GROWING UP in
Providence, Rockies rookie Chris Iannetta idolized Javy Lopez, whose career
with the Atlanta Braves he followed closely on TBS. So it was a thrill to be in
the same camp as the 36-year-old Lopez, at the Rockies' spring training
facility in Tucson--and a shock when the Rockies cut the three-time All-Star on
March 12. When Lopez gave Iannetta the news, "I thought he was joking,"
Iannetta says. Later that morning, when the young catcher returned from a
workout, he found a note from Lopez in his locker: Good luck. I'll be
He won't be the
only one. Iannetta, 23, is the best catching prospect the Rockies have had in
their 14-season history. A fourth-round draft pick in 2004, the granite-solid
5'11" 200-pound Iannetta has a strong arm, quick release and even quicker
analytical mind behind the plate--he has a mathematics degree from North
Carolina. He has also blossomed into an offensive force, a patient righthanded
batter who had been an extreme pull hitter until Hall of Fame third baseman
Wade Boggs, with whom he shares an agent, offered advice how to make better use
of the opposite field before the start of the '06 season. Iannetta hit .336
with a .433 on-base percentage at Double and Triple A, earning a call-up to the
bigs during the final week of August.
He struggled at
first, getting off to a 2-for-22 start, but in a Sept. 8 game against the
Nationals he drove home the winning run--on a single to the opposite field--and
went on to hit .327 during his final 15 games. "After that hit," he
says, "I remember thinking, O.K., I can do this."
Diamondbacks' Chris Young (page 73), Iannetta is a rising star in an
organization that's suddenly rich with homegrown talent. Last year leftfielder
Matt Holliday, 27; third baseman Garrett Atkins, 27; and rightfielder Brad
Hawpe, 27, all enjoyed breakout seasons. Iannetta is next in line. "Last
year in the majors was a whirlwind getting used to things," he says.
"Now I know I belong."