The Rockies 2013 Arizona Fall League participants will be playing for the Salt River Rafters, along with prospects from the Blue Jays, Cardinals, Diamondbacks and Rays. The Rockies will be sending eight players to Arizona - four pitchers, a catcher, two infielders and an outfielder.
Tyler Anderson, LHP - When the Rockies drafted Anderson in the first round out of Oregon in 2011, they thought he might move quickly through their organization. Anderson may have sped up that timetable even further with an impressive first full season in the minors, and his inclusion in the AFL could be an indication of that. A 3.25 ERA in the California League is an impressive feat, and doing without being a big strikeout pitcher makes it that much more difficult. Anderson showed polish and an advanced feel compared to the hitters he was facing, which likely helped him get more weak contact than average and contribute to his .250 BABIP, but he undoubtedly was pretty lucky as well. He doesn't have great velocity so he's a mid-rotation guy at best, but a left-hander with a plus-changeup is a valuable thing to have as an organization.
Dan Houston, RHP - Houston is a 26-year-old non-prospect whose inclusion in the AFL is questionable by the Rockies given his limited ceiling. He's spent the last three seasons at Double-A Tulsa and has combined to strike out less than six batters per nine innings at the level.
Tyler Matzek, LHP - It seems like Matzek, the 11th overall pick in the 2009 draft, has been around forever, but he'll be just 23 this fall. He still has the power left-handed arm that got him drafted, but the rest has been a disaster. Bounts with extreme wildness have rendered him ineffective for much of his professional career, but he did take a step forward in 2013. He still walked too many batters (4.8 BB/9 this season), but that was down considerably from years past. Unfortunately, so were his strikeouts. Matzek still has little in the way of an off-speed pitch, but his velocity and plus-curveball could make for a reliever that's just erratic enough to be effective. Matzek started all year in Double-A, and a reliever isn't what the Rockies were hoping for out of their multi-million dollar investment, but at this point, it may be necessary to salvage his career.
Kraig Sitton, LHP - Sitton isn't as much of a non-prospect as Houston is, but he was still too old for his level this season (turned 25 mid-season in the California League) and will be old for the AFL. As a lefty reliever, Sitton returned to High-A ball this season and improved his ability to miss bats, which at least gives the Rockies something to dream on. He's ceiling isn't high and he needs to prove himself soon, and the AFL may give him a chance to prove he can miss better bats than he's faced thus far.
Dustin Garneau - Every team has their own philosophy on how to use their AFL spots. Most choose to send high-ceiling guys who are a part of their future. The Rockies apparently chose to send all of their old, marginal prospects for a last chance to prove something. Garneau fits that description as a 25-year-old catcher who took three years to get out of A-ball then hit .236 in Double-A this season. He has some pop for a catcher, so there's that at least.
Cristhian Adames, SS - Adames is a defense-first infielder whose value will be tied to his ability to remain at shortstop, which he has the talent to do as long as he doesn't outgrow the position. At the plate, the switch-hitting Adames is limited but isn't a total loss. He makes contact and isn't a total free swinger, but he has virtually no power in his game. He profiles as a utility infielder, but assuming he can play shortstop at the major league level, that has some value to the organization.
Kyle Parker, 1B - I have parker listed as a first baseman because he's listed as in infielder on the Rafters official roster and that's the only infield position he's ever played. He's primarily an outfielder, but in the AFL, roster spots are assigned specifically by position to ensure playing time, so how a player is listed on the roster can indicate a switch, much as it did last year when the Reds sent Billy Hamilton to the AFL to work on being an outfielder. If the Rockies see Parker as a first baseman down the line, he has the power to pull it off. His eye at the plate took a step back this season, stepping out of the three-true-outcome zone, but he still gets on base enough to allow his power to play and make him a viable offensive threat, even for a first baseman. The AFL will be a "finishing school" for Parker, who should head to Triple-A to beign the 2014 season and could see the majors by next fall.
Tim Wheeler - Once a power-hitting prospect with some holes in his swing who hit 33 home runs in 2011, Wheeler has combined for just seven home runs over the past two seasons. The hamate injury that hurt his 2012 production should have healed by now, so the drop off is at least partially due to a change in philosophy at the plate. As a corner outfielder without the power, Wheeler doesn't have much to offer the Rockies. He's on their 40-man roster, so he'll continue to get chances, and the AFL is a good place to show off plus power, but Wheeler hasn't exactly taken advantage of playing in the PCL the past two years so it remains to be seen if that power is still there.