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The Colorado Rockies' prospect group is in a great spot; now, it's development or bust

The Colorado Rockies have no shortage of talent in their minor league system, but now it's incumbent upon their developmental infrastructure to bring along the best players to the game's highest level.

Carlos Polanco has been throwing gas in the fall, according to Chris Kusiolek.
Carlos Polanco has been throwing gas in the fall, according to Chris Kusiolek.
Caitlin Rice

On Tuesday, Eric Garcia-McKinley published a rundown of the Colorado Rockies' best prospects entering 2016, in reference to FanGraphs' minor league organizational evaluation that came out this week. On Thursday, he covered Baseball Prospectus' list, too.

It's February, after all, and camps break in the next several days, so there's no shortage of prospect lists both smart and not so smart being released ahead of another new season. In that same vein, as we prepare for spring training and beat back encourage the optimism a new season brings, here's more on the Rockies' system.

As we've been doing this week, I caught up with scout Chris Kusiolek to discuss the club's minor league depth. He hasn't seen everyone in the organization, of course, but between the California League and Arizona complexes, Kusiolek has evaluated a significant portion of the club's notable young talent, and felt comfortable giving a general assessment of the organization.

"The Rockies have an organization that's predicated on a developmental system with depth, and they've got it permeating throughout," Kusiolek told me. "High minors kids, low minors kids, they have various sorts of profiles and utility throughout from what I've caught through Modesto and Salt River. Even kids that hardly get the sensational recognition like a Jordan Patterson, a Zach Jemiola, a Carlos Polanco, or an Alex Balog; those are all Major Leaguers for me."

I could be alone in this (though I doubt it), but it's fascinating to hear outside evaluators judge the organization's talent. It's what makes FanGraphs' evaluations, or Baseball Prospectus' rankings, or other assets like that so valuable; after all, as strong of a product as the PuRPs series has always been, there are inherent concerns of bias with evaluating "our" own prospects.

Kusiolek, like FanGraphs or Baseball Prospectus, doesn't have that same pro-organizational bias — and yet he's still extremely high on the system.

"They've got the big ticket kids like Jon Gray, Jeff Hoffman, and Tom Murphy in the upper minors, Raimel Tapia, Ryan McMahon, Jordan Patterson, and Antonio Senzatela are around there. Specifically McMahon and Senzatela are extremely talented kids themselves," Kusiolek said.

"They have nearly big league ready bullpen arms with Carlos Estevez, Sam Moll, and Matt Carasiti," he continued, "and Carasiti is a guy that can seriously throw. Then, add lower minors arms like Jesus Tinoco, Javier Medina, Mike Nikorak, Peter Lambert, and Sam Howard. I don't even want to talk about how loose Medina and Nikorak are right now. Plus, they have guys already established at the highest level who have serious talent that can still actualize, like Eddie Butler."

If it sounds like a laundry list of players with whom you're already well aware, that's by design: there's undoubtedly a surplus of talent in the organization. At this point, it's just a question of what to do with it, and how best to exploit it for the good of the big league club.

"Colorado definitely has the kids, and they've shown an ability to acquire talent," Kusiolek said. "Now, it's just a matter of assisting in development and actualizing these guys."

That's easier said than done, as we've found out recently, but with the sheer number of potential high-impact players across the system, the Rockies are awash in talent to hedge their developmental bets. If it's really just a numbers game, Kusiolek is like so many other prospect evaluators in being bullish on the future. There are no guarantees in minor league baseball, and there's no such thing as a pitching prospect, but here's to a little piece of mind about a (slightly) less uncertain future in Denver.

Colorado Rockies prospect Zach Jemiola pitches a gem, Forrest Wall hits grand slam in Asheville victory

Zach Jemiola. Image via Charlie Drysdale.

More from Chris Kusiolek

On Jordan Patterson: "Patterson has extreme strength and moderate barrel control, certainly enough to materialize some of it at the highest level. He has explosive hands, loose wrists, powerful extension, and above average bat speed."

On Zach Jemiola: "Jemiola is a strong dude with a powerful arm. He has great fastball feel, adds and subtracts off it, and he can work east-west with it with life and get on top of it. He also has a legitimate plus potential changeup with heavy, bottoming fade."

On Carlos Polanco: "Polanco has the strength and arm action that can be conducive for rotation development, though the kid is Rule 5-eligible in December so his future will potentially depend on what occurs there. He has an extremely quick arm and premium strength. This fall in Instructs he was throwing 95-98 with extreme hop, and a changeup with mild dive with mediocre extension and arm speed replication, and he flashed good feel for it."

On Alex Balog: "Balog improved throughout the year in California, especially with added feel and depth to his offside pitches. He's a broad shouldered, loose arm kid; extremely easy, fluid arm strength. He has good fastball feel, gets on top of pitches, and can add or subtract easily. He's able to replicate arm speed and extension decently with the changeup, with mild fade and sinking action with good aptitude and sequencing. He has a couple potential 5-quality secondaries."

On Brendan Rodgers: "I caught Rodgers a couple games in the fall, and the explosiveness wasn't there. He was heavy-footed, with below average bat speed, and inconsistent timing. He did have efficient, strong hands and wrists, and appeared to be just feeling it after his initial professional year."