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Friday Pebble Report: Swanner Hits First Professional HR, Nicasio Looks Sharp

This is also linked in the Rockpile, but Fangraphs' Bryan Smith has his rating of how NL West teams did in the draft. Smith is particularly intrigued by the performances thus far of 2nd round pitcher Chad Bettis and 5th round pitcher Joshua Slaats. Overall, Smith ranked the Rockies' draft as his favorite NL West draft. Looking at the rest of the division, I agree with him

AAA: It was a doubleheader yesterday (seven inning games) for the Sky Sox.

Game 1: Colorado Springs 6, Nashville 1

Cole Garner led the Sky Sox offensively, going 2-4 with two HRs (his 11th and 12th) and three RBIs. Jay Payton added a 3-4 night with a solo shot (4). On the mound, Kurt Birkins (5-7) pitched well, lasting 5.2 IP and allowing only one run on four hits with five strikeouts.

Game 2: Nashville 8, Colorado Springs 7

In the nightcap, Alan Johnson struggled, allowing seven runs (six earned) on eight hits over 4.2 IP, but he didn't get the loss. The Sky Sox rallied to tie the game with three runs in the top of the seventh, but Nashville was able to get to Edgmer Escalona (2-5) for a run in the bottom half of the frame to take the win.

Offensively, Matt Miller (.333/.412/.453) and Chris Nelson (.326/.383/.523) both continued their impressive seasons at the plate as they audition for a September roster spot. In Miller's case, if he doesn't get one now, he's likely gone in the offseason to minor league free agency (this also goes for Cole Garner, who is hitting .292/.365/.519).

The doubleheader split left the Sky Sox at 56-69 (10 GB) on the season.

AA: Tulsa 4, Midland 3

PuRPs Charlie Blackmon (.303/.369/.487) and Jordan Pacheco (.322/.405/.442) led the Drillers to continue their strong campaigns. The former went 4-4 and the latter was 2-3. Warren Schaeffer added a 2-4 night and two RBIs. On the mound, Brandon Durden pitched well, going 7 IP and allowing 2 ER on 4 Hs, but it was Bruce Billings (8-6) who got the victory with a scoreless inning of relief in which he struck out three men. Stuart Pomeranz followed with a similar three strikeout inning to record his 15th save.

The win moved the Drillers to 29-23 in the second half, just two games back from the division lead.

High A: Modesto 4, Bakersfield 2

PuRP Juan Nicasio, already the Rockies minor league organizational leader in innings pitched this year, gave the Nuts another eight strong frames, allowing two runs on five hits while striking out five to get the win (11-9, 4.00). Here's some fun Nicasio facts for you: he's thrown 157.1 IP, struck out 147 men and walked only 28 (for a ridiculous K/BB ratio of 5.25), and he's done it in the high-offense environment of the California league (though admittedly Modesto's home park is more tolerable to a pitcher than many others in the league).

The one mitigating factor to this great season is that Nicasio is almost 24 years old and therefore is at a developmental advantage to many of the hitters that he's facing. He's on the 40 man roster using his first option currently, so the Rockies figure to move him more quickly next year to see what they have. Regardless, Nicasio was my #6 PuRP this spring and will certainly figure highly in my list this fall after his strong showing this season.

Offensively, the Nuts pounded out 10 hits, with four players recording multi-hit games. The victory (the Nuts' sixth straight) brought Modesto's record to 26-26 in the second half, six games behind the division leader.

Low A: Asheville 12, West Virginia 3

Nolan Arenado's monster 4-6, 3 2B, 3 RBI night led a 17 hit parade for the Tourists as they rolled to their fourth straight victory and extended their division lead to two games (32-20). Four other Asheville players recorded multi-hit games as they jumped out to an early 5-0 lead and never looked back. Meanwhile, Wes Musick was brilliant on the mound, pitching only five innings but allowing just one hit and striking out seven men to get the win (7-6).

Short Season A: Tri-City (7-14, 6 GB) and the Northwest League had the night off.

Rookie: Helena 12, Casper 2

The big story here was that 15th round pick catcher Will Swanner (playing DH) swatted his first professional homer, a solo shot in the second, and went 2-4 on the night. So far, so good. Catcher Ryan Casteel went 3-4, but otherwise the night was a lost cause, as first Alejandro Barraza (1-5) and then two relievers were roughed up for at least three runs each. The loss left Casper at 9-9 in the second half, 3.5 games back of the division lead.

DSL: DSL White Sox 2, DSL Rockies 1

The DSL Rockies fell to 36-33 with the loss, but 18 year old starting pitcher Raul Fernandez continued his great season for the Rockies' Dominican affiliate, going six innings and allowing only one earned run on seven hits. Fernandez is only 4-3 on the season, but over 65 IP he has managed a miniscule 1.52 ERA with a nice 1.52 GB/AO ratio. Admittedly, the ERA has been pretty lucky, as he has yet to allow a HR this year, but to a great extent that's a product of his groundballing tendencies. Fernandez is a prime candidate for a spot in Casper next year and he's a prospect that I'll be keeping an eye on along with current DSL SS Rosell Herrera (who might repeat).