DENVER -- Teams would rather their top prospects stay just that. They can develop with the mystery that comes with having good numbers, yet not being seen at the Major League level. The Rockies couldn't afford that in this injury-affected season.Teams often learn that players often aren't as good as they seem on the stat sheet when they show up in person. But if there is good news in big league struggles, it's that the Rockies have learned that a few of their best farm products are as good, or better, in person than in theory.
The Rockies also had several draftees and prospects play themselves into prime big league consideration, as reflected in the MLB.com ranking of the Rockies' Top 20 Prospects after the conclusion of Minor League regular seasons.Between the Opening Day MLB.com Top 20 and the end of the Minor League season, left-hander Drew Pomeranz (No. 2), catcher Wilin Rosario (No. 3) and pitcher Christian Friedrich were needed enough at the Major League level that they no longer are ranked.
Rosario graduated into a power hitter who deserves to be part of the National League Rookie of the Year conversation. And Rosario has competition for the Rockies' brightest prospect story.Infielder Josh Rutledge began the year ranked 16th, but was little more than a name, as far as the Major League radar was concerned. He didn't participate in Major League camp, so he was not exactly seen. But the injuries -- mainly the left groin injury that has kept shortstop Troy Tulowitzki off the active roster since the end of May -- gave him a chance to establish himself as an important cog for the future. Also, the new list reflects some potential big hits in the last two MLB First-Year Player Drafts. So impressive was the performance of homegrown players that infielder Charlie Culbertson, a one-time top Draft pick of the Giants who began the year No. 7 on that team's list, came to the Rockies in a trade and could rate just 12th. Here is a look at the movers and shakers in the Rockies' chain:
Unsure of the readiness of Rosario, rough defensively and impatient at the plate, the Rockies went to Spring Training prepared to have him begin the year at Triple-A Colorado Springs.
For a handful of early at-bats, the fears were warranted. But, almost as quickly, Rosario showed signs of the patience that, combined with his natural power, would allow him to wallop big league pitching. He didn't spend a single day in the Minors.The left-handed Pomeranz outpitched several competitors in Spring Training to earn a spot in the early-season rotation. However, his making the team had as much to do with disappointing performances from trade acquisitions Guillermo Moscoso, Josh Outman and Tyler Chatwood as his own readiness, which was questionable.
Pomeranz has dealt with on-and-off general soreness, and hasn't established the efficiency he needs to reach his potential. Realistically, the important role in a big league rotation was a lot to ask of a pitcher in his second pro season.Friedrich entered the season a disappointment -- ranked 14th, and having not appeared above Double-A despite being a top pick in 2009. He finished the season a surprise. Injuries forced him into the rotation early. He had some of the same efficiency issues as Pomeranz, but had more quality work before suffering a stress fracture in his lower back in August. Durability has emerged as the main question about his future.
Injuries knocked shortstop Hector Gomez and outfielder Kent Matthes off the list.
The Rockies' top two Draft picks were standouts at the new Rookie-level affiliate in Grand Junction. Birmingham high school outfielder David Dahl (No. 6) took Pioneer League Player of the Year honors with a .373 batting average and .419 on-base percentage.
His power was questioned because he didn't put up big numbers in high school, but he hit seven homers in his first short pro season and has a frame that should add muscle. Strength, combined with the patience he has established, could mean big numbers.Right-handed pitcher Eddie Butler (No. 14), the supplemental first-rounder, was projected as a reliever by many teams, but the Rockies believe his efficiency could make him an effective starter. He was just that at Grand Junction -- 7-1, 2.13 ERA, 55 strikeouts to 13 walks in 13 games, all but one as a starter. Much of the attention in the Ubaldo Jimenez trade with Cleveland last summer went to Pomeranz and right-hander Alex White, both of whom have been in and out of the Majors. But righty Joe Gardner (No. 15) turned heads by going 8-3 with a 3.97 ERA at Tulsa in 28 games, all but five of them starts. He struck out 99 against 33 walks. Modesto shortstop Cristhian Adames grabbed the No. 20 spot with a solid season at the high Class A level -- .280 with a .352 on-base percentage while playing 115 games solidly at shortstop. Adames, 21, is a product of the Latin American program.
rockies' top prospects
Rutledge's rise of 12 spots was one of the largest among players ranked in the various MLB.com team Top 20s. Also, left-hander Edwar Cabrera, who put up impressive numbers at Tulsa (8-4, 2.94 ERA in 15 starts) and Colorado Springs (3-1, 3.41 in six starts), but struggled in two big league callups, went up eight spots to No. 11.
Top 100 representation
Call it a year of education for No. 1 prospect Nolan Arenado, who moved up two spots, from 29 to 27, in the Top 100.
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.