Prior to the 2009 season, we identified 10 prospects to watch in the Rockies' farm system. Of those 10, six remain on the 2010 list.
Jhoulys Chacin, RHP: MLB.com's Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year in 2008, when he went 18-3 with a 2.03 ERA and 160 strikeouts over 178 innings at two Class A stops, Chacin continued to impress in 2009. He earned Texas League All-Star honors and combined to go 9-8 with a 3.21 ERA in 22 games between Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Colorado Springs, striking out 97 over 117 2/3 innings. The Venezuelan-born right-hander also made his big league debut, posting a 4.91 ERA in nine games. He is a polished pitcher with a sinking fastball, plus changeup and slider.
Christian Friedrich, LHP: The Rockies' top pick in 2008 out of Eastern Kentucky, his out pitch is a 12-6 curveball and he also has plus offerings in his fastball, slider and potentially his changeup. In 2009, he shared the organization lead with a 2.41 ERA between Class A Asheville and Class A Advanced Modesto, fanning 159 and averaging 11.96 strikeouts per nine innings, second among all full-season starters while limiting opponents to a .215 average. He is more of a crafty lefty than power pitcher, despite a 6-foot-4 build.
Hector Gomez, SS: The Rockies' top infield prospect lost all of 2008 when he broke his shin on a bunt attempt on Opening Day, then injured his elbow and underwent Tommy John surgery during his rehab. His 2009 comeback season was interrupted by a groin strain, but he hit .275 with seven homers, 46 RBIs and 10 steals in 83 games at Modesto. At 22, with a live bat, good speed and outstanding defensive capabilities, he has a huge upside.
Wilin Rosario, C: Rosario opened a lot of eyes in 2008, his second year at Rookie-level Casper, where he raised his average more than 100 points from .209 in his stateside debut to .316 with 12 homers and 49 RBIs. In 2009 at Modesto, he hit .266 with four homers and 33 RBIs, bypassing Class A Asheville to work with Nuts manager Jerry Weinstein, whose specialty is catchers. Rosario threw out nearly 50 percent of opposing baserunners over the last two seasons, though a left wrist injury cost him the final month of the '09 campaign.
Eric Young Jr., 2B/OF: After being derailed by a hamate bone injury in 2008, Young batted .299 with seven homers, 43 RBIs and 58 steals at Colorado Springs before being called up to make his big league debut with the Rockies, the team for whom his dad was a local legend. He has his father's build, speed and versatility as well as makeup. He's likely to start the year back with the Sky Sox, given the signing of utilityman Melvin Mora, but should be back up before long. The switch-hitter, who led the Minors with 87 steals at Asheville in 2006, hit .246 in 30 games in the Majors and was named Pacific Coast League Rookie of the Year. His 118 runs scored ranked second in the Minors.
These four players were on our 2009 list but are not on the 2010 list, due to the loss of rookie status, trade, poor performance, injury, the addition of other prospects to the list, etc.
Charles Blackmon, OF: A tough cut after batting .307 with 169 hits at Modesto in his first full season. The 2008 second-round pick is a converted pitcher and fine defensive outfielder who batted .338 in his pro debut in 2008 at short-season Tri-City. He could be back on this list soon.
Prospects to watch
|Charles Blackmon, OF||Jhoulys Chacin, RHP|
|Jhoulys Chacin, RHP||Samuel Deduno, RHP|
|Dexter Fowler, OF||Christian Friedrich, LHP|
|Christian Friedrich, LHP||Hector Gomez, SS|
|Hector Gomez, SS||Tyler Matzek, LHP|
|Connor Graham, LHP||Juan Nicasio, RHP|
|Michael McKenry, C||Esmil Rogers, RHP|
|Esmil Rogers, RHP||Wilin Rosario, C|
|Wilin Rosario, C||Tim Wheeler, OF|
|Eric Young Jr., 2B/OF||Eric Young Jr., 2B/OF|
Dexter Fowler, OF: The speedy switch-hitter lost rookie eligibility as one of the stars of the Rockies outfield in 2009, hitting .266 with four homers, 34 RBIs and 27 steals. A 2004 14th-round pick, Fowler was a member of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team.
Connor Graham, LHP: The 2007 fifth-rounder was traded to Cleveland last season for Rafael Betancourt. A 6-foot-7, 235-pounder out of Miami-Ohio, Graham had limited opponents to a .189 average while posting a 2.26 ERA at Asheville in 2008, his first full season.
Michael McKenry, C: Like Blackmon, McKenry still hovers near the top 10 and could be back on the list with another fine season. But for now, he's just edged out by newcomers. The 2006 seventh-round pick has good power and defense and great makeup. He hit .279 with 12 homers and 50 RBIs at Tulsa in 2009 and was named the Texas League's best defensive catcher.
The following four players are new additions to the Rockies' Prospects to Watch list.
Samuel Deduno, RHP: After missing all of 2008 following elbow surgery, Deduno enjoyed a terrific comeback season as he won Texas League Pitcher of the Year honors. He went 12-4 with a 2.57 ERA and 123 strikeouts over 133 innings, limiting opponents to a .204 average to rank fourth among all Minor League starters. With a fastball in the low-90s and a potential plus curveball, he has so much life on all of his pitches that there are some control issues that have to be harnessed. He is considered one of the best "makeup" guys in the organization.
Tyler Matzek, LHP: Signability questions about the top high school left-hander in the Draft allowed Matzek to drop to the Rockies with the 11th pick. They signed him at the deadline and await his pro debut this spring with great anticipation. With an effortless delivery and great mechanics, he touches the mid-90s consistently with a lively fastball, adding a sharp curve and power slider. He won't turn 20 until after the 2010 season but has the poise of a veteran.
Juan Nicasio, RHP: Just added to the 40-man roster after sharing the organization lead with a 2.41 ERA at Asheville, Nicasio didn't join the team from extended spring training until the end of April. He fanned 115 over 112 innings, walking only 23 and, if you take away two rough starts, he'd have had a 1.50 ERA in 16 games. With a fastball that touches 97 and sits around 94, he has a strong physique with a sturdy lower half. His fastball is his out pitch, but he is showing a feel for his secondary stuff, which he needs to use more.
Tim Wheeler, OF: The Rockies' second first-round pick last year out of Sacramento State, the 22-year-old set a ton of school records and hit .385 his Draft year. The left-handed hitter has the potential to hit for high average and power and batted .256 with five homers and 35 RBIs at Tri-City in his pro debut.
Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.