2012 Fish Watch: Colorado Rockies Final Update

The first thing you need to know about The Fish Watch is that it’s not a list of sleepers. It is instead a list of players at various points in their respective minor league journeys that for one reason or another have piqued my interest enough that I am watching their development more closely than the bulk of prospects out there. To read more about this project, check out the introduction and master list.

Obviously since the season is over and some teams have had two updates, some have only had one and the NL West teams have had zero coverage thus far, this project did not work out as I had planned on many levels. Undeterred I’m going to sally forth and finish off this round of updates and call it good. Next season if I attempt this again I’m going to have to make some major changes to the structure, plan and concept of this series.

Feel free to check out the category archive to read previous installments of the series.

Colorado Rockies (S2S 2012 Rockies Team Prospect List)

C – William Swanner (21) – Rockies 2010 15th Round Pick

Reasoning – Swanner is one of the first players I wrote about for this site, outside of our 2011 MLB Draft coverage. That article was published on July 5th, 2011 and was inspired by his three homer game the night before. I’ve been following him ever since.

As an aside how disappointing is it that the Rockies moved their Pioneer League team from Casper to Grand Junction? Not because of the change in venue, of course, but because they went from one of best team names in all of baseball to another in a long line of uninspired names that borrow from the parent club’s moniker. Moving from the Casper Ghosts to the Grand Junction Rockies is the equivalent of  making $50 per hour one day and minimum wage the next.

2011 – Casper (Rk): 0.264/.357/.553, 14 2B, 1 3B, 10 HR, 1 SB, 20 BB and 60 SO in 182 PA
2012 – Asheville (A): 0.302/.385/.529, 24 2B, 1 3B, 16 HR, 3 SB, 38 BB and 101 SO in 372 PA

Swanner’s bat is what makes him intriguing as a prospect and he has finished with an OPS north of 0.900 in each of his three minor league seasons. Of course since he’s not a well known name you’d be right to assume that there are some flaws in his game. In fact, for Swanner, there are two red flags holding him back. The first relates to his plate discipline and the other relates to his defensive ability as a catcher.

With respect to the first red flag, he’s struck out 194 times in 149 career games giving him a woeful 30.7 K%. He did however cut his K rate down to 27.2% while playing in full season ball for the first time in 2012, so that’s certainly a sign of progress even though he’s got a long, long way to go in that arena.  In addition to trimming his strikeout rate, while facing more advanced competition, Swanner also largely maintained his BB% which dropped just a tick from 11.0% in 2011 to 10.2% this past season.

Behind the plate is a different matter. While he gets positive marks for his leadership and has above average arm strength, his future as a catcher is sketchy at best. He has not made strides defensively as quickly as the organization hoped and baserunners have been taking advantage of poor throwing mechanics and subpar footwork. In 2012 he threw out just 13 of the 133 runners that attempted to steal a base, meaning he successfully gunned down a runner just 9.8% of the time. That’s not going to get it done at any level and he has other difficulties behind the plate as well.

Clearly the bat is going to have to carry him forward, but that’s okay because it’s good enough to do so. Swanner turned in a fine season offensively in 2012 and if he hadn’t been catching it’s reasonable to expect it would have been even better. He clearly wore down at the end of the year and stumbled to the finish line in a 12-66 slump during August and September. Outside of that stretch he hit better than 0.310 every month and slugged better than 0.600 in three of the first four months as well.

He’s yet to take the field at any other position in his professional career but that will probably need to change in the very near future. While I’d rather see him advance and succeed as a catcher, he’s a good athlete and should be able handle a position switch without too much difficulty. Not only would such a move eliminate one of the weak points of his game, it could also push his offensive production to another level since he would be able to devote more time to honing his approach at the plate.

LHP – Edwar Cabrera (24) – Signed out of the Dominican Republic as a NDFA on March 5th, 2008

Reasoning – When it came to amassing strikeouts in 2011, no one in the minors (at any level) stood above Cabrera who fanned 217 while pitching in the South Atlantic and California Leagues.

2011 – Asheville/Modesto: 3.34 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 155 H, 41 BB and 217 SO in 167.0 IP
2012 – Tulsa (AA): 2.94 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 65 H, 23 BB and 82 SO in 98.0 IP
2012 – Colorado Springs (AAA): 3.41 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 26 H, 12 BB and 39 SO in 31.2 IP
2012 – Colorado (MLB): 11.12 ERA, 2.82 WHIP, 9 H, 7 BB and 5 SO in 5.2 IP

Cabrera’s 2012 performance wasn’t nearly as impressive as the previous season in some respects, but it was enough to get him to the majors. He was bludgeoned in his first start, and major league debut, on June 27th (2.1 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 1 SO, 3 HR), and got knocked around to a lesser degree a month later in a second start (3.1 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 4 SO). His big league stylings aside, Cabrera’s ERA, WHIP and H/9 were all better than his 2011 marks but for the first time in his professional career he struck out less than 10.7 batters per nine innings with a rate of “only” 8.4.

His fastball sits in the 88-92 mph range while his curveball is inconsistent and at it’s best will likely never be much more than an average pitch. His changeup, regarded as one of the best in the minors, is a true plus-plus pitch that he throws with excellent command. There is plenty of skepticism about his ability to stick in the rotation at the major league level, but he has succeeded at every stop thus far and he’s spent most of his career pitching in difficult environments.

He battled injuries in 2012 and didn’t appear in a game after August 3rd, but I’ve found nothing to suggest that he won’t be ready for the 2013 season. Cabrera should battle for a spot in the Rockies rotation during spring training and has a bright future as a #4/#5 starter or as a bullpen option. He does have longball tendencies so Colorado may not be the best home for him but if he makes his way to a team with a HR suppressing home ballpark he could turn in some very solid seasons.

OF – Corey Dickerson (23) – Rockies 2010 8th Round Pick

Reasoning – Dickerson finished the 2011 season with 64 extra base hits, but 49 of those – including 26 of his 32 HR – came at home in the bandbox known as McCormick Field. Would he be able to produce at a higher level, playing away from Asheville? That is a question that many, including myself, were wanting answered in 2012.

2011 – Asheville: 0.282/.356/.629, 27 2B, 5 3B, 32 HR, 9 SB, 39 BB and 99 SO in 435 PA
2012 – Modesto: 0.338/.396/.583, 24 2B, 4 3B, 9 HR, 9 SB, 25 BB and 42 SO in 270 PA
2012 – Tulsa: 0.274/.322/.504, 16 2B, 3 3B, 13 HR, 7 SB, 18 BB and 51 SO in 290 PA

Dickerson tore through Modesto before landing in Tulsa where his production, as you would expect, dropped off. However he showed the ability to adjust after getting off to a slow start with the Drillers. After hitting 0.206/.250/.492 in his first 16 Texas League games, he righted things and hit 0.296 with 11 2B, 1 3B and 10 HR in his next 51 games to close out the season. He doesn’t draw a ton of walks but he does a good job of making contact with quick hands and good bat speed. He cut his strikeout rate from 22.8% with Asheville to 15.5% and 17.6% with Modesto and Tulsa respectively which is also a positive.

As a prospect, Dickerson’s below average arm and speed relegate him to LF, and his bat will have to carry him forward. His performance in 2012 proved he was more than simply a product of Asheville’s cozy confines but what his potential role could be if/when he reaches the majors is still up in the air. Dickerson is currently playing with the Salt River Rafters in the AFL.

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For more on the Colorado Rockies, check out Rox Pile!

Topics: Asheville Tourists, Colorado Rockies, Colorado Springs Sky Sox, Corey Dickerson, Edwar Cabrera, Tulsa Drillers, William Swanner

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