Rox look for best available player in Draft
Colorado will have No. 8 overall pick in first round today
The Rockies' last two First-Year Player Drafts have produced two of the most talked-about right-handed pitching prospects in baseball in Eddie Butler (supplemental first round, 2012) and Jon Gray (third overall in '13). But as far as Rockies vice president of scouting Bill Schmidt is concerned, it's too soon to be bragging.
"At the end of the day, it comes down to them helping us at the Major League level and we're on a path to where we're working toward a championship," Schmidt said. "Go back to 2007 when we went to the World Series, when we had 17 guys on our 25-man roster that were homegrown. Then yeah, that's when you can be proud of what you've done.
"The Eddie Butlers, the Jon Grays, the Tyler Matzeks [a left-handed pitcher taken 11th overall in 2009], guys like Kyle Parker [an outfielder, 26th overall in 2010] and Christian Friedrich [a lefty taken 25th overall in 2008], when they make the Majors and they're helping us win, there will be a tremendous sense of pride."
The current Rockies, who started strong before struggling somewhat in May, are less homegrown than the 2007 and 2009 teams, which were the organization's last playoff teams.
The 2014 Draft will take place today through Saturday, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network at 6 p.m. ET today. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 7 p.m., with the top 74 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. MLB.com's exclusive coverage of the second and third days will begin with a live Draft show at 12:30 p.m. ET on Friday.
MLB.com's coverage includes the Top 200 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. Every selection will be tweeted live from @MLBDraftTracker, and you can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
Colorado is getting back to a more homegrown club after a few years marked by injuries to top picks such as pitchers Greg Reynolds (2006), Casey Weathers ('07) and Friedrich, as well as control issues from Matzek before he seemed to find himself last year.
One key has been accurate assessments of signability. The Rockies like players who want to begin their careers after the Draft, and for the most part have chosen them based on research done by area scouts. Last year, for example, not only did Gray jump into action at Rookie-level Grand Junction and finish at Class A Modesto, but high schoolers Ryan McMahon (third baseman, second round), Don Nunez (third baseman, sixth round) and Terry McClure (center fielder, sixth round) jumped right into the system without protracted negotiations.
"That first summer is very important in the development process, and our scouts and our staff have done a good job getting information, getting to know the kids," Schmidt said.
Schmidt's policy is not to discuss any potential Draft pick, but he is excited about a player pool that could be quite deep in the early rounds.
"There may not have been a lot of guys that have separated themselves, but our job is to find the best players we can out of this Draft," Schmidt said. "Over the next few days we'll take everyone's opinion about the guys of interest. We have three picks in the first 48, and I believe we're going to get some players we feel good about."
In about 50 words
After backing away from Long Beach State infielder Evan Longoria in 2006 -- partly because the club felt good about Ian Stewart at third base -- with the second overall pick (and choosing Reynolds, who has dealt with injury), Colorado is more dedicated than ever to picking the best player available.
Chief baseball officer Dan O'Dowd personally scouted about a dozen pitching prospects, and prospect rankings consistently put pitchers at or around the eighth spot. So expect a pitcher, although the Rockies haven't put out clear indications of that pitcher's identity.
Some interesting situations arise with this pick. Colorado likes to have funds available to approach difficult-to-sign high school players, and one way to do so is to save on the first-round pick. Gray, for example, came in at $4.8 million -- well under slot -- and the Rockies signed every high schooler they wanted. While the MLBPipeline.com prospect listing has Coral Springs High School righty Touki Toussaint eighth, mock drafts mention Nevada-Las Vegas righty Erick Fedde -- although he was skipped once early this year and there are health concerns -- and even East Carolina righty Jeff Hoffman, who had Tommy John surgery in mid-May. Drafting someone who has had surgery does potentially lower the bonus, but more importantly it gives a team certainty, as opposed to pitchers who may have problems that have been kept quiet. Evansville lefty Kyle Freeland, who went to Denver's Thomas Jefferson High School, could also be in play.
Rockies bonus pool
The Rockies have been assigned $8,348,300 from the Draft bonus pool, which can be spread among their 11 picks in the first 10 rounds, plus be used to sign players in rounds 11-40 who receive signing bonuses of $100,000 or more. As for the three picks in the top 48, the No. 8 overall pick is slotted at $3,190,800, the Competitive Balance Round A pick at 35 is slotted at $1,614,500 and the second-round pick at 48 is slotted at $1,158,000.
They'll continue the "best athlete available" philosophy in a Draft that seems to have depth for pitchers and position players, especially in the upper parts of the Draft.
The Rockies have gone with a collegiate pitcher four of the last seven years and a pitcher five of the last seven. That has to do more with Draft position. Four of the five pitchers selected with the top pick were in the top 11 overall choices, where pitching is often at a premium.
* RECENT DRAFT HISTORY *
Butler and Gray are poster children for fast movers through the Draft, with both on the minds of Rockies fans as they pitch at Tulsa.
Colorado has two right-handed pitchers proving themselves despite their low Draft statuses. Daniel Winkler (20th round, 2011) led the Minors in strikeouts last season at Class A Modesto and has continued his high-strikeout performance at Double-A Tulsa, thanks to a firm and deceptive fastball. Christian Bergman (24th round, '10) relies on location, and it has produced some success at Triple-A Colorado Springs.
In The Show
Colorado's goal is to be a mostly homegrown team, although that's not as true as in the past. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (first round, 2005), outfielder Charlie Blackmon (second round, '08) and injured third baseman Nolan Arenado (second round, '07) are regulars from the Draft. Catcher Wilin Rosario is from the Latin American program and his backup, Jordan Pacheco (ninth round, '07) are homegrown products. There isn't a drafted pitcher in the rotation, although three-fifths of the rotation (Jhoulys Chacin, Juan Nicasio and Franklin Morales) come from the Latin American program. Outfielder Corey Dickerson (eighth round, '10) and infielder Josh Rutledge (third round, '10) have earned playing time, but the Rockies are showing that they're willing to look outside, too, if their system can't fill a need.
The Rockies' recent top picks
2013: Jon Gray, RHP, Tulsa, Double-A
2012: David Dahl, OF, Asheville, Class A
2011: Tyler Anderson, LHP, Tulsa, Double-A
2010: Kyle Parker, OF, Colorado Springs, Triple-A
2009: Tyler Matzek, LHP, Colorado Springs, Triple-A
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.