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Top Five Rockies Prospects To Watch In 2011

Who are some of Rockies prospects we should be on the look out for in 2011?

The 2010 Minor League Baseball season is winding down this week, and the Rockies are already bringing up several of their prospects for the rest of the month. Over at Purple Row, we're conducting our latest Top 30 Purple Row Prospects voting. The premise of creating our own prospect rankings is to see how the results compare to those of Baseball America, John Sickels (MinorLeagueBall.com), and Baseball Prospectus.

Here are five players to keep an eye on next year.

5. Greg Reynolds, RHP

Fine, Reynolds doesn't qualify as a rookie under MLB rules, but with all that he's been through over the years I still consider him a prospect. Reynolds was the second overall pick by the Rockies in the 2006 draft. Mention that to many Rockies fans and that's when the grumbles start. The Rockies could have drafted the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw or the Giants' Tim Lincecum. But they settled on Stanford Cardinal Greg Reynolds. Reynolds reached the majors in 2008, but pitched inconsistently and wound up 2-8 in 14 games (13 starts). He pitched 62 innings, allowed 83 hits and 14 homers.

Reynolds started the 2009 season with Colorado Springs, and his first game of the season became his only one. He didn't pitch for the rest of the season, which eventually led to exploratory surgery on his right shoulder blade last October. In his return to the minors in 2010, there were several early bumps, but by the end of August it appeared as though he turned a corner.

Where does he stand in 2011? It'll be hard for him to compete for a rotation spot in Spring Training. Ubaldo Jimenez, Jason Hammel, and Jhoulys Chacin have the first three rotation spots. Jorge De La Rosa is likely to leave as a free agent, and one of Jeff Francis or Aaron Cook will not be back. That leaves one spot open for a number of participants that will likely include Reynolds, Rogers, and any offseason free agent bodies. For all the grief Rockies fans have had over Reynolds, a strong comeback from him would hopefully quiet all the misgivings over drafting him.

4. Will Swanner, C

Will Swanner was a late signee this year after the Rockies offered a $490,000 bonus to sway him from his commitment to Pepperdine. He has improved his bat and even called his own games behind the plate.

Swanner did play this summer for Rookie-level Casper and impressed prospect watchers. In 63 at-bats, Swanner has hit .317/.328/..683 with seven homers. He has struck out 26 times and not drawn a walk yet. The power is their, but some discipline would be nice.

3. Tyler Matzek, LHP

Matzek was the Rockies' first-round draft pick in the 2009 draft and didn't sign until just before the August 15 deadline that year. As the 11th overall pick, Matzek signed for a $3.9 million bonus. Because he signed so late, Matzek had to wait to make his pro debut. The Rockies held Matzek out for the first month or so of the season before sending him to Asheville in May.

While we saw Matzek with a great fastball-curveball combination, there was also a downside. Matzek has problems with walking batters, issuing 62 in 89 1/3 innings. At the same time, he averaged about a strikeout an inning with 88 of them.

Matzek should start the 2011 season in Hi-A Modesto, but could see time in Tulsa by the middle of the season if all goes well. Having Ubaldo Jimenez and Tyler Matzek as a 1-2 punch in the rotation a couple years down the road should have Rockies fans salivating.

Matt Muzia should have more on Matzek some time soon as he was in Asheville recently and recorded Matzek during an August start.

2. Wilin Rosario, C

As a 21-year-old catcher in the Tulsa League, Wilin Rosario was hitting like no other during the last month of his season. Unfortunately, that season came to an early end at the beginning of August when he suffered a complete tear of his ACL. He is expected to make a full recovery from the surgery and be back in eight months.

Before the injury, we saw Rosario elevate his game each month. After a slow start in April, Rosario kept on hitting over the next three months. He capped that time off with a July in which he hit .314/.360/.743 with nine homers. While there are questions about his long-term ability behind the plate, Rosario will stay behind the plate until he proves he can't be there. The injury will not force him to first base.

1. Kyle Parker, OF

Following SB Nation Denver this season, the Kyle Parker signing was a big story. As things turned out, he did sign with the Rockies, but not before he decided to play one more year of college football for the Clemson Tigers. So he's not only a guy we should watch in 2011, but also in 2010--just on the football field. Both sides took out insurance policies in case of injury.

Parker is expected to start the season in Asheville, North Carolina (the destination for Rockies prospects in 2011) and will have his first experience with a wood bat against pro competition. Parker displayed good power in college, hitting 20 this year and 12 in 2009.

If Parker adapts well to pro ball, there are no other outfield prospects that really stand in his way to the majors, especially in right field. Let's hope the Rockies' gamble pays off.