If you are thinking about a minor league team to keep an eye on in the organization this season, the Tourists are the club to watch. If you want to follow the next Matt Holliday before your buddies know of him, follow the Asheville blurbs in this season's Pebble Reports. This year's Tourists team is stacked.
David Oh No provided a guest column in August, calling the 2011 Tourists "Colorado's next destination team." Since then, the roster has been finalized for Asheville's Opening Day, this Thursday evening at Hickory. Two names will be very familiar to those in the Asheville area.
Just ninety miles south of the North Carolina town in Clemson, South Carolina, Kyle Parker led the Clemson offense as quarterback the past three seasons. North Carolina State's quarterback in that time was Russell Wilson, who will be Asheville's second baseman.
But there is far more than a couple of quarterbacks to watch. I'll highlight the whole roster below, detailing those most likely to be future studs with the Rockies.
Kyle Parker - RF
21 yo- 2010 1st rounder - #9 PuRP - #6 Baseball America - #5 Baseball Prospectus
After finishing out his college football career at Clemson, Parker is now 100% committed to baseball for the first time in his athletic life. The broad-shouldered former quarterback carries "plus to plus-plus power" and yields widespread comparisons to Matt Holliday. He has yet to play a game in the Rockies' organization and hadn't seen live pitching in almost a year when he reported to Scottsdale in March. Consequently, it may take a little bit for him to get into the swing of things, but he should be able to do some serious damage at McCormick Field when he does. His defense has graded out no better than average, but he has to potential to improve upon that by focusing on baseball, both mentally and physically. You can follow him on twitter here.
Peter Tago - RH SP
18 yo - 2010 Sandwich pick - #6 PuRP - #5 Baseball America - #6 Baseball Prospectus
Tago is actually not on the Opening Day roster for Asheville, but he will be there soon. Like Tyler Matzek in 2010, Tago signed late as a high school pitcher and did not pitch in a minor league game in his draft year. Like Matzek, he will be in extended spring training to keep his innings load down this season. The lanky Californian native has a live fastball with movement from 91-95mph. For reason to be excited about him, watch this. To follow him on twitter, go here.
Rafael Ortega - CF
19yo - 2007 Venezuela - #10 PuRP
Small in stature, Ortega surprises with his relative polish and pop at the plate. In his first year stateside, the left-handed hitter hit .358/.416/.510 with 7 home runs as the Casper Ghosts leadoff hitter. He has flashed solid defense, speed and a little bit of power. He has yet to garner as much attention outside of Colorado as he probably deserves, but a solid season in Asheville could see him vault up the prospect lists.
Albert Campos - RH SP
20yo - 2007 Venezuela - #20 PuRP
Perfectly built physically to be a starting pitcher already, Campos dominated the Rookie level Pioneer League in 2010, with a 2.02 ERA in 88 IP. He won the Pioneer League Pitcher of the Year Award and holds the honor of being Baseball Prospectus' #2 prospect in the Pioneer League last year. His success may have stemmed from early physical development relative to the league, so a solid season in Asheville will earn him a lot more ink. For more information on Campos, read my full scouting report on him from last season.
Corey Dickerson - LF
21yo - 2010 8th rounder - #15 PuRP
Dickerson waged war on Pioneer League pitchers last season, catching the eyes of many Rowbots with a .348/.412/.634 batting line, garnished with 13 HR and 12 SBs in 69 games. That was enough to catapult him to the top 15 in the most recent PuRPs poll. His numbers were a bit inflated due to age and high elevation parks and is thusly a bit overrated by the PuRPs poll, in my opinion. I worry his defense doesn't play in center field and that he won't develop enough power to start at a corner, but he could be a solid fourth outfielder.
Cristhian Adames - SS
19yo - 2008 DR - #10 Baseball Prospectus
The switch-hitter is an exceptional defensive shortstop already, enough that he may reach the big leagues on that alone. That kind of floor got Adames on the top 10 prospect list by Kevin Goldstein even though Goldstein claims Adames will "need to develop some strength to prevent pitchers from simply knocking the bat of his hands." If he improves with the bat, he could be worth keeping an eye on. If he doesn't, he's a dime-a-dozen replacement player-in-waiting.
Russell Wilson - 2B
22yo - 2010 4th rounder - #17 Baseball Prospectus
Rockies fans got to watch this athletic specimen at work as North Carolina State's quarterback this past season. He boasts several natural tools that could make him valuable on the basepaths, on defense and at the plate. After a great year of football, a solid year at the offense-heavy McCormick Field might be necessary to convince him to stay the baseball route.
Rest of the Roster
- LHP Edwar Cabrera - 23yo DR. He has started late, but he possesses strikeout stuff and a very good breaking ball.
- RHP Albert Campos - See above.
- RHP Ricardo Ferrer - 20yo DR. Struggled mightily in two years in Casper
- RHP Joshua Slaats - 22 yo 2010 5th rounder. #21 PuRP. Posted a 1.95 ERA and 42 K's in just 33.1 IP last season in Tri City.
- RHP Erik Stavert - 23yo 2009 7th rounder. After recording a 2.90 ERA in Tri City over 13 starts, Stavert is a strong candidate to leap into the next PuRPs poll.
- RHP Juan Perez (closer) - 21yo 2010 18th rounder. Had a 2.60 ERA for rookie level Casper in 2010.
- RHP Bruce Kern - 22yo 2010 23rd rounder.
- RHP Bradley McAtee - 24yo 2008 45th rounder. In his third season with Tri-City in 2010, McAtee found success after moving to the bullpen.
- RHP Rafael Suarez - 21yo Venezuelan.
- LHP Craig Bennigson - 2008 9th rounder. Has a 2.13 ERA in 46 career minor league appearances. On twitter
- LHP Josh Hungerman - 2009 24th rounder.
- 1B Mark Tracy - 2010 22nd rounder. The son of the big league manager has a game built on power.
- 2B Russell Wilson. See above.
- 3B Brett Tanos - 22yo 2010 10th rounder. On twitter.
- SS Cristhian Adames. See above.
- UT Helder Velazquez. - 22yo 2006 5th rounder. Played all of 2008 and 2010 in Asheville.
- UT Joey Wong - 22yo 2009 24th rounder.
- C Dustin Garneau - 23yo 2009 9th rounder. Split time last year between Tri City and Modesto.
- C Bryce Massanari - 24yo 2009 30th rounder.
- RF Kyle Parker - see above.
- CF Rafael Ortega - see above.
- LF Corey Dickerson - see above.
- OF Avery Barnes - 24yo 2009 11th rounder. Despite repeating a year in Asheville, Barnes will return as the fourth outfielder.
- OF Tyler Massey - 21 yo 2008 14th rounder. Two years ago, Baseball America pegged Massey as the 2012 right fielder. But after failing to reach a .700 OPS in Asheville in 2009 or 2010, Massey will return to Asheville for a third season.
- Catcher Will Swanner - 19 yo 2010 15th rounder. A very raw prospect, Swanner has the potential for considerable power. He had top three round talent and hit seven home runs in just 78 at-bats in Casper last season. He will start in extended spring training, but could appear in Asheville later this season. For more on Swanner, read my scouting report from October.