Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Colorado Rockies Draft History, Part Three: 2004-2010

Tip of the hat to baseball-reference, yet again.

Part three of three! We've looked at every Rockies draft pick who has made the Majors from 1992 to 2003 so far, and today we're going to look at the Rockies most recent drafts. Of course, the most recent ones - from 2007 on - haven't really paid off, as yet. Nevertheless, we can look at the players who are on the path to the big leagues from those drafts, even if we don't know who's going to become a starter and who's going to be a career backup yet.



Round 2, Pick 50 - OF Seth Smith, 2.7 WAR

Smith has actually added another 0.6 WAR so far this season, but BR's totals only go through 2009. Even so, Smith has already shown that his tremendous athletic ability - as a former quarterback - translates well to the baseball diamond. Smith leads the Rockies in HR so far this season (as of this writing) despite only recently becoming a regular starter. Indeed, the Rockies have mysteriously resisted playing Smith regularly for the past three seasons, despite now sporting a career .364 OBP, .506 SLG and .283 AVG. Add to that 28 homers in 593 ABs and you definitely have a starting outfielder.

The knock on Smith is and has always been his struggles against left-handed pitching. As a result, fewer than 100 of Smith's career ABs have come against lefties. Much like a young Brad Hawpe, the Rockies are sheltering Smith from the challenge of hitting against southpaws. Which is fair enough, because Smith has undoubtedly struggled in his admittedly limited opportunities against left-handed pitching. Someday, however, he'll likely start to get more time against pitchers of all kinds.

Round 3, Pick 80 - RHP Steven Register, -0.3 WAR

Register made it to Colorado in 2008, a fairly quick ascent for a young player drafted in 2004, but he struggled in 10 innings, giving up 10 runs (and not due to bad luck). He has since moved on, and resides in the Blue Jays' minor league system, hoping for another crack in the Majors.

Round 4, Pick 110 - C Chris Iannetta, 4.7 WAR

I've written about Iannetta already this season, thanks to the shenanigans the front office and management have gotten entangled in with arguably the best home-grown catcher in franchise history. Chris still has only 50 PAs so far in 2010, an unthinkably low number after hitting 16 homers in only 289 ABs with a .344 OBP last year (when, again, he mysteriously split time with a catcher who is, frankly, not good enough to be in the Majors in Yorvit Torrealba). Iannetta may never really hit for that high an average, but he has tremendous plate discipline and is not some young prospect. He is a proven Major League catcher, with a career .356 OBP and a .440 SLG in over 1,000 PAs. That's not outstanding - indeed, he's about a league average hitter - but for a catcher it is more than solid.

As fantastic a draft pick as Iannetta was, his misuse since is exemplified best by the reaction around the blogosphere - and around the rest of the Majors - when Iannetta was demoted. Shock would be a good word. There was also a killer instinct displayed by intelligent clubs like the Red Sox, who immediately tried to trade for the wayward catcher. I don't think they asked about Miguel Olivo, no matter how well he's hitting at Coors Field this season.

Round 5, Pick 140 - 3B Matt Macri, -0.1 WAR

I have to admit that I have never heard of Matt Macri before. Apparently the Rockies traded him for Ramon Ortiz (one of their many soft-tossing-pitcher reclamation projects) in 2007. Macri made it to the Majors with the Twins in 2008, playing surprisingly well in 18 games. Even so, he hasn't appeared in the Majors since, and has even been Designated for Assignment and thus removed from the Minnesota 40-man roster, meaning he's unlikely to appear in the big leagues any time soon.

Round 6, Pick 170 - 1B Joe Koshansky, -0.2 WAR

Another heir-apparent to Todd Helton, Koshansky has never quite figured out how to made contact enough to stick at the big league level. Koshansky was a September call-up for the Rockies in 2007 and 2008, and while his prodigious power was on display in especially the second of those call-ups, so was his even more prodigious ability to strike out. Overall, Joe struck out 22 times in his 55 PAs in the Majors, with little indication that he'd do better with more time. Unlike Ryan Shealy, however, the Rockies were unable to get anything in return for this prospect, instead losing him to the waiver wire in 2009. He now plies his trade in the minor league system of the Milwaukee Brewers, where he's blocked by a much larger first baseman than Todd Helton in Prince Fielder.

Round 8, Pick 230 - RHP Jim Miller, 0.2 WAR

Miller was a part of the trade that brought Rodrigo Lopez to the Rockies from Baltimore in 2007, and made his 8 MLB appearances with the Orioles in 2008. He pitched well enough in just under eight innings, but has been truly awful so far this season in AAA, keeping him off of a very bad Orioles roster.

Round 12, Pick 350 - RHP David Patton, -0.5 WAR

Patton worked in 20 games for the Cubs last year, but wasn't really any good, walking 19 and striking out 23 in 27.2 innings. The Rockies gave up on Patton fairly easily, allowing him to be taken in the minor league draft after the 2008 season. And, apparently, they were right.

Round 14, Pick 410 - OF Dexter Fowler, 0.9 WAR

Dexter Fowler is still young because he was drafted out of high school. This season he is 24, meaning he still has time to develop. He needs, however, to cut down on his strikeouts, especially if he is going to wrest playing time away from Carlos Gonzalez, Seth Smith, and the always beloved Brad Hawpe. Indeed, like Iannetta, the Rockies sent Fowler to AAA as punishment for early-season struggles, despite a fairly small sample size. In Fowler's case, however, there is no history of success to recommend against the move. His 2009 was below league average at the plate and, despite reviews to the contrary, in the field as well. Unless Fowler can cut down on his strikeouts and find a little more pop, he's going to be the most recent in a long line of speedy, light-hitting center-fielders the Rockies fall in love with, but can't justify running out there every day.

Round 19, Pick 560 - LHP Josh Newman, -0.6 WAR

Newman pitched in 14 games in 2007 and 2008 for the Rockies and Royals, and hasn't been heard from since, thanks to more walks than strikeouts and a 8.15 ERA.


Round 1, Pick 7 - SS Troy Tulowitzki, 13.0 WAR



That is all.


Round 1, Pick 2 - RHP Greg Reynolds, -1.4 WAR

For this pick, I can't help but play the "what-if" game, again. Reynolds was regarded with skepticism at the time of his drafting, and for good reason. Consider the following picks, coming after Reynolds, at #2 overall:

3) Tampa Bay: 3B - Evan Longoria, 10.4 WAR
7) Los Angeles Dodgers: LHP - Clayton Kershaw, 4.9 WAR
10) San Francisco: RHP - Tim Lincecum, 15.0 WAR
11) Arizona: RHP - Max Scherzer, 2.3 WAR
41) New York Yankees: RHP - Joba Chamberlain, 4.3 WAR

The draft is, of course, an imperfect science, and the Rockies are not alone in busting on this draft. Overall #1 pick Luke Hochevar hasn't exactly been a world beater for the Royals, after all. But Longoria, especially, was very highly regarded, so much so that he could have been a number one pick. What's more, he was a college teammate and indeed close friend of Troy Tulowitzki. In short, he made so much sense for the Rockies, and Greg Reynolds made so little, that it's hard not to be a little frustrated by how these respective picks have turned out.

Round 18, Pick 528 - RHP Andrew Cashner, 0.1 WAR

Cashner made the Majors just this season with the Chicago Cubs. His is a veritable modern draft romance. He was picked in 2005 by the Braves in the 20th round, then the Rockies in 2006 in the 18th before being picked by the Cubs in the 29th round in 2007. Finally, the Cubs picked him again in 2008 in the 1st round. Because, you know, he got that much better in one season. Anyway, the last of those picks seems like the most accurate, given that Cashner has made the Majors already. Most 20th rounders don't make it to the Bigs period, let alone after two seasons. Regardless of Cashner's successes from here on out, he's proven a point by refusing to sign until he was picked 18th overall, and then delivering on that point by pitching his way to the Majors quickly.

2007, 2008, and 2009

Not surprisingly, no one from the 2007, 2008, or 2009 (or 2010) draft classes has made it to the Majors yet for the Rockies. Casey Weathers - the first rounder from 2007 - probably would have if not for Tommy John surgery a couple seasons ago. Other than that, however, no one has really been delayed. Rather, there are a handful of prospects on their ways, some of whom have high ceilings, indeed.

The Rockies top two prospects are 2008 first-rounder Christian Friedrich and 2009 first-rounder Tyler Matzek. Add 2010 top picks Kyle Parker - an outfielder, and Clemson's starting quarterback - and pitcher Peter Tago, and the Rockies certainly have some good potential Major Leaguers coming out of their recent drafts. But that's the definition of a high draft pick: potential. Not every first round pick turns into a Todd Helton or a Troy Tulowitzki.

Indeed, if nothing else I hope these posts have demonstrated how hard it is to tell who is going to be a good Major League player on draft day. Despite all of the hype surrounding Bryce Harper, we simply don't know if he'll turn into an All-Star or not. Likewise with Stephen Strasburg, whose impressive ML debut does not assure him a Hall of Fame berth, believe it or not.

The best cautionary draft tale I can think of comes from the 2001 draft. The Minnesota Twins were picking first overall, and they were hammered by analysts and experts who simply could not believe that they didn't pick Mark Prior. It was as if the Nationals, in 2009, refused to pick Strasburg. Prior, as you probably know, went on to have an incredible career for three seasons, before blowing out his arm. He hasn't pitched in the Majors since 2006.

The Twins, meanwhile, continue to enjoy the services of their pick that season, hometown hero and awful, awful first overall pick: Joe Mauer.

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