Rockies Draft News and Notes

With the draft behind us and an off day for the big league club on Monday, it's time again for Rockies news and notes. We start with the news of a few new Rockies signing their first professional baseball contracts and finish with notes on a couple of current young Rockies at the major league level. 

  • The Rockies have agreed to terms with a few recent selections, most notably 1st round pick David Dahl, a high school outfielder from Alabama. Though the terms of his contract haven't been disclosed, he will report to Grand Junction on Monday. 
  • RHP Seth Willoughby, a fourth round selection from Xavier, signed for $330,300 (full slot value for the pick). I interviewed Willoughby shortly after the Rockies made him the highest drafted player in Xavier history and he told me he didn't expect negotiations to drag on if he was treated fairly. Clearly, the Rockies gave him the royal treatment and now the organization has another solid arm. Willoughby was a closer at Xavier. Originally an infielder, Willoughby took to the mound after a left hammate bone injury and grabbed the attention of scouts with a power fastball (92-95 mph) and cutter (88-90). 
  • The Rockies also signed 11th round pick RHP T.J. Oakes for $100,000. From Minnesota, Oakes is another good arm who throws 90-93 mph.  

At the major league level, the Rockies were swept by the Los Angeles Angels this weekend and have now lost five games in a row. Christian Friedrich allowed nine runs, eight earned, on 10 hits in four innings on Sunday. It was the third time in three home starts that Friedrich was shelled at Coors Field. His home ERA is currently 12.60, having allowed 21 earned runs on 30 hits in 15 innings. He's been much better on the road, pitching to a 1.80 ERA in 25 innings. Regardless of where he's pitching, Friedrich would be better served not to continue to be so very hittable. He currently leads baseball with a 32% line drive allowed rate, which easily explains why he's not fit to pitch at Coors Field right now. Major league hitters don't have a problem squaring Friedrich up right now and when they do it in Coors Field they get rewarded for it.

Because Friedrich, 24, is a former first round pick and had battled elbow problems in 2010 his ascendance to the Rockies rotation was seen as an accomplishment. Now that the pixie dust has worn off and Friedrich has a 5.85 ERA and 1.63 WHIP, the Rockies must realistically evaluate what they have here. They might have a legitimate number three starter if they played in a home ballpark like the Padres' spacious Petco Park, but without that luxury the Rockies have to view Friedrich as very much still a work in progress. I'd expect to see Friedrich working out his command issues in the minor leagues sometime soon. 

On the bright side, the Rockies do have Dexter Fowler and he's been absolutely on fire. Since returning from the minors in July of last year, Fowler is hitting .285/.382/.515 in 500 plate appearances. That's beyond all-star caliber, especially for an up the middle player. Fowler, who can cover a ton of ground in Coors' spacious outfield, has never played a full season at the major league level. At some point during each season over the last few years, Fowler's swing got out of whack and he'd have to spend a month in Triple-A. "Not this year," Fowler told me during Spring Training. This would be the year where everything clicked he said then and he's met all expectations. The scary thing is that if you look at some of the numbers Fowler has put up while only playing in 130 or so games each year, he could do even better in 150 or more. Fowler already owns the Rockies single season triples record with the 15 he had last year, he already has six in just 55 games this year.  

Wilin Rosario is a young hitter getting his feet wet at the major league level this season. In Spring Training, I watched Rosario hit absolute bombs in batting practice from behind the cage. The power was readily apparent as he hit line shots all over the field, but you could tell the approach wasn't there and if you look at his numbers in the big leagues it's clear that it still isn't. Rosario is currently hitting .233 with five walks in 128 plate appearances, giving him a .266 OBP. Even for a 23-year-old backup catcher, that on-base percentage is simply intolerable for any major league player who makes his money with his bat. Rosario has been able to cover up his out making proclivity with power as 17 of his 28 hits have gone for extra bases. So far, my evaluation of Rosario from this past Spring is holding true to form. With few other options for the Rockies, though, Rosario may have to work out his approach issues at the major league level. 

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