Eight days ago, the Rockies announced they would be sending High-A Modesto 3B Nolan Arenado, AA Tulsa CF Tim Wheeler and AA 1B Ben Paulsen to the Arizona Fall League to play for the Salt River Rafters. We knew at the time Colorado would be sending four pitchers as well, but their identities were not finalized or public at the time.
Today, those four names were revealed, and two of them were part of the package received in return for Ubaldo Jimenez from Cleveland. Drew Pomeranz, who will make his MLB debut Sunday at Coors Field, was an obvious choice. The southpaw lost a lot of innings this season due tothe Pete Incaviglia rule and an appendectomy. As it stands, Pomeranz has thrown just 101.0 IP in 20 career minor league starts, so the extra work against prime competition will help position him for a run at the 2012 Opening Day rotation.
Joseph Gardner, who was a top ten prospect in the Cleveland system, has a 2.48 ERA in six starts with AA Tulsa witha 71% ground ball rate. The right-hander is armed with one of the best sinkers in the minors but was projected as a reliever by many scouts. The AFL is more evidence the Rockies believe he can be a valuable starter.
Casey Weathers, the Rockies 2007 1st round pick, will also be going. Weathers lost a lot of time due to Tommy John surgery and has returned to action with triple digit velocity but very erratic control. In 45.2 IP in AA Tulsa this season, Weathers has 48 strikeouts, 48 walks and a 5.32 ERA. His assignment to the AFL seems to be a challenge to prove he still has an MLB future in the organization.
The final arm the Rockies elected was a bit of a surprise - High-A Modesto starting pitcher Parker Frazier, son of Root Sports color man George Frazier. A 7th round pick out of high school in 2007, the right-hander underwent Tommy John surgery in September 2009 and recovered enough to make 14 starts in 2010. He has a 4.50 ERA, 6.1 K/9 and 49& ground ball rate at age 22 for Modesto, where he has already thrown 148 innings, 23 more than any other professional season.
Tim Wheeler is the Rockies' "priority player," meaning manager Stu Cole (also manager of the Sky Sox) will ensure optimum playing time for the powerful outfielder. Arenado is the youngest player on the Rafters, and with three third basemen on the roster, playing time might not be so plentiful for him. Ben Paulsen was Texas League defensive player of the year but struggled to a .241/.295/.413 season in AA Tulsa as a 23-year-old with 19 home runs.