Eager Matzek tops Rox top 10 prospects list
Some prospects might look at a first full season that ended with a 2.92 ERA, a .204 batting average against and 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings and feel fairly satisfied.
That's not the case for Rockies 2009 first-rounder Tyler Matzek, and that could bode well for the young left-hander's future. The No. 11 overall pick was brought along slowly over the course of his first season, with good reason, but now he's ready to pick up the pace.
"I've been working out since November 1 at Athlete's Performance, four days a week," said Matzek, who added that he increased his offseason workouts to be more prepared for his second season. "I'm feeling great physically; mentally I'm ready to go. I'm excited to go out there and do better than I did last year."
Better would include improved command and control. Matzek was pleased with his stuff overall -- he has four pitches, all of which could be at least Major League average -- but walked 62 over 89 1/3 innings.
But Matzek got a healthy lesson that succeeding at this level is much more than just having good stuff. He learned that he has to deal better with adversity and maintain his composure, especially over the course of a long season.
"Mentally, I know the 140 games of a season, I'm much more prepared this year than I was last," Matzek said.
Typically, moving up to the hitting-friendly California League would not be something that would help a pitcher's mental state. But Matzek has two reasons to hope he'll call Modesto his home at the start of the 2011 season. The first is that his 2010 home digs in Asheville is one of the most notorious bandboxes in Minor League baseball, but even that is something Matzek feels will help him later on in his career.
"I don't like that right-field wall at all," Matzek said, referring to McCormick Field's 297-foot porch. "But it helps the situational pitching. You think you have a pop fly out, and the next thing you know, you have a double off the wall. It gets you thinking about the game.
"It's good to practice having baserunners on. When the time comes, when it really means something, it's not going to affect you at all."
Matzek is also looking forward to being back in his home state. A graduate of Capistrano High School in Southern California, he's looking forward to his support group not having to hop a cross-country flight to come see him pitch.
"I'm not going to be nervous, I never really am, no matter who's watching," Matzek said. "It'll be nice to have family and friends be able to support me. They can just drive a few hours and come see me. It'll be a great thing for me and them."
Rockies' Top 10 Prospects
1. Tyler Matzek, LHP: The No. 11 overall pick in the 2009 Draft, Matzek was brought along slowly in his first full season, but he still showed the makings of a four-pitch mix (fastball, curve, slider, changeup). The gloves could come off in 2011, and if he harnesses his command, the sky is the limit for this southpaw.
2. Wilin Rosario, C: He's nearly all the way back from tearing his ACL last summer and is in big league camp with few restrictions this spring. A great catch-and-throw guy (over 40-percent success rate in throwing out runners), he also can hit for average and power. He's got the potential to become one of the better all-around catchers in the game.
3. Christian Friedrich, LHP: The 2008 first-rounder had an up-and-down second full season in 2010, though he did go to the All-Star Futures Game and he still has very big stuff from the left side. With the chance to have three Major League average or better pitches, the Rockies still have very high hopes for the Eastern Kentucky product. He's had some injury issues, but if he can stay healthy, he could help out at some point this year.
4. Nolan Arenado, 3B: Any talk about this 2009 second-round pick revolves around his bat. Arenado should hit for average and power, especially if he can improve his plate discipline. He's got a strong arm at third, though his lack of speed leaves his defensive future a little bit cloudy. His bat will find a way into the lineup somewhere.
5. Kyle Parker, OF: The former Clemson QB ended his football career with broken ribs in a bowl game, but he should be good to go this spring. He's got legitimate power and has a better feel for the game than you'd think for a guy who had to focus on two sports. He should be able to man a corner outfield spot and be the kind of run producer a team likes to have there. His power and the bandbox in Asheville should be a nice match.
6. Peter Tago, RHP: Taken in the supplemental first round out of high school last June and signed just before the deadline, Tago is the epitome of the projectable right-hander. His fastball should gain velocity as he matures, and he needs to improve his curve and changeup. It might take a while for it all to come together, but when it does, the Rockies could have another talented starter on their hands.
7. Rex Brothers, LHP: When Brothers came out of Lipscomb University in 2009, many felt he'd be a reliever as a pro, and that's exactly what the Rockies have done with the power lefty. He's got a plus fastball and a very good slider, all he needs to be a successful short reliever. With better command, he could be closing games in Coors Field before long.
WHEN WILL THEY ARRIVE?
8. Chad Bettis, RHP: At Texas Tech, Bettis was both a starter and a reliever, finding some success in both roles. The Rockies like him as a starter and he does have the chance to have a quality three-pitch arsenal. He'd get to Colorado faster in the 'pen, but he could be a quality No. 3-type starter in the future.
9. Juan Nicasio, RHP: It's taken him a little while -- he's now 24 -- but Nicasio looked like he figured many things out in 2010. Big and strong, he's got four potential pitches in his arsenal and has good command of all of them. He'll move up to Double-A, and a future with a Ubaldo Jimenez-Nicasio 1-2 punch isn't unrealistic.
10. Charles Blackmon, OF: The Georgia Tech product shook off early hamstring issues to put up good numbers in Double-A last year before going on to the AFL. He's got some power and speed, and while he doesn't profile as a pure center fielder or a run-producing corner guy, he can play all three outfield positions. He could get a chance to help out at some point in 2011.
Under the Radar
Corey Dickerson, OF: An eighth-rounder from last year's Draft taken out of the Meridian Community College in Mississippi, Dickerson set the rookie-level Pioneer League on fire, making its All-Star team and finishing third in OPS. It should be fun to watch what he does in his full-season debut.
Jordan Pacheco, C: When Pacheco was drafted in the ninth round of the 2007 Draft, he was a middle infielder and he played second, short and some third in his first summer as a pro. In 2008, he began the conversion to catching, repeating time in the short-season Northwest League. He's moved up since and played at two levels last year, playing well enough to earn a spot on the 40-man roster. He's always hit -- .310/.386/.439 in his career -- and if the conversion continues to go well, the Rockies might have another good backstop on their hands.
Hitter of the Year -- Nolan Arenado, 3B
Arenado finished sixth among full-season hitters in the Rockies' system in 2010. He's got the chance to finish atop that list in 2011, along with being among the leaders in homers and RBIs as he moves to the California League.
Pitcher of the Year -- Tyler Matzek
Sometimes the obvious route is the way to go. Matzek will start truly showing what all the fuss is about in 2011, vying for the organizational triple crown.