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Rockies Prospects: Dan Winkler and Eddie Butler enjoy a banner week

The depth of the Rockies pitching system is strongest in Modesto, where this past week saw some shining examples of why Rockies fans should be excited for the pitching in this organization.

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Eddie Butler for the GJ Rockies in 2012
Eddie Butler for the GJ Rockies in 2012
Charlie Drysdale

The story of the Rockies farm system this year has been the growth of the pitching depth within the organization. This past week saw a few events that advanced the pitching depth even more. After taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning in his previous start, Dan Winkler contributed to the Modesto Nuts' first combined no-hitter since 1987, well before they became a part of the Rockies organization. It was also a big week for teammate Eddie Butler who was selected to Baseball Prospectus' list of Top 50 minor league players and was also invited to participate in the 2013 MLB All-Star Future's Game in New York City on July 14th.

"It was an unbelievable experience and I'm glad I got to share it with all these guys. Hopefully someday I'll get to throw one myself!" -Nuts starter Dan Winkler on being part of a no-hitter

Modesto Nuts first no-hitter

The Modesto Nuts have been a part of the Rockies organization since 2005, when they featured a pitching staff that included: Aaron Cook, Ubaldo Jimenez, Manny Corpas and Scott Beerer. The premier pitcher going into that year was Chin-hui Tsao, who was ranked No. 24 in Baseball America's Top 100 the previous fall. None of those pitchers, or any since, have accomplished what Dan Winkler, Nelson Gonzalez and Scott Oberg combined to do on Monday.

Dan mixed in his fastball, slider and change to keep the San Jose Giants off balance throughout the game. He threw 65 of his 102 pitches for strikes and induced nine ground balls to go with seven strikeouts. The performance lowered his season ERA to 1.99.

Winkler was cruising until the sixth inning when Taylor Featherston was forced to make back-to-back diving plays to secure the no-hit bid. The first play saw Taylor range far to his left, diving to cut off a ground ball that was headed into right field and then throwing out the runner at first. The second play was even more impressive, ranging deep up the middle and sliding, before popping up and gunning down one of the fastest players in the Giants organization.

"After Featherston made the back-to-back diving plays I realized it was something special. I definitely didn't want to give up a hit after that. Then Kandi (David Kandilas) ran down that ball in the 7th, I felt like it was going to happen." Dan Winkler on his no-hit performance.

The Nuts weren't out of the woods yet, as Nelson Gonzalez and Scott Oberg came in to nail down the game. Nelson Gonzalez worked a perfect eighth and then Scott Oberg worked around a leadoff walk to close out the save and mark his name in the history books. Nuts announcer Alex Marguiles had the call in a wild final out of the no-hitter. Since being added to the organization, Scott Oberg has produced in the closers role, with a mid-90's fastball and a nasty slider. Oberg has dominated in the closer role for the Nuts and leads the California league with 18 saves, he ranks third in the entire minor leagues in that category.

Winkler's role in the no-hitter shouldn't come as a surprise, as he's had nine starts where he's allowed three hits or less. He's also the lone minor league pitcher to exceed 100 strikeouts this season and leads the minors with 105, Drew Pomeranz is third with 96.

Earning national attention

It wasn't surprising to see Jonathan Gray make Baseball Prospectus' Top 50 list of minor league players, but it was a little bit of a shock to see Eddie Butler's name on there. Not because he doesn't deserve it, because he definitely does, it was just a little astonishing to see the national media pay attention to a Rockies pitcher who has developed well within the organization.

Butler has simply performed at every stop, producing a career 2.12 ERA and averaging nearly a strikeout per inning pitched. His high-90's fastball and extreme groundball rate has created opportunities for him to advance quickly for the Rockies.

Eddie was ranked by Baseball Prospectus as the No. 48 best player in the minors with the following notes:

"Butler's first half pushed him into the Top 50 mix, and a strong second half will push him even further heading into 2014. The stuff is very legit, and the 22-year-old could find himself in Double-A before the end of the season"

In their preseason Top 101 Prospects, BP had ranked three Rockies, but David Dahl and Trevor Story both fell off the list, while Nolan Arenado earned a promotion and is no longer eligible.

In other National news, Butler was selected to pitch in the MLB All-Star Future's game. An exhibition game played during the All-Star break that features a team of USA players versus the best minor league players from all over the World. Last season Nolan Arenado and Edwar Cabrera were selected for this honor. The game will be played July 14 in Citi field in New York City, New York.

The Virginia native is reaping the rewards from some impressive pitching lines, including two of the three 80 game scores in the minors this season. A game score measures a pitcher's production during a game, including how deep he goes and how many strikeouts and runs he allows.

Butler is currently on a five inning pitch limit, but has shown that he can reach that limit in less than 70 pitches. Could the Rockies be limiting his innings so he's available for a role in Coors Field in September? Or are they just protecting a valuable arm in the organization, only time will tell.

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