2011 Rockies Player Reviews: Young Catchers and 2012 Hopefuls (Wilin Rosario and Jordan Pacheco)

Despite a disappointing 80 wRC+ in AAA Colorado Springs and 80 wRC+ with the Rockies in 2011, catcher infielder utilityman Jordan Pacheco is all but guaranteed to be on the 2012 Opening Day Roster.

Jordan Pacheco and Wilin Rosario might as well be the exact same person, if not for being completely different. Both young catching prospects saw their stocks at an all-time high on Opening Day 2011. They banged on the door for a steady big league gig at some point, but disappointing regular seasons in the minors belated their big league debuts until September, where they flashed potential in otherwise unassuming debuts. Both saw offseason trades in recent months possibly open up playing time with the big league club in 2012.

Other than that, the two players share nothing in common.

Wilin Rosario had burst on to the national scene with a monster 2010 campaign in AA Tulsa, vaulting into every Top 100 prospect list in print. An ACL tear in August gave him little shot at contributing early in 2011, and the club decided to have their stud prospect repeat AA despite his breakout performance. Rosario was flat at AA, still hitting an impressive 21 home runs, but checking in with a distasteful .284 OBP, his worst showing since his 18-year-old season in his stateside debut in Casper.

Rosario's toolset is flashy and extreme. He is capable of gunning out any baserunner, and he'll top it with a 450-foot bomb. His receiving skills are shaky, and his plate discipline has not appreciably improved. All of these skills were on display in his 16 big league games. His first major league home run was 465-foot blast that stood as the 2nd longest by a Rockie all season. He clubbed three dingers in total, all rated as "plenty" or "no doubt" by HitTrackerOnline, in just 54 at-bats. He then added three doubles and a triple to amass a beastly IsoP (.259 - in comparison, Matt Kemp was at .262 last year). He threw out 5 of 8 would-be basestealers to further strengthen the truth of his scouting report.

His weaknesses showed vibrantly as well. He actually had fewer singles and walks in total (6) than he had extra base hits (7). He committed an error and three passed balls in just 123 innings. He struggled to a .204 batting average and .228 OBP as he struck out over 35% of the time. He blasted major league fastballs with ease but was exposed on even average breaking stuff. Rosario was indeed the definition of "hit or miss."

Jordan Pacheco is pretty much the opposite. Whereas Rosario flashes elite power, Pacheco's banner tool is his solid contact. Coming into 2011, Pacheco was riding three consecutive minor league seasons with a strikeout rate under 9%, a rate that would place him in the top handful in the majors if he maintained it. After being the darling of Spring Training, getting ink as a possible Opening Day utility man, Pacheco struggled something fierce in AAA. Despite the best hitting environment in the universe, Pacheco managed just a .278/.343/.377 line with increased strikeouts and three measly home runs. He had never been a power guy, but then again, Willy Taveras cracked double digits in home runs on that team.

Pacheco got the September callup as an infielder, despite his poor numbers and his minor league time being almost exclusively as a catcher. The New Mexico native played at least ten innings at four positions - first base, third base, second base and catcher, where he held his own. He surprised by popping two dingers in his fall cameo, nearly matching his walk total (3), and posted a somewhat decent .286/.318/.369 line, which translated into park-adjusted-league-adjusted stats (wRC+) was exactly as impressive as his AAA line (80).

2012

In trading Ty Wigginton, the Rockies have opened up a clear pathway for Jordan Pacheco to be on the Rockies' 25-man roster come April. Pacheco struggled in AAA and was merely passable in his September call-up, but his contact-first approach seems to be the flavor the Rockies are attempting to populate the roster with most. With marginal defensive abilities in the infield, little projectable power and too much contact to generate much walks, Pacheco will have difficulty profiling as a starting player in his career, especially in 2012, at the corner infield spots, where his defense puts him. The Rockies like his contact bat, "versatility" (read: willingness to play multiple positions) and character, which makes him a great fit for this roster, especially as an emergency/periodical catcher. He essentially takes Ty Wigginton's place, and few would argue that swap is a negative one.

Wilin Rosario's OPS+ was just four points lower than Pacheco's in their late season callups, despite an 82 point difference in batting average. Still, Rosario's weaknesses remain more glaring. He could use more work on game-calling, receiving and plate discipline, though it is debatable whether he will improve on those skills with any AAA time. Chris Iannetta's departure to the Angels clears a path for Rosario to be the first Rockies "catcher of the future" to actually fulfill his destiny, but Ramon Hernandez' arrival both indicates the front office's belief that Rosario is not ready for that yet and that he will be. Rosario will likely be in AAA to start 2012, with his performance dictating his long-term arrival at Coors Field.

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