SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The story of the Rockies' offseason was the multitude of veteran players signed to short-term deals. But beyond that, there's the intrigue in the Colorado organization of the prospects behind those veterans who will soon get the chance to shine for the foreseeable future.
Casey Blake might be the short-term answer for the Rockies at third base, but a large part of his responsibility is to mentor and keep the seat warm for 20-year-old prospect Nolan Arenado. Same goes for Ramon Hernandez behind the plate, guiding up-and-coming Wilin Rosario.
Drew Pomeranz and Tyler Chatwood hang around Jamie Moyer in the clubhouse, soaking up the 49-year-old's wisdom like a sponge. And the team's young infielders work out with shortstop Troy Tulowitzki hoping to someday achieve comparable big league success.
As the Rockies start to fill out the diamond this week -- they have a 1 p.m. MT intrasquad scrimmage at the Salt River Fields at Talking Stick main stadium on Friday, free and open to the public, before their Spring Training opener against the D-backs on Saturday -- there will be plenty of veteran leadership on display.
But alongside those established players are the Rockies of the future, with a shot to show the baseball world they have what it takes to take the field with big leaguers in June and July, not just March.
"Give those young guys a chance to show what they're all about," manager Jim Tracy said. "Some of those guys are eventually gonna make their way here. Somebody's gonna show up, and more than likely more than one guy. But who are they? That's what's interesting about watching those guys do their thing."
Here's a look at a few of those potential impact prospects to keep an eye on this spring in Scottsdale:
LHP Drew Pomeranz:
The southpaw had no ordinary debut in 2011, coming over in the Ubaldo Jimenez trade as the eventual "player to be named later" and then undergoing an emergency appendectomy when he arrived. But Colorado is truly impressed with Pomeranz's poise and he projects to be a middle-of-the-rotation starter this year, with a plus fastball and healthy curve. "Poise beyond his years for as short a time as he's been involved in the Major Leagues," Tracy said. Pomeranz is expected to start in the Rockies' Spring Training opener Saturday (1 p.m. MT against the D-backs).
3B Nolan Arenado:
At just 20 years old, Arenado has emerged as possibly the most intriguing prospect on the club after posting gaudy numbers in the California League last summer (he led the Minors with 122 RBIs) and was named the MVP of the Arizona Fall League. If Salt River Fields is as kind to Arenado this spring as it was in the fall, he may get a good, hard look at the big league club much sooner than expected. "Talent-wise, he's got it, but at this level, it's about mentally being able to overcome failure and how you deal with that," Tulowitzki said of Arenado. "Talent-wise, he has some things to work on, but it's gonna be there when all is said and done."
C Wilin Rosario:
The Rockies' catcher of the future will likely see an extended stay in Denver after appearing in 16 games in 2011. He and Ramon Hernandez are the only catchers at spring camp on the 40-man roster, and Hernandez should prove to be a great mentor for the young Rosario. The 23-year-old was on the fast track to the big leagues before tearing his ACL in 2010. "I'm pretty close," he said of being able to contribute at the big league level. "I have to show them I can be on the club. There's a decision to make but I'm working as hard as I can to make the club."
OF Charlie Blackmon:
After his time with the Rockies last season was cut short by a broken right foot, Blackmon filled out a bit during the offseason and is hoping to contribute the way he was before the injury. He hit .337 with Triple-A Colorado Springs before the June callup, and then hit .255 in 27 games in the Majors. With the addition of Michael Cuddyer, Blackmon is highly unlikely to play regularly in 2012, but could still be a factor with the big league club.
LHP Christian Friedrich:
The southpaw, ranked No. 14 on the Rockies' 2012 Prospect Watch by MLB.com, has really impressed during the early stages of spring camp in Scottsdale. His fastball has shown great life during bullpen and live batting practice sessions, with the opportunity for another step yet to be taken once games get going. He figures to be a bullpen piece in the next year or two, though has the potential to be a starter.
RHP Chad Bettis:
All signs point to a 2014 arrival for Bettis, whose future role with the club remains unclear. He was a reliever and a starter at Texas Tech, but the Rockies seem to like him as a starter. He was 12-5 with a 3.34 ERA and 184 strikeouts in 169 2/3 innings during his 2011 stint in the California League.
IF Hector Gomez:
As many have said before, the potential for Gomez is sky-high based on his body and skills, but his career already has been riddled with injury and his 2011 was limited to 102 games. He's smooth in the field and the ball flies off his bat in batting practice, but it'd be best to see him make it through a full season before making any real conclusions.