Drillers stadium seems to do a pretty decent job as a final weeder within the system, as it did for the Rangers organization before we became the Tulsa mothership. Historically, if a player posts a season OPS over .800 before their 24th birthday, they should definitely be taken seriously as a prospect. If they are 24 or 25 in their Tulsa year, you should probably set the bar at .900 or more to pay attention. That said, the place really can be cruel to position players, so don't write off performances below that range until you know the entire story. For example, 23 year old Matt Holliday had an OPS of .705 and 24 year old Brad Hawpe had one of .840 2003. For pitchers the standard is very high. Absolute dominance is a passing grade, anything else let's say an ERA over 3.00, and you have to wonder if they've got enough.
So in 2006, Tulo, Stewart, Iannetta and Seth Smith all got by the barrier, and Joe Koshansky's .897 OPS as a 24 year old was close enough to that arbitrary round number I threw out earlier. There were only two pitchers under 26 to show that dominant flare, Ubaldo Jimenez and Manny Corpas. All of those players are with the Rockies in Los Angeles today. Who passes in 2007?
Best Position Prospect: Christian Colonel-- At 25 years old and with an OPS of .857, Colonel's season does not meet the standard I set earlier, but he is the best bat of a bunch of role players and potential defensive specialists on this team.
Honorable Mention: Chris Frey, Jonathan Herrera, Matt Miller, Corey Wimberly. In a weak system, these guys would be lauded as the youth movement. Four years ago, the Rockies would have used players of this caliber themselves, particularly Frey, Wimberly and Herrera up the middle. Right now, however, it's hard to say how any of these guys have much of a future with the club other than to be used as an emergency injury fill-in or in trades like the one that sent Matt Macri to the Twins for Ramon Ortiz. As a fan you kind of slap your head at that, but I've learned to understand that it's extremely rare that you can do much more than hope to find use out of another team's junk for freeing this type of prospect and hopefully every now and then you unearth some actual value from it. More likely they will sign on elsewhere after their time in the system expires or other prospects take their place.
Best Pitching Prospect: Franklin Morales-- Morales didn't meet my requirement either, but I guess kind of like Holliday, this is where you have to go a little on faith and what your eyes tell you: that the numbers don't necessarily jive with what you should expect from this kid.
Honorable Mention Greg Reynolds, Juan Morillo, Sam Deduno, Steven Register. Reynolds did have the numbers you'd like to see at Tulsa as long as he was pitching. He was shut down early, though, so he also had an injury you don't really want to see. Morillo and Register are the best of a decent relief group, I don't really count Darren Clarke's 11 innings, or he'd be on top of those two. The first stats you see on Deduno don't look that great at all, but just underneath the surface is a surprisingly effective pitcher with very high GB and K rates, and even acceptable BB numbers. I'm really curious what his future holds either with the Rockies or elsewhere.
Other Notes: Just a couple of quick notes on the other two starters, and then I suspect David Ohno, who's seen these guys the most of the writers here, will also have something to say, so be sure to read the comments. Ching Lung Lo's path to success will be by becoming a Livan Hernandez type junkballer, who gets by with mixing several different pitches and keeping hitters off balance with misdirection rather than by his underwhelming stuff. The good news is that he already has several pitches he can use in this approach, and at 21, still has time to refine himself. I think we'll see him repeat Tulsa in 2008 if the Rockies can somehow find a way to keep him on their roster. Ryan Mattheus has a decent groundball percentage, but look what happened in his July and August. Was it an injury? Is he tipping his pitches? Look at the dip in the July K rate and the huge jump in BABIP's both months. I'm not sure what happened there, but before that he was having a pretty good year. If this issue is correctable, it might be too early to count him out as a potential contributor.