The graduation of Josh Rutledge, DJ LeMahiue and Chris Nelson to the major leagues this season, blessed the big club with quality depth at the middle-infield position. But this article goes deeper into the farm system and takes a look at the next layer of mid-infielders. Guys like Trevor Story and Miguel Dilone are on the rise and give the Rockies some interesting prospects, even if they are blocked by a Bieber-lovin' Tulo. The rankings in this piece compare only the Rockies mid-infielders who have yet to play in the major leagues.
Fortified with a .228 ISO, Trevor Story led all Rockies MiLB mid-infielders in power with 43 doubles, 18 home runs, and a .505 slugging percentage. The only major categories Story failed to capture was average and on-base which were claimed by Miguel Dilone. Dilone conquered the pitcher-friendly Dominican Summer League where he lead Rockies mid-infielders with a .319 average and a .396 on-base percentage. Sam Mende also posted strong power numbers in 2012, with 38 doubles and 12 home runs. Taylor Featherstone was another Asheville Tourist last season who posted solid contact and patience numbers with a .299 average and a .393 OBP, however Modesto's Brett Tanos led all Rockies mid-infielders with 78 walks and a .395 OBP.
There were several Colorado prospects who were younger in age relative to the league they played in. Cristhian Adames began working in the Rockies organization at the tender age of 16 and has steadily, if not spectacularly, scaled the organizational ladder. He was recently added to the Rockies 40 man roster due to his position and completing High-A at the age of only 21. Trevor Story is slightly ahead of Adames on the organizational age curve, completing Low-A at the age of 19. Another young mid-infielder to keep an eye on is Rosell Herrera. Herrera struggled after being promoted to Asheville early in the year hitting only .202, but finished strong after a mid-season demotion to Tri Cities where he improved to a .284 average. At 20 years old, Herrera will likely get another chance to start in Low-A Asheville next season.
Player Rankings and Reviews:
1. Trevor Story (2011, 1st Rd Sandwich Pick)
With a breakout season in Low-A Story showed above average power numbers for a mid-infielder posting a .228 ISO, however his 121 strikeouts are worrying. Another worry is Trevor struggled against lefties last season, hitting only .213 vs LHP and only one of his 18 home runs came against lefthanders. Defensively Story has average range but possesses a cannon for an arm. Some experts have projected Story to gain enough muscle in the next few years to push him to third base or right field when he finally makes the majors. A solid infield prospect, I expect Story to debut in 2014 and push Nolan Arenado to first base.
2. Sam Mende (2011, 31st Rd)
Carries the best size of the group at 6'3" and 185 pounds, yet his quickness resulted in 23 stolen bases, leading all Rockies mid-infielders in 2012. One thing to like about Mende is his toughness. In college he was hit by a pitch that shattered his jaw. He not only finished the game but also played in the second game of the doubleheader going 1-for-4. The next day Sam's jaw was wired shut and after returning from a six game absence he singled in his first AB and stole second base.
3. Cristhian Adames (FA, DSL Debut at 16yr)
Adames has a solid floor and could be the next Jonathon Herrera or Omar Quintanilla. Adames career minor league OPS of .710 nearly matches the scrappy .709 OPS of Herrera's MiLB career. Cristhian is adept at working at-bats for his pitch, but then lacking any power or speed to punish the pitcher for giving in. Adames' career started with the Rockies when he was only 16 and he would have been exposed to the Rule 5 draft this winter if he wasn't protected in the off-season. Adames defensive value is hard to track at this point. He was ranked as the Rockies best defensive infielder by Baseball America, but people I've spoken to including a scout and media member who follow Modesto are down on his ability. From what I've personally seen, Adames has above average range, with a below average arm and questionable decision-making.
4. Miguel Dilone - (FA, DSL Debut at 17yr)
At 18 he had a good season in the DSL, posting an impressive stat line of .319/.396/.469. Even more eye popping, he has more walks than strikeouts in the past two seasons with 76 BB and 58 K's. Dilone has good size at 6'2" 185 pounds, but also good bloodlines as his father played 800 games in the majors, mostly for Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Primarily a second baseman, Miguel has also seen action at first and third base. Not as solid a defender as fellow Dominican Rosell Herrera, but Dilone's hitting numbers outshone Rosell's and other Rockies hitters who have played in the DSL.
5. Rosell Herrera - (FA, DSL Debut at 17yr)
A switch-hitting phenom who swings better from the left side, Herrera has the tools that makes scouts drool and has been tabbed as a possible 5-tool prospect. Last year he played well in Short-season Casper, but struggled after beginning 2012 in Low-A Asheville. He raised his average from .202 in Asheville to .284 in the Northwestern League, but lacked any power numbers to speak of. Herrera is a prospect with more tools than stats at this point and his numbers need to start matching his potential in 2013.
6. Taylor Featherston - (2011, 5th Rd)
Taylor struggled in Short-season Tri Cities in 2011 hitting .231/.312/.349, only to find his footing in Low-A Asheville in 2012 where he improved to .299/.399/.495 in 105 games. Taylor was another shortstop displaced to second and third base in favor of Trevor Story. Taylor's 12 home runs tied him with Sam Mende for second highest among Rockies mid-infielders. Taylor is another infielder who suffers from unique splits, posting a .940 OPS vs RHP and .729 OPS vs LHP as a right handed batter.
7. Brett Tanos (2010, 10th Rd)
Tanos' game is all about getting on base. This bulldog of an infielder has scored 151 runs by walking in front of Corey Dickerson and Kyle Parker for the past two seasons. A solid second baseman, Brett has struggled when asked to play third, where he has received 25 errors in the past two seasons.
8. Tim Smalling (2011, 15th Rd)
Jumping from Tri Cities to Modesto last season, Smalling played in only 68 games due to injury. He has good size at 6'3" 207 pounds and still holds down the shortstop position fairly well.
9. Matt Wessinger (2012, 5th Rd)
Primarily a second baseman at St. John's, Wessinger struggled adapting to shortstop in the minors and third base wasn't any better. However, Matt was solid on the bases where his 22 steals placed him second to Sam Mende among Rockies mid-infielders. Even more impressive, Matt's 22 steals came in Short-season Grand Junction and were 49 fewer games than Mende played.
10. Ashley Graeter (2012, FA)
Signed as a free agent after the 2012 draft, Ashley Graeter had a solid first season in Short-season Grand Junction with a .294/.339/.387 slash line. Not quite eye-popping numbers, but he was one of the bats that impressed me in batting practice.