Rosario, Pacheco integral to Rockies' future
I first saw Wilin Rosario in the 2009 Arizona Fall League.
In 15 games that fall, Rosario served as the designated hitter in seven contests and played at catcher in the other eight. What I saw opened my eyes. Apparently, the Colorado Rockies were impressed as well, as Rosario was on the fast track to Denver. He currently serves as the team's catcher while Ramon Hernandez recovers from tendinitis in his left hand.
Rosario is hitting so well, Colorado may have a decision to make when Hernandez is able to return. Rosario has hit nine home runs and is playing well behind the plate. His power and his energy have provided a spark for the Rockies.
When I saw Rosario in the Arizona Fall League, he hit .304 with four homers and 12 RBIs in 56 at-bats. He showed an ability to use a short and measured swing that concentrated on getting the barrel of the bat on the ball. For a young player, Rosario showed a good feel for the game, but he was very raw and untested. If there was any glaring weakness at the time, it was the fact Rosario struck out a bit too much and didn't see enough pitches to accept walks. He was somewhat impatient and wanted to make an impression. Breaking balls seemed to give him fits.
Strikeouts remain a problem, as Rosario has struck out in 35 of his 120 at-bats. But he is also making an impact at the plate, as he has eight doubles and 25 RBIs to his credit as well. There are numerous clubs that would like to have that type of offensive impact from their catcher.
Rosario, a right-handed hitter from Bonao, Dominican Republic, is only 23. He has advanced hitting mechanics for his age and his defense is improving with every game he plays.
Capable of playing third base as well as catching, Rosario is built like a catcher. He is 5-foot-11 and a solid 215 pounds. His body is well proportioned. He is muscular with a big, strong upper body, but his trunk really helps provide a great deal of the power in his swing.
The Rockies' staff is very positive when speaking of Rosario. They say he listens to instruction and is eager to learn and improve -- especially on defense.
Defensively, Rosario has a strong and accurate arm. He has served notice that runners should be careful trying to steal bases when he is behind the plate. So far this season, he's thrown out nine of 29 basestealers.
Rosario has his hands full being a catcher in hitter-friendly Coors Field. He has the challenge of helping his pitchers navigate through lineups. Rosario told me he is working first on his defense without worrying about his hitting. He has to help a young pitching staff, and the young pitching staff has to help him. In essence, they are learning together.
Fellow catcher Jordan Pacheco is making quite a name for himself at third base. Like Rosario, Pacheco is taking advantage of his chance to play. He is hitting for power and he's helping solve a problem that has challenged the Rockies for quite some time. Pacheco is providing quality play at the hot corner, a position that has been challenging for the club to fill.
Pacheco is hitting .289 in 121 at-bats in 35 games. He really drives the ball, using a very level swing while taking pitches to the entire field. He has three triples among his 35 hits. Perhaps the best part of Pacheco's offense is his ability to make contact. He has struck out only 14 times so far this season. Even the best and most seasoned veteran would be happy to have that contact rate.
The 26-year-old from Albuquerque, N.M., is a well-proportioned 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds. He is a true athlete with the agility and coordination needed to play effectively and efficiently.
Finding a defensive home is the ultimate question facing the Rockies regarding Pacheco. While his bat is Major League quality, his defense has been viewed as marginal by many scouts. He may not have the speed and range to play a middle-infield position. He may not have the seasoned footwork and blocking ability to play behind the plate. His arm may not be strong enough to gun down potential basestealers. But while he may not be the most graceful, he is certainly performing more than adequately at third base. He can be a long-term answer or he can hold the position warm until super prospect Nolan Arenado arrives. Pacheco was clear when he told me he is "just doing what I can to help."
As a ninth-round selection in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, Pacheco soared through the Rockies' Minor League system. In parts of six seasons, Pacheco had a .308 batting average. He hit at every level, with a combined high of .323 in '10 at Class A Modesto and Double-A Tulsa.
Although Pacheco began his career playing second base, shortstop and third base, the predominance of his time was spent behind the plate. Having a player with the versatility and ability of Pacheco is like having multiple players wrapped into one.
When a player can hit for average and power potential exists, teams generally find a place for him on the roster.
Challenged by the unusual dimensions and pitching/hitting environment of Coors Field, the Rockies need solid hitters to help the young pitching staff currently being developed. Rosario and Pacheco make things happen. They can hit the huge Coors Field gaps for extra bases. They are quality hitters that are integral to the future of the Colorado Rockies.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.