Wil Nieves, Mike Ekstrom among minor league free agents signed by Rockies

December 16, 2011 | 9:56 pm | 3  

The Rockies have signed six minor league free agents, including catcher Wil Nieves, who could end up backing up Ramon Hernandez if the Rockies decide Wilin Rosario needs to play every day at Triple-A where he has never taken a swing.

Rosario will play his last game in winter ball on Dec. 31 for Aguilas in the Dominican Republic. In 39 games, he’s hitting .240/.299/.440 with seven homers and 36 RBI. He has 13 walks and 44 strikeouts in 150 at-bats and is seeing a lot off-speed stuff as was the case in September with the Rockies. The reports on his catching have been good and the bottom line is Rosario will end up with about 200 at-bats in winter ball and that can only help him.

In addition to Nieves, the Rockies have signed reliever Mike Ekstrom, catcher Wilkin Castillo, infielder Brendan Harris, reliever Zach Simons (who began his career in the Rockies organization) and outfielder Brandon Roberts.

Eckstrom, 28, has pitched for the Padres in 2008-2009 and Rays in 2009-2010 and spent most of last season at Triple-A Durham where he went 6-4, 4.35 in 46 games, one start, with five saves. In 68 1/3 innings, he allowed 75 hits and 29 walks with 65 strikeouts. He’s a fastball-slider pitcher with the fastball slightly above average at 90-94 mph. If Eckstrom doesn’t win a spot in the Rockies bullpen in spring training, he’ll go to Colorado Springs where he could be a candidate to close games.

Castillo, 27, played briefly for the Reds in 2008 and 2009. In addition to catching, he has played a lot of third base and has seen time at second base and left field and to a lesser degree first base and right field. In 80 games at Atlanta’s Triple-A Gwinnett affiliate last year, Castillo hit .262/.285/.366 with five homers and 37 RBI in 279 at-bats.

Nieves, 34, played 20 games for the Brewers last year and hit .140 (7-for-50) and also saw time with two Triple-A clubs. In addition to the Brewers, Nieves has played for the Padres, Yankees and Nationals and in 282 games in the majors, Nieves has hit .221 with five homers and 73 RBI.

Harris, 31, spent last season at Triple-A Norfolk where he hit .225/.282/.331 with 10 homers and 50 RBI in 516 at-bats. He has played in the big leagues for five teams, most recently the Twins in 2008-2010. Harris’ best position is second base and he can fill in at shortstop and third base. Assuming he doesn’t win a spot with the Rockies in spring training, Harris will likely start at second base for Colorado Springs.

Simons, 26, was drafted by the Rockies in the second round in 2005 and signed for $635,000. He was pitching at high Class A Modesto in 2008 when the Rockies traded him on April 30 to the Tigers for reliever Jason Grilli. Simons was released by the Tigers organization in late June last season and joined the Marlins organization. He went 0-4 in a total of 40 games in the Tigers’ and Marlins; systems with a 5.46 ERA in 61 innings and 6.8 strikeouts and 5.3 walks per nine innings. Simons will report to minor league camp.

Roberts, 27, hit .267/.319/.341 at Triple-A Rochester last year with two homers and 17 RBI in 255 at-bats. He’s a center fielder, who will go to minor league camp and compete for a job at Colorado Springs or Tulsa.



  • Mike Raysfan | December 16, 2011 | 10:44 pm

    Thanks for the info Jack, especially the stuff on Rosario. Eckstrom is a real reach. I have little to no faith in Rockies player development/coaching in helping him. If the Rays were willing to let him go …

  • Rock star | December 17, 2011 | 3:12 pm

    Mike-great point Rays let him go must be something wrong

  • Yelm | December 19, 2011 | 12:34 pm

    The Rays let Ekstrom go because he was out of options after his September call-up. He’s a great pickup.