I want to do another PuRPs poll soon, but until I regain a couple more of the respondents from earlier in the season, I'm afraid the results will be too easily skewed by each individual ballot. So during the Arizona Fall League, I'm going to put up game posts and other stuff to try and lure in some more quality commentators (and that should in no way be considered dissing the great ones I have right now - speaking of which, check out Rox Fan in TN's related diary to the right for links to BA's preview page).
Anyway, tonight or tomorrow we'll also do a Tulsa review / top prospect thread as BA's Texas League top 20 will come out. Today, however, a capsuled preview of each of our hitting prospects going to the AFL, with a similar rundown of the pitchers to follow tomorrow.
Who he is: Only the Rockies top prospect, Stewart will be playing everyday third base within two years for the Rockies unless Garrett Atkins or Jeff Baker show a lot more than they have to date. Considering the solid year Atkins had, you know that's saying a lot.
What he has to play for in the AFL: Stewart's season started off late and slow with hamstring troubles and the Fall League gives him a chance to catch up for time lost. It also allows him to face more advanced pitching than he has seen in A ball, and should provide a good primer for his expected placement in Tulsa next year.
What should we expect: This one's tricky. Stewart has never had to deal regularly with pitching of the caliber that he'll see in the AFL, so that might hurt his performance somewhat, but his talents at the plate outstrip most everybody else in the desert, and the AFL is notorious for strong hitting performances so I would expect Ian to put up very solid numbers.
Who he is: More and more, Iannetta is appearing to be the catcher of the future for the Rox. He's improving at both hitting and defense at every level he comes to, and this year clearly did the most to raise his status as a prospect, garnering attention from Rockies brass and the National media as well. His skills are solid, but what's more, this year we have heard more about his ability to handle a pitching staff as well. He'll be a defensive step down from Danny Ardoin, but a step or two above JD Closser, and he's got the potential to outhit both by a fair margin.
What he has to play for in the AFL: Iannetta will be looking to just continue on that meteoric trajectory he's set out for himself. He had some difficulties adjusting to the higher level of pitching when he made the bump up to Tulsa midseason, so look for him to continue to learn and grow more at the plate, as well as continued work on his D while in Peoria. He's looking to impress coaches enough to get a Spring Training invite, and although it's unlikely he'll break camp with the big club, look for Iannetta to draw more of their attention when that happens.
What should we expect: Iannetta already has had a chance to acclimate himself with AA quality pitching, so look for him to get off to a fairly strong start. I wouldn't be surprised if when leaving Peoria in a month he's mentioned in the same breath as the talented trio of catchers on the Phoenix Desert Dogs as one of the top backstops for the league. While Iannetta probably won't catch the Braves' Jarrod Saltalamacchia for the highest accollades, a good performance here could at least bring him notice as one of the top five prospects at his position in all of the minor leagues.
Who he is: A couple of years ago, he figured to be our starting centerfielder next year. Now, after a season and a half of mediocre (at best) performance Salazar's luster as a prospect has worn off and he probably has to be considered a long shot even to make the Rockies' twenty-five man roster next season.
What he has to play for in the AFL: More than any of our other prospects going to Peoria, Salazar has something to prove. He has to show the coaches that he's ready in both the skills and in the everyday execution and translation of those into his play. At stake for him is the opportunity to leave a good impression on coaches that he'll be able to build on next Spring. While a hot Spring, or a hot Fall might mean very little by themselves, if Salazar has both going for him at the end of March, it will make any decision to send him back to the Springs a very difficult one to make.
What we can expect: Honestly, I'm concerned that Salazar won't have that hot fall I just mentioned. In the past Jeff hasn't played his best when the stakes are high, and the pressures he faces combined with his history in that regard lead me to suspect it might be a difficult time for him. Obviously I hope I'm wrong, but my outlook here is pessimistic.