Baseball America
Colorado Rockies Top 10

Moderator: Tracy Ringolsby will begin taking your questions at 2 p.m. ET

 Q:  Jim Correll from Northern VA asks:
I love Ubaldo Jimenez, but was still surprised to see him climb so high in your team rankings. How far is his change up from being a legitimate third? If it happens, I see him in the front of Colorado's rotation, but worry that it won't. Given his age, and assuming he makes appropriate progress in all areas, when do you see him making his MLB debut?
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: There was strong debate a year ago on whether Jimenez should have been higher, but given his lack of experience the decision was made to watch what happened in 2003. What happened was Jimenez was as good, if not better, than anybody could have hoped. He has a live arm, and a great work ethic, which was why he took off in the second half at Asheville, and actually started a Cal League playoff game. He needs a little work on the changeup but everything is there for him to have three plus big league pithces and be a front of the rotation starter.

 Q:  Dave from Maryland asks:
Proably Jeff Francis will start at AA tulsa to begin 2004, if has a great year could he get a September call up?
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: Depending on what happens at the big leauge level he could be up even before September. The rockies have shown a willingness to try and bring top prospects up in August to get a better read on how they project in the big leagues. It worked with Juan Pierre and Jason Jennings. It didn't work with Aaron Cook. Francis had a major breakthrough in the second half last season, his first real pro test. He's real close. He has such an easy delivery and plus stuff and is very adapatable.

 Q:  Jeremy from Fairfax, VA asks:
Just how high is Ian Stewart's ceiling and how long will it take him to reach Cors Field?
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: Stewart has been compared to Chavez because both were So Cal high school first-round drafts. Rockies special adviser Walt Weiss, who watched Stewart work out for several days before the draft, compares Stewart to Scott Rolen. Stewart is a left-handed hitter with legitimate power, which is an idea match for Coors Field. He will be on a fast track becuase of his aptitude and attitude and ability. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him in the big league leagues late in 2005.

 Q:  Bud from Wheat Ridge, Colorado asks:
Tracy, If you assembled a team from players who were in the Colorado Rockies organization when Bob Gebhardt left, wouldn't it be superior to the current roster hodge-podge? I'm thinking of kids like Juan Pierre, Jody Gerut, Josh Bard, Matt Roney, chone Figgins. Also, with just Geb's players wouldn't the Rockies then have the salary cap flexibility to compete for missing parts to the puzzle?
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: Let's say that Gerut and Bard would be nice additions. Pierre is a quality person and player, but it's hard to say the team would be better with him instead of Preston Wilson, who came in the Pierre deal and has a more Coors Field conducive offensive approahc in addition to being better defensive. But those are the kind of statements that can always been made. Wouldn't the Rockies have been better if Gebhard had taken rick helling instead of mark hutton when he dealt craig counsell to florida? wouldn't the rockies have been better if gebhard had signed Craig Biggio when he offered to come to the Rockies for $500,000 a year less than he was paid in Houston? It can go on. The fact is the Rockies did not have an impact farm system four yearsago and a big part of that was the Gebhard mandated approach to drafts that were done on signability.

 Q:  Dave from Maryland asks:
What direction will the Rockies go with their first round pick in the 2004 draft?
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: In Bill Schmidt's four years as scotuing director he has shown a flexibilty at the top of the draft. He has truly gone for who he projects as the best talent, high schoo, college, pitching, bat. with the 10th pick it will take some time to get a feel for the approahc of the teams ahead of the Rockies in the draft

 Q:  Mick from Chicago asks:
I saw the Blue Jays picked up a Taiwanese pitcher the other day. Are the Rockies still scouting there? The acquisition of Tsao would lead me to believe there might be more gems there.
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: the Rockies have nather Taiwanese pitcher, as well, Dragon Lo, who went to the same high school as Tsao and pitched last year at short-season Tri-City. Kent Blasingame, son of Don, is their Asian scout.

 Q:  Dave from Maryland asks:
Could Jayson Nix see a September 2004 callup if he posted very good numbers in AA Tulsa?
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: i would doubt if Nix would be called up in September. The Rockies have another year before he has to be protected so most likely they wouldn't want to burn an option

 Q:  David from Bailey, CO asks:
Tracy, thanks for taking my question. Ian Stewart had a great debut this year. How does he compare to Eric Chavez at the level? Also, I have seen the comparisons to Jim Thome, will he have to move away from 3B because of defense and with Atkins and Baker ahead of him?
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: Stewart has a strong first year. Weiss and Rockies infield instructor Mike Gallego are both convinced that Stewart will play third base. the key is his aptitude and desire. Baker would have an slight edge on Stewart defensively, but Stewart is a better overall package. Atkins would rank third among hte three.

 Q:  Dave from Maryland asks:
What's the update on Jeff Baker wrist injury?
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: Everything, at this point, is a go for Baker. This time the problem appears solved, but we'll see how it goes wants he starts the daily grind.

 Q:  Steve from Washington DC asks:
Tracy, How does the catcher depth look in the Rockie organization. From the crop of Garett Gentry, JD Closser, Neil Wilson, James Sweeney and Dan Conway, who do the Rockies like the most from an offensive, defensive and "future catcher for the next 10 years" type prospective?
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: wilson is very raw, but there is a lot of excitement about him. He has been catching for only three years, having been a shortstop until his senior year in high school. He, however, is raw, and has had limited exposure his first two pro seasons. gentry is going to have to show he has a healthy arm after two laburm suergiers. closser has the bat and toughness but has to be more consistent in his throwing. conway is a solid defensive catcher, but will have to show he can hit. sweeney is in the picture, but the coming year will be a big one for him to establish wehre he fits in the long-range plans.

 Q:  Pat Day from Cambridge asks:
Given their offensive ballpark and player development struggles, wouldn't the Rockies be a good candidate to follow the teachings of Moneyball and Billy Beane?
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: there has been absolutely no indictions that Moneyball works with the amatuer draft. Not one player selected int he two years those teachings have been used in the Oakland draft has yet to play at game at Class AAA.

 Q:  Steve from Washington DC asks:
Tracy, Is there anyone that Rockies fans should worry about losing in the Rule 5 draft?
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: The one player who would seem to be on the bubble is Chris Buglovsky.

 Q:  Steve from Washington DC asks:
Tracy, with the depth the organization has at 3B between Jeff Baker, Ian Stewart and Garrett Atkins how do you see it playing out assuming Baker fully recovers from his wrist injuries?
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: the job will be Stewart's when he is ready. Baker could wind up eventually in left field. Atkins is a likely trade candidate. He has a nice bat, but is a first baseman and is not going to move Todd Helton.

 Q:  Steve from Washington DC asks:
Tracy, who do you see as the Rockies left fielder of the future: Rene Reyes, Matt Holliday, Jorge Piedra, Brad Hawpe or Sean Barker?
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: Hapwe is more a right fielder. Holliday began to finally show signs of taking charge in the second half last year. Holliday has the type of bat potential to be an ideal left fielder at Coors Field.

 Q:  Steve from Washington DC asks:
What were your impressions of Jeff Salazar's breakout this year? Was it a fluke and how high did he rank on your list?
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: Salazar certainly opened some eyes. The home run total is most likely a bit misleading because of the right field in Asheville, but he has shown the ability to drive the ball, and is a plus defensive outfielder with good speed. He was ranked No. 20.

 Q:  Mick from Chicago asks:
Does Clint Barmes have a shot at the starting SS position? How good do you think he can be?
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: Barmes is a consideration, depending on what happens with free agent efforts. The feeling is Barmes could play shortstop right now but will benefit in the long run if he has some more time to work on his offense. He will be a quality big league player. He has a winning attitude and can be a solid shortstop, like a Mike Bordick, or a plus second baseman. And he has the attitude to be a big time utility infielder.

 Q:  Ron Francis from Auburn, AL asks:
Is Scott Beerer a legitimate prospect?
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: He was a second round draft choice, which should make him a prospect. He had injury problems, however, and was limited in his first year.

 Q:  Michael from Loveland asks:
Why not Move Larry Walker up in the batting order into the number 2 spot? You can say whatever you want about Walkers power but you can't argue with his OBP. It seems like his +.400 obp is wasted with him hitting 5th. It seems like a 2-6 of Walker, Payton, Helton, Wilson, Castilla would be fairly dangerous lineup.
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: Clint Hurdle said last summer he even thought about Walker in the No. 2 spot. What can't be overlooked, however, is how much of an impact Walker hitting fifth had on the type of pitching Preston Wilson face. Don't think it was a coincidence that Wilson had such a good year against right-handed pithcers. With Walker on deck, right-handed pitchers challenged Wilson.

 Q:  Dave from Maryland asks:
Does Jeff Francis projected as a No.1 or a No. 2 starter?
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: Most likely a No. 2 starter.

 Q:  Joe from Visalia asks:
How do Visalia righthanders Crockett, Simpson, and Esposito fit into the Rockies plans? And with as well as Francis has done, what about lefthanded teammates Hampson and Parker who also had good seasons?
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: all six are legitimate big league prospects. Simpson could wind up in the bullpen. Francis is on the fast track. History says in the next few years, injuries or whatever will start to trim that group, but if not the Rockies will be in strong position for trades.

 Q:  Joe from Denver asks:
Tracy, there's been some talk of the Rockies trying to bring back Josh Bard from Cleveland, it appears the Indians asking price is high - Who are they wanting ? Would the Rox do a Bard for Baker swap ? Thanks
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: The talks about Bard were very brief and held close to seven weeks ago. the rockies wouldn't do Bard for Baker, nor would the Rockies consider Jason Young or Garrett Atkins for Bard, despite some speculation on that matter. The Rockies focus in recnet weeks has been on bring in a veteran, Brent Mayne. That's no knock on Bard, at all. GM Dan O'Dowd doesn't hesitate in describing the Bard-Gerut trade as the most regretable move he has made. As John Schuherholz used to say about his decision in Kansas city to trade prospect David Cone for catcher ed hearn. ``That was a key deal. It saves me from having to think very long when people ask me the worst trade i ever made.''

 Q:  Francis from Puerto Rico asks:
Thanks for taking my question. Is it me, oe is Bernie Gonzalez the most underated of all the Rockies' prospects? He has a cannon arm in right field, and a knack for driving in runs.
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: He hasn't been ignored. His 2004 season will be a key for him to establish where he belongs in the pecking order.

 Q:  Mark from Boston, MA asks:
What the organization's view on J.D. Closser? What are his chances of becoming Colorado's everyday catcher? Also, Brad Hawpe and Ryan Shealy had relatively disappointing years after monster 2002 campaigns. Do either of these guys have a shot to be impact players, and at what position?
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: Closser oculd be the Rockies catcher by next season. He has to work on consistent throwing mechancis, primarily his footwork. He has plenty of arm strenght but tends to go straight up and it affects his accurace. Both Hawpe and Shealy had their seasons cut short by injuries. Hawpe had a very strong finish int he AFL. Shealy had a good year when he started playing. Hawpe projects ijn right field. Shealy is a first baseman, which makes him a likely trade candidate.

 Q:  Joe from Boston asks:
Please compare Jeff Francis and Tsao. Who do you see as having a brighter future? What are their 20-80 pitch scales??
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: Both pithcers have very bright futures. Francis is a quality lefty with good command and coachability. Tsao is a potential dominating No. 1. He is younger and having to adjust to the culture as well as the game. Tsao is a 70-plus and Francis would be around 70

 Q:  Cubman234 from Palatine, IL asks:
would of any the rockie prospects fit in the cubs top 10?
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: The Rockeis top five prospects would be in the top 10 of any of the 30 organziations -- Tsao, Stewart, Francis, Jimenez and Nix.

 Q:  Michael from Loveland asks:
Will the Rockies be able to enter the FA market in 2005? Jose Vidro seems like the perfect second baseman for Coors Field.
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: The rockies payroll constraints will limit them this winter as well as next. Don't look for the Rockies to make a major investment in a second baseman on the free agent market two years from now. Jayson Nix should be ready and will be an impact middle infielder.

 Q:  Steve from Washington DC asks:
Thanks for all the great responses Tracy! Other than a strong showing from the top 3 (Stewart, Breerer and Mardsen) what are the impressions on the rest of the Rockies draft of 2003?
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: Let's see how all of the draft picks deal when they get to their second full season, once the grind starts and the copetitive level increases. There's also some interesting in watching what happens with the draft and follows.

 Q:  bob from i thought his name was warren asks:
He had a couple good starts, but Chin-Hui Tsao's overall major league numbers really were not good last year. How much of that is attributable to Coors Field and how much is simple inexperience considering it was his first stint above AA? What can we expect out of him in 2004?
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: Tsao is going through a learning process. Last year in the big leauges was the first time Tsao didn't simply dominate the opposition. He will have to learn to make adjustments and take instruction. He showed the aptitude and desire. He could well start at Colorado Springs if he doesn't outpitch the other rotation candidates during spring training.

 Q:  Steve from Washington DC asks:
What can you tell us about the 2003 International signees that you mentioned in the intro to the Rockie Top 10 list: Australian lefty Shane Lindsay and Japanese righty Yusuke Arakawa?
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: Arakawa pitched in the industrial league in Japan before coming to the United States last spring and signing with the Rockies after a tryout in Tucson. Lindsay had some maturity quesitons but in the last year his mental approach began to match his physical ability.

 Q:  Michael from Loveland asks:
How much of the Vinny Castilla signing was to mend fences with Colorado's Mexican American population? Also what kind of scouting presence do the Rockies have in Mexico?
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: Castilla's signing was because the Rockies think he can help them at third base. I don't think there was any other consideration. The Rockies have a limited presence in Mexico, at best.

 Q:  Michael from Loveland asks:
The Rockies really need to sign or trade for a second baseman with a decent OBP who can handle the leadoff role. Who are the leading candidates to fill the position?
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: Right now the Rockies most likely candidate is Aaron Miles, acquired from the White Sox for Uribe. Among free agents, Mark McLemore is a possibility and then they will wait to see who is non-tendered Dec. 20.

 Q:  Michael from Loveland asks:
Given all the hype around Ubaldo Jiminez I'm guessing his velocity is for real. Over the last few years Rockies fans have been told that many fireballing guys were on their way to the majors. However most of these guys have had their velocity disappear or haven't had the mental toughness to succeed. What makes Ubaldo different?
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: I would say the bigger question is what happens that creates a situation where the velocity isn't there in the big leauges with the pitchers, like an Aaron Cook, arrive in the big leagues. The velocity reports on the Rockies prospects come from other organizations, not the Rockies.

 Q:  Michael from Loveland asks:
Have the Rockies looked to add a knuckleballer either to the starting rotation or in the long relief position? It seems like having another look and a guy who can eat up innings in games that are out of control would be a real asset.
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: Knuckelballers have not enjoyed altitude. When Tom Candiotti was with Los Angeles, Tommy Lasorda openly skipped Candiotti in Denver.

 Q:  Mr. Hand from Ridgemont High asks:
Is there any chance that Garrett Anderson plays third for the Rockies this year?
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: The signing of Vinny Castilla means Garrett Atkins is headed back to Colorado Springs to open the season. Defense will be the test for Atkins.

 Q:  Scott Loyd from Arizona asks:
Is Castilla just gonna hold down the position at third untill Stewart or Baker or Atkins is ready or is he there until he cant play? What if he keeps having good years and the rockies want him to stay? Then what happens to those 3 prospects?
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: If Catilla keeps having good years the Rockies will have the potential of a fun decision, but Castilla is 36. When Stewart is ready it's hard to think he won't be the third baseman, but that's a few years down the road. Castilla was signed for now to fill a major current void, not with the idea he was a long-term solution.

 Q:  Brian from Milwaukee asks:
You project Closser as their possible catcher next year and you've had good things to say about Hawpe, why didn't they make your top 10? Also, what happened to Aaron Cook's control this year? He never walked anyone at AA, now he has more walks than K's.
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: hawpe was no. 11. closser was no. 19. projections are the players in the top 10 have higher ceilings. as for cook, that was a real puzzle. he didn't have command and he didn't have his sinker. when he went back to colo springs and made two starts both the sinker and control returned. it has to be mental it's a matter of cook believing he is really as good as he is. remember he took five years to get out of a ball and then in one year went from aa to aaa to the bigs. he needs to soak in what has happened and get back on track.

 Q:  Jamie Friel from Philadelphia ,PA asks:
What are the chances that Rene Reyes will be a starting Outfielder for the Rockies opening day and do you see him being a decent player.Thanks
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: It's 50-50 right now, depending on whether they can sign a free agent with their limited offer. Reyes will at leat be the No. 4 outfielder. He has the chance to be a solid defensive outfielder and exciting offensive player, and should hit more home runs than he showed last year.

 Q:  Michael from Loveland asks:
What is Mark Bellhorn's lilkely role this season for the 2004 Colorado Rockies?
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: Bellhorn will compete for the seocnd base job, and if he doesn't win that job he will be a utility player and bat off the bench.

 Q:  jeff from ct asks:
Was Shawn Chacon playing above his head before his injury last year, or can he get back to that kind of success?
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: Chacon's ability has never been in question. The key last year was his mental approach.

 Q:  Francis from Puerto Rico asks:
Who do you consider the Rockies' top three outfield prospects below AAA?
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: Matt Holliday, Brad Hapwe and Jeff Salazar

 Q:  Johan from California asks:
What happened to Choo Freeman?
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: He had two stretches where he mised time -- three weeks for a death in the family and three weeks with an injury. He started well, which is unuusal, and struggled when he returned to the lineup. he'll get a second year at aaa and it will be interesting to see how he adjusts. he does have the raw ability, but has to have it translate to results.

 Q:  Jeff Baker fan from Boulder, Col asks:
Where do you see Baker playing this year. What's his Colorado ETA and possible ceiling?
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: With a real strong spring he could be at AA but more likely he would stat at Visalia. He needs to play a year, somewhere. He could be in the big leagues in two years and is a good enough athlete that he could wind up at second, third or the outfield.

 Q:  Michael Stern from Rochester N.Y. asks:
Jeff Salazar - prospect or suspect? How come no top 10? He had great numbers - and a very good walk to strikeout ratio - seems to be a patient hitter with good eye. What's his story and long range potential?
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: He shows signs of being a solid outfielder, but the next year will be a good test for him. Asheville can be misleading and he was older than most players in that league. It will be interesting to see if he jumps to AA or starts at Visalia.

 Q:  Jason Jacobseon from Denver asks:
Thanks for taking my question.....any news on Cole Garner....Ian Stewarts HS teammate? Could you see them i nthe middle of the order in 5-6 years? What is your projection for there lineup in about 4-5 years?
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: Garner signed with the Rockies late last year.

 Q:  Kris Arthur from Downers Grove, IL asks:
Why would the Rockies sign Castilla if they already have Atkins as a possible 3B? Do they not have confidence in him to be a MLB player? I would think with their payroll restrictions that signing made no sense.
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: Atkins will be at AAA working on his defense. Castilla's contract calls for a $500,00 salary this year and $1.6 million deferred, payable over 15 years beginning in 2015. The Rockies are funding that iwht $400,000 so Castilla's signing was reasonable

 Q:  Randall Edens from Camano Island, WA asks:
Any minor league prospects that could be the respective closer for this coming season?
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: A sleeper is Dohmann.

 Q:  James from New Mexico asks:
After Walker, Neagle, and Johnson come off the books is there any reason to hope the Rockies will spend on FA postions they haven't been able to address through the farm system?
 A: 

Tracy Ringolsby: Without a doubt. Those three will account for $41.5 million in 2005, although is Neagle can't pitch insurance will pick up $10 of the $20 millionhe will be owed ($11 million salayr and a $9 millin buyout on an option for 2006).

Tracy Ringolsby: thanks for your time.

Moderator: We thank Tracy for stopping in from the Winter Meetings in New Orleans to discuss the Rockies. John Manuel will be here tomorrow to talk about the Giants Top 10.