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Sunday Rockpile: NL West front office talent drain should benefit Rockies, if their own staff is up to it

With Theo Epstein likely luring Padres General Manager Jed Hoyer to be the Cameron to Epstein's Ferris in a skip of their obligations for some fun in the northside of Chicago, and Hoyer in turn taking assistant GM Jason McLeod along, it seems fairly certain that San Diego's front office will take a step back in its contender building capabilities, even with former Arizona Diamondbacks GM and current Padres Assistant GM Josh Byrnes taking over. The D-backs, meanwhile, seem likely to face a major hit of their own this fall, as assistant GM Jerry Dipoto looks like the frontrunner to be offered the GM position in Baltimore. Dipoto also figures prominently in the Los Angeles Angels search. The Orioles and Angels are also interviewing assorted Dodgers executives, including farm director DeJon Watson.

The net result of this shuffling has quality executives leaving two or three NL West clubs for greener pastures, but their replacements will likely come internally from junior level positions, leaving the relatively stable Giants and Rockies ahead in the equation. How much impact this will have for Colorado depends on the quality of the staff general manager Dan O'Dowd has put together. If the Rockies were already well behind other division front offices in their ability to put a quality product on the field, it might have little impact.

Earlier this fall, the Rockies quietly realigned much of their baseball operations staff to little fanfare here, or elsewhere. Mark Gustafson and Walter Sylvester were moved out of player development into scouting and draft duties and Jeff Bridich, Zach Wilson and Walker Monfort were moved into Gustafson's and Sylvester's player development roles. Friday, the shake-up of the Rockies player development staff continued, with several more moves. Player development has obviously been an ongoing issue for the Rockies relative to three of the other NL West teams (it's also been an issue for the Dodgers lately.) The way to look at a player development department is to think of three types of players:

  • Players that will succeed regardless of a coaching/development staff (Albert Pujols, obviously, Todd Helton, Troy Tulowitzki - to some extent)
  • Players that will fail regardless of a coaching/development staff 
  • Players that will succeed or fail depending on the coaching staff (Dexter Fowler, Esmil Rogers, Juan Nicasio)

I'm leaving that second category blank of examples out of courtesy, but this could include head cases that just won't ever get it, or players that suffer unforeseeable career threatening injuries. The real key is identifying which successes fall into the first category and which into the third. There are going to be some shades of gray, for instance, Troy Tulowitzki had enough natural talent to be a league leading shortstop without much professional coaching, but the development of moving to an upright stance took him to a higher level.

That said, it's pretty clear the Rockies are lacking either way. Despite regularly having highly acclaimed prospects, the Coors Field faithful have seen just one full time starting caliber position player debut since 2007, Dexter Fowler (I think the book's still out on 2011 debut players like Wilin Rosario and Charlie Blackmon.) Pitching hasn't fared much better, as the farm graduated just two quality starting pitchers in that time in Jhoulys Chacin and Juan Nicasio, and only one late inning reliever in Rex Brothers. I would argue that Chacin and Brothers are the types of players that would have found success in just about any system, which leaves just Nicasio and Fowler, as well as a couple of middle relievers like Matt Reynolds and Matt Daley as feathers in the player development staff's cap over the last four years.

That's not a good track record compared to a team like Arizona, which has seen key players like Gerardo Parra, Josh Collmenter, Bryan Shaw and Wade Miley be cultivated by the player development staff into quality products. Added to the D-backs fair share of can't miss good find types like Paul Goldschmidt, as well as a few shrewd outside acquisitions, it's not hard to see how Arizona turned their fortunes around.

The Rockies will attempt to follow a similar path, and Friday's news of Jerry Weinstein's promotion to major league catching instructor seems designed to help young players like Wilin Rosario, Jordan Pacheco and even Nolan Arenado (who though not a catcher did blossom under Weinstein's management at Modesto this season,) break into the majors with a familiar coach. Bo McLaughlin is out as roving pitching coordinator, going to AAA, and Doug Linton replaces him. Marv Foley becomes the Rockies minor league catching coordinator, and will be overseeing the development of prospects Will Swanner and Ryan Casteel among others.

You might note that all the Rockies front office and minor league moves so far have been completely internal, a rearrangement of parts on hand rather than an actual overhaul/replacement of those parts. I know many fans will likely be disappointed by this, but Bridich or Wilson could be the next Jed Hoyer or Jerry Dipoto. Promoting them doesn't seem to be a bad attempt at a solution that still fits within O'Dowd's front office philosophy, and it might be that this time the Rockies can keep their young executive talent rather than lose it as we did in the past with Dipoto, Jon Daniels and Thad Levine.