Rockies 2010 organization preview
With strong crop of hitters, club developing pitching
The future success of every Major League team lies largely in its Minor League pipeline. With that in mind, each preseason, MLB.com takes a comprehensive look at the farm systems of all 30 organizations, from top prospects to recent Draft picks.
With a strong young nucleus of largely homegrown hitters in the big leagues already, the Rockies have been concentrating on amassing pitching in the Minors, and that is reflected in their preseason Prospects to Watch list -- which is arm-heavy -- with seven of the 10 spots going to hurlers. The club continued to focus on that area in the Draft, adding seven pitchers in the first 10 rounds, including four college hurlers and, with their first pick, arguably the best high school left-hander on the board in Tyler Matzek. When not going for pitchers, the team concentrated on deepening its corner infield and outfield depth and did not call the name of a middle infielder until the 14th round.
With two postseason appearances in the last three years, the Rockies have clearly built a strong team and done it largely through their player development and scouting, both domestic and international. That success looks like it will continue for a while.
Jhoulys Chacin, RHP
The young Venezuelan was MLB.com's Starting Pitcher of the Year in 2008, when he went 18-3 with a 2.03 ERA between two Class A stops. While he didn't duplicate those numbers in '09, he still earned Texas League All-Star honors at Tulsa and looked good at Triple-A Colorado Springs, combining for a 3.21 ERA in 22 games. He made his big league debut, posting a 4.91 ERA in nine games, and is very much in the picture for 2010.
Samuel Deduno, RHP
What a comeback for Deduno, who is a favorite of the organization as much for his terrific makeup (they've compared him to Ubaldo Jimenez in that department) as his stuff. After missing all of 2008 following elbow surgery, he rebounded in 2009 to earn Texas League Pitcher of the Year, going 12-4 with a 2.57 ERA in 24 starts, limiting league batters to a .202 average (fourth among all Minor League full-season starters) and fanning 123 in 133 innings. He spent September with the big league club but did not see action.
Esmil Rogers, RHP
A shortstop who averaged .209 in three seasons in the Dominican League but flashed a great arm, Rogers was converted to the mound in 2006, and his development has been rapid, to say the least, culminating in his big league debut last summer. Rogers has a lively fastball in the low 90s, and his secondary pitches are coming along nicely as well. He has a clean delivery and good mechanics as well as good control. A Texas League All-Star with a 2.48 ERA at Tulsa, he combined for a 4.41 ERA between Tulsa and Colorado Springs before making his lone Major League start.
Eric Young Jr., 2B/OF
Coming back from a knee injury which slowed him in winter ball in his quest to play baseball year round, Young is a speedy and versatile infielder/outfielder with game-changing speed and outstanding makeup. The son of a Rockies legend, he could make the club as a utilityman extraordinaire. He hit .299 with 58 steals at Colorado Springs in 2009 to earn PCL Rookie of the Year honors and made his big league debut in September. The switch-hitter from New Jersey has already led the Minors in steals once and, when healthy, consistently ranks among the Minor League leaders in that category as well as runs scored. He's never stolen fewer than 40 bases in a full season, and his 118 runs this year ranked second in the Minors.
Edgmer Escalona, RHP
The Venezuelan reliever was added to the Rockies' 40-man roster this year after posting a 3.15 ERA over five pro seasons and combining for a 2.47 ERA this past summer in 59 games in relief between Modesto and Tulsa. The 6-foot-4 225-pounder with the sinking fastball in the mid-90s struck out 113 in 70 innings while walking just 18, and he could be a surprise addition to the team's bullpen in the not-too-distant future.
Alving Mejias, RHP
An 18-year-old out of the Dominican Republic, Mejias wowed people with his stuff in that country's Summer League last year, posting a 1.24 ERA in 13 games, striking out 70 while walking just six in 72 1/3 innings and limiting hitters to a .184 average.
Eliezer Mesa, OF
The nephew of longtime big leaguer Jose Mesa is not a pitcher like his uncle but rather a center fielder with blazing speed and leadoff hitter tools. In 2009 at short-season Casper, he hit .316 with 12 steals and should put up some numbers to watch in his full-season debut.
LHP Tyler Matzek (1) was taken with the 11th pick overall and probably would have gone even higher had there not been concerns about his signability. A polished and poised southpaw considered one of the closest high school picks to being big league ready, the California native signed late and will make his pro debut in 2010. He has a lively fastball consistently in the mid-90s, a sharp curve and a power slider. ... OF Tim Wheeler (30) was the last pick of the first round, taken out of Sacramento State. He posted a 12-game hitting streak to finish the season at short-season Tri-City, which he takes into 2010. He finished his debut with a .256 average, five homers, 35 RBIs, 10 steals and 13 doubles and has raw power potential. ... LHP Rex Brothers (1S) was drafted out of Lipscomb College and, armed with a fastball in the mid-high 90s and plus slider, split the season between Tri-City and Class A Asheville, with a 3.38 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 21 1/3 innings, walking eight. He limited hitters to an identical .216 average at both stops. ... 3B Nolan Arenado, (2) was drafted out of high school in California and hit .300 with two homers and 22 RBIs along with 15 doubles in 54 games at short-season Casper. He was the Rockies' Instructional League MVP as well. ... Alabama OF Kent Matthes (4) is one of the top power prospects the Rockies took in the Draft after leading Division I with 28 homers. He had 23 doubles at Tri-City, hitting .289 with five homers and 35 RBIs. ... RHP Chris Balcom-Miller (6) was Pioneer League Pitcher of the Year as he went 4-0 with a 1.58 ERA in 11 starts at Casper, striking out 60 in 57 innings while limiting hitters to a .181 average. He throws a sinking fastball in the low 90s with deceptive delivery, and his slider is also a potential plus pitch. ... RHP Charlie Ruiz (10) out of Long Beach State dominated in relief in his pro debut, leading the Northwest League with 17 saves for Tri-City which was good for fourth in the system. He had a 1.14 ERA in 32 games, fanning 46 in 31 2/3 innings and limiting hitters to a .186 average. ... 1B Jared Clark (12) out of Cal State Fullerton led the organization with a .346 average, most of which was spent at Casper, where he added 11 homers, 44 RBIs and 13 doubles for a .591 slugging percentage.
Hitter of the Year -- Wilin Rosario, C
Rosario first opened a ton of eyes in 2008, his second go-round at Casper, as he raised his average by more than 100 points from .209 in his 2007 stateside debut to .316, adding 12 homers and 49 RBIs and flashing a strong arm with which he has thrown out nearly 50 percent of opposing baserunners in the last two seasons. In 2009, the club skipped him to Advanced A Modesto to work with catching guru/manager Jerry Sweinstein, and he hit .266, though a wrist injury cost him the last month of the season.
Pitcher of the Year -- Juan Nicasio, RHP
With all the depth of pitching in the system, Nicasio is something of a sleeper pick. But the newest member of the club's 40-man roster shared the organization lead in ERA with a 2.41 mark at Asheville last summer, striking out 115 while walking just 23 in 112 innings, even though he didn't join the team from extended spring until Memorial Day. Take away two rough starts and he had a 1.50 ERA in 16 starts, with a fastball that touches the high 90s and sits at 94. He continues to work on his secondary offerings.
Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.