An era has come to an end for the Colorado Rockies. Long time first baseman Todd Helton has announced his retirement and the club will need to look for a replacement this offseason. The Rockies will be sending eight players to the Arizona Fall League which will begin its 21st season on October 21st. One of those players heading to the desert may very well be the guy to replace the Colorado icon. Here is a look at their AFL participants. All rankings are according to mlb.com.
With a good AFL and Spring Training, Tyler Anderson could be in Colorado in 2014. Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
Tyler Anderson-The Rockies’ number one pick in the 2011 draft, Anderson has had an outstanding minor league career so far, albeit at the Single A level. Between Tri-City and Modesto in 2013, the 6-foot-4 lefty was 4-3 with a 2.81 ERA in 17 starts. In 89 2/3 innings, he held opponents to a .214 average and struck out 76 while allowing 27 walks and 71 hits. Colorado’s fifth-ranked prospect, has an outstanding changeup and an above-average offspeed pitch. Although he has never pitched above Class A, there is a chance that Anderson will make the Rockies’ rotation sometime in 2014.
Kyle Parker-The answer as to who will replace Helton in the Colorado lineup could come in the form of Parker, who up until now has primarily been an outfielder. The organization’s number one pick in 2010, Parker has enjoyed a steady climb up the chain which saw a good year at Double A Tulsa. He had 23 HR’s, 74 RBI’s and a slash line of .288/.345/.492 in 2013. In three minor league seasons, Parker has hit 67 HR, 242 RBI’s and a slash of .293/.374/.510, thus his #9 prospect ranking. If he performs well this Fall, my guess is he has the inside track to the first base job as there does not see any other viable alternatives in the organization. Parker spent some time at first toward the end of the season.
Tim Wheeler-One spot below Parker is outfielder Wheeler, another former first round pick (2009). He has spent the last two seasons at Triple A Colorado Springs after a tremendous 2011 at Tulsa when he clubbed 33 HR’s and drove in 86 runs. Part of his issue was a broken hamate bone at the beginning of the 2012 season and when he returned, he hit only two home runs in 379 at-bats. Wheeler regressed a bit in 2013 but the team is confident he will be a solid contributor because of his ability to play all three spots in the outfield. A good showing in the AFL plus a solid Spring Training will probably earn Wheeler a ticket to the Majors.
Tyler Matzek-Drafted 21 spots before Wheeler in the 2009 draft was Matzek, who began his pro career in style. At Single A Asheville, the lefty went 5-1 with a 2.92 ERA in 18 starts. However, 2011 was anything but fun for the Rockies’ #14 prospect. On two levels of A ball, he went 5-7 with a 6.22 ERA in 22 starts including an unsightly 9.82 ERA in ten starts at Modesto. After a subpar 2012 in Modesto, Maztek rebounded nicely in 2013 at Tulsa, going 8-9 with a 3.79 ERA in 26 starts. He threw 142 1/3 innings and allowed 147 hits. He struck out 95 batters but walked 76. He can reach 95 on the gun and has bite on his curve. If he can work the kinks on his changeup, the organization feels he can help them in 2015.
Cristhian Adames-The Rockies signed Adames out of the Dominican Republic when he was just 16. After playing two seasons in the Dominican Summer League, Adames moved to the States and has played at four levels of Colorado’s Minor League system, spending 2013 at Tulsa. At shortstop, the organization loves his defense skills which includes an above-average arm. While not possessing much power, Adames is no slouch at the plate, either. He has a career slash line is .271/.345/.359. At #15, and 22 years old, his glove will get him to the Show; his bat may determine his eventual role.
Dan Houston-The 26-year-old right-handed pitcher has been in the Rockies’ system since 2008 when he was drafted in the 7th round out of Boston College. He spent the first five years in the Minors as a starter with varying degrees of success at each level. His best season was in 2011 at Modesto where he went 7-1 with a 2.53 ERA. Finally, in 2013 while in his third season at Tulsa, Houston was moved to the bullpen. In 20 games in relief, he held batters to a .194 average as opposed to .284 as a starter. Houston earned two saves to go along with a 2-1 record and a 2.38 ERA and was promoted to Triple A Colorado Springs at the end of the season. It seems Houston’s future is in the ‘pen and he can use the AFL to get on the fast track to Colorado.
Dustin Garneau-Drafted in the 19th round in 2009, Garneau has steadily climbed the ladder in the system. The 26-year-old catcher spent 2013 at Tulsa where he hit 13 HR’s and drove in 47 runs in 372 at bats. In five career seasons, Garneau has hit 47 homers and driven in 190 runs. His career slash is .245/.344/.431. The Rockies have good organizational depth at catcher with Wilin Roasrio in Colorado and #11 prospect Will Swanner ahead of him in the Minor league rankings. Maybe the AFL will provide Garneau the opportunity to change positions or be showcased for another team.
Kraig Sitton-The 2009 7th round pick out of Oregon State, Sitton has spent his entire career in the bullpen. The 6-foot-5 lefty has an overall record of 15-8 with a 3.49 ERA. He has spent two seasons at Modesto where his numbers are 7-1 with a 2.99 ERA and two saves over 117 1/3 innings. While credited with only two saves, he has finished 30 games in 93 appearances. While it is unclear if and when Sitton will make it to Colorado, the fact that he is a tall lefty with good numbers means he will be a part of someone’s Major League roster by 2015.
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