The Rockies are famous for slowly advancing their prospects through the minors. However, when a player truly excels, they will move them up quickly. Troy Tulowitzki only played 126 games in the minors. Obviously, the Rox got that one right. Despite being early in the season, there are several candidates in the Rockies’ system that are making strong cases for advancement. In fact, every single affiliate has at least one player that seems ready to face some better competition.
In Asheville, C/1B Bryce Massanari is off to a torrid start. He’s hitting .369/.437/.640 with seven homeruns and nine doubles. However, most scouts look past Massanari because of his age. At 25, he is very old for the South Atlantic League. It’s time to promote him to Modesto. The Nuts are weak at catcher and the Rockies have prospect Will Swanner waiting to report from extended spring training.
Modesto has been a work in progress on offense. They only have one player hitting over .300 — Mike Zuanich. Like Massanari, Zuanich’s competition is a little beneath him. This is actually his second year in Modesto. However, right now, there is no other place for Zuanich. Ben Paulsen has a firm grip on the first base job in Tulsa. The Rockies won’t promote Paulsen because they don’t want him giving up at-bats to Mike Jacobs in Colorado Springs.
However, the Nuts do have a pitcher that could soon be promoted to Tulsa. Chad Bettis is one of the top pitching prospects in the Rockies’ system. I would argue that he’s their second best minor league pitcher, only ranking behind Juan Nicasio. Bettis’ 2.08 FIP is tops in the California League and he is seventh in strike-outs per nine innings. The Rockies have given Bettis the chance to be a starter, but his future may be as a reliever. Either way, his dominance of the Cali League has been very impressive. It’s probably time for the Rockies to find out what he can do against Double-A hitters.
Tulsa has a couple of guys that could actually make it to Denver in 2011. Catcher Wilin Rosario has recovered nicely from last year’s ACL reconstruction. So far this season, he has a .900 OPS and a .374 wOBA. But, with Iannetta playing so well, the Rockies aren’t looking for a replacement at catcher. Also, Rosario has a history with injuries and it’s important that he plays an entire season without getting hurt. However, it’s almost certain that we will see him in Denver as a September call up.
So far this year, right-hander Juan Nicasio has been the Rockies’ most surprising prospect. For most, Nicasio first appeared on the prospect scene with a terrific 2010 season in Modesto, but his rise since this past fall has been meteoric. Nicasio leads the Texas League in FIP by nearly two full points. His WHIP is an impressive 1.09 despite a very unlucky .368 BABIP. However, I’m of the opinion that the Rockies should leave him in Tulsa this year. Making him a September call-up is fine, but I would avoid sending him to Colorado Springs. Every pitcher gets lit up in the Springs. I see no point in ruining Nicasio’s confidence. The Sky Sox really need a humidor, but that’s a topic for a different day.
Every organization has a few big league ready prospects in AAA and the Rockies are no different. Jordan Pacheco nearly made the team this spring, but he’s better off in the minors for now. While he can hit, Pacheco still has much to learn about the nuances of catching. Also, if the Rockies needed a catcher, they would probably call up Rosario before Pacheco. Wilin was ahead of Jordan prior to tearing up his knee.
The Sky Sox player that has me most excited is Charlie Blackmon, but, obviously, there is no room for him in Denver. When Dexter Fowler left Tuesday night’s game after fouling a ball off his shin, I thought Charlie might be on his way. Thankfully Fowler was okay, but it showed how close Blackmon is to the big leagues. Chris Nelson also deserves mention. He is having one of the best offensive stretches of his career.
I didn’t give out any player of the week awards, but Tim Wheeler of Tulsa, Corey Dickerson of Asheville, and Rafael Ortega of Asheville all had terrific weeks. I’ll make sure to recognize all three next time.