When the Rockies look at their farm system, they see security in numbers. Colorado has amassed a well-rounded collection of pitchers and position prospects, some of which are close to contributing at the big league level and some that will need more development time to round out their skills.
The Rockies can count on big league contributions from starting pitcher Drew Pomeranz and catcher Wilin Rosario this season, and Jeff Bridich, the team's senior director of player development, thinks that Colorado will be stocked with prospects at all levels for several years to come.
"I think we feel pretty good. We look at it in waves," Bridich said. "If you look at the more advanced part of our farm system, there's a pretty good wave of prospects that are on the verge of the Major Leagues. And behind them, there's the makings of another wave a few years behind them."
The Rockies boast interesting offensive prospects in Nolan Arenado and Tim Wheeler, and they've spent high Draft picks on arms like Tyler Matzek, Tyler Anderson and Peter Tago in recent seasons. The infielders have thrived for Colorado, but the arms have taken a detour.
Arenado, an infielder, starred in the Class A California League last season and will be tested against upper-level pitchers in Spring Training, while Wheeler, an outfielder, hit 33 home runs for Double-A Tulsa. Now, with a hot month or two, he may be poised to make his mark in the Majors.
"Last year was Tim Wheeler's first year in big league Spring Training," Bridich said. "His game is mature and adult. He knows what he does well. That Double-A level is such a great proving ground. If you can perform there, you start to see guys separate themselves from their peers."
Top 20 Prospects
Chad Bettis, a second-round draftee in 2010, succeeded for Class A Modesto last season and will be tested at Tulsa this year. Anderson, meanwhile, was a first-round pick last year but signed too late to play, and the Rockies will be intrigued to see how the left-hander from the University of Oregon throws in Spring Training.
The same goes for Matzek and Tago, two players trying to re-climb the organizational ladder. Matzek, the 11th overall selection in 2009, worked to a 6.22 ERA at two levels last season, while Tago, the 47th overall pick in 2010, struggled to a 3-5 record and a 7.07 ERA for Class A Asheville.
For Bridich, though, both pitchers will get a chance to re-establish themselves.
"It's not like they're no longer talented. They're both going through the natural maturation process and they've had a lot of growing up to do," he said. "Maybe their path hasn't gone the way they've wanted, and there's been adversity for both of them. But they're in position to learn from those things."
Trevor Story, a highly drafted prep infielder, batted .268 with a .364 on-base and .436 slugging percentage for Casper in the Rookie League last season. Kyle Parker, former Clemson quarterback and first-round selection in 2010, batted .285 with 21 homers for Asheville last season.
Rosell Herrera, an infielder signed out of the Dominican Republic, posted similar numbers to Story at Casper last season, and Charlie Blackmon is likely ready to contribute in the big leagues. Blackmon, 25, batted .337 with a .572 slugging mark for Triple-A Colorado Springs last year.
rockies' top prospects
Under the radar
Corey Dickerson may not get a lot of headlines, but that will change if he keeps hitting. The 2010 eighth-round draftee batted .348 at Casper in 2010, and he hit .282 with 32 homers for Asheville last season. Dickerson, an outfielder, will get a chance to hit for Class A Advanced Modesto in 2012.
One of Dickerson's teammates, fellow outfielder Rafael Ortega, also turned heads last season. Ortega, a 20-year-old signee out of Venezuela, batted .294 with nine homers and 32 stolen bases in 51 tries for Asheville.
Hitter of the Year
Arenado isn't just the best prospect in this organization, he's one of the best in baseball, ranked No. 22 on MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list. The 20-year-old third baseman has a broad base of skills that saw him hit .298 with 20 home runs and 122 RBIs for Modesto last season, and he may move quickly if he stars again at Double-A Tulsa.
"Nolan has a lot to say in that," Bridich said. "He did just about everything he could to put himself in discussion for the big league club at some point in the next year or two. We just hope that when he's ready, it's because of him and not because of an injury to one of our regulars."
Pitcher of the Year
Bettis pitched at two levels in 2010, his first professional season, and he pitched to a 12-5 record with a 3.34 ERA for Modesto last season. He also struck out 184 batters and walked just 45, and he impressed Colorado's decision-makers with the way he went about his business.
"Chad's competitiveness and intensity, his desire and preparation are second to none," Bridich said. "It's just a matter of time for him if Chad stays true to who he is."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less