Rockies in enviable spot at No. 2
Club not ruling out position player despite pitching talent
Heading into this year's First-Year Player Draft, the Rockies have the highest overall pick in their history, at No. 2. But unlike in years loaded with impact players at the top of the first round, Colorado has to make a shrewd decision.
The consensus is that the Royals will take the draft's top collegiate talent, University of North Carolina left-hander Andrew Miller. If that holds to form, the Rockies can go in a number of different directions.
Current speculation has the club looking at several right-handers -- the University of Houston's Brad Lincoln, Washington's Tim Lincecum, Missouri's Max Scherzer and California's Brandon Morrow. But the Rockies also have not ruled out the draft's top position player, Long Beach State infielder Evan Longoria. A long shot is former Tennessee pitcher and Fowler, Colo., product Luke Hochevar, whose salary demands thus far have prevented him from signing with the Dodgers and could discourage the Rockies from taking him.
Rockies scouting director Bill Schmidt said that the team hasn't made a decision. But the club will continue its philosophy of not emphasizing either pitching or hitting.
"We'll do what we have done in the past as far as taking the guy that we think is the best possible pick," Schmidt said. "This is not a very strong draft in talent, in comparison to other years. But we've been consistent in our approach."
Starting with the inaugural pick in their history -- Florida right-hander John Burke in 1992 -- the Rockies made a pitcher their initial selection in 10 of their first 11 drafts.
But the last three top picks were position players -- high school third baseman Ian Stewart in 2003, high school shortstop Chris Nelson in 2004 and Long Beach State shortstop Troy Tulowitzki -- a collegiate teammate of Longoria's -- last season. But the Rockies also got a pitcher last year, high school right-hander Chaz Roe, as a "sandwich pick" between the first and second rounds.
Many years, a small number of high picks will make it to the Majors quickly, within a year. Schmidt said that he doesn't expect that to occur in this year's draft. The last couple of college pitchers selected in the first round, right-hander Jason Jennings (1999) and left-hander Jeff Francis (2002), debuted in the third season after their draft year.
Key for the Rockies, especially if they go with a pitcher, will be selecting one with raw ability that can be developed into above-average Major League tools.
"You have to make projections, even if it is a college kid, because he's only at age 21 and still has some maturing to do," Schmidt said. "You want to see if he can add a pitch, get stronger, develop more consistency, things like that."
Here's a look at the Rockies' first pick in each of the past three drafts:
2005: SS Troy Tulowitzki, pick No. 7:
The Rockies were so excited about Tulowitzki that they started him at high Class A Modesto last year, brought him to big-league camp this year and now have him at Double-A Tulsa. He is hitting .306 with six homers, 16 doubles and 25 RBIs while batting leadoff -- Tulsa manager Stu Cole's way of helping him develop plate discipline. Tulowitzki's other project is to harness his raw defensive ability.
2004: SS Chris Nelson, pick No. 9:
In 2005, Nelson suffered a hamstring injury and never found his groove, so he is repeating at Class A Asheville this season. Things are better this year, as evidenced by his .286 batting average with 13 doubles and a .337 on-base percentage. He is also second on the club with 28 RBIs.
2003: 3B Ian Stewart, pick No. 10:
Stewart brought an immediate impact as a power hitter and previewed an exciting future this spring by earning the Rockies' spring MVP honors in his first big-league camp. Stewart, now at Double-A Tulsa, suffered a wrist injury and has missed recent action, but his condition is improving. Stewart is hitting .245 with two homers, but he has 15 doubles and a team-leading five triples.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.