The 25 year-old Blackmon is only the 2nd player on this list who spent a large amount of time at AAA on this list, a clear indication that the Sky Sox were pretty bereft of top talent this past year. In the hitter's paradise that is Colorado Springs, the lefty outfielder mashed, hitting .337/.393/.572 with 33 XBHs in 58 games, which earned him a call-up to the Show in June and the eternal love of Fangraphs' Carson Cistulli. He struggled in MLB, hitting just .255/.277/.296 in an admittedly small sample size (27 games, 102 PAs) before going down with a season-ending injury.
The toolsy outfielder has flashed the combination of a sweet swing, great contact skills, and plus speed thus far in his MiLB career. In 4 minor league seasons, Blackmon hit .316/.376/.475 while stealing 74 bases. If he recovers well from his injury and is given some consistent playing time at the Major League level, he could become an above average regular. As it is, Blackmon should be a 4th or 5th outfielder in 2012 for Colorado.
Contract Status: 2008 2nd Round, 40 Man Roster, 3 options remaining
MLB ETA: Now
9. Josh Rutledge (794 points, 40 ballots) -- Stats -- Spring 2011 Ranking: 24
Coming into 2011, the 22 year-old Rutledge was known primarily as an elite defensive shortstop with a chance to stick in MLB as a glove man, but he was a guy that had struggled at the plate in a short cameo in Tri-City. Colorado jumped Rutledge straight up to Modesto in 2011 despite this, and they were rewarded richly for it. Rutledge was pretty much who we thought he was in the first half of the season, managing an average hitting line of .262/.351/.318, but he went positively thermonuclear in the season's second half, mashing to the tune of .411/.464/.664 with 42 XBHs in 65 games! In all, he finished with a .348/.414/.517 line with 51 XBHs at High A.
There was nobody hotter than Rutledge in the second half of 2011 with the possible exception of Dexter Fowler in MLB, which combined with his phenomenal defense made him my pick for 2011 Minor League Player of the Year. He's elevated himself from a 3rd or 4th tier prospect to a potential impact player at the MLB level -- and my personal favorite to be starting alongside Troy Tulowitzki in 2013. If he continues to hit well next year in AA, there's no reason we won't be seeing Rutledge later in the year with Colorado.
Contract Status: 2010 3rd Round, Not Rule 5 Eligible, 3 options remaining
MLB ETA: Late 2012
The 23 year-old Wheeler is another player that had a great season in 2011. Like Rutledge, the former first round outfielder hadn't been very impressive at the plate coming into 2011, but he showed a surprising power stroke in AA Tulsa, hitting .287/.365/.535 with 33 HRs and 67 XBHs overall -- prompting many to call for him to make a MLB cameo at the end of the season. Instead, Wheeler is playing in the Arizona Fall League and is hitting .250/.304/.404.
The knock on the left-handed outfielder is that he hasn't demonstrated the ability to hit left-handed pitching. That combined with his lack of success in 2009/2010 and the logjam of top OF prospects make me a little leery of his MLB prospects. That is why he's the guy among Colorado's top outfield prospects that I really wouldn't mind seeing getting traded -- as I believe that Colorado will be selling high. Wheeler has a bunch of potential though, and if he improves against lefties he could be a force at the ML level as soon as this year.
Contract Status: 2009 1st Round, Not Rule 5 Eligible, 3 options remaining
MLB ETA: Mid-2012
Parker, the first rounder in 2010, was known as a guy with lots of raw power coming into 2011, and he delivered in his professional debut in Asheville. As a 21 year-old righty outfielder, Parker hit .285/.367/.483 against age-appropriate competition in Low A with 45 XBHs (21 HRs) and 95 RBIs. This was the first time that Parker had focused chiefly on baseball for a full year (he was Clemson's starting QB), so there's some room to grow there over the next few years.
If he can maintain his power at higher levels, Parker could distinguish himself as an elite prospect. He had a good year in 2011, but by no means was it an elite one. With another full year of baseball instruction and at-bats, Parker should dominate in High A next year if he is the elite prospect we believe he is (though his HR totals will be a little lower, given that Modesto severely depresses HRs for right-handed hitters). Parker has been touted by some as the eventual replacement for Todd Helton at first -- lofty shoes to fill, but he's the most likely internal candidate right now.
Contract Status: 2010 1st Round, Not Rule 5 Eligible, 3 options remaining
MLB ETA: 2014
White is a little lower on this list for the simple fact that a few voters didn't rank him because of his impending non-prospect status. If he had been on every ballot as the 5th place finisher (that's his average), White would be 4th on this list. The 23 year-old pitcher dominated in the minor leagues, going 2-1 with a 1.80 ERA and .88 WHIP, earning himself a call-up to the Show with Cleveland before suffering a finger injury that sidelined him for a couple of months before the Ubaldo trade brought him to the organization.
Unfortunately, White struggled in the big leagues in 2011, producing a 7.01 ERA and 1.69 WHIP while allowing 15 HRs in 51.1 IP. Perhaps his finger injury was hurting the bite on his off-speed pitches, but it was certainly a worrisome sight for Rockies fans. White has MLB-caliber velocity, two or three out pitches, and will more than likely be in the ML rotation next year, but that doesn't mean that I'm not very worried about how he'll do. He has the potential to be an absolute beast, but if he keeps allowing HRs at a crazy rate he won't be in the Show for long. Let's hope that he comes back in Spring Training fully healed and ready to dominate in 2012 -- if he does, Colorado's pitching staff could be better than the mess I'm predicting.
Contract Status: 2011 Trade, 40 Man Roster, 3 options remaining
MLB ETA: Now
Tune in on Monday, when I reveal the top 5 PuRPs!