There has been a lot of doom and gloom around here lately and it’s warranted. Thus far, the Rox season is best summed up as a total bed crapping – last night’s win aside. The owner’s recent comments in the Denver Post only made things worse. But, there is only so much griping and moaning that can be tolerated before we all lose our sanity. Therefore, today we are making Blake Street Bulletin a more positive place. This morning, Kevin put things in perspective for us by detailing the truly awful state of baseball in Oakland. (At least we have Coors! Amiright?) And this afternoon, I’m giving a little praise to the Rockies minor league system, which is actually looking pretty decent right now.
Back in February, ESPN’s Keith Law ranked the Rockies’ farm system thirteenth overall, and had this to say about it:
This is an underrated system, maybe even here by me. I like systems in which the prospects in the No. 8-12 range are just as interesting (if not as high-upside or high-probability) as the prospects in the No. 1-4 range, and the Rockies’ lack of a complex-league team can make some of their youngest prospects look less advanced than they are when they jump right to the Pioneer League.
Since the season started the Rox affiliates have backed up Law’s thoughts that he might be underrating the system. Right now, Tulsa and Asheville are in first place – Asheville is already 15 games over .500 – and Modesto and Colorado Springs are hovering around .500. Granted, winning teams don’t necessarily translate into strong farm systems, but it is important the teams not be terrible. Every one of the affiliates is competitive, and more importantly, has a fair amount of talent. So the Rockies have that going for them, which is nice.
Last year, the Rockies system was bottom heavy, but the talent has progressed. Colorado Springs is usually a purgatory of sorts, but the Sky Sox actually hold some decent prospects right now. Tulsa is a very good team. Their pitching will allow them to contend for the Texas League title. Modesto should get better now that Kyle Parker has returned and Asheville is obviously killing some folks in the SALY. All in all, things in the minors are much better than they are in the majors.
If guys like Edwar Cabrerra, Trevor Story, and Tyler Matzek continue to progress as they have this year, we may very well have a top ten farm system on our hands. Now, this may actually end up being a bad thing if Dan O’Dowd uses it as leverage to hang onto his job for a little longer, but for now, we are just going enjoy the fact that the Rockies might have a chance one day in the not so distant future.
Prior to last season, I called Corey Dickerson the most underrated prospect in the Rox system. Since then, Corey has made me quite proud of that claim. Last year in Asheville, hehit 32 home runs, leading the South Atlantic League in OPS, ISO, wOBA, and wRC+, or in other words, just about every meaningful offensive stat available.
Pretty great, right? Well, not so fast. Like every other Rockies affiliate aside from Tulsa, Asheville is a little flawed. It is a hitters’ park with a short porch in right that makes right field in the new Yankee Stadium look like the Polo Grounds. When playing within the friendly confines of McCormick Field last year, Dickerson hit .354/.418/.852 – yes, that is an .852 slugging percentage. However, when on the road, Dickerson posted a .193/.280/.363 slashline. He hit 26 of his 32 home runs in Asheville and 20 of his 27 doubles came there as well. This obviously led many to dismiss Dickerson as an aberration.
Without a doubt, those kind of splits from a prospect are a little concerting. But, there are a couple of things that are worth mentioning here. One, Dickerson wasn’t the only one with dramatic splits on that team. Kyle Parker’s numbers were also pretty different away from Asheville and he’s a right-hander — same thing with Dustin Garneau, Chandler Laurent, and Bryce Massanari. Perhaps even more notable, Dickerson’s BABIP on the road was just .241. That’s really unlucky. Even if he was hitting a bunch of wall scrapers in Asheville – he wasn’t, for the record – it doesn’t explain that kind of drop in BABIP. So, while it is hard to look past splits like that, the significance, in regards to Dickerson, was probably over exaggerated.
So far this year with Modesto, Dickerson has been putting the concerns over last year’s splits completely to rest. He has been absolutely on fire. The Cali League is a hitter friendly environment all around, but Modesto is actually a pretty fair park. Either way, it hasn’t mattered. All Dickerson has done is hit, regardless of where the Nuts are playing. His slash line currently sits at .361/.416/.661. He has 9 home runs, 4 triples, and 19 doubles. He’s on pace to hit well over 40 doubles this year. It will be hard for Corey to maintain this kind of pace all year, but it’s not fluky. His BABIP is .394. That’s high, but there are many players in the Cali with a higher BABIP, including Dickerson’s teammate, Rafael Ortega. If he is able to sustain this success, one thing is for certain, Corey Dickerson will finally make his way onto some prospect lists next year. Also, we are very likely to see him in the Arizona Fall League at the end of this season.
Last year, during spring training, I spent most of an entire day watching Dickerson and came away very impressed. For one, he is just a nice guy. He’s very humble and already understands how to conduct himself like a professional. He seems to have a grasp on the opportunity he’s been presented with and doesn’t take it for granted. On top of that, he is a very hard worker – first one in, last one out type of guy.
He also happens to be very talented. Compared to a lot of prospects he isn’t a big guy, but he is compact and strong. More importantly, he has a solid approach at the plate. He hits with a pretty wide base, which allows him to stay on balance against off-speed pitches. His swing is compact to the ball and long in the finish, which is where he derives his power. Also, he hits lefties decently. Last year, he posted a .909 OPS against southpaws and this season it has made virtually no difference who is on the mound. He’s punishing everyone.
Ultimately, Corey will have to prove himself in Tulsa before he makes a believer of everyone. Skeptics will say that he has played in hitter friendly environments since being drafted by the Rox, but that’s true of any player in the system. Obviously, no player is a guarantee – not even Bryce Harper – but I think at his worst, Dickerson will be a solid outfielder that can damage right-handed pitching in the same mold as Seth Smith. A promotion to Tulsa seems unlikely this year, but it’s not impossible, especially if he continues at his current pace. With Dickerson, Kyle Parker, and Rafael Ortega, Modesto has one of the minor’s best outfields. They might even be worth a trip to Modesto.
See there, I found something to be positive about. There is a glimmer of hope, folks.
In his most recent rankings, Law has Arenado as the 23rd best prospect in baseball.