DENVER -- With each big swing, third-base prospect Nolan Arenado causes Rockies fans to dream.
Actually, they don't even have to imagine Arenado, who turns 22 on Tuesday. Triple-A Colorado Springs, where Arenado can be seen in person, is just an easy drive from Coors Field. Even when the Sky Sox are traveling or fans can't make the drive, they can still keep up with Arenado, as well as a team with a large number of prospects.
where to watch
|1||David Dahl||Extended ST||TBD|
|2||Nolan Arenado||Colorado Springs||AAA|
|7||Tim Wheeler||Colorado Springs||AAA|
|11||Jayson Aquino||Extended ST||TBD|
|14||Charlie Culberson||Colorado Springs||AAA|
|16||Corey Dickerson||Colorado Springs||AAA|
|17||Peter Tago||Extended ST||TBD|
Minor League Baseball is under way, and you can keep track of the Rockies' top prospects throughout the season on MLBPipeline.com and Prospect Watch. Get scores, stats, news, schedules, tickets and more for all of Colorado's Minor League teams on MLBPipeline.com/Rockies. Whether at the ballpark or online, through stats and stories or MiLB.TV, Arenado and several teammates make for a Sky Sox team worth following.
After challenging for the third-base job in Spring Training before Chris Nelson held on, Arenado homered in Colorado Springs' first two games to stay on the big league radar. A second-round pick in the 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft, Arenado is doing exactly what a player in his shoes does -- eliminate any reason to keep him out of the Majors.
Arenado ranks second on MLB.com's list of top Rockies prospects. The ranking had less to do with his closeness to the Majors and more to do with an up-and-down 2012, when there were questions early about his maturity, but he finished strong.
The Sky Sox have two other ranked prospects who are pushing for their big league debuts: outfielders Tim Wheeler (No. 7) and Corey Dickerson (No. 16). Another player worth watching is first baseman Ben Paulsen, who could be in the mix for Colorado if this is -- as expected -- the last go-around for longtime star Todd Helton.
Unlike many Triple-A teams that are holding places for veterans, Colorado Springs has several young, talented players who have had brief time in the Majors and are completing their development. Starting pitchers Drew Pomeranz, Christian Friedrich and Tyler Chatwood; relievers Josh Outman and Rob Scahill; infielders Charlie Culberson and Ryan Wheeler and outfielders Tyler Colvin and Charlie Blackmon are on the squad.
Double-A Tulsa is intriguing because of the presence of two recent first-round Draft picks -- left-handed pitcher Tyler Matzek (2009) and outfielder Kyle Parker ('10). Matzek has flashed plenty of potential -- he had 153 strikeouts at Class A Modesto last year -- but he also has been dogged by walks. If he begins to command the strike zone, he could put himself on the big league radar. Parker battled injuries last year at Modesto but hit .308 with 23 homers. He also trimmed his strikeouts from 133 at Class A Asheville in 2011 to 88 last year. Parker was not much of a factor in big league camp, but the Rockies like him.
Tulsa has several other intriguing prospects. Righty Chad Bettis was a fast-rising prospect before shoulder injuries wiped out his 2012 season. Righty Joe Gardner, obtained from Cleveland as part of the deal for former ace Ubaldo Jimenez, is pitching in relief, which could be his future role. Outfielder Kent Matthes is coming off a strong Arizona Fall League and some eye-catching performances during Major League camp. Shortstop Cristhian Adames is in his first year on the 40-man Major League roster.
Also keep an eye on high Class A Modesto, which has shortstop Trevor Story, Colorado's No. 3 prospect; 2011 first-round pick Tyler Anderson, a left-handed pitcher and catcher Will Swanner.
Debuts and Draftees
Outfielder David Dahl was outstanding at rookie-level Grand Junction last season, earning the Pioneer League Most Valuable Player Award and the Rockies' No. 1 prospect honors, but he's conspicuously absent from current play. Dahl played one game for Class A Asheville, during which he went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, then was sent back to extended spring camp for disciplinary reasons. Dahl, 19, tweeted this statement:
"In response to questions, I was sent to extended for missing a flight and for questions about attitude. I respect the Rockies decision and will continue to improve as a player, teammate, and as a person."
It's unclear how long the disciplinary action will be in effect.
Teams on TV
The Colorado Springs Sky Sox and Tulsa Drillers are among a growing number of teams whose games are available on MiLB.TV. The 2013 MiLB.TV package will include more than 3,500 Minor League games streamed live, as well as games archived for on-demand streaming soon after completion.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.