Gonzalez
CF Rafael Ortega
RF Tim Wheeler

Bench
C Jordan Pacheco
IF Christhian Adames
IF Chris Nelson
OF Charlie Blackmon
OF Kyle Parker

Starting rotation
Ubaldo Jimenez
Tyler Matzek
Jhoulys Chacin
Christian Friedrich
Albert Campos

Bullpen
Rex Brothers
Casey Weathers
Chad Bettis
Matt Reynolds
Juan Nicasio
Esmil Rogers
Peter Tago

A few thoughts:
— I’m assuming a contract extension for Jimenez because at this point one seems pretty likely following this season. Also one for Chacin and Reynolds, both of whom will be in line for free agency after 2016 if they stay with the team for all or most of the 2011 season. Rogers and Nelson could be as well, but I think it’s likely they split the season between the Rockies and Triple-A and might not finish the season with a full year of service time.
— I’m not assuming contract extensions for Ian Stewart, Seth Smith or Dexter Fowler, who all can be free agents after 2014. It’s possible, even likely, that one or more of them could be with the team beyond that, but because of the depth at their positions in the minors, I chose not to take a guess at who might stick around. Also I’m taking into account that Fowler is a client of Scott Boras, and while the Rockies have already managed to sign one of his clients to extension well into free agent years, the Gonzalez signing is an exception.
— This list does not include Rosell Herrera, an 18-year-old shortstop who in 2011 will play in the U.S. for the first time at Casper. He’s a very promising prospect and will probably fit in somewhere, but what position he eventually plays is a bit uncertain because he could outgrow shortstop, a position at which he will be blocked in any case.
— Kyle Parker is included but only on the bench because without any professional track record to go by, it’s tough to gauge how he will compare to Tim Wheeler and Charlie Blackmon.
— The bullpen beyond guys like Brothers, Weathers, Bettis and Reynolds is really more a collection of leftover starters. Rogers, Nicasio and Tago all could be part of the starting rotation or traded and there are a number of guys in the low minors like Josh Slaats and Erik Stavert who are difficult to project this far. I took that leap with Albert Campos, who’s just 19 and has never pitched above Rookie ball, partly because of his size — 6-foot-4, 222 pounds — at such a young age.
— Nolan Arenado may not stay at third base, but at the moment the Rockies have no plans to move him.
— Ben Paulsen is a promising hitter, but first base is also a place where a number of other prospects could move over time.

40 Comments »

  • Rich M | January 11, 2011 | 3:40 pm

    Steve,

    Very interesting, but I would think that Paulsen and Wheeler might not make it as major league starters at their positions.

    Hard to argue much with the starting rotation and the rest of the lineup – looks about right.

    Here is to hoping that the Rockies find that power hitting first baseman really really soon, as I am not at all certain that Helton will last another year at the current rate of his decline.

  • Steve Foster | January 11, 2011 | 3:46 pm

    Paulsen, maybe not, which is partly why I threw in that qualification about first base being a place where someone else could move. Early in the year, though, some Rockies people were very high on Paulsen’s swing. As for Wheeler, I believe it’s way too early to give up on him as a starter based on a so-so season. He might not be an All-Star, but I believe he will be a starter in the majors.

  • SJG | January 11, 2011 | 7:47 pm

    As an employee of Colorado’s Class-A team, the Modesto Nuts, this looks like a combination of their 2009 and 2010 rosters here in Modesto, with a few guys who I’m sure will be in town in 2011. I’d be very excited to see this team.

  • Agbayani | January 11, 2011 | 9:06 pm

    Interesting post, Steve. It’s awfully hard to predict beyond 2-3 years out.

    Sorry, but I see nothing about Wheeler that says big league starter. Most likely scenario: tops out at AAA with a cup of coffee in the majors. Blackmon and even Parker look like better bets to me. I like the focus on some of the young kids. I haven’t seen anything on Rosell Herrera before. That’ll be fun to watch this summer. Paulsen also seems to be limited as a first baseman with little power. Occasionally those types develop just enough power to make it. Usually they top out as (if we’re lucky) John Mabry types.

  • Steve Foster | January 11, 2011 | 11:43 pm

    The actual team in 2017 will certainly look quite different, but the exercise wasn’t so much to predict the team as it was to assess what was already in the organization to fill in around Gonzalez and Tulowitzki over the life of Gonzalez’s contract. I understand people being down on Wheeler based on his stats, but the Rockies aren’t down on him at all and expect him to be part of their outfield one day. Stats in the minors only tell part of the story and the Rockies were satisfied with his season after they had him working on some things. Paulsen is more of a contact guy but is expected to develop power down the road — not strictly a singles guy.

  • John Moore | January 12, 2011 | 12:21 am

    If that is all we have to look forward to, the Rockies are in trouble. It would appear to me you don’t have much faith in the organization.

  • ProgMatinee | January 12, 2011 | 7:51 am

    Steve, you forgot to run the article past John Moore to see if its acceptible material.

  • Steve Foster | January 12, 2011 | 8:18 am

    Quite the opposite, John. First, let me restate again that this wasn’t about predicting exactly what the roster was going to look like in 2017, but to assess the strengths and weaknesses currently in the organization to get a feel for what the Rockies might do down the road. I believe the Rockies roster will turn over quite a bit between now and then, but it won’t be strictly these players. Seven drafts will yield a lot of additional talent and as discussed in another thread this week, I believe the Rockies’ payroll will get well over $100 million in the next few years, which allows the Rockies to fill in where they have needs.

    But the team still has a commitment to developing from within and I wanted to see if they went all in with that, what the team might look like around a couple milestones. One is the end of the Gonzalez’s contract. The other is when the clock runs out on organization control of the next wave of players — Rosario, Pacheco, Blackmon, Brothers, Friedrich, Nelson and Gomez among others — likely to emerge as major-leaguers at some point in 2011 and 2012. It is, as Agbayani notes above, hard to project beyond 2 or 3 years, but I was actually pleasantly surprised to find that this far out, the roster could fill out as easily as it did. There’s a lot of projecting here, but this is based on what the Rockies believe these players are going to be.

    While the Rockies organization doesn’t have a clear-cut impact player on the way, Nolan Arenado, Wilin Rosario, Rafael Ortega, Rosell Herrera and possibly Hector Gomez certainly have that sort of potential. Among pitchers, Matzek is highly regarded and Campos has a big arm and the build of an impact pitcher. The organization has a lot of depth, especially at the lower levels. Casper had a really nice team this year. First base and second base stand out to me a bit as pretty dry or uncertain at the moment, but outfield and catcher have a lot of depth. Arenado looks like he’s going to be a very good player whether he stays at third or not. Ortega has everything except power and could be a very good leadoff hitter. Rosario could end up the best catcher the Rockies have ever had. And the team has a lot of arms like Matzek, Friedrich, Campos, Nicasio and Tago as well as Josh Slaats who are going to provide rotation depth for quite some time.

    So the point isn’t that this will be exactly what the Rockies look like in 2017, but that during the life of Gonzalez’s contract the Rockies already have a lot of talent to fill in around the heart of the their lineup and behind Jimenez in the rotation.

  • Steve Foster | January 12, 2011 | 8:23 am

    Another way to look at this is to go back seven years. The Rockies organization looks like it’s in far better shape now than it was in 2004.

  • Rich M | January 12, 2011 | 9:12 am

    A couple more nits to pick, as I would flip flop a couple of guys between the starters and reserves:

    Blackmon > Wheeler
    Nelson > Gomez

    Understand that my assessment of Nelson is greatly impacted by those two fantastic plays that he made at the MLB level in 2010. The Rockies brass may indeed have a totally different assessment here, but I gotta go with what I see along with the limited stats available.

  • Robb | January 12, 2011 | 9:17 am

    Great fodder for debate, Steve. One name that doesn’t get thrown around much anymore is Casey Weathers. What is his status? He is now 2 (or 3) years removed from his surgery and should be healthy. He could be a darkhorse in the bullpen this year; start at AAA with maybe a June/July callup.

  • John Moore | January 12, 2011 | 9:27 am

    Steve, My point was simply, you have excluded from this lineup, many young players that are on the 25 man roster now. And many of these have a very high ceiling. It is the responsibility of the organization to retain these players. Cargo and Tulo, should not be the only life-time Rockies. Enjoyed you worthwhile post ProMatinee.

  • rocky mountain high | January 12, 2011 | 9:31 am

    It’s good to take a look at the organization and see what we have in the pipeline. With Tulo’s extension, we needed 12 inexpensive players on the roster to stay within the budget. Now after the CarGo signing, we now need 15 inexpensive players on the 25 man roster down the road. So that makes our ability to develop the talent that much more important. I am encouraged by the talent we have especially if we compare to the early 2000s – can anyone name a highly touted home grown talent that was successful at the major league level? Only one – Todd Helton.

  • ProgMatinee | January 12, 2011 | 9:38 am

    John Moore, how many players on the Rockies have played for the organization for 10 years? You’re saying that in 2017 that Tulo, Iannetta, Stewart, Cargo, Fowler, Smith, and say EYJ are all going to be on the team too? The only starter that will be gone from today’s club is Helton?

    Lets look at the facts.

    1)If the players do not cut it, by 2017 certainly they will be gone. Lets hope so!

    2)If the players do cut it as solid MLB starters they’ll be making between $4m and $10m a year by then. Do you really think the Rockies will be able to afford a starting 8 of $100m? Thats absurd.

  • ProgMatinee | January 12, 2011 | 9:48 am

    Further, the author had to make assumptions, they’re obviously his assumptions and can be debated, but if you’re not interested in proposing a counter point, such as “I think Iannetta will stay long term because he’s better than the other options” then make the point.

    Personally, I think blasting the article as a whole just because you didn’t agree with a choice or two is pretty silly.

    This team has had a lot of turn over just since 2007. To think that they won’t have significant turn over going forward is a big assumption.

  • ProgMatinee | January 12, 2011 | 10:15 am

    I apologize for another post, from the 2007 WS roster, the Rockies only have 9 players remaining (including both Cook and Francis).

    This is 3 years removed from the WORLD SERIES and the Rockies have lost 16 of those players by various means.

    I believe the above list assumes that 6 players (CarGo, Tulo, Ubaldo, Chacin, Reynolds, and Esmil) from the 2010 roster will be here 7 years from now. I think that is a pretty fair assumption, and doesn’t lead to the conclusion that the team as of 01/12/2011 must be in trouble.

  • Rich M | January 12, 2011 | 10:19 am

    This is the kind of ITR article that I really enjoy reading, as it does exactly what Steve suggests – in that it highlights the various strengths and weaknesses of the farm system as it currently stands – thanks Steve!

  • Jack Etkin | January 12, 2011 | 10:43 am

    Robb,

    Weathers had Tommy John surgery Oct. 31, 2008. His recovery was very slow, but health is no longer an issue. He spent last year in extended spring training, Tri-City and Modesto and his problems at the last stop were more about his mechanics and a consistent delivery than anything having to do with his elbow. He’s likely to start the season at Tulsa, which is where he spent the 2008 season before going to the Ariz. Fall League and getting hurt. Weathers could certainly advance to Triple-A this year and possibly reach the majors, most likely in September, if he does well.

  • Wayne | January 12, 2011 | 10:47 am

    Steve, do you think Pacheco stays in the catching mix? I always thought he may be groomed at another position since he may actually be a more consistent hitter than Rosario who is obviously blocking him at catcher.
    I like this kind of “what if” stuff and thanks for putting this together. It gives us some names to follow through the system.

  • John Moore | January 12, 2011 | 11:30 am

    “You’re saying that in 2017 that Tulo, Iannetta, Stewart, Cargo, Fowler, Smith, and say EYJ are all going to be on the team too? The only starter that will be gone from today’s club is Helton?”
    Please forgive me for not being specific, I thought it obvious. Yes, I feel ALL those you mentioned should be on the team in ’17 if they are productive and given the chance to play. Knowing the age of the aforementioned players, they will be at their prime when you see them gone. I also believe that along with Helton, Ianetta, Stewart and Fowler are starters on todays club. Do you know something we don’t?

  • Jasper | January 12, 2011 | 11:55 am

    It seems to me that what Steve has done here is exactly what the FO must do, not only for 2017, but for each year between now and then. Projecting a possible team for each year, along with the player cost for that year, gives important information on when deficiencies may arise on the field and/or in the budget, and conversely, where strengths may be found so that future trades are intelligently put together.

    It does look like the cost of Tulo, Cargo, and Ubaldo will be enough to make another star difficult to keep. For example, should Ian Stewart suddenly blossom into a 45-50 HR guy with a .300 batting avg, win the MVP, lead the Rockies to a WS triumph, all of that heading into his last arbitration year, where does the ownership get the wherewithal to retain him? We can forsee higher ticket costs beginning next year already, but will there be enough for another star even with higher attendance and a WS championship? This type of question is what the FO must have already considered before establishing the offers made to Tulo and Cargo. If they didn’t, Steve needs to take over there – just being a superstar ITR fan prodder may not be enough, lol!!!!!

  • Steve Foster | January 12, 2011 | 12:05 pm

    This is the kind of discussion that will help us all get through the next few weeks while we wait for the 2011 team to report to camp. Thanks for joining in everyone. A few thoughts/answers:

    I see where you’re coming from, John, and I did note that despite the absence of Stewart, Smith and Fowler from the list it’s possible that one or all of them could still be here in 2017. I tried not to assume extensions for players and tried to stick only with players who were under team control in 2017. I made three exceptions to that: Jimenez, who I think will be signed to an extension after 2011; Chacin, who is currently on pace to be a free agent after 2016 and seems a very likely candidate to be extended to at least one year into free agency as the Rockies have done with other young pitchers like Jimenez and Cook; and Reynolds, who’s here perhaps as a placeholder. I think he’s going to be a very good left-handed reliever and if he is the Rockies could look to extend, but if he’s not here in 2017, someone like him will be — there just aren’t currently any left-handed arms who are on a clear course to the Rockies bullpen other than Brothers, who I believe ends up as the closer. I chose not to assume extensions on some others for various reasons. Iannetta, because Rosario and Pacheco or coming up behind him and I think it’s likely he moves on before 2017; Stewart, because he’s coming of a disappointing season during which he was expected to emerge as an impact player and Arenado is coming up behind him; Smith because the Rockies have a lot of outfield depth and he has yet to establish himself as an everyday player; Fowler, because he is represented by Scott Boras and is likely to be a free agent after 2014, which could drive him out of the Rockies hands; and EY, because while I like him as a player, I don’t believe he’s the answer at second base long-term and he will have moved on by then. Of those, I believe Stewart and Fowler are the most likely to stick around long term, but a lot will depend on what sort of ballplayers they become in the next couple seasons. Arenado and Ortega could be the best position player prospects after Rosario, and that will certainly impact decisions on Stewart and Fowler down the road.

    On Pacheco, I think he stays at catcher or perhaps becomes a utility player who plays a little second base and first base, maybe some outfield. Rosario is the better all-around prospect at catcher. The Rockies moved Pacheco to catcher from second because they thought that was a better fit for his defense and bat. But in the long run, I believe he play primarily catcher and move around a bit but not claim a starting job even if ends up with maybe 300-400 at-bats in a season.

    Great point, Prog, about how the team has already turned over from 2007. The Rockies are going to see a turnover every three or four years. This season is seeing a wave of young players replacing that first group. Around 2013, you’ll see another take over when Wheeler, Parker, Ortega, Arenado, Campos, Matzek and Bettis get close. I think 2017 will be one of the last years before another turnover. The Rockies have done the right thing committing to Tulo and Gonzalez because it makes that turnover more manageable and acceptable to fans. But the reality is, and it was restated Tuesday by both O’Dowd and Monfort, the Gonzalez and Tulo extensions mean a stronger need to commit to player development because the Rockies will need consistent help from the farm system to manage a budget that includes two, and probably three if they extend Jimenez, high-paid players.

    On Nelson/Gomez, that was sort of a tossup. I’ve said here that I believe Chris Nelson still has enormous upside and can be a very good major-leaguer. I put Gomez there, though, because from talks I’ve had with Jack, it sounds as the Rockies still view him as a potential big-time player despite the injuries over the past couple years.

    On Wheeler/Blackmon, I’m still a strong believer in Wheeler but a big fan of Blackmon, so I could see that. In the end, though, defensively Wheeler is going to be a better outfielder and have more power, so I’m betting he will be there rather than Blackmon.

    And Jasper, I believe you’re right. The Rockies don’t know exactly what their team is going to look like in 2017, but they certainly have an outline of what the roster and payroll are going to look like well into the future. Some other teams sort of jump around with their planning from year-to-year — the Cubs strike me as a good example of a franchise that largely operates on one- or two-year plans. There’s no right way to do it, but the Rockies are working from the longer view.

  • ProgMatinee | January 12, 2011 | 12:06 pm

    John,

    As I said in one of the above posts, if Stewart, Iannetta, Fowler etc all proved themselves to be starters in the year 2017, meaning no drop offs and no better “value” from younger players then their average salaries are going to be astronomical.

    Players with 7-9 years of MLB experience make SIGNIFICANTLY more than players with 1 – 3 years.

    The very idea that the Rockies can afford 6 offensive players with 7+ years of MLB starting experience each is just not realistic.

  • Steve Foster | January 12, 2011 | 12:13 pm

    Prog, that’s an excellent way to put it. I believe increased revenue and payroll will make it possible for the Rockies to continue to hold on to more of the core of team than I illustrated with my hypothetical roster. But the reality is that even assuming a payroll the rises to $110-120 million, the Rockies seven years from now will probably have at least half their payroll committed to three players, which will significantly limit their spending on the rest of the roster. But what I hope this post helps illustrate is that the Rockies already have a nice collection of talent to make it possible to stay competitive despite that limitation.

  • Steve Foster | January 12, 2011 | 12:18 pm

    One thing that probably does need to change, and this post also helps highlight it, is that the Rockies need to have better success with their first-round picks in the coming years. Matzek is still on pace to be a frontline starter, but between Wheeler, Parker, Weathers, Friedrich and Greg Reynolds, since 2006 the Rockies haven’t found a clear-cut impact player among the many college players they’ve selected in the first round.

  • ProgMatinee | January 12, 2011 | 12:26 pm

    Thank you for the further analysis Steve.

    I agree with your choices between Wheeler/Blackmon and Gomez/Nelson if for no other reason than both of them are 2-3 years younger, which for middle and lower tier MLBers is practically a career.

  • Jeff S. | January 12, 2011 | 12:40 pm

    This exercise reminds me that it’s really hard to make these kind of predictions that far out. To illustrate, I give you the all prospect/light-in-the-show list that could/should have been a list of rock-solid starters, if not for one thing or another. I realize many were drafted by other regimes, but it goes to show that long-term predictions are really tough.

    C-Ben Petrick
    1B-Ryan Shealy
    2B-Roberto Mejia
    3B-Jeff Baker (I’ll admit he’s among the best of this bunch)
    SS-Jayson Nix
    OF-Derrick Gibson
    OF-Choo Freeman
    OF-Angel Echevarria
    P-Juan Acevedo
    P-Bryan Rekar
    P-John Thomson
    P-Mark Thompson
    P-Shawn Chacon

    and a closer of course:
    P-Matt Harrington

  • Rich M | January 12, 2011 | 1:30 pm

    Jeff, thanks for that lisr however that’s way too much reality for me to take right now.

    And BTW where is the answer to EdtheUmp’s big rumored Rockies deal?

  • Dustin | January 12, 2011 | 1:43 pm

    *crickets*

  • John Moore | January 12, 2011 | 1:51 pm

    Steve or Anyone,
    Got a take on what is happening to Rockies arbitration eligible players? Know it’s a jump back from 2017 til today…..but interested.

  • Steve Foster | January 12, 2011 | 2:17 pm

    Arbitration is next on the Rockies’ agenda. Rockies have six arbitration-eligible players on the roster:
    - Matt Belisle
    - Jason Hammel
    - Matt Lindstrom
    - Jose Lopez
    - Felipe Paulino
    - Ian Stewart

    Reports in December had the Rockies agreeing to a deal with Lopez for $3.6 million, but nothing was ever announced. Teams and players exchange figures on Jan. 18. Rockies probably won’t go to a hearing with many or any of the players. The team has a good track record of working out deals beforehand. If anyone goes to a hearing, it happens in early February. Of the six, Belisle is someone the Rockies might try to sign to a multi-year deal.

  • Mike Raysfan | January 12, 2011 | 2:30 pm

    Ok, time to make some more popcorn. Gotta love this stuff.

    A couple of things:

    1) I happen to believe Pacheco will be the future catcher.

    2) The future of Friedrich. I only hope he is able to overcome his injury and/or any regression with mechanics. Hopefully working out with Mike Hampton in the off season helped a bunch.

    Steve Foster, you made an excellent point on the importance of the 1st rounders. Yesterday Mr. O’Dowd clearly stated how important it would be for the scouts to get it right going forward. I can’t remember but I think he also said the scouting organization was in town also?

    Ahhh to be in a rookie league and read what the fans believe your future will or won’t be.

    Back to the popcorn.

  • John Moore | January 12, 2011 | 3:11 pm

    2006 Gregory Reynolds RHP Stanford 2
    2005 Troy Tulowitski SS Long Beach 7
    2004 Chris Nelson SS Redan HS, Decatur, GA 9
    2003 Ian Stewart 3B La Quinta HS 10
    2002 Jeff Francis LHP U. of British Columbia 9
    2000 Matt Harrington RHP Palmdale, CA 7
    1999 Jason Jennings

    I believe 6 out of 7 reaching the major leagues is a pretty good indication of the Rockies scouting group. I also believe this would exceed or at the very least be comparable to other ML teams.

  • Rocky Mountain High | January 12, 2011 | 3:15 pm

    Excellent forum here discussing the long term planning. Don’t forget that it is not just regular college drafts that produces major league caliber players. I have to say that we should factor in three to five players that make it from the Rox’ Latin American operations.

  • Dustin | January 12, 2011 | 3:18 pm

    Harrington was the biggest disaster of all. If I remember correctly, Tanzer was his agent until being fired and then sued by Harrington’s family. Then Boras was his agent and kept telling him to hold out to get a bigger bonus and eventually he didn’t get one at all. He was then drafted a time or two after that, but each time tried to get more money and never signed. I believe ESPN called him the greatest pitcher to never play.

    He’s working at a tire shop now.

  • Rich M | January 12, 2011 | 3:37 pm

    Obe could argue that Harrington never playing in the minors or majors was a much better result for the Rockies than the MLB stint Greg Reynolds has put in to date.

  • Rich M | January 12, 2011 | 4:01 pm

    Also not necessarily that the scouts that would have been responsible are still on the Rockies staff, but I would take a wild guess that the research to determine signability has improved in the FO substantially since the Harringron draft selection. Matsek and Parker were both deemed to be difficult signers, but the Rockies to their credit got them done.

  • Swam | January 12, 2011 | 4:22 pm

    Speaking of the draft… With compensation picks, etc. what spot are the Rox drafting in during the early couple of rounds this year — I know Dotel provides an extra pick but couldn’t remember if there were more? Any feeling about what positions they are targeting or is it basically best available when you don’t have a top 5 type of pick?

  • Steve Foster | January 12, 2011 | 4:45 pm

    Rockies are currently picking 20th and 43rd. The second pick, which is the supplemental pick for Octavio Dotel signing with the Blue Jays is subject to change. Three Type A and and three Type B free agents are still on the market, which could affect that spot.

  • Rocky | January 12, 2011 | 7:52 pm

    Another great thread, thanks for the good read.