A few weeks ago Keith Law of ESPN.com said that his Top 100 Prospects article was on hold by ESPN until after the Super Bowl. Now that the Super Bowl is over the writing on the bigger websites has picked up.
There have been a few pieces released in the past few days that are relevant to Rockies fans.
Yesterday’s episode of Clubhouse Confidential had a review of the worst offseason free agent signings. According to Brian Kenny and the team at CC the Michael Cuddyer signing by the Rockies was the third worst signing this offseason. CC also had Dave Cameron on and he ranked the Cuddyer signing the fourth worst of the offseason.
Kenny spoke about Cuddyer’s age and the simple fact that the Rockies paid a guy who is past his prime based on one really good season in the hopes that he can reproduce 2011 each of the next three years. In reality we know that Dan O’Dowd was just throwing money at guys this offseason who are “good in the clubhouse” and not based on performance. Last year O’Dowd paid two of the worst players in baseball (Ty Wigginton and Jose Lopez) and this year he is excusing his poor signings by saying they are good in the clubhouse. Or, as pointed out again in a bit, that Marco Scutaro has a “slow heartbeat”. Does that mean that Scutaro could pass away soon? (Heaven forbid, of course. I say that in jest).
What saves more of O’Dowd’s signings from this list is the length. The Casey Blake deal is only for one season. Jamie Moyer was signed to a minor league deal with an invite to the Rockies Spring Training. Scutaro is a relatively low risk play for the Rockies due to the gap they had at second base. Just because a few other teams were willing to give Cuddyer multiple years to play for them doesn’t make it right.
Going back to the “slow heartbeat” comment; David Schoenfield talks about the Rockies offseason tactics on the SweetSpot Blog yesterday and he reprises the quote by O’Dowd.
Schoenfield essentially says what I have been saying for a while: O’Dowd’s signings will not make the team better. Getting better clubhouse guys will not help the team on the field. Of course, if Jim Tracy leaves Dexter Fowler in the lineup all season and he performs I am sure O’Dowd will credit the clubhouse atmosphere rather than Tracy wising up.
And speaking of Tracy; when reading the piece by Schoenfield it baffles me (again) how Tracy escapes free. All the talk of the clubhouse being soft or players going in the wrong direction, the team not playing as a team, not playing as one, the team not playing the game the right way, etc, etc, how does the manager escape any sort of responsibility for any of this? Aside from setting the lineup each game what else is the manager responsible for? Motivating his team. Why does Tracy escape free of any blame by the Rockies front office for a team that severely underperformed in 2011 and apparently let the team fall apart?
I have my theory on the clubhouse: the clubhouse fell apart BECAUSE of Tracy. The fact that he toyed with Ian Stewart, Chris Iannetta, Seth Smith and Fowler so much during the season I find it hard to believe that the team didn’t see his moves as idiotic much like the Rockies fan base. There was no reason for Lopez to get starts over guys like Chris Nelson, no reason to ship out Felipe Paulino, no reason to sit Smith in favor of Eric Young Jr., no reason to sit Iannetta in favor of anyone and Stewart never received a fair shake from Tracy in ’11. Is O’Dowd trying to tell me that all the lineup moves, roster moves, players sent to AAA, etc didn’t have an effect on the clubhouse? It was essentially the same team from 2010 and O’Dowd didn’t feel the need to make so many moves to benefit the clubhouse, but after ’11 he did? Because Tracy made more changes to the lineup than Mitt Romney using the word “conservative” in a speech discrediting the POTUS.
MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo released his top 100 prospects and he ranks the top 20 within the Rockies organization.
Keith Law released his minor league rankings (ESPN Insider required). The Rockies as a whole ranked 13th among MLB teams for their minor league system and three Rockies made his top 100.
Last but not least we have Baseball America’s ranking of the top 10 prospects within the Rox org.
Nolan Arenado jumped to the top spot in the Rockies organization on two of the three lists above with Drew Pomeranz taking second on those same lists (in the third those two are swapped). Arenado makes a big jump after a monster year in the minor leagues and a great showing in the Arizona Fall League. Pomeranz is expected to open the season in the Rockies starting rotation. Willin Rosario, Chad Bettis, Tim Wheeler and Tyler Anderson make up the remaining top five spots in each list in varying order (and not each top five has the same five. So, yes, I realize I just listed six names for a top five).
Tyler Matzek was last year’s top ranked Rockie on almost every list and after a year in which he lost his control and took a hiatus from the team he was dropped out of the top 10 by both Law and Baseball America and ranks sixth on MLB.com. Just further proves that a top prospect in the low minors is far from a guarantee to make an impact in the big leagues. At this point last year there were a few rumors that Matzek might have had a chance to make the Opening Day rotation and this year he isn’t projected to even pitch in AA.
Going into 2012 the top two prospects are expected to see time at Coors Field this year. With Pomeranz penciled into the rotation already Arenado has an outside chance to break camp as the team’s starting third basemen. Arenado didn’t even play in AA in 2011 so if he does break with the Rockies he would skip two levels of the minor leagues. His stock has jumped that high in a single year. It is more likely we see him in June or July, September at the latest, depending on his performance in AA to start the year. Blake is keeping the position warm at this point.
The trucks are leaving northern cities across the country loaded with baseball gear and headed south. Spring Training is close!