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Sunday Pebble Report: Nicasio K's 10 on way to third W of the year

Colorado Springs: W 2-1

Somebody was asking in the game thread last night if we thought Charlie Blackmon (.400/.460/.689 in his last ten games) could do better for the Rockies right now than the struggling Carlos Gonzalez. I like Blackmon as much as anybody, but I'd be very hesitant to go down this road of thought, and I think last night's Sky Sox game is a good example why. Alan Johnson pitched for the Rockies last Sunday and got roughed up against the Cubs. Then he comes back a few days later after a demotion and pitches a AAA gem against Las Vegas. Ian Stewart was hitting below .100 in the MLB, but it's taken him all of three games to find his stroke in the PCL. Similarly, a lot of people were expecting the Giants Brandon Belt to come out of the gate like gangbusters after a strong 2010 minor league season culminated in a standout performance in Fresno. He choked in the majors but hit a two run HR in his first at bat back for the Grizzlies last night. The gulf between the talent in the PCL and the talent in the MLB is a lot wider than I think most people realize. We should be willing to give productive and promising talents like Blackmon a shot on the big stage, but try to keep the expectations low until they actually prove themselves MLB worthy.

Tulsa: W 7-4

Another player (along with Blackmon) that Rockies fans should expect to see debut with the Rockies soon enough would be Juan Nicasio, who struck out 10 in seven innings last night to go along with a sparkling 8-1 GO/AO ratio. Nicasio is second in minor league baseball (any team, any league) in strikeouts with 30 so far on the season. More on who he's second to in just a little bit, but a 12.3 K/9 and a 10/1 K/BB ratio in AA is the kind of dominance that top of rotation starters are made of (not saying that this is where Nicasio is going, as this level of dominance is new, but if he keeps it up, well...) It was an eye-opening surprise to me when Rockies officials compared Nicasio to Ubaldo Jimenez this past winter, but with this kind of production, the similarities are easier to recognize. The list of Texas League starters to strike out this many with such a small amount of walks is very short, the best comparison numbers-wise might actually be Jeff Francis' great 2004 season with the Drillers. Other recent TL starters with over 10K's per 9/IP and less than 3BB/9IP include Edinson Volquez, Derek Holland and John Danks. Volquez and Danks, as big power RHP's might be more in the line of what we'd be hoping he becomes if he keeps this up. 

Darin Holcomb and Wilin Rosario hit back to back homeruns in the eighth inning to complete the Drillers comeback and leave them in a tie for first in their division. For Holcomb, it's another positive step back in his recovery, for Rosario, it's another impressive dinger on his resume. Rosario's had 13 hits this season, and seven now have gone for extra bases, including four HR's. With just five K's in 46 plate appearances, he continues to make excellent contact strides too, whiffing just 10.9% of the time so far this season after striking out just under 30% of the time his first year in Casper. Holcomb had three hits total for the Drillers and Tim Wheeler two in the victory.

Modesto: L 4-15

Modesto suffered an ugly loss to a divisional rivals affiliate, something I never like to see as it makes me wonder if the future of the Rockies is just that bad, or the future of our opponents just that good. Let's hope this is just a one off and not going to be a recurring theme this season. Scott Robinson and Nolan Arenado had two hits apiece, Kent Matthes had a hit, two walks and a pair of RBI in the loss. Not much else to recommend from the Modesto side.

Asheville: W 8-6

The pitcher with the most strikeouts in the minors as of this writing is Saturday night's Asheville starter, Edwar Cabrera, who picked up seven more to bring his total to 32 last night. That's the good news. The bad news would be in the form of the three home runs he gave up, revealing the potentially fatal flaw that's surfaced in an otherwise intriguing pitching prospect. Cabrera's issue in hitting environments has been that when he does get hit, he gets hit hard. While he did a fine job of limiting the damage last night and giving the Tourists the chance to comeback, Cabrera's propensity to give up the big damaging hit merits watching going forward, particularly if we're expecting him to do half his work at an unforgiving park like Coors Field in the majors.

Bryce Massanari hit his sixth HR for the season, a three run shot. It's too be expected by a 25 year old journeyman to perform well in the SAL, and he's in that weird category of player that's not doing anything wrong developmentally besides being too old for his level. All the right things Massanari does will get overshadowed by that one big issue that's beyond his control, and we aren't going to pay much attention to him as a prospect. Brett Tanos also added two more hits for the Tourists, he's an intriguing hitter, but defensively well behind the curve for third base.