In 2012, the Colorado Rockies' minor league farm system enjoyed a successful year. Last year four out of the Rockies' six U.S based minor league affiliates went to the playoffs in their respective leagues. The Rockies thriving farm system has been fueled by their recent drafts. In MLB.com's newly released organizational prospect rankings, 15 of the Rockies' top 20 prospects were drafted in the last four years.
Nine of the players in MLB.com's list were also featured in Baseball America's list of the Rockies' top 10 prospects. The players the two lists have in common are: David Dahl, Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, Chad Bettis, Kyle Parker, Tyler Anderson, Eddie Butler, Jayson Aquino, and Tyler Matzek. The only player to appear on Baseball America's list and not on MLB.com's list is newly acquired utility player Ryan Wheeler. To see our take on these prospects and on Baseball America's list, check out our article from January.
Outfielder Tim Wheeler was not ranked on Baseball America's list, but was rated as the Rockies' seventh ranked prospect according to MLB.com. Wheeler emerged as a top prospect while he was with the Rockies' Double-A affiliate, the Tulsa Drillers, in 2011. While with Tulsa, Wheeler hit 33 home runs and swiped 21 bases in 561 at-bats. Wheeler was promoted the next year and spent the entirety of the 2012 season with the Sky Sox. In 92 games Wheeler batted .303 with 27 doubles and seven stolen bases, but was slowed by a hand injury that caused him to miss a large portion of the season.
Ranked eighth on the list is catcher Will Swanner. Swanner might be one or two years away from joining the Sox, but he has a bright future. The young backstop helped the Rockies' Single-A affiliate, the Asheville Tourists, win the South Atlantic League championship. Swanner had a great year swinging the bat, finishing second on the team in batting average at .302, and smacking 16 home runs. Swanner also oversaw a pitching staff that finished fourth in the South Atlantic League in ERA at 3.82.
The ninth player on the list is a pitcher who led the minors in strikeouts in 2011. Edwar Cabrera had over 200 strikeouts in 2011 and followed up his dominant season with a solid 2012 campaign. Cabrera began last year with the Drillers, but ended the year with the Sox. While with Colorado Springs, Cabrera won three out of his six starts and struck out 39 batters. Cabrera was with the Rockies in Arizona until being put on the 60-day disabled list with a left shoulder impingement.
Shortstop Rosell Herrera is one of the youngest players on the list at the age of 20. Herrera is the 12th rated prospect and started the season with the Tourists, but was sent down to the Tri-City Dust Devils when he hit .202 in 63 games. Herrera improved while with the Dust Devils and brought up his average to .284.
The next three players on the list were all invited to spring training and could see time with the Sky Sox in 2013. Second baseman Charlie Culberson came to the Sky Sox in midseason last year after being traded from the San Francisco Giants. Culberson struggled while with San Francisco's Triple-A affiliate, the Fresno Grizzlies, batting .236. In 30 games with the Sox, Culberson raised his batting average by 100 points and hit 11 doubles.
Despite playing with the High-A affiliate Modesto Nuts, outfielder Rafael Ortega could see time with the Sky Sox and the Rockies this year. Ortega had a standout year with the Nuts, slugging eight home runs and eight triples. Ortega even made his Major League debut last year, playing in two games with the Rockies and recording his first two career hits.
Outfielder Corey Dickerson is entering his third season in the Rockies' organization and is hoping to continue his ascent to the Major Leagues. Dickerson spent the first half of 2012 with the Modesto Nuts, where he hit .338 with 24 doubles and scored 43 runs in 60 games. Due to his hot start Dickerson was called up to the Drillers and hit 13 home runs in 266 at-bats. Dickerson continued to improve his game in the offseason when he played for the Salt River Rafters in the Arizona Fall League. While with the Rafters he had 24 hits in 66 plate appearances.
The remaining pitchers on the list are right-handers Peter Tago and Joe Gardner. Tago has struggled in his brief career, posting a 5.47 ERA with the Dust Devils, but has a high ceiling. Gardner has spent only one full season with the Rockies, but has already flashed his potential. Gardner started 23 games for the Drillers, but also saw some time in the bullpen. Gardner had 99 strikeouts in 138.1 innings and could bring his power arm to the Sky Sox in 2013.
Rounding out the list is shortstop Cristhian Adames and outfielder Julian Yan. Despite only being 21 years old, Adames is listed on the Rockies' 40-man roster and is attending spring training. Adames is known for his fielding prowess, but can also produce runs. While with Modesto, Adames had 21 doubles and 54 RBIs in 115 games.
Yan is four months younger than Adames, but faces a longer road to the show. Yan has spent two years in Rookie League, but has made significant strides. Yan exploded onto the scene last year, leading the Pioneer League in home runs with 16. Yan was also tied with teammate, and the Rockies' number one prospect, David Dahl in runs scored with 57.
Yan and the rest of the Rockies' prospects enter the 2013 season with aspirations of attaining a call-up to the big leagues. Follow the Sky Sox at @SkySoxGameDay and on our blog at http://coloradospringsskysox.mlblogs.com/ to follow the prospects on their journey to Denver.