Minor League Preview: High-A Modesto Nuts

In some respects, the Modesto Nuts will be getting more attention than any Rockies' affiliate in 2011. After all, the California League team will have in uniform the Rockies' top prospect and one of the top left-handed pitching prospects in baseball: Tyler Matzek. On the offensive side, Nolan Arenado represents arguably the best hitting prospect in the system. Chad Bettis is one of the more intriguing draft choices from 2010, and he will be in Modesto.

But after that, the roster gets light. Much of the rest of the Nuts roster is made up of minor leaguers who need to take significant steps forward to reach the prospect status. Read below to get acquainted with your High-A affiliate of the Rockies.

 

Tyler Matzek - LH SP

20 yo - 2009 1st rounder - #1 PuRP - #1 Baseball America (Rockies) - #32 Baseball America (overall) - #1 Baseball Prospectus

Matzek has a lot of good things going for him. He's the consensus #1 Rockies prospect, owner of the franchise's richest bonus, and maintains big league ace potential. He rode a low-to-mid 90's fastball, solid curve and better slider to a 2.92 ERA while striking out 88 in 89.1 innings in Asheville last season, his first pro campaign. He was borderline unhittable, as he gave up just 62 hits all season. Unfortunately, he also walked 62 batters. Moreover, several sources have indicated he has lost around 5mph on his fastball this spring and last fall, sources that range from Keith Law to Jason Grey to Mike Newman to Adam Foster. That level of velocity loss could kill his potential. It isn't advisable to panic at the moment, as the Rockies have had him working extensively on his mechanics and change-up at the expense of results. Some in the Rockies organization even wanted him to return to Asheville to continue that work. If his velocity remains low this season, his prospect stock will take a hit, so he will be an interesting guy to watch in 2011. On Twitter.

 

Nolan Arenado - 3B

20 yo - 2009 2nd rounder - #4 PuRP - #3 Baseball America (Rockies) - #80 Baseball America (overall) - #3 Baseball Prospectus

Still just 19 years old for 11 more days, Arenado is the best pure hitter in the Rockies' system. He hit 12 HR in Asheville last season, a great park for hitters, yet the dozen dingers might still undershoot the power he could potentially develop. He has a strong arm, good hands, and plate coverage much better than most his age. However, he's a very slow runner, doesn't have great range and did not produce with the bat away from McCormick Field. He might eventually move across the diamond to first base, but for now, he is holding his own at third.

Chad Bettis - RH SP

22 yo - 2010 2nd rounder - #8 PuRP - #9 Baseball America - #9 Baseball Prospectus

Since joining the organization, Bettis has been constantly pushing the limits forward. Thought of by many as a future reliever on draft day, he dominated Tri City as a starter (1.12 ERA in 48.1 IP) before finishing 2010 in Asheville (3 starts, 0.96 ERA). He was expected to start in Asheville, but an impressive spring has evidently pushed him forward again. He boasts a live fastball that has reached 97mph, but needs work on his other pitches. 2011 should answer whether the Rockies commit to him as a starter or move him to relief.

 

Rest of the Roster

Pitchers

  • Chad Bettis - see above.
  • Alan DeRatt - 25yo RH RP - 2008 27th rounder. On Twitter.
  • Parker Frazier - 22yo RH SP - 2007 8th rounder. The former PuRP and son of Rockies TV color man George Frazier returned to the mound in 2010 after having Tommy John surgery in late 2010. He got hit around a bit in Tri City and Asheville, but with extra time removed from the surgery, 2011 could be the year he reasserts himself as a prospect to watch.
  • Leuris Gomez - 24yo RH RP - DR FA.
  • Dan Houston - 24yo RH SP - 2008 7th rounder.  Repeating Modesto after pitching to a 5.92 ERA in 112 IP for the Nuts last year.
  • Sheng-An Kuo - 25yo RH RP - Taiwan FA. 
  • Michael Marbry - 26yo RH RP - undrafted. On twitter
  • Daniel Perkins - 25yo RHP - 2007 28th rounder.
  • Chad Rose - 23yo RH RP - 2008 16th rounder. Recorded 94 K's in 86.2 IP last year for Asheville.
  • Nicholas Schnaitmann - 21yo RH SP - 2008 22nd rounder. Moved up from Asheville despite having a 5.32 ERA, 1.523 WHIP and 4.0 K/9 in Asheville last season.
  • Coty Woods - 23yo RH RP - 2009 33rd rounder.  Dominated Casper and Asheville last season with a 7.67 K/BB rate.
  • Kurt Yacko - 23yo RH RP - 2008 8th rounder. Repeating at Modesto despite a very strong season there in 2010. On twitter.
  • Tyler Matzek - see above.
  • Kaimi Mead - 25yo 2011 MiLB FA. The Hawaii native was the Indians' 18th round pick in 2008. Pitched in the Golden Baseball League, an independent league in Hawaii. 

 

Catchers

  • Jose Gonzalez - 23 yo - 2006 Venezuelan FA. The light hitting catcher started 53 games in Asheville in 2010.
  • Dallas Tarleton - 23yo - 2009 20th rounder. A better hitter than Gonzalez, Tarleton started 72 games for the Tourists last year.

 

Infielders

  • Nolan Arenado - see above.
  • Maikol Gonzalez - 25yo UT IF - 2008 35th round.  Gonzalez will be playing in Modesto for his third consecutive season.
  • Kala Ka’aihue - 26yo 1B - 2011 MiLB FA.  The younger brother of Kansas City's Kila has bounced between High-A and AA for five seasons with Oakland and Atlanta.
  • Angelys Nina - 22yo UT IF - 2007 DR FA.
  • Carlos Martinez - 22yo SS - 2006 DR FA.
  • Josh Rutledge - 21yo SS - 2010 3rd rounder. Struggled in Tri-City last season, but his biggest strength is potential MLB defense at the shortstop position. He possesses a strong arm, above average range and good speed. Whether he becomes an MLB regular depends on if he can hit. On twitter
  • Joe Sanders - 23yo 3B - 2009 5th rounder. Selected four picks after Brandon Belt, Sanders split time between Asheville and Modesto last season. On twitter
  • Michael Zuanich - 24yo 1B - 2008 28th rounder. After turning heads with 7 HR in 14 games with Tri City in 2009, Zuanich hit just 11 HR in 120 games in Asheville and Modesto since.

 

Outfielders

  • Delta Cleary Jr. - 21yo CF - 2008 37th rounder. #30 PuRP. Cleary is a very athletic, toolsy outfielder that looks like he could be a major league outfielder. The results haven't been there though. He got the promotion despite a .246/.296/.348 line in Asheville in 2010. That production was actually worse than his 2009 line, also in Asheville.  On twitter.
  • Kent Matthes - 24yo RF - 2009 4th rounder. Was limited to just 21 games last season in Asheville due to injury. On twitter.
  • Eliezer Mesa - 22yo OF - DR FA.  #26 PuRP. The nephew of Jose Mesa had a very strong season in 2010, enough to make some consider he's a future major leaguer.
  • Scott Robinson - 22yo LF - 2006 30th rounder.
  • Orlando Sandoval - 25 yo OF - DR FA
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