Part two of the first installment of this series will focus on the lower levels of the system. One note for the lower parts is that 2007 draftees will not qualify for mention since they already are not included in the Rockies' Top Prospect List according to Baseball America. Instead, I'll focus on the draftees in the third installment. Again, I'll try for just one player per category per level, but as you'll see with Asheville, sometimes it just isn't possible. Also, I've combined both short season teams to just one short season level, since both teams are predominantly 2007 draftees. Lastly, if this is the first you've seen of this series, here's the link so you can get a better understanding of the premise.
Riser: Daniel Carte
To be honest, picking someone out of Modesto that has really put himself on the prospect map was difficult. The players that have taken great leaps forward were either top prospects to begin with, or prospects that had already crept onto the scene. While a small few may move onto the BA list from this team, they'll likely head into the periphery instead of front and center. That leads us to Daniel Carte, who looks as if he's finally cashing in on the power potential the Rockies thought they saw on the Cape. Carte's ISO has blossomed to .216 compared to .165 last season, and unlike several Nuts players, he's slugging at home just as much as the road. He's also increased his batting average without increasing his contact rate...which leads us to the negatives. Carte's K rate of 29% won't fly at higher levels, and his 2.5% walk rate will be heavily picked on in Double A. What will he do when pitchers stop throwing strikes? Carte's BABIP is a staggering .389 this year, and should that fall with his other rates staying at their current level, he will cease to be useful. At the minimum, Carte has made himself interesting again. Despite his leap in surface numbers, Carte has much to prove in Double A, and without a change in approach, 2007 could be a flash in the pan.
Sleeper: Alan Johnson
It's really a toss up between Johnson, Durden, and Cedeno, since all have enough skills to be considered for higher prospect-dom, but have yet to put everything together, but Johnson wins because there's a point to be made with him. Numbers-wise, Johnson's doing everything you want him to do; he's keeping the ball in the yard, keeping runs off the base paths by nature of the free pass, and is getting his share of strikeouts. His peripherals have lead to an FIP of 3.61, roughly in line with his 3.29 ERA. If this all came from a 21 year old with a live arm, we'd be really excited right now, but Johnson's "scouting profile" comes up short. He's slight of build and isn't blessed with a big fastball. His numbers in just 13 innings of Double A give us a brief glimpse at what's likely to happen to his numbers. A drop in the walk rate is nice, but the K rate falls to a dangerous level for a guy without a big arm, and it's still possible he's just a really good organizational arm. If there's one thing in Johnson's favor, and it's a big one, it's results. If he just continues to produce, he'll carve out a major league career. He hasn't had a bad minor league year, and if he keeps up his control act through Triple A, he could get looks as a number five/ spot starter. As the Rockies are showing right now, these types of pitchers have value. Just keep piling up grounders, and there will be a job available somewhere.
Low A and Short Season are inside...
Riser: Keith Weiser
Asheville's going to get a few of these, since the premise of the "risers" is to profile players that have gone from off the prospect list to on, and Asheville has a few that should vault significantly. Weiser might be the biggest leaper, who figures to just miss the top ten and has made himself one of the systems best starting prospects. His biggest attribute thus far has been pitchability with durability. Weiser can keep his command, focus, and stuff deep into ball games. His ceiling isn't higher than a number four starter, but he's as sure a bet as you can find in Low A to reach the major leagues. I haven't seen or read enough about his stuff to give any conclusive comparison, but think Ted Lilly as far as impact and career path, and I don't think you'll be far off.
Riser: Michael McKenry
McKenry has worked his way into prospect status, but like many Asheville hitters, he has some explaining to do with his home road splits. His solid defensive reputation and outstanding plate discipline put him on the prospect map, but he'll need to prove his power and contact skills aren't a result of playing at McCormick Field. Because his numbers are so contrasting, it's hard to say what the Rockies have here just yet. His college prospect video shows a swing with little frills but a slight uppercut. It doesn't appear terribly slow or contact averse, but his line drive rate in Asheville has been very low (10%) for someone expected to provide a lot of pop or hit for a high average without speed. This rate was fine at Tri City, so he's exhibited this skill in the past. I'm not comfortable saying that he's not a McCormick creation, but his surface numbers make him intriguing and he has plenty of time to round out his offensive package. He's a stocky guy, so I'm not terribly sure why he's attempted to steal seventeen times.
Riser: Daniel Mayora
Mayora's another one I'm not completely comfortable with, but he's popped up on BA and BP mid-season prospect lists, so he's likely to be considered a Top 30 prospect. The power is all McCormick, his slugging is .255 points higher at home. He's not especially young for Low A, so despite his thin frame, it's hard to forecast a great deal of projection, in his frame. He may just be a spindly middle infielder that can hit for average despite inconsistent contact. The K rate for his skill set is too high, so when you consider the lack of power on the road, Mayora would be wise to cut down on his swing and look to adjust his approach accordingly. He's another one to file in the "interesting" folder, but until he discovers just what type of hitter he is, he'll be tough to project going forward.
Riser: Esmil Rogers
The recently featured Rogers has been receiving plenty of notice for the progress in his conversion to the mound, and he's one of Rox Girl's favorite young arms. Rogers is a bit rare for the Rockies in that he's a power arm with better command. His K rate of 7.00, BB rate of 3.14, and K/BB rate of 2.23 are all promising, but don't scream top prospect. His stuff, however, does, with a low 90's moving fastball (producing a 51% GB rate) backed up by his self proclaimed top pitch, the change up. You'd still like to see more dominance from a guy with a live arm, and he's going through Low A at an older age than most of our Latin hurlers, so he may not add much more to the heater. Guys like this make great trade bait.
Riser: William Harris
If you haven't noticed by now, Asheville's been one of the organization's bright spots, with more players taking a big leap forward (including Hector Gomez) than any level in the system. Harris fit's the traditional definition of "sleeper," but not in this case, since he's already put all his tools together to produce impressive results. The numbers are outstanding; Harris is blowing it by hitters (12.71), limiting free passes (2.72 BB/9), and keeping the ball in the yard (.45 HR/9, 58% GB rate). Shockingly, his numbers could be much better, as his BABIP is over .370! If scouting is more your thing, you have to like 6'4 225 lbs. and a hard fastball to increase the intimidation factor, not to mention that like Rogers, Harris is fairly new to pitching. Weathers may get the press, but Asheville's bullpen is deep in MLB quality arms(see also Tommy Baumgardner), and Harris may be the best after Casey.
Sleeper: Andrew Graham
Graham is about as intriguing as a 21st round pick can be. Armed with good size (6'4 210), a fastball with decent velocity (reaches 93 mph) and good arm side run, and deceptive mechanics, Graham has posted a set of peripherals that suggest a far better fate than he's received. If an early round pick had a K rate near 9/9 and a K/BB rate around 3.25, you'd see him in several mid-season prospect lists. Where Graham is falling short, though, is in the batted ball category. While he's proved deceptive enough to strike out batters in large numbers, he's got BABIP's above .380 both at home and away. It's possible he's suffering bad luck, but you still don't want to see young prospects post high BABIP's in the minors, especially this far down the ladder. However, as a 21st rounder, Graham doesn't share similar expectations. If he can carry his K's and command to higher levels and find a way to limit hits, he'll be a good find for Colorado. We aren't talking superstar, but your Matt Belisle's have value as well.
Riser: Jhoulys Chacin
This one's a no brainer. Chacin may be handled gently by the player development team, but he's on the prospect list fast track, on pace to be one of Colorado' elite young arms by the end of next season. The national media is taking notice too, as Chacin was profiled by Goldstein in Monday's Future Shock (subscription required). Though years away, Chacin is already a wonderful blend of projection and performance. Just a teenager, Chacin has a chance to add more ticks to his low 90's fastball that has already proven to be overpowering in rookie ball (60% GB rate) and more size to his 6'1 168 lbs. frame. If growth never comes, Chacin already has a good curve and change, both pluses for his development level according to Goldstein. Like Hector Gomez, Chacin's ceiling is considerable, but he still has four levels of minor league ball before the big league team can get excited. He's an outside the top ten guy now, but with further progress in Low A, we'll be talking about a top three organizational talent next year.
Sleeper: Zach Murry
Both Helder Velazquez and Everth Cabrera received consideration for this spot, but Murry's a better blend of tools (Velazquez) and production (Cabrera). He may not have the physical package of Helder, or the current production of Cabrera, but he may have the best combination of the two. Murry has a good frame for a middle infielder at 6'0 185, and still has the typical projection of a juco guy refining his body with major league strength and conditioning off-season programs. Of the young middle infielders at Casper, Murry has been the most consistent contact-wise, though he's run hot and cold himself. The K rate (15%) hasn't been bad, and the line drive rate (16%) suggests future pop and batting average numbers, all of which will come as soon as he refines his plate discipline (5.8%). He's a good athlete that had better stolen base and power numbers in college, both of which should improve as he gains comfort at the professional level. Lastly, what makes Murry a big sleeper for prospect lists? He's a lefty hitter getting ready to reach McCormick for his first full season as a pro. He has enough tools to make progress in his own right, but a short right field porch won't hurt the counting numbers.