I take it this major media event in Casper on Halloween has something to do with the sudden change of logo and team name on the website. This will make Pebble Reports much easier, actually.
I was originally going to do catchers today and second base tomorrow, but given the discussion over Eric Young Jr. yesterday, and a couple of standout performances from two of our second base prospects in Arizona, I've decided to switch the order.
I want to quickly note that both Jayson Nix and Corey Wimberly are having some success in the Arizona Fall League. Nix hit two doubles, walked and stole two bases yesterday in Team USA's win, and Wimberly has kept his batting average in the high .300's with five steals thus far for Peoria. I'll go over second base tomorrow, but how these two are able to translate their recent success to MLB pitching could become an important factor for our chances of repeating in 2008, given the drop-off in offensive production from Kaz Matsui to Jamey Carroll, and Matsui's back issues.
At this point, I would rather the team did everything in its power to trade Jamey Carroll this offseason, even to the point of eating salary, to allow Nix or Ian Stewart into the bench role, regardless of what happens with Kaz-Mat. I don't want to be in our final inning next season, having to rely on Carroll to keep our chances alive again. It's a situation he came up in twice this year, and both times he hit the ball as hard as he could have, but both times those hits amounted to very loud outs. What power he once had is pretty much gone at this point, and we need somebody who can actually drive the ball past defenders now.
Ready for 2008:
Ian Stewart - In forty-three MLB AB's this year, Stewart had seventeen K's. Not the kind of ratio you want to see. Not close, actually. That said, of his nine hits, five went for extra bases and his bat certainly has enough pop to do some damage. He needs to work on connecting, obviously. The organization is trying to have its cake and eat it to by moving him to second base this fall/winter. I just wish they had thought of this sooner. If he converts seamlessly -which given that a conversion at all is unlikely, seems preposterous- our club will sport one of the most explosive offensive infields in the majors, but we'll be only middle of the pack defensively -or possibly worse- as the expected sub-par defense of Stewart and Atkins will negate gains made by Tulo and Helton.
Jayson Nix - Nix needed a big season in Colorado Springs to save his roster spot and his opportunity to play at the highest level for this organization. What he came up with was something on the borderline of usefulness. It wasn't bad, but the fact that he didn't get a September promotion tells that it might not be enough, hence his sojourn through Arizona and the World Cup with Team USA might be a final exam for him, one last chance to make up some extra credit. His glove is already better than good enough, and a Tulo/Nix DP combo should be as good as any team in Major League Baseball, he's an intelligent baserunner, we just need to be sure he'll be an asset at the plate.
Omar Quintanilla - I expect Q to get his walking papers any day now to free up roster space. He's as ready as he'll ever be, but it's not nearly ready enough for a contending team.
Probably Ready Late 2008:
Corey Wimberly - Corey struggled in Tulsa to find the same kind of success he had his first two seasons in the organization, but a solid rebound in Peoria has him re-emerging as a potential replacement for Matsui in 2009. His lack of punch has me doubtful that he'll be any better than Carroll, and possibly worse. Similar to Willy Taveras, he'll have to be able to pull the ball over the heads of drawn in infielders (as he did on a two run triple against Team China the other day) in order to keep them back and keep his bunt game effective. He's a switch hitter, which helps, but I don't think he's a good long term solution.
Chris Nelson - I think most of us are in agreement that Nelson seems the most logical fit for manning second base down the road, and the hope is that he's ready to take over the position full time as soon as 2009. As a high first round pick, he's always had the total package of tools you'd be looking for from an everyday player, and he's bounced forward after a couple of uninspiring seasons in Asheville.
Jonathan Herrera - During the World Series, the Rockies faced a second baseman in Dustin Pedroia who's overall batting skills just aren't that spectacular -a long swing and little power- but who was able to make up for it by being extremely patient, making the opposing pitcher throw strikes, and then just hitting those pitches back to wherever the pitcher was giving him. His patience fueled the rest of his game. I bring this up with Herrera because if you haven't noticed his Winter League stats yet, take a gander at how many walks he's collecting. Fifteen in fifteen games thus far, to go along with sixteen hits and an OBP of .463. I really want to be able to write off more players in this logjam, and Herrera and Wimberly to me seem the least likely to cut it in the bigs due to their lack of power, but like Wimberly, Herrera's making the right kind of progress this fall.
Eric Young Jr. - I defend him more than anybody on this site, it seems, but let me make it clear that this defense is only in comparison to the lighter hitting duo of Herrera and Wimberly, and barring stunted development from Nelson or Hector Gomez, I don't feel that Young is our best option to fill the position long term. However, once again, I don't think comparisons to the slap hitting Wimberly or the almost as low powered Herrera are accurate for Young. While his BB rate dipped and his K rate rose at Modesto, his isolated slugging went up a step. He's trading off some patience for the extra power needed to hit gaps and keep defenses honest -opening up his bunting game- which is something Wimberly and Herrera haven't done nearly as consistently at this point. Because of this, I really don't expect him to suffer the same drop in production in Tulsa that the other two did. I think leaving him unprotected for the Rule 5 draft could be a pretty big mistake as he has big league ready speed right now.
Daniel Mayora - Mayora's 2008 season in Modesto could go a long way in telling what his future with the organization will be. He's shown surprising power, his defense is excellent and he runs well. Unfortunately, he showed some pretty discouraging road numbers away from McCormick field in 2007, in not only his surface stats, but also his walk and K rates. He could be for real or just a flash in the pan, but we'll have to wait and see what he does in a more neutral environment to know for sure.
Hector Gomez - Troy Tulowitzki better hope he doesn't follow his LBSU teammate's route and Bobby Crosby on us next season. Unlike the Athletics, the Rockies have plenty of insurance getting ready to take Tulo's place should he falter. Probably none better than this guy. As is, Gomez seems destined for second with only Nelson seemingly capable of keeping him from the job. An argument could be made that Hector's our top prospect right now.
Everth Cabrera, Helder Velzquez, Jordan Pacheco, Zack Murry, Carlos Martinez...
all many years away, but the list goes on and on, we have no shortage of prospects up the middle.