This year we decided as a staff to preview each of the team’s preliminary assignments to the 2012 AFL and our goal is to tackle each of the 30 organizations over the next 7-10 days. We hope you will follow along with us, check in several times each day and enjoy reading what we come up with. If you’re not familiar with the eligibility rules or how the rosters are constructed just click here to brush up.
The Colorado Rockies have earmarked seven players for AFL action including two of their preseason Top-10 prospects and another that just made it onto their Top-30. The Rockies farmhands will join forces with players from the Blue Jays, Nationals, Diamondbacks and White Sox to create the Salt River Rafters roster.
*Stats listed below do not include games played on 9/1
LHP – Isaiah Froneberger (23) – Rockies 2007 4th Round Pick
2012 – Modesto: 2.88 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 67 H, 38 BB and 78 SO in 75.0 IP
Despite pitching in the California League with Modesto, Froneberger is having his finest season as a professional. His ERA is under 4.00 for the first time in six seasons and his WHIP is under 1.52 for the first time as well. Much of the gains can be traced back to his 8.0 H/9 which is down sharply from the 12.3 mark he was saddled with in 2011 and is also a career best. He’s a 5’10″ 200 lb lefty reliever with a fastball that sits in the mid to upper 80s, but he offsets the lack of velocity with a plus breaking ball that is a true weapon and out pitch. The 4.6 BB/9 this season – and 4.8 for his career – leaves a lot to be desired but he’s struck out at least a batter per inning at every stop he’s made along the way and has shown significant progress this season. Of course, this is the second time he’s pitched an entire year with Modesto – the other being 2010 – and he only has 2.2 innings of Double-A experience on his resume. His assignment to the AFL makes sense as the Rockies look to assess if the gains he’s made this season are real. He should be able to handle the pitching environment in Arizona with 144.2 innings logged in the Cal League. However, Froneberger has already set career highs in appearances (52) and innings pitched this season so fatigue may play a significant factor in his fall performance.
RHP – Cory Riordan (26) – Rockies 2007 6th Round Pick
2012 – Tulsa: 3.66 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 40 H, 8 BB and 29 SO in 39.1 IP
2012 – Colorado Springs: 4.88 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 61 H, 9 BB and 37 SO in 55.1 IP
From the time he was drafted, Riordan had been used primarily as a starter with just 13 of his 123 appearances as a pro being of the relief variety. This season however he’s spent a fair amount of time in both roles. With Tulsa, 19 of 20 appearances came as a reliever while 9 of his 13 appearances since his promotion to Colorado Springs have been as a starter. He has four pitches at his disposal and while none of them are anything more than decidedly average, he throws strikes and has a career 1.9 BB/9 after 808.2 innings of work in the minors. Riordan doesn’t strike a lot of batters out and he’s never given up less than a hit per inning at any of his stops along the way which mitigates his potential value.
RHP – Coty Woods (24) – Rockies 2009 33rd Round Pick
2012 – Tulsa: 0.76 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 26 H, 8 BB and 34 SO in 35.2 IP
2012 – Colorado Springs: 6.10 ERA, 1.94 WHIP, 29 H, 11 BB and 13 SO in 20.2 IP
It’s not often you come across a pitcher with such a stark difference in statistical performance while moving from AA to AAA but Coty Woods fits that bill. For the record, if you throw in his performance from tonight (9/1) the separation gets even greater as his ERA jumps to 7.40. Aside from his stint with the Sky Sox, he’s put together an impressive minor league resume but it’s been built on the back of a funky, quasi-submarine style delivery and mediocre stuff. Triple-A has a way of eating pitchers like this alive (see Chris “Disco” Hayes for another somewhat recent example) but 20.2 innings is a small sample size. Since the bulk of his competition in the AFL will be from Double-A and lower, Woods could wind up with a very impressive stat line at the end of the fall season, but we will have to wait to see how he handles another crack at Triple-A in 2013 before we can get too excited about his chances to carve out a major league career.
C – Lars Davis (26) – Rockies 2007 3rd Round Pick
2012 – Tulsa: 0.280/.333/.390, 12 2B, 0 3B, 7 HR, 1 SB, 21 BB and 74 SO in 327 PA
Coming out of the 2007 draft, Davis projected to have some pop in his bat, but six seasons into his minor league career he’s slugged over 0.400 just once – 0.403 last season. He has just 48 doubles and 24 home runs to his credit through 402 games and he’s been stuck in Tulsa the last three years. While the power hasn’t really materialized, Davis has put together a respectable offensive year for a catcher. His assignment to the AFL is a little curious to me but I understand.
C – Jose Gonzalez (25) – Signed out of Venezuela by the Rockies on July 16th, 2004
2012 – Tulsa: 0.233/.277/.291, 7 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 1 SB, 9 BB and 40 SO in 187 PA
Sharing catching duties with Davis on the Salt River Rafters squad, is his Tulsa Drillers teammate Jose Gonzalez. If the inclusion of Davis on the AFL team was curious, I really have no words or explanation for why Gonzalez is joining him. We are talking about a 7-year minor league veteran who has a career slash line 0.222/.310/.291 and 9 HR in 355 games played. Of course Gonzalez can do one thing better than most catchers and that is gun down would be base-stealers. He’s thrown out 26 of 49 (53%) this season and has a 45% CS% over the course of his career. His arm is obviously a major asset, but with slash stats like his, it’s not enough.
OF – Kent Matthes (25) – Rockies 2009 4th Round Pick
2012 – Tulsa: 0.214/.273/.432, 18 2B, 2 3B, 17 HR, 6 SB, 22 BB and 80 SO in 368 PA
Matthes came into the season ranked at #8 in the Rockies Top-30 prospects according to Baseball America but his 2012 has dropped his stock with an audible thud. He was, after all, coming off a season in which he hit 0.334/.378/.642 with 39 2B and 23 HR in 93 games with Modesto. It was enough to earn him MVP honors of the California League, despite missing the last month of the season with a broken hand, but not enough to propel him to success in Double-A. The hand injury may have played a part in his lackluster performance with Tulsa, but at 25-years old, the clock was already working against Matthes and he really couldn’t afford to take such a significant step back. His assignment to the AFL makes perfect sense on a number of levels as he still has a nice mix of bat speed, power, arm and speed to be an asset to the organization if things can fall back into place.
OF – Kyle Parker (22) – Rockies 2010 1st Round Pick (26th Overall)
2012 – Modesto: 0.308/.415/.562, 18 2B, 6 3B, 23 HR, 1 SB, 66 BB and 88 SO in 463 PA
While Matthes struggled this season after leaving the friendly confines of Modesto, Parker took full advantage of the Cal League and showed across the board improvement from his debut season with Asheville in 2011. Not only did Kyle rack up a 0.300/.400/.500 slash line this year, he also dropped his strikeout rate 6.8% from last year and upped his walk rate 4.6% at the same time. Entering the season he was ranked just behind Matthes at #9 in Colorado’s system, but he’s obviously moved ahead. Now focused solely on baseball after playing QB at Clemson, Parker can certainly use the extra game action and development time that the Arizona Fall League affords.