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Tuesday Pebble Report: 2009 Draft Review, Rockies best draft in NL West?

Before I start, you might ask why I'll take good short season performances as a positive but not discount rough professional starts nearly as much. Mainly, it's because this early in the stage you're still looking far more at a player's potential ceiling rather than their floor, which for everybody is busting completely in the minors. In that sense, a poor short season performance doesn't really impact our view of a player's ceiling, but a standout one, like the season Chris Balcom-Miller is having with Casper, could raise it.

In the first twelve rounds, the Rockies added these players:

  • Tyler Matzek - Potential top of the rotation pitcher.
  • Tim Wheeler - Could be starting caliber outfielder on a contending team.
  • Rex Brothers - Late inning left handed reliever, Brian Fuentes/George Sherrill type of potential on fast track.
  • Nolan Arenado - Starting third baseman on a contending team, already showing potential to hit for high average.
  • Ben Paulsen - Polished first base bat.
  • Kent Matthes - Legitimate corner outfield power potential
  • Joe Sanders - Third base, hasn't adjusted to wood yet, but was one of SEC's best hitters.
  • Chris Balcom-Miller - Sinker ball specialist doing very well at Casper, could be upper mid-rotation Aaron Cook type.
  • Erik Stavert - Stavert hasn't played because of lingering elbow soreness, but is another two seam reliant starter.
  • Rob Scahill - Likely will move to relief later, but has mid rotation stuff if he can refine off speed pitches.
  • Wes Musick - Control lefty, could be bottom of the rotation or middle relief. Should eat minor league innings.
  • Charlie Ruiz - Middle relief.
  • Avery Barnes - Speedy centerfielder.
  • Jared Clark - Solid first baseman.

I feel fairly confident that if scouting directors had the draft to do over, knowing what they do now, Balcom-Miller would likely be a second or early third round pick, meaning I think that this early in the game it looks like the Rockies have six or seven of the top 100 talents from the draft, or twice an equitable share, including Matzek, who might be one of the top two or three talents. Don't take my word for it, Baseball America's Jim Callis on Matzek from a chat just finished:

No, it was pretty much pure signability. There may have been a couple of clubs that didn't want to take a high school pitcher that high, but others thought Matzek was the second- or third-best player in the draft.

How does the Rockies draft compare with the rest of the division? I think Diamondbacks fans can argue that they may have eight or nine top 100 talents with all of their early picks (they definitely got a coup yesterday with Matt Helm), although none quite at the impact level of Matzek and I'm pretty skeptical about several of their early selections. Overall, I think the Rockies had the better draft, but freely admit my bias could be giving me blinders. Otherwise, I don't think we can say anybody else is close at this early stage just because the other teams didn't have as many early picks. I think the Padres probably have three top 100 types in Donavan Tate, Everett Williams and Keyvius Sampson, the Giants three in Wheeler, Joseph and Dominguez (Stoffel's pitching well also, he's borderline) and the Dodgers a couple in Aaron Miller and Garret Gould, with Blake Smith being a borderline talent.

Right now, I'd grade the division this way:

  1. Rockies - Matzek might be the single best player taken (Donavan Tate and Zack Wheeler would be the two you could argue this point on) and then a deep draft after that.
  2. Diamondbacks - no real big impact talent but they added a boatload of needed depth to their system
  3. Giants - I like Wheeler/Joseph/Dominguez just a smidgen better than the Padres top trio.
  4. Padres - Tate/Williams/Sampson isn't bad, though.
  5. Dodgers - Didn't have a lot of top selections, and it kind of cost them relative to the other teams in the division.

This excites, this will be the first time since 2004 I will have graded the Rockies the best NL West draft initially, and the Rockies added three of their most valuable pieces (Dexter Fowler, Chris Iannetta and Seth Smith) in this year's playoff chasing team in that draft.

Alright, after the jump is some discussion of yesterday's minor league games.

Colorado Springs: L 1-3

The good news is that Esmil Rogers pitched at least somewhat decently for the second straight start, the first time he's put back to back quality starts together since being promoted to AAA.

Tulsa: W 3-0

Samuel Deduno pitched very well for seven innings and picked up his 12th win of the season. Don't overlook Deduno when thinking about who can compete for a rotation slot next Spring.

Modesto: Off

Asheville: L 4-9

Mike Zuanich (10), Jimmy Cesario (6), and Kiel Roling (15) hit home runs in the loss.

Tri-City: W 10-3

I always root for minor league free agents like Jeremiah Sammy even if I know they rarely make it all the way to the major leagues. Sammy's been on a major roll in August, with 25 hits in the month so far (including three yesterday) and a .417/.444/.500 slash line. Overall, the middle infielder's been good enough to likely get a trip to Asheville next year, which will give me at least one more year of rooting for the underdog. More background on Sammy, including a pretty straight forward scouting report of strengths and weaknesses from his former coach at Lamar can be found in this article.

First round pick Tim Wheeler isn't quite the same underdog, but I root for him too, and he had a solid game with a pair of hits, a pair of walks and three runs scored. Wes Musick had a dominant four inning start, striking out eight and allowing one walk.

Casper: W 9-1

The Rockies suddenly have a pretty good problem with first basemen at the lower levels, in that there are too many worth giving serious looks. Jared Clark (two for two with a double, home run and three walks yesterday) is clearly at a performance level beyond the Pioneer League, but the emergence of Scott Beerer and Zuanich and the presence of Ben Paulsen at Tri-City doesn't give the Rockies anywhere else to put him at the moment. There's going to have to be some creative house cleaning at upper levels this off season to give all these players opportunity, and a Brad Hawpe style shift to the outfield for one or two might not be out of the question, either. We'll see what happens, but again, you'd rather have too much talent than not enough.

Edwar Cabrera continued a late season turnaround with four solid innings in the win.