One of the biggest complaints among fans over the last 12 years has been the lack of top prospects who have suited up for the Albuquerque Isotopes. Under the then-Florida Marlins, prospects were almost always skipped over Albuquerque.
Then, during the last six seasons under the Los Angeles Dodgers, there were few if any prospects who could even show up. While Dee Gordon eventually succeeded and Joc Pederson has all the potential in the world, most who came here ended up flaming out in the Majors, like Ivan De Jesus, Jerry Sands, Trayvon Robinson, and so on.
The Dodgers’ paucity of prospects could be traced back to former owner Frank McCourt, who went cheap on the draft and almost ignored Latin America, at one point spending less on signing bonuses than on a Major League minimum salary. While there were more prospects coming than in years past, many began to wonder if the Dodgers would ever send a pitching prospect here again after the implosion of former first-round draft pick Zach Lee (7-13, 5.38 ERA) this past season.
Now along come the Colorado Rockies, the Isotopes’ new affiliate for the next four seasons. A mid-market team in terms of revenue and payroll, the Rockies have always leaned heavily on their farm system and figure to continue to do so.
So which Rockies prospects could end up in Albuquerque for 2015? The top pitchers are closer than most of their top hitters.
Pitching: Leading the way for potential Isotopes is right-hander Jon Gray, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2013 draft. Playing his first full season in the Minors, Gray went 10-5 with a 3.91 ERA in 24 starts at Double-A Tulsa.
Gray’s fastball sits in the mid to upper 90s and can touch 100 mph. He compliments it with an above-average slider and changeup.
If the Rockies are serious about using Albuquerque as a level for player development, then Gray will be here. If not, he will be at Double-A New Britain and fans will have to get used to the Isotopes simply being a reserve team yet again.
Right-hander Eddie Butler (6-9, 3.58 ERA) ranks as Colorado’s No. 2 prospect. He made 18 starts at Double-A and is currently in the Majors, though he missed time this year due to injury.
If Butler fails to crack the big-league roster next spring, he will likely rejoin Gray. The Rockies will retain veterans Jorge de la Rosa and Jhoulys Chacin, plus younger arms like Tyler Matzek, leaving one or two spots open for competition.
The third pitching prospect who could end up with the Isotopes is lefty Tyler Anderson (No. 12). The former Oregon standout posted a Texas League-leading 1.98 ERA in 23 starts at Tulsa.
Infield: Catching prospect Tom Murphy (No. 10) only played in 27 games last year at Tulsa before getting hurt, so he seems unlikely to move up. The same can be said of shortstop Trevor Story (No. 11), who hit quite well (.332/.436/.532) at Single-A Modesto but hit a wall (.200/.302/.380) with the Drillers.
The top infield prospect who does figure to end up in Albuquerque is shortstop Cristhian Adames (No. 13). An above-average fielder, he put up so-so hitting stats (.288/.345/.368) with Colorado Springs and Tulsa last season.
Outfield: Due to overcrowding in Denver, outfielder-first baseman Kyle Parker (No. 8) figures to be back at Triple-A for the second year in a row. Parker hit fairly well (.289/.336/.450, 15 HR, 72 RBI) with the Sky Sox and earned a September call-up.
In the years to come, more prospects will move up the ladder as the Rockies look to reverse their recent slide and get back to the winning ways they had from 2007-2010. Among the players to watch down the line are outfielders David Dahl (No. 3) and Raimel Tapia (No. 5), lefty Kyle Freeland (No. 4), shortstop Rosell Herrera (No. 6) and third baseman Ryan McMahon (No. 7).