Rockies continue to rely on farm system
Club hopes this year's struggles in Minors turns into a positive
To get a sense of how important the farm system is to the Colorado Rockies, one only has to look at the big league club's roster.
As it stands right now, seven of the eight regulars in the lineup are homegrown talent. So is at least three-fifths of the rotation, results of excellent scouting and development over the years. Throw in some key backups who were promoted from within and it would be difficult to find a more homegrown-built club than the Rockies.
"That's our philosophy, that's what we live by," Rockies farm director Marc Gustafson said. "We're just going to keep them coming. Scouting and player development are just so important here."
It wasn't the best year for the Rockies in terms of development, largely because of how many players ended up on the shelf. From the parent club all the way down, several key players hit the disabled list over the course of the season, forcing the Rockies to shift gears to fill holes.
Overall, Rockies affiliates didn't finish particularly well on the win-loss front. Only the Modesto club in the California League finished above .500, though the Nuts did make it to the second round of the playoffs. Combined, the system had a .483 winning percentage, 23rd in baseball.
Again, injuries played a role. Several players were called upon to fill in at the big league level. That created a trickle-up effect with players at every level being challenged with being moved up perhaps before it would've happened with organizational health.
"I have to stay balanced with that," Gustafson admitted. "We're very competitive people and we like to see them get into playoff scenarios. But when we're able to bring in Jhoulys Chacin, Esmil Rogers, Matt Reynolds, Jonathan Herrera. ... If you keep those guys at Triple-A, then it keeps other guys down, you'd likely see more wins.
"But we're here for the big league club. The players know that and we feel comfortable looking within rather than looking outside."
If nothing else, this year's adversity in the system should bode well for the future. The Rockies may have fallen short in their playoff push in 2010, but they know to continue to compete in the NL West, they'll have to continue to get guys ready to contribute at the big-league level, even when it happens unpredictably as it did this past season.
"It allows us to look down a little deeper," Gustafson said about the injuries. "You need a lot of depth to keep this thing going. It makes you tougher in a lot of ways. We've dealt with it and came out of it. We're healthy at this point in time and look forward to Spring Training in 2011."
MLB.com's Preseason Picks
Wilin Rosario, C: The talented young catcher moved up to Double-A at age 21 and more than held his own when playing, hitting .285/.342/.552 for Tulsa. He finished third in the system with his 19 homers. That's even more impressive considering he played in just 73 games, tearing his ACL just weeks after appearing in the All-Star Futures Game. While his 2011 season debut will likely be delayed, he's expected to make a full recovery.
Juan Nicasio, RHP: After the right-hander shared the ERA lead in the organization in 2009, everyone was curious to see what he would do as he moved up the ladder. No one came away disappointed. While in the typically hitting-friendly California League, Nicasio finished second in the system with a 3.91 ERA, tied for the lead with 12 wins and tops in with 171 strikeouts (against just 31 walks). He led the California League in K's, tied for the lead in wins and finished seventh in ERA.
MLB.com's Postseason Selections
Matt Miller, OF: It's hard to know what else Miller needs to do to get a shot, but he's still waiting to get his first callup. Miller led the organization with his .325 average (third in the Pacific Coast League). He also finished fifth in the system with 81 RBIs. He's now hit .313 over his Minor League career with a .379 OBP (.404 in 2010).
Ethan Hollingsworth, RHP: The 2008 fourth-rounder joined Nicasio in that Modesto rotation and beat his teammate for the organizational ERA title (3.69). He and Nicosio both won 12 games and Hollingsworth finished right behind Nicasio with 162 strikeouts.