Wednesday Rockpile: Ubaldo Jimenez moving on up, three Rockies make Baseball America's top 100

Ubaldo Jimenez gets more love from the Denver Post as Troy Renck talks to him about his new house and hopes for the season.

Brad Hawpe and Seth Smith have also arrived and Renck lists Carlos Gonzalez, Jason Giambi, Jay Payton and Melvin Mora as the only players yet to show, but said in a blog post yesterday that CarGo was supposed to arrive last night. The article also confirms my suspicion that Jim Tracy has Hawpe pencilled into the fifth slot in the batting order. Assuming that he still likes CarGo at leadoff, we only have to discern where he pictures Stewart, Iannetta (or Olivo) and Barmes, at this point, and that's the order I'd guess.

After the jump, I'm going to give my take on the Baseball America top 100 prospects (which were announced yesterday) for each team in the division, listed in the order of number of prospects to make the cut:

 


San Francisco (4) - Buster Posey (7), Madison Bumgarner (14), Zack Wheeler (49), Thomas Neal (96).

Despite my snark toward him last season, Buster Posey will likely regularly be a top five NL catcher offensively in his prime and could well be right with Brian McCann as top in the league, so take that ranking seriously. The rest of the Giants on the list are somewhat iffy, and it will be really interesting to watch the developments in coming seasons of their two star LHP prospects alongside our two star LHP prospects.

Ever since Pablo Sandoval, I'm a little unnerved by Giants prospects that hit well at San Jose and wait to see what happens at Connecticut. If they (and I'm specifically referring to Neal in this case) crash at Dodd Stadium, as most will, I breathe a sigh of relief that they'll wind up like your typical Giants replacement level hitter.

Jim Callis' most recent Ask BA specified the Giants as the only NL team " that stood out as having a quality Top 10 and nice depth in the 11-30 range on our prospect lists." My bias makes me rankle at that, but at the same time, I've been acknowledging SF as the best system in the division for the last couple of seasons. I think the Rockies are a lot closer to them now, than we were last year, however.

San Diego (4) - Donovan Tate (53), Simon Castro (57), Jaff Decker (82), James Darnell (90).

The Padres have a quietly solid system, the problem I have with it is that the positional talent seems concentrated at third base or in the outfield.

Colorado (3) - Tyler Matzek (23), Christian Friedrich (33), Jhoulys Chacin (71)

On one hand, I have a real issue with Matzek being ranked so high, as he has yet to pitch in the minors, but at the same time I acknowledge his tremendous potential warrants him ranking ahead of Friedrich, for instance. I think after you get out of the top 10 (actually this list goes to 11, as I'd include Ackley in that group) the distinction between top prospects becomes pretty blurry. Chacin's 24 walks allowed in 25.1 innings between AAA and the Rockies have seemingly pushed expectations back for the right-hander. He's not going to be successful as a pitch to contact pitcher if he's lacking command and control. It will be interesting to see what he does with a full season at altitude.

Los Angeles (2) - Dee Gordon (46), Chris Withrow (48)

I've been thinking that Gordon's been getting overrated this winter by the usual standards of these lists as a player whose lofty ranks have been based on pretty unrealistic projections. His MLE (a calculation of what he'd hit were he in the majors) from last season equates to a .215/.250/.271 line.  He gets compared to Jimmy Rollins, who hit about as well as an 18 year old in single A as Gordon, who was 21 years old at that level last season.

Frequently, you'll see the words "All-Star potential" attached to him, such as from Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein, and I suppose that given he's capable of being the starting shortstop for the NL's most well attended team, this could easily work in theory, but keep in mind he will be competing against Tulo and Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes and even Yunel Escobar so I'm guessing he'd be an undeserving All-Star at best. And by the time those players have peaked and started to decline, I really have a hard time seeing Gordon being better than whatever shortstops will be coming up after him, especially since his one truly standout tool is his speed, and that won't last into his own declining years. He might even have to move off short into center field, where he becomes Willy Taveras with a little more pop (if his lightly developed power ever does develop). Given that he's a questionable middle infield defender with 80 speed on the scouting scale, Eric Young Jr. is another comparison, and I love EY2, but he was never a top 50 MLB prospect.

So I guess what I'm saying is that I see a realistic peak of a midrange, average  NL shortstop, but a likely scenario of becoming somewhat less than that. Of course, given that the Dodgers have been dealing off their best prospects for midseason help the last couple of years (see Carlos Santana and Josh Bell's ranks) we might not have to worry much about Gordon even if I'm wrong about him.

Dodger pitching prospects are more worrisome to me, as Withrow's just the best of many arms with a similar profile of having elite fastballs, but lacking suitable MLB-level complements to reach their full potential. It would only take one of these pitchers to harness a secondary pitch or two to give the Dodgers a truly potent young rotation with Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley already in tow.

Arizona (1) - Jarrod Parker (36)

Parker's very solid and I believe ranked too low on this list. He has as much upside still as any of these pitchers with the possible exception of Strasburg and he's likely to be pitching in the majors sooner than many of the players ranked ahead of him as well (including Matzek). I think this is an example of a weakness with BA's list when it comes to dealing with injuries. The rest of the D-backs system in in an early incubation stage, so it might take a couple of seasons for us to know just how good it really is right now.

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