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Saturday Morning Rockpile:

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So Keith Law definitely isn't a fan of the system, as not only did he prefer several arms with much more problematic injury histories/major surgeries/less impressive professional performance than Greg Reynolds in his top 100, not only did he exclude Dexter Fowler in favor of some more questionable prospects, he also ranks our system thirteenth behind such luminous talent collections as San Francisco, Baltimore and Atlanta.

Before I go any further, let me just make it clear that I'm just writing about this just for the sake of finding something noteworthy the Rockies to write about and not that I have any real qualms with Law's or anybody else's rankings on prospects. Comparing hundreds of players over several levels of play with myriad stadium, league, age, body and make-up factors thrown into the mix is a taxing occupation. You can't watch enough film or get to enough games on everybody, there's simply not enough time, and single scouting reports can only take you so far. Yet frequently there will only be one or two sources for info on a given player, particularly if they are far away from the majors. So I want to say that though I disagree with Law, I certainly respect the care he puts into his work and suggest you read his reasoning for placing teams the way he did.

I covered a couple of the key differences between San Fran's system and ours the other day and while that picture didn't include JC talent -which the Giants have a distinct advantage over us with players like Nate Schierholz- or foreign signings (Morales and Morillo, Gomez, Strop, Chacin, etcetera still give the advantage to us, but Villalona and Sosa alone make it very close right now) adding those aspects doesn't bring the Giants system overall that close to ours in terms of potential impact. I know Law really liked their draft last year, I did too, but one draft isn't nearly enough to restore a system that's suffered years of neglect no matter how good it was. Let's take a quicker, less detailed look at how we compare with Baltimore and Atlanta using BA's top tens as a starting point:

Baltimore:

  1. Matt Wieters > than any catcher the Rockies have, much much greater offensively, but defense is an issue.
  2. Rhadames Liz = Ubaldo Jimenez, it's hard to compare Reynolds to him as they are different beasts.
  3. Troy Patton < Franklin Morales. Much much less.
  4. Nolan Reimold > than any of our corner outfielders.
  5. Bill Rowell > Ian Stewart? Possibly, but remember Stewart looked even better in the SAL at that age.
  6. Brandon Snyder < Seth Smith. Snyder's less athletic and confined to first or third but their bats project to have fairly similar results at their peaks.
  7. Jake Arrieta < Reynolds. Quite a bit less, but I like Arrieta a lot.
  8. Chorye Spoon > Brandon Hynick. But not by very much.
  9. Pedro Beato < Juan Morillo. Beato seems destined to move to the pen as his secondary stuff just isn't good enough to keep him a starter at advanced levels.
  10. Brandon Erbe < Casey Weathers. Ditto on Erbe.
Rockies prospects not comparable to Orioles:
  1. Dexter Fowler > than any centerfield prospect the Orioles have. Matt Angle is their best option here, I don't know what BA says about him in the Prospect Handbook, but he's a far cry from Fowler.
  2. Hector Gomez > than any middle infield prospect the Orioles have
  3. Chris Nelson > than any MI prospect on the O's also. There's even a considerable drop off in batting talent from Nelson and Gomez to corner infielder Mike Costanzo of the Orioles should we have to move one of the two there.
  4. Pedro Strop - He's actually probably fairly comparable to Beato, but so is Morillo.
  5. Chaz Roe
I don't know how deep Law goes with these, but the Rockies system has as many or more potential sleeper prospects throughout the system as well. I don't have any idea why Baltimore would be rated higher without making some heavily subjective leaps of faith with O's prospects while being overly pessimistic about several of ours.

Atlanta:

  1. Jordan Schafer > Fowler
  2. Jayson Heyward > any corner OF the Rockies have
  3. Jair Jurrgens < Reynolds
  4. Brandon Jones > Brian Rike because he's a lot more advanced, but don't discount Rike from getting to this level.
  5. Gorkys Hernandez < Fowler. Unlike the Braves, the Rockies only have one legit CF candidate, but he'd be less promising than Hector Gomez were we to move him out here too.
  6. Brent Lillibridge < Chris Nelson. Talent wise Nelson is way ahead, but Lillibridge is quite a bit more refined.
  7. Cole Rohrbaugh < Morales, too far away but Cole's very promising.
  8. Jeff Locke > any low level LHP's the Rockies have. With Rohrbaugh, they form a potent southpaw pair.
  9. Tommy Hanson = Chaz Roe. This doesn't show up in the statistics because the organizations have differing philosophies when it comes to developing their pitchers for their home parks (the Braves like K's a lot more, the Rockies like developing a high GB%) but the two have very similar pitch profiles with monster curves and low nineties heat. Roe's been in more hitting friendly environments so he hasn't been able to taste the same success, but I don't see much difference between these two pitchers right now.
  10. Julio Teheran ? Jhoulys Chacin. Right now Teheran is all hype, whereas at least we have a solid start to Chacin's pro career to look at.
Atlanta's a much more defensible choice to put ahead of the Rockies than the Giants or Orioles (or Cubs or Athletics or Mariners, but this post is long enough without getting into why their systems are worse, maybe next week) but I still think it's a shaky call to consider them ahead right now. While the Braves have the one impact corner bat in Heyward that the Rockies lack, they don't have nearly the depth in the infield or RHP's, particularly those that profile for relief work.
I'm trying to get hints from the post as to what Law values to make these decisions. I think given the SF statement that he's probably downgrading the Rockies 2007 draft prematurely. He likes Seattle's international work, but doesn't recognize the Rox here, perhaps due to a lack of high profile signs for Colorado in the last couple of years, but we've done almost as well in Venezuela as the Mariners (Morales being the biggie, but we also did the end around the M's to get Ricardo Ferrer) and our Dominican and Puerto Rican work is better. I think we've fallen behind in the Pacific Rim the last two or three seasons -after Shane Lindsay- so there might be a point there.

At any rate, it looks like this is what he's weighing:

  1. Depth of impact talent. The Devil Rays are the consensus best system because of this. Law ranks Texas higher than BA and others because he sees them having a lot as well.
  2. Quality/closeness of talent. Similarly to the Rockies last year, the Reds and Red Sox have a cluster of guys that are ROY eligible in 2008. That helps their rankings it looks like -as it does at BA and other places. As for quality, the Cubs and Reds top three or four guys are outstanding, but their systems really drop off after that, particularly the Reds. I have the same issue with how BA weighs this sometimes too.
  3. Pitching depth. But he's not really consistent in how he measures systems' strengths with this it seems. The Rockies are clearly behind Tampa Bay here, but after that the team's a lot closer to others in the top ten and ahead in most cases.
  4. International work. Seattle, LA, the Yankees, and the Cubs all have strong international presence, Law seems to weight this heavily, which leaves Colorado's rank puzzling. If you look at our recent track record as well as our top international prospects in the system, we compare very favorably to all of the aforementioned systems in this regard.
  5. 2007 Draft. San Fran's seemingly ranked so high solely on the strength of their draft and two international guys. Atlanta, Chicago and Baltimore have prominent 2007 picks at the top of their prospect lists, while Casey Weathers was a questionable call to begin with and Rike, Connor Graham, Riordan, Darin Holcomb et al are still flying beneath the radar for a lot of people. I think way too much weight is given to a small (or sometimes none whatsoever) post draft sample in these cases.
I guess in summary that what I'm saying is that the Rockies still have a top ten system as far as I can tell, possibly even top five. Where we'll be ranked after 2008 depends on how a couple of our less refined arms develop to take the place of Frankie Mo', Reynolds and Weathers, and it would be nice if we had a clear impact bat show up as well (I'm talking to you Dexter) to offset the graduations of Stewart and Smith. Don't be too put off by pundits who say differently right now. When we should really start to worry is if we continue to see weakness in the corners down system, or if lower draft picks result in a much inferior talent pool entering the system.