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Rockies Prospect Roundup: Jayson Aquino leads the DSL Express, WBC update and more

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Rockies prospect Jayson Aquino is showing up on many offseason player-to-watch lists, along with a rundown of Colorado's International farm. An update on prospects in the WBC and players who just missed the BA Top 100 list.

Jayson Aquino pitching in an August game for the Grand Junction Rockies.
Jayson Aquino pitching in an August game for the Grand Junction Rockies.
by Charlie Drysdale

Colorado has suffered through some lean draft years of late, experiencing flame-outs from high draft pitchers such as Greg Reynolds and Casey Weathers before ever helping the club. One area that's shown some strength however, is the International Free Agent market; where the Rockies system is chalk-full of prospects steamrolling their way towards Coors Field after paying their dues in the Dominican Summer League.

One of the reasons I'm so fascinated with prospects from the DSL is because of the Rockies success from there. Look at Colorado's current rotation and 40% of it is made up of former DSL pitchers: Jhoulys Chacin and Juan Nicasio. While it's not a guaranteed place to sign MLB-ready players, it sure is intriguing. There are currently seven players from the DSL on the Purple Row Prospects (PuRPs) list: Rafael Ortega (9), Edwar Cabrera (11), Jayson Aquino (14), Rosell Herrera (16), Cristhian Adames (18), Julian Yan (26) and including Miguel Dilone as an HM.

Although Edwar Cabrera may be the next DSL pitcher in line to make the Rockies rotation, keep an eye on Jayson Aquino who was tabbed by Ben Badler as one of the Ten Breakout International Prospects to Watch this year and a Top 20 DSL/VSL Prospect. In addition to Aquino, Rockies prospects Joel Payamps and Antonio Senzatela were also named to the Top 20 DSL players list.

Aquino was expected to make his stateside debut last year after being invited to the Fall Instructs in 2011. However, after working through extended Spring Training, the Rockies chose to send him back to the DSL where he quickly dominated with a 1.52 ERA. By August the Rockies felt Aquino was ready for the United States and sent him to Grand Junction, where he performed well in the Pioneer League posting a 1.87 ERA, with a slight drop in strikeouts. He did well enough that he should advance to Asheville this year and continue his development towards the Major League rotation. Here is DSL authority Ben Badler's take on Aquino:

The Rockies seem to uncover at least one promising pitcher every year in Latin America under the watch of international scouting director Rolando Fernandez. Aquino, 20, has an average fastball and is a prolific strike thrower. He needs to find a more reliable breaking ball, but his changeup is a plus pitch.

I had the opportunity to see Aquino pitch last year and was impressed with his ability to work the corners and keep the ball down. His changeup was as good as Edwar Cabrera's in my opinion, and even though the curve wasn't developed yet, it still complimented his fastball and change. The table below demonstrates how Jayson Aquino was able to produce a low ERA last year with a solid strikeout rate and a strong mix of groundballs. The numbers are split between his time in Grand Junction and the DSL:

Jayson Aquino ‘12 GB% BB/9 K/9 ERA
DSL 52.4% 1.25 10.25 1.52
GJR 53.2% 2.28 7.48 1.87

When a team acquires young International free agents through large signing bonuses, it is the equivalent of a high lottery draft pick. It's a field that I feel should be brought to light, especially for a team successful in this area like Colorado. This week Badler released his International Review of prospects and I've broken down his article into a list of the players signed by Colorado over the past couple of years, including their original signing bonus and a summary from Ben's take on each player:


  • Luis Guzman (LHP) signed for $200,000 - Mid-to-high 80s fastball touched 90 mph with a feel for his secondary pitches, including a good curveball and a solid changeup for his age.
  • Andres Matos (RHP) $180,000 - Touched 91 mph before he signed and has since been up to 93. There should be more velocity in the future given his arm speed, athleticism, strength projection and good delivery.
  • Luis Castro (SS) $50,000 - Originally signed with Blue Jays for $800,000 on July 2, but did not pass his physical due to a knee issue. Proven himself as one of the more polished hitters on the market while representing Venezuela at international tournaments at the 16U World Championships in Mexico Castro hit .583/.655/.750.


  • Emerson Jimenez (SS) $280,000 - Jimenez has a line-drive stroke from the left side and uses the whole field. He has good hands, plus speed and is a solid fielder.
  • Antonio Senzatela (RHP) $250,000 - One of the better arms available in the international market (for 2011). Has a loose arm, repeats delivery and is an advanced strike-thrower for his age with good downward angle. His offspeed stuff will need to improve.
  • Hector Villarroel (LHP) $200,000 - has a lean, underdeveloped 6-foot-4, 165-pound body. He's a raw project, but he already has good feel for his delivery, his arm works well and he's gotten his fastball up to 89 mph.
  • Dawin Garcia (SS) $185,000 - A 6-foot-1 switch-hitter, Garcia's glove is ahead of his bat.
  • Jhonriz Santana (RHP) $100,000 - 6-foot-1, 165 pounds, has some arm strength but remains a raw project.
  • Denzel Richardson (CF) $30,000 - already one of the fastest players in the organization. He's an 80 runner who has run the 60-yard dash in 6.3 seconds.

I was already high on pitcher Senzatela, who led the DSL in ERA last year, but the review on Castro and Richardson caught my eye. Castro has shown some success in international tournaments and his power potential is intriguing for a middle-infielder. Denzel Richardson's 60 time is amazing, David Dahl had a fast time last year at 6.49, but Denzel's time is so much faster, he's like a Man on Fire. Interested in keeping an eye on these players as they develop through the Dominican League? Watch for more of my posts throughout the season as they progress.

Just Missed the Cut

A week after Baseball America released it's Top 100 list, Senior Editor Jim Callis revealed three Rockies who were in contention for making the cut, but fell just shy. BA uses a collaboration system to determine its Top 100 by pulling from several of its scouts who submit their own top 150 ranked players. All three players appeared on only one list, so they weren't as close as Pirates outfielder Josh Bell who made seven lists. Still it shows strength in the system that these three were in the running, in addition to Arenado, Dahl and Story, who were already selected. All three players outlined in the table below, were invited to Rockies big league camp for Spring Training and have already seen time on the field this year.

Player Pos Top 150s Peak
Ryan Wheeler 3b/1b/of 1 131
Kyle Parker of 1 135
Chad Bettis rhp 1 136

WBC Update

Team Australia opens the WBC tournament tonight against Chinese Taipai at 9:30 MT. All WBC games will air on the MLB Network or ESPN Deportes . Australia completed its exhibition games this week in preparation for their WBC opener and after six games they hold a 3-3 record. They defeated three amateurs teams while losing to Cuba and twice to Japan.

Rockies prospect David Kandilas has seen little action, occasionally spelling Chris Snelling who is suffering from a pulled hamstring. Aussie manager John Deeble indicated that David could see more time on the field depending on how Snelling's injured hamstring responds to treatment. Former Rockies prospect Shane Lindsay appeared in the final Aussie game and hit 97 mph on the radar gun.

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Minor League Links

Making The Best Lineup - One through Nine, Catcher to DH - of The Game's Best Prospects | MLBProspective MiLB writer Andrew Pentis explains why he would choose Nolan Arenado over Mike Olt as the starting third baseman in this lineup.

Drillers announce spring training schedule in Arizona | Spring training fans, if you enjoy watching minor league games on the back fields, this is your new best friend. All games start at 2pm MT.

Colorado native Kevin Gausman excited to make his way to Baltimore | Gausman talks about what it's like to grow up playing baseball in Colorado and how he would like to open a baseball academy back home.

After Yakima moved to Hillsboro, Tri-cities moves to the North division of the Northwestern League | Now instead of an hour-long trip, players will have to endure a four hour bus ride to play the Diamondbacks affiliate.