Not quite to the extreme as their pitching brethren, the hitters of the Colorado Rockies Triple-A affiliate in Colorado Springs still saw a fair amount of crossover between the highest level of the minors and the only level of the major leagues in 2014.
The most famous of the name among the group is a perfect microcosm for both the Sky Sox season in general and the attitude that the organization seems to have had for the Triple-A level over the last several years which may or may not change with the move to Albuquerque.
Who is Kyle Parker and what is his future role for this team? This is the one question I badly wanted to ask Walt Weiss in my short time with him but didn't. Parker led the Sky Sox in plate appearances but when he was called up, it was as though he had developed a plate allergy that only the Rockies brass could see.
Ben Paulsen, second in PAs for Colorado Springs, did see a decent number of at-bats at the major league level, but his lack of prospect pedigree before and uncertainty about positioning put everyone on this list into a kind of twilight ... area ... between potential key piece for the future or simple organizational filler.
Kyle Parker: .289/.336/.450, 15 HR, 4 SB, 102 wRC+
First baseman of the future? I really have no idea and I'm not so sure the Rockies do either. Their use of Parker (or lack thereof) at the end of the season baffled me, to say the least. Does it mean they don't see the potential in him to be an everyday player or are they just taking it really slow but still have big plans for him?
Has Ben Paulsen usurped Kyle Parker as first in line for first base and right field? Not only do we not know the answers to these questions, we also don't know how good Parker can be at the MLB level.
Sure, his offensive numbers don't blow you away for a guy who is known as an offensive player playing in a hitters ballpark in Colorado Springs but they are still decent and it's getting to "now or never" time with Kyle Parker. He just needs the opportunity. 2015 should be a huge year for him one way or the other.
Ben Paulsen: .294/.378/.533, 20 HR, 4 SB, 133 wRC+
His name is Ben Paulsen. And members of project mayhem -- which may as well be the title for the Rockies 2014 season -- have names.
Surprise prospect of the year, in my book. Paulsen had an excellent season with the bat between two levels, including posting a 139 wRC+ in 66 plate appearances with the big boy team. He hit so well that the Rockies even started him in right field a couple of times.
Paulsen is a bit older for a prospect (27) and seems to have limited defensive value. And, of course, you can't talk about an offensive outburst like that without employing the phrase "small sample size" but hopefully at the very least, Paulsen provides an lefty bat with some pop coming off the bench and some good depth.
Like with Parker (and y'know everyone on this particular team) next season will tell us a lot more about whether Paulsen's output is a sign of great things to come or a flash in the pan.
Cristhian Adames: .338/.392/.441, 1 HR, 5 SB, 122 wRC+
Adames is Kyle Parker, infielder division. An exemplification of the failures to properly manage September call-ups, Adames may well just be the in-house solution to the Tulo insurance problem that constantly haunt this team. But we don't know yet, for sure because he didn't really get to play.
Cristhian is an interesting player because throughout his minor league career he has been touted for his defense but upon being called to the highest level of minors this season, his bat took off like Kim Kardashian's clothes.
He just turned 23, displayed some excellent work with the glove, but has only been given 15 major league plate appearances. If he can hit -- even just barely -- and play above average defense he could be a real asset for this team.
Watch this space
Rafael Ynoa: .297/.356/.419, 5 HR, 7 SB, 102 wRC+
Rafael Ynoa, for me, is Adames lite. It's hard to argue with his stellar cup-of-coffee performance with the MLB team this season which also included some highlight plays with the leather but he is a bit older and his defensive resume isn't quite what Adames' is
His offense is unlikely to continue at the rate he was playing at the end of the year (121 wRC+) which is backed up by his .397 BABIP. Unfortunately, it looks like Ynoa may be a candidate to not return next season due to roster crunch in the organization but watching him easily one of the most fun aspects of a dreary end to the 2014 Colorado Rockies season.
Tim Wheeler: .233/.313/.387, 11 HR, 9 SB, 81 wRC+
Oh, Tim. It appears, sadly, as though Tim Wheelers days as a prospect are behind him. The man should never have to buy a beer in Colorado Springs, though.
Jason Pridie: .278/.341/.433, 12 HR, 28 SB, 100 wRC+
Likely seen as organizational filler, he posted an almost perfectly average season for the Sky Sox. The 28 stolen bases show he still has speed that could be useful for somebody.
Jackson Williams: .256/.353/.368, 4 HR, 3 SB, 92 wRC+
Dustin Garneu: .216/.297/.405, 5 HR, 2 SB, 80 wRC+
Don't forget about the catchers!
Neither guy hit particularly well this season but I wanted to include both here because of their defensive prowess at a position that is of a ton of importance defensively, especially for the Rockies. I would really like to see Garneu in particular get a shot next season.