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Breaking (down) Waves

The Rockies have seemingly embarked on a novel approach to building a winning franchise in Denver. By constructing entire rosters in their minor leagues and bringing them up at the same pace so all the pieces arrive together, they remove the need to overspend for replacements at any given position, and increase their leverage in free agency, thus keeping total costs down.  If a redundancy at one position emerges, players are switched around the diamond to fill a weaker spot or traded.

The first wave:
ETA 2005:

C: JD Closser
1B: Ryan Shealy
2B: Jayson Nix
SS: Clint Barmes
3B: Garrett Atkins
LF: Matt Holliday
CF: Cory Sullivan/Choo Freeman
RF: Brad Hawpe

SP#1: Chin Hui Tsao
SP#2: Jeff Francis
SP#3: Aaron Cook
SP#4: Jason Young
SP#5: Mike Esposito

RP: Scott Dohmann
RP: Justin Hampson

The red areas mark positions of critical need that the Rockies failed to develop on their own in this wave. With Tsao, there's not a lot that could have been done. Ace pitchers don't come around often and other teams aren't likely to give up their chances of landing one to replace ours.
Shawn Chacon and Jason Jennings were in advance of this group and part of a transitional phase between systems. At any rate, this group of players was underrated coming up by most prospect watchers and it's why the Rockies have been sneaking up on fans of opposing teams even though the teams themselves should know what's up.

You can start to see how moves involving minor league players were made with the gaps in the wave in mind. In trading Mike Myers to Arizona we picked up JD Closser who slid right into that catcher spot. We made several ill fated moves trying to shore up the bottom of the rotation and relief corps, the Larry Walker trade tried to help with both for instance in acquiring Chris Narveson and Jason Burch. Expectations were severely lowered when it became apparent that Tsao wouldn't live up to his potential as a starter, but management obviously saw as fixable the back end of the staff. It wasn't until Narveson was dealt for Byung Hyun Kim that this became a reality.

Our hole up the middle was first dealt with by the Rule Five drafting of Luis Gonzalez, an avenue we also attempted to bolster our relief corps with, and also a few trades later on when Nix stalled in the minors. We seemingly stumbled into the perfect solution this year when we simply bought Jamey Carroll out of Washington and he emerged as a legit starter there. Still, overall this "plan" of Dan O'Dowd's has proven successful as the Rockies have turned their fortunes around this season and done it remarkably cheaply.

Wave Two:
ETA 2007

C: Chris Iannetta
1B: Joe Koshansky
2B: Matt Macri/Corey Wimberly
SS: Troy Tulowitzki
3B: Ian Stewart
LF: Joe Gaetti/Matt Miller
CF: Jordan Czarniecki
RF: Seth Smith/Christian Colonel

SP#1: Ubaldo Jimenez
SP#2: Juan Morillo
SP#3: Greg Reynolds!
SP#4: Steven Register
SP#5: Marc Kaiser

RP: Manuel Corpas
RP: Jim Miller
RP: Joshua Newman
RP: Scott Beerer
RP: Darren Clarke

The 2006 Rockies draft makes more sense for a long term run if you look at it in the way the players selected fit into this construction. Cost is always a big factor, as is timing. Reynolds was probably the most polished starting pitcher on the board, and he should be able to slide into this second wave if all goes according to plan. Any other starters would have had to be put into the third wave, and if you are spending six milion plus for Andrew Miller, that would have meant $1.5 million a season, more than most on our big league roster right now make, to watch him develop for four years without throwing an inning at Coors. Reynolds will make just over three million, about the same per season of development (assuming a two season stint in the minors) but after that will become a comparative bargain for the next few years. With U-ball and Morillo seemingly more likely to hold up better than Tsao was, it looks like the Rockies have truly been blessed with this wave. Both Morillo and Register might be destined for the pen at some point, but carry-overs from the first wave should fill their slots in the rotation.

One potential gap that's looking a little troubling is right there at second base again. With Barmes and Quintanilla ahead and the emergence of Jamey Carroll, the gap's not so urgent this time around. I suppose that's one more reason to feel confident that we'll be competitive for the next few years, but nonetheless it is something to watch.

Third Wave:
ETA 2009

C: Neil Wilson
2B: Eric Young II
SS: Chris Nelson
LF: Cole Garner?
CF: Dexter Fowler
RF: Daniel Carte

SP#1: Franklin Morales
SP#2: Chaz Roe
SP#3: Shane Lindsay
SP#4: Xavier Cedeno
SP#5: Brandon Durden

RP: Samuel Deduno
RP: Andrew Johnston

This is where this year's draft comes in, as our third wave has started relatively slowly and has plenty of gaps to fill. One would expect to find the bulk of this team at Asheville this season, although an advance guard has already hit Modesto in Wilson and Morales. Looking at the team, you can tell that starting pitching is really becoming a strength of the system in the lower minors. With Daniel Carte heating up, he should slot into one of the two outfield posts by the end of the season, and the other will probably be filled by one of this year's draftees, either Kevin Clark or Jeff Kindel most likely. I really don't know if Hahn or Cuadrado will be more than role players right now, although Daniel Mayora is starting to perk my interest as a possible candidate for the hot corner.

Relief pitchers don't usually become apparent until a little later in development, but given the pitchers we have, we should be able to fill those slots fairly well.

The Fourth Wave?
ETA 2011

 One of the things that I saw in this year's draft was a focus on deep infrastructure, players not likely to be ready for the majors for four to five years. With David Christensen's hot start in Casper, he might put himself on a fast track and give a run for one of those third wave outfield spots, but there were several other selections (both those that signed and DFE's) that will develop very slowly:

C: Austin Rauch
2B: Everth Cabrera/Rhadames Nazario
SS: Hector Gomez
3B: Helder Velazquez
CF: Maruis Loupadiere
RF: David Christensen

SP#1: Aneury Rodriguez
SP#2: Robinson Fabian
SP#3: Ronny Lopez