Tuesday Rockpile: Rockies Continue to Innovate Player Development with Hire of Fred Nelson

Will Swanner's 2013 minor league club will be directed by a man with more baseball operations experience than Swanner has life experience. - Andrew T Fisher

Nothing inspires confidence like adding a front office executive who was just jettisoned from the Houston Astros, but that distinction sells Nelson short and certainly misses the point on the hire.

The Rockies have made virtually no moves this off-season, but the actual moves made have been in bringing former players from the 1995 playoff team at Coors Field back into the fold. Shortstop Walt Weiss is the manager. Slugger Dante Bichette is on scene, hoping to revive the Blake Street Bombers.

Also on that 1995 team was Quinton McCracken, a center fielder who made his MLB debut that year. His only at-bat was a strike out, pinch-hitting for Weiss, but the game itself was memorable. That day, Colorado lost 17-0 to the Marlins at Coors Field and Pat Rapp threw a complete game one-hitter. How is that for a memory jog?

For those that don't remember, McCracken was essentially Eric Young Jr. offensively (at best) with decent center field defense. He played a part time role in 1996 and 1997 before the Tampa Bay Devil Rays tapped him as the fourth player selected in the expansion draft. McCracken is also memorable for rolling a ground ball walk-off double over the first base bag in a 16-15 victory over the Dodgers in 1996, a game that sticks out in cementing Coors Field's pinball reputation. I clearly have outsized memories of McCracken.

At any rate, the Rockies did not bring McCracken into their coaching ranks, despite my rambling lede. He was the assistant Director of Player Development with the Diamondbacks in 2012 but has been hired as the head Director of Player Development for the Houston Astros. It is the guy McCracken pushed out in Houston that is joining the Rockies' organization.

Here is Nelson's bio at Astros.com. Given the Astros' hapless state on the roster and in the minor leagues over the past half decade, this acquisition was met with guffaws, though it shouldn't be. According to the Baseball America database, Nelson was the Astros Director of Minor League Development and Farm Director from 1986-94 and Director of Player Development in 1995 and 2011. In between, he was Special Assistant to the GM and a scout. The Astros had a very good group of players come up through the farm in that first stint as farm director, and with the help of trades and the recent drafts, the Astros' farm is back to respectability over the past two years.

Perhaps more importantly though, Nelson will not be joining the Rockies in a high ranking capacity.

If that position is unfamiliar to you, it is because, as McTaggart tweeted later, it is a new position the Rockies have created. It is not necessarily high ranking, but it is new, which is the story here. Modesto Nuts General Manager Mike Gorrasi tells me he believes he will retain control of the business operation of the Nuts and Nelson will handle the baseball operation of that one minor league club.

That club is likely to have many players from the 2012 Asheville Tourists, who had the best record in all of minor league baseball last season. Likely 2013 Nuts are Trevor Story, Tyler Anderson, Will Swanner, Harold Riggins and Seth Willoughby.

There may be advantages to this approach, as prospects will have more consistent face time with a front office representative than they otherwise would with current Director of Player Development Jeff Bridich. It could also result in a "too many cooks in the kitchen phenomenon." We shall see. In the end, the important takeaway is that the Rockies are still trying to come up with a winning formula for developing talent.


Baseball Prospectus | Prospects Will Break Your Heart: Arizona Diamondbacks Top 10 Prospects - Here is the top prospect list from Jason Parks and company on the farm system McCracken left behind. Note that Didi Gregorious not only is not Arizona's top position player prospect, he's also not the top shortstop prospect. RIP Bauer.

Root Sports GM Tim Griggs out at Colorado Rockies cable net - The Denver Post

Change the Baseball Hall of Fame Voting Process - As of time of writing, this petition is two names short of its goal. It was started by Dave Studeman of The Hardball Times.

Different teams, different needs - Yardbarker - Ken Rosenthal touches on the Rockies as a team who needs to make more inspired moves:

*Rockies. Bottom feeding for pitching - right-handers Jeff Karstens, Derek Lowe, Aaron Cook and Jair Jurrjens are among the possibilities, though some of those pitchers interest the club only on minor-league deals.


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