1. Tyler Matzek, LHP;
Tyler Matzek was taken 11th overall by the Rockies in the first round of the 2009 First Year Player Draft. Although being able to sign Matzek was a question for many clubs earlier in the round, Colorado was able to land him for a club-record $3.9 million dollars. After signing in late August Matzek did not play in 2009, but he was still named the Rockies top prospect by Baseball America. He was also deemed to posses the best fastball among all Rockies prospects in the system.
While already on the map as a prospect, Matzek reinforced that thought with a stellar 2010 season. Not only was he 5-1 with the Asheville Tourists, he also led the team with a 2.92 earned run average in 89.1 innings. After 2010, Matzek was ranked as the Number 3 prospect in the South Atlantic League.
The 6’3” lefthander has the assortment of pitches to be a top of the rotation pitcher in the major leagues. His fastball, slider and change-up all have the ability to be plus-plus pitches, but his weakness is in his control and command. He has great make up and the size necessary to be a successful pitcher in the majors. Matzek will start the 2011 season at High Class-A Modesto, with a midseason promotion to Double-A Tulsa not out of the question.
2. Wilin Rosario, C;
In 2010, Wilin Rosario was putting together a solid season in the Texas League. Not only did he play in the 2010 Futures Game, but he was also a Texas League Mid-Season All-Star, the Texas League Player of the Month for July, a Texas League Post-Season All-Star, and a TOPPS Double-A All-Star. Unfortunately, it came to a premature end on August 3rd.
Rosario tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during a rundown. Even with the surgery and the early end to his season Rosario still led the Drillers in home runs with 19. The total ranked 7th most in the Texas league despite only having 270 at-bats. He was also rewarded in November as the Rockies added him to the protected 40-man roster.
Most believe that Rosario could have seen time in the majors this season, but the knee injury more than likely set him back a year. He is a very rare talent, a catcher that excels both at and behind the plate. His raw power is a legitimate grade 70, and is capable of producing 20-30 home runs a year at the next level. Rosario will more than likely start out the season with the AAA affiliate Sky Sox, and if he progresses as anticipated he might have a chance to possibly end the season with the Rockies.
4. Christian Friedrich, LHP:
Friedrich went undrafted out of high school in 2005, but after three years at Eastern Kentucky University, developed into the 25th overall pick in
the 2008 Major League Baseball amateur player draft.
Starting 18 games in 2010, all for Double-A Tulsa, Friedrich struggled throughout the first half of the year, beginning 0-5 with an earned run average of 5.59. He was able to turn his season around after the All-Star break and notched a 3-1 record with an earned run average of 3.99 over his last 7 starts. Christian does have a bright future with the Rockies but his durability is a constant question as he has missed at least a month in each of his first two seasons with the organization due to various elbow injuries.
Friedrich does have the ability to be a front-line starter with the Rockies in the near future if he continues to develop his curveball and other secondary pitches. Baseball America rated Friedrich as the number 4 prospect in the Rockies system and as also having the best curveball within the organization. Assuming that he stays healthy in 2011, Friedrich will more than likely begin the season with the Tulsa Drillers. Many scouts believe they would not be surprised to see Friedrich pitching at Coors Field at some point during the 2011 season.
Colorado Rockies major league players are not the only ones gearing up for spring training. Last Monday, the journey began for many more young minor league ballplayers just hoping for their opportunity to show they belong in the show. In 2007, the Rockies were Baseball America’s Organization of the year, and that talent is what eventually spring-boarded them into the 2007 and 2009 playoffs. They have followed the organizational path of developing their young minor league stars while establishing the depth necessary to compete at the lower levels.
The Tulsa Drillers and their fans have benefited from this depth of talent. Over the next five entries we will be discussing the top 5 prospects in the Colorado farm system. Although short on professional experience, these five players show promise and the Rockies have very much invested in them. Today we are starting with the Number 5 Prospect: Peter Tago.
5. Peter Tago, RHP:
Peter Tago was selected by the Rockies in the supplemental first round of the 2010 draft. That pick was compensation the Rockies received from losing Jason Marquis to free agency in 2009. Tago has very good size, well over 6’2”, for an 18 year old in his first year out of high school. Even though his listed weight is 190, most scouts agree that he will fill in his frame during his minor league tenure.
Baseball America recently said about Peter, “He has a smooth, relaxed motion, but he needs to do a better job of incorporating his lower half into his delivery.” Also that, “his curveball shows promise and he’s working on a changeup.”
Over the last few years the Rockies have not been in a hurry to rush young arms. Tago will not make an impact on the Rockies in 2011, but surely has a bright future within the system.
Hopefully you guys enjoyed the first part of the interview! Here is what remains of our conversation late last week. Austin left on Wednesday to join both the Drillers and the Rockies at the new Salt River Fields complex. Can anyone believe it is only 29 days till the Rockies come to Tulsa!
1 What is the most rewarding part of this job for you?
Man, let me think about that one. In Tulsa you are dealing with a bunch of young men or kids that are away from home for the first time, especially some with lots of pressure on them. I feel that a bond between a player and a trainer is a special one that he doesn’t have with the team’s manager or clubhouse guy. It means a lot to me being the guy that players often come to, to talk about things other than baseball. And the fact they have the confidence in me to tell me very personal things, it means a lot to me.
2 Does Sam ever slack on the spread after the game? Worst? Best?
Sam really is not in charge over the spread after games. We usually have special deals with local restaurants that provide the food after the games. Sam is usually in charge of the meal before the game, and over the years he has done a great job with it. It has really changed over the years with organizations trying to become a lot healthier. My first year here our meals usually consisted of ballpark food, so yea it has really changed.
3 What is the most common injury the Drillers are plagued with? – Jen Baker
By far the most common injury that we deal with are either related with shoulders, elbows, or wrists. Whether it be the arms with the pitchers or the hands of hitters, those are the main injuries I see.
4 When a member of the Rockies comes down for a rehab stint, are you more focused on getting them back to Denver or focused more towards your guys? – Justin Warhime
The overall goal of an organization is to build championship players all the way from Denver to Casper, Wyoming. My goal is to get the MLB player to full strength so he is able to help the MLB club compete for a championship that is mainly why we have the entire minor league system. Yes I would say that the MLB players might take somewhat of a priority just because of the parent club, but if you’re asking do I show favoritism to them. The answer to that is not at all.
5 With the strict P.E.D testing what supplements are allowed if any and what product is most commonly used by the players? – Curtis Brummett
There are not many things that the players are allowed to take. But I would say that most take the basic protein supplement. Any MiLB player is able to take supplements with the NSA certified logo on it, it’s just that there hardly any supplements that have that logo. The Rockies also provide most of the supplements that are legal, therefore making it easier on the players on what they can and can’t take.
6 What team did you root for as a kid?
When I was younger my baseball team was definitely the Mets. I like the Mets, the Chicago Bears, and Lakers. Now I don’t really like the Lakers, and Colorado has a MLB team, so I got to go with the Rockies for sure. They are huge in the Upper Midwest, you will have your occasional Mariners fan, but most people are for sure rooting for the Rockies.
Here is Part 1 of my question and answer session with Tulsa Drillers trainer, Austin O’Shea. Austin is entering in his 3rd season with the Drillers in 2011. Austin graduated from Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado and is originally from Montana. The trainer is often the person who the players confide throughout the season, and whom most are the closest too. His background within the Rockies system and experience working with the players made him one of the better people in the organization to interview. Please enjoy!
1 So how did you end up in Minor League Baseball, being from Montana?
Growing up I was always more of a football guy than a baseball guy. After I graduated from Colorado State, I moved back to Montana and began working for an orthopedic surgeon. The Rockies happened to lose their minor league trainer in one of their Class A Affiliates. The Rockies had contacted the trainer at CSU to see if he happened to know anyone that might be interested in a minor league position; the trainer gave my number to Mark Gustafson thinking I would love the opportunity. Funny thing I had actually just purchased a house in Montana, but luckily was able to sell it and break even. Next thing you know, I moved up there and been in the Rockies organization ever since.
2 We all know about the long infamous bus rides on a MiLB bus, but what is your favorite thing about working in the minors?
My favorite thing has to be what every other person working in sports loves about their job. Being in the position I am in, I love being part of the wins and the good times, but then having to make it through the losing and the hard times, makes it worth while also. It’s also just the sense of being a part of something special sometimes that I love.
3 What is a typical game day for a trainer?
Usually it is about an 11 hour day, for home games that start at 7:05. I begin regularly around noon by starting the paper work and responding to any emails I might have. The guys usually start to arrive around 3 and I begin on those who need early treatment for injuries. Then on to batting practice, eat a light meal, and then take care of any treatment that happens before games. After the game I have to deal with record upkeep that is a huge part of minor league baseball, with the treatments I give and the injuries the players come to me with.
4 Do you have to have a ridiculous player injury story?
I have too many to name, but there are two that really come to mind. A couple years back we had a guy come to us with a broken hand, and said he broke it while carrying groceries up the stairs. Now how that happened is not for me to know. Thing is about a week later, another teammate comes to me with the same story. That’s all you’re getting out of me.
5 What minor league player made the biggest impression on you, whether it be as a person or ball player?
That’s a very tough question. But I have to go with Troy Tulowitzki. I had him immediately after he got drafted in Modesto for his first year of pro ball. Then I had him again the next year in Tulsa when I took the head trainers job here. He just had the competitiveness that you rarely see out of a baseball player, and had the drive to go with it. He is just a natural born leader.
6 What is your eventual goal being a trainer?
My goal is just like any other player, manager or hitting coach in the minors. I want to be a trainer in the Majors.
When asked about coming to Tulsa on March 30, 2011 for the Colorado Rockies exhibition game against the Tulsa Drillers, current big leaguers could not be more excited. As many of the Rockies players are very familiar with the Tulsa area, being that the Drillers are the Colorado Rockies Double-A team and representative from the Texas League.
Current Rockies players who have previously played for the Drillers are Troy Tulowitzki, Aaron Cook, Dexter Fowler, Eric Young Jr., Bruce Billings, Jhoulys Chacin, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Ian Stewart among others.