Rockies prospects making presence felt

System features solid talent despite lack of playoff teams

Slugger Jordan Pacheco led the Rockies farm system with 89 RBIs. (Bill Mitchell/Four Seam Images)

By John Parker / Special to | November 1, 2010 6:00 AM

This offseason, will be honoring the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organization. We're taking a look at each team to determine the outstanding seasons in Minor League baseball. Select a team from the dropdown below.

The Rockies' six farm teams struggled to win games in 2010, with no teams reaching their league playoffs and only Class A Advanced Modesto posting a winning record. Yet, while Minor League championships are splendid accomplishments, they take a back seat to player development, and here the Rockies have had success. Top left-handed prospect Tyler Matzek, who received a team-record $3.9 million signing bonus in 2009, did not disappoint in his professional debut and is one of several players likely to make an impact in Denver soon.

Rockies organizational All-Stars

Catcher -- Jordan Pacheco, Modesto (104 games)/Tulsa (21 games): A former ninth-round pick out of New Mexico, Pacheco led the Rockies system with 89 RBIs at Modesto and Tulsa. A year after being named MVP of the South Atlantic League, he evidenced no trouble with stiffer competition at Class A Advanced, where he hit .321, reached base at a .407 clip and was named to both the mid- and postseason California League All-Star teams. When Tulsa backstop Willin Rosario went down with a torn knee ligament in early August, Pacheco made a smooth transition to Double-A, where he hit .333 with 19 RBIs in 21 games. Overall, his .323 batting average was sixth-best in the Colorado system and third among full-season hitters.

Honorable mention: Wilin Rosario

First baseman -- Jared Clark, Asheville (110 games): Slugger Jared Clark homered twice in his first three games of the season and hardly looked back. His 24 longballs led the South Atlantic League and ranked second in the Rockies system, while his on-base percentage (.412) and slugging percentage (.541) were second to Sally League MVP J.D. Martinez. A former 12th-round pick who turned 24 in May, Clark was one of the older players in Class A but displayed skills that would play well at any level. Clark led the Rockies organization with 76 walks and, at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, even stole 10 bases. The Cal State Fullerton product grew stronger as his first full season went along, batting .345 with 15 homers and 44 RBIs in 48 games after the All-Star break.

"We're very pleased with his power numbers," Rockies director of player development Marc Gustafson told the Denver Post. "He's a power guy, and you like to have power hitters playing the corner positions."

Second baseman -- Jason Van Kooten, Tulsa (112 games): Van Kooten, a 46th-round pick in the 2003 Draft, flashed home run power in his first season at Double-A. His 17 longballs -- he had never hit more than 10 in a season before -- were tied for fourth in the Rockies organization.

"I changed my swing two years, ago and I've really been fine-tuning it ever since," Van Kooten told the Tulsa Examiner. "I've also realized what kind of hitter I am. I go up there now and I swing freely. ... I have to be aggressive on a pitch I can handle."

After a slow start, Van Kooten caught fire in July, hitting .313 with five homers and 23 RBIs in 22 games as the Drillers went 19-11. He also proved his versatility, hitting in every spot in the order for manager Ron Gideon.

Third baseman -- Nolan Arenado, Ashville (92 games): Just 19 years old, the former second-round pick began the season in extended Spring Training and ended it as Baseball America's second-ranked prospect in the South Atlantic League. Despite the late start, he finished first in the Rockies organization and second in the Sally League with 41 doubles in just 92 games. Arenado posted a .308 batting average -- ninth-best in the Rockies system -- but drew just 19 walks in 373 at-bats for a .338 on-base mark. Though still working on his range and balance at third base, the native of Southern California has a strong arm and a bat that should take him far.

Shortstop -- Thomas Field, Modesto (124 games): A 24th-round pick in the 2008 Draft, Field had a breakout year with Modesto, batting .284 with 15 homers and 72 RBIs. He drew 66 walks -- second-most in the system -- and was hit 21 times for a .397 on-base percentage, which was fifth-best in the California League. Though Field's offensive production faded somewhat as the season progressed -- his batting average went down each month after hitting .323 in April -- he is considered strong in the field and has a solid bat for a middle infielder with a good eye. Field's season ended early when a left oblique strain sidelined him on Aug. 28, but he's picking up extra at-bats in the Arizona Fall League.

Outfielders -- Matt Miller, Colorado Springs (136 games): Matt Miller can hit. In six Minor League seasons, Miller has hit below .307 just once, and has posted a .400-plus on-base percentage in two of the last three years. The 2010 season was no different, as Miller hit .325 (first among all Rockies full-season players and third in the Pacific Coast League), drove in 81 runs (fifth in the system) and reached base at a .404 clip. The 27-year-old led all Rockies Minor Leaguers with 165 hits and 90 runs scored and even hit .305 when behind in the count. Miller has been a league All-Star in each of his six professional seasons.

"He's a professional hitter," Rockies player development assistant Walter Sylvester told the Denver Post. "Unfortunately for him, we have a logjam of outfielders on the big league roster. We believe Matt is a big league player, but he's blocked in this organization."

Eliezer Mesa, Ashville (117 games): Tourists center fielder Eliezer Mesa displayed little power -- he hit just two homers -- but did everything else well at the plate in 2010, batting .302 with 33 doubles and 29 stolen bases. The 21-year-old Dominican native led the Tourists with 83 runs scored and drove in 42 runs, largely out of the leadoff spot.

Mesa began the season on a tear, batting .365 with 13 doubles in 19 April games. "It feels like I haven't made an out in a month," he told the Asheville Citizen-Times through an interpreter. "I just feel awesome at the plate, seeing the ball real good and swinging with a lot of confidence."

Though his production cooled off as the season warmed up, his batting average never slipped below .300 en route to South Atlantic League mid- and postseason All-Star honors.

Corey Dickerson, Casper (69 games): The Rockies' eighth-round pick in the June Draft, Dickerson tore through the Pioneer League this summer. He batted .348 (second in the Rockies system) with 13 homers and a league-leading 61 RBIs in 69 games. A Pioneer League All-Star, the 21-year-old southpaw slugger closed out the campaign with a 15-game hitting streak -- and had multiple hits in 11 of those games.

"Corey's been impressive," Ghosts manager Tony Diaz told the Casper Star-Tribune. "He's an aggressive hitter that can impact the baseball."

Dickerson claimed the Best Class A Short-Season Hitter MiLBY award and was named to Baseball America's Short-Season All-Star team.

Designated hitter -- James Cesario, Modesto (128 games): A California League All-Star, the left-handed-hitting Cesario batted .316 with six homers and 71 RBIs for Modesto. His batting average was the fourth-highest among Rockies' full-season Minor Leaguers and his 10 triples were tied for the most in the system.

"He has tremendous ability to put the bat on the ball," Rockies director of player development Marc Gustafson told the Denver Post. "He can handle a lot of different pitches. Hitters always will find a place to play. He has exceeded our expectations."

Cesario, a 46th-round pick in the 2008 Draft, got most of his at-bats as a DH but also saw time at first, second, third and both corner-outfield positions.

Right-handed starting pitcher -- Ethan Hollingsworth, Modesto (25 games)/Tulsa (two games): Despite spending the bulk of his season in the offensive-minded California League, Hollingsworth went 12-8 with a 3.69 ERA in 27 starts. He struck out 162 and walked just 38 over 170 2/3 innings. The Cal League midseason All-Star's 12 victories were tied for the most in the Rockies system while he ranked second in strikeouts, and his 3.31 ERA for Modesto ranked second in the Cal League.

"For me, the highlight has been how well Hollingsworth has thrown," Modesto pitching coach Darryl Scott told the Modesto Bee.

Though he was hit hard in two July outings for Double-A Tulsa, Hollingsworth returned to Modesto and earned the victory in each of his last five starts of the season.

Honorable mention: Juan Nicasio, Chris Balcom-Miller (traded to Boston for Manny Delcarmen on Aug. 31)

Left-handed starting pitcher -- Tyler Matzek, Ashville (18 games): The Rockies' first-round pick (11th overall) in the 2009 Draft, Matzek was considered the Rockies' top prospect entering the season despite having yet to pitch in a pro game. He did not disappoint, tossing five one-hit frames in his Minor League debut against Greensboro on May 24. The 19-year-old earned his first victory on June 24 with 5 2/3 no-hit innings.

Though he struggled with his command at times -- he walked 62 while fanning 88 in 89 1/3 innings -- Matzek went 5-1 with a 2.92 ERA and held South Atlantic League hitters to a .204 average. The California native pitched six more no-hit frames on Aug. 7 en route to Sally League Player of the Week honors.

The precocious southpaw was palpably relieved to still be a Rockie after the July 31 trade deadline.

"It's in the back of your head, but I honestly think this is my franchise," Matzek said. "I want to come up in the Rockies organization, I don't want to be traded. I want to make it to the Majors as a Rockie, and it wouldn't be bad to finish as a Rockie, either."

Relief pitcher -- Adam Jorgenson, Modesto (41 games)/Tulsa (12 games): After saving 27 games for Asheville in 2009, Jorgenson kept rolling in 2010, recording an organization-high 24 saves for Modesto and Tulsa. He held California League hitters to one homer and a .208 batting average over 39 1/3 frames before his promotion to Double-A in early August.

In his final 16 appearances for the Nuts between June 13 and Aug. 4, Jorgenson pitched 15 scoreless innings while allowing 10 hits and two walks.

"He's very aggressive on the mound," Modesto pitching coach Darryl Scott told the Denver Post. "He comes right at you. He's not going to leave a whole lot in the tank when he comes off the field."

Honorable mention: Matt Reynolds

John Parker is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

View More