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Wednesday Pebble Report

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My new farm report touches a little on Jhoulys Chacin, but mainly talks about the patience required for prospects like Helder Velazquez and David Christensen. While Christensen seems almost certain to flame out without a drastic reduction in his K rate, and even were that to happen, at his best I only see a Ryan Langerhans type of ceiling right now. However, Velazquez is one of the most interesting prospects in the system to me this season. He's combining a bunch of bad indicators -poor contact, poor line drive rate, poor patience- with two very good indicators, his age at his level and his power at that age and level.

If you separate the SAL hitters into peer groups, for that 19-20 y.o. range you would have three players clearly at the head of the class in Michael Burgess, Jason Heyward and Angel Villalona. Frederick Freeman has come out of nowhere early this season, but he might be worthy of inclusion in that group if he keeps up his current performance level, I'm sort of skeptical of that happening right now. After that is a second tier of pretty decent prospects which would likely include Freeman as well as Jake Smolinski, Nick Noonan and Abraham Almonte. These guys figure to be everyday players, but not the All-Star caliber talent of Villalona, Heyward and Burgess. Somewhere beneath that is the level of Velazquez and Christensen, players virtually ignored outside of single team blogs such as this one. Stacking Velazquez's power numbers, his position, and his tools up with the players in the second level, however, leaves me with the impression that he's not as far off from being worthy of mainstream attention as his stats might currently indicate, and it wouldn't take much, just a hot streak, really, for him to draw some real attention.

Colorado Springs: W 5-3

I've got more general ramblings on prospects that I wish to do this morning, but the scores last night did have some important news, mainly the quality start put in by Franklin Morales in Salt Lake. After two disastrous outings which saw his AAA ERA rise into the stratosphere, Morales came back and held the best team in the PCL to just three runs in six and a third. The Bees have been scuffling a bit of late without the bats of Kendry Morales and Brandon Wood, but to hold them to five hits and a walk in their home yard is impressive. Matt Daley and Steven Register finished them off with two and two thirds innings of scoreless relief. Meanwhile, Joe Koshansky, Jayson Nix and Juan Castro (fresh off the DL) all homered off of top Angels pitching prospect Nick Adenhart. Nix also added a double and scored twice.

Tulsa: Off

Modesto: W 4-1

Important item #2 from last night's scores, and no, I'm not talking about Modesto finally putting runs on the board. Actually the biggest news from this game was the eight impressive innings from Chaz Roe in what's supposed to be his last start with the Nuts before moving on to aid Tulsa. He allowed five hits and struck out seven and looked ready for the AA call-up. The Drillers could certainly use him; with only the Albuquerque Isoptopes of the PCL and the High Desert Mavericks of the California League putting up worse pitching lines than Tulsa, it could easily be argued that Tulsa has the worst run prevention unit anywhere in the minors right now when park factors are taken into account.

I haven't delved into these numbers as deeply, but it wouldn't surprise me if Modesto was close to the bottom of team offenses in the minors this year. Travis Becktel was the guy to break the Nuts most recent drought, he had three hits, drove in three of the runs, including two on a sixth inning triple following which he scored the Nuts final run.

Yesterday, Brian VanderBeek found out that Daniel Mayora wears the no. 14 in honor of El Gato Grande, Andres Gallaraga, today he touches on some of the shenanigans of the Giants to bend roster rules at the minor league levels to their extremes.

Asheville: W 2-1

Cory Riordan pitched seven innings, allowing just one run (unearned) on four hits, striking out eight. You don't really ever have to ask about Riordan's walks, he gives up fewer than any starter in recent memory at Asheville, fewer than any starter in our system, and it's clear at this point that it won't be a concern with him going forward barring some fluke Rick Ankiel type of change. With the solid numbers he's put up this season, I was surprised to see that he doesn't actually project that well right now, which tells me he probably needs to see more advanced competition before we get a real sense of how good he'll be. If we are talking about peak projections, as of today, the numbers seem to suggest that this might be our best rotation six years from now:

  1. Jhoulys Chacin
  2. Aneury Rodriguez
  3. Ubaldo Jimenez
  4. Connor Graham
  5. Shane Lindsay

And in the optimal world for Rockies fans, that would be a very very good one, with Chacin a true ace, Rodriguez, a Dan Haren type complementary ace, and Jimenez and Graham ideal #2's but just mid-rotation guys here. Riordan, Greg Reynolds and even Franklin Morales get nudged to the bullpen or traded for more help. Jimenez would be expensive and in his free agency at that point, hopefully his arm would still be attached. The others at that point would still be pretty cheap. If the Rockies were still going the all affordable route, U-ball would be playing with the Dodgers while Riordan or Esmil Rogers fill the bottom of the rotation.

If we're going by scouting reports, you'd figure Jimenez and Chacin to be dual aces at the top of that rotation, Rodriguez the same near ace the numbers say and just a step or two behind, while Rogers, Lindsay or Graham would fulfill their potential and give us a third starter with serious heat while the other two become late inning relievers, and then a Riordan/Reynolds control type for inning eater duty. Either way, the rosy projection say that you'd be looking at a World Series worthy pitching staff with a Cy Young contender or two.

Of course, in the real world, half of these guys at least are likely to falter by the time they hit AA -look at Brandon Hynick right now for an example- and even if they don't, roster restrictions could force the Rockies into making a painful and possibly wrong decision on who to keep versus who to let go. For right now, let's just leave it that this is an extremely promising crop of pitchers we have at Modesto and Asheville, and one worth building some hopes around.