As it is the job of the RoxPile to provide our fellow Rockies fans with any news about the Colorado Rockies it only seems appropriate to include all facets of Rockies baseball. That sometimes includes a trip through the player development system — a trip to the farm if you will. Here is what has been going on around the Rockies’ minor league clubs this past week.
Colorado Sky Sox (AAA): The Sky Sox went 3-4 over the past 7 games leading up to their own All-Star break. They currently sit 3rd in the Pacific-North division of the Pacific Coast league even with a 50-45 record. The Sky Sox lead the PCL in both batting average (.295) and runs scored per game (5.68), but their downfall (surprise! not) comes in the pitching staff. The team gives up a PCL worst 5.97 runs per game to go along with 5.46 ERA. They also are the only PCL team to have given up more than 1,000 hits so far in the season. I guess we can stop thinking that pitching help will come from just down the road in Colorado Springs.
One bright spot for the Sky Sox so far this year has been the consistent play of middle infielder Charlie Culberson. Culberson has hit .298 over 86 games and has 13 home runs and 55 RBIs. The only downside is that he plays in the middle infield, a position that is pretty shored up for the big league club. Also to note: this is the first season that Culberson has shown any real promise, after spending 5 years in the San Francisco Giants system. With the Giants he did make an appearance with the major league club but hit a dismal .136 in 6 games. His career stats show him with a triple split of .266/.313/.399 which makes me wonder if this power outburst is something he can hold onto or if it is anomalous. The fact that his career ISO (a power metric) is .145 makes the latter almost a certainty.
Corey Dickerson and his lofty .385 batting average will miss the PCL All-Star game to be held in Reno, NV on Wednesday July 17 due to being on the major league 25-man roster when balloting was held. What a complete raw deal for Dickerson as he recently found demoted himself back to the Springs. He is either completely pissed off or not bothered by the double snub as over the last weekend, his first back with the AAA club, he hit .307 with 2 home runs and 8 RBIs.
Ryan Wheeler (.300/.351/.433) will be the lone Rockies representative at the AAA All-Star game.
Tulsa Drillers (AA): The Tulsa Drillers went 3-3 over the past week after grinding out a 6-5 victory this evening at home. They are sitting in 3rd place in the North division of the Texas League, 3.5 games back of first place with a 43-47 record. In a complete mirror of the Sky Sox, they lead the league in runs allowed per game (3.88) but trail the entire Texas League in hitting. The Drillers have been completely void of offense, averaging only 3.64 runs per game and an abysmal .232 batting average.
Looking at their pitching staff, one guy has been particularly solid for the 2013 season. In 18 games started with the club, Christian Bergman has a 5-6 record but boasts a 2.99 ERA. Obviously he has fallen on some bad luck as his offense hasn’t been able to back him up, but his pitching efforts have been superb. He has not given up more than 5 runs in any start, and he has 3 losses after going 6+ innings and giving up 3 runs or less. That is tough. Bergman also has 3 recent no-decisions after going 7+ innings in each and giving up 6 total runs. Honestly the 25 year old righty could easily be carrying an 11-3 record. Look for Bergman to pop into the AAA roster sometime later this summer. With Aaron Cook, Jeff Francis, and Chris Volstad all taking up roster spots in the AAA level, and throwing complete garbage (Cook hasn’t won a game in 8 starts), something should open up soon.
Modesto Nuts (A+): The Modesto Nuts come in holding up 4th place in the North Division of the A+ level California League with a 45-49 record. The Nuts went 3-4 over the past week and have maintained a middle of the road stance amongst their League rivals. Their pitching staff is 2nd best boasting a 4.10 ERA but with an average age of just 23.4 years old.
By far their bright spot for the 2013 season has been Daniel Winkler. Winkler, a 6’1″ right-hander, has an impressive 11-3 record and a 2.30 ERA in 18 starts this season. He has not given up more than 5 runs and has also had a few recent no-decision outings where he went into the 7th inning having given up less than 3 runs. He has been building on success at the Rookie level and A-level and seems to be on the right track to a promotion after the season.
Another player to point out is fellow starting pitcher Eddie Butler who made an appearance in the MLB Futures Game today and blew up my twitter feed during his scoreless inning. Several scouts were loving what Butler was showing, with a fastball in the mid-to-upper 90’s and a hard, high 80’s slider. He also struck out Xander Bogaerts, something no one else could do. Butler and his 3.08 ERA should continue to rapidly rise through the farm system. He has a ridiculously hard sinker that should do wonders to impress the Rockies’ front office and already has. Butler is young (22) and is only a little over a year from his last college game, so being in high-A Modesto means he carries quite a bit of pressure on his 6’2″, 180 lb frame. Judging from the reaction scouts showed today, he should be able to handle it.
Low-Level (A, A-, Rookie): The Rockies lower level clubs have all had strong seasons so far in 2013. Particularly surprising are the efforts of the Grand Junction Rockies, the western slope Rookie level affiliate of the eastern slope Rockies. The GJ Rockies sit atop their division in the Pioneer League with a 14-9 record. Their offense leads the league with nearly 7 runs scored per game, boosted by a league leading 24 home runs.
Top Rockies prospect David Dahl may be missing most of his entire season with a torn hamstring, though he did manage to drive in 7 RBIs and hit .275/.310/.425 in only 10 games at A level Asheville. Dahl made early season headlines when he was disciplined for violating team rules, but hopefully these issues are in the past and he can continue on the trail toward Denver. Dahl hit .379 with 57 RBIs last season at the Rookie level.
First round draft pick Jonathan Gray made his first start with the GJ Rockies last week and tossed only 3 innings, giving up 3 earned runs (4 total) on 7 hits. He got a no-decision, and the Rockies won 10-6, but he gave up 3 runs in the first inning and another in the second. He walked none and struck out just one batter out of the 16 he faced. After throwing 126+ innings over the first part of the summer for the Oklahoma Sooners, the Rockies are undoubtedly in no hurry to overuse what everyone imagines will be a top of the rotation arm.