Counting Rocks: Looking Back At Rockies' First Rounders (and Supplementers)

Having never seen him pitch, I can't claim to know a lot about Tyler Anderson.*  Keith Law poo-poo'd the pick, but I only trust his recommendations on cookware.  A big lefty with a couple of good pitches sounds like a fair deal to me, but the best quote I've seen on him comes from his high school coach in a story by the Salem Statesman Journal:

"He's an extreme competitor and an incredible hard worker," said Mike Gomez, his high school coach at Spring Valley High, in an interview with MLB.com."He's a warrior. For us in high school, he was a bit inconsistent ... he showed flashes of his brilliance. The coaching staff at Oregon did a great job of getting him to be consistent.

I'll leave it at that.  John Sickels of Minor League Ball is "very pro-Story" and I like to tell a story now and then, so we are in agreement. 

You can probably deduce the same things about these two guys from a Google News search as me.  Instead, let's take a look at the drafts of Rockies past...

*Despite going to a school that produced multiple early round disappointments for NL West Teams (Matt Antonelli, Jamie D'Antona), I never got into NCAA baseball. 

It's not a secret that the Rockies have had a muddled history with high first round picks, and the lower first round picks aren't an exception.  You can take your pick of whether Jamey Wright (28, longevity) or Jason Jennings (16, brief promise) is the better pick, but the best is either yet to come (Parker, Wheeler, Brothers, Friedrich?) or Jake Westbrook (21, arm problems).  Jennings is probably my choice.  He provided the memorable debut CG shutout and HR versus the Mets in 2001, and was the export in the trade that netted Taylor Buchholz and Willy Taveras.

Below are all Rockies picks from the latter half of the first round, as well as the supplemental round, that made the major leagues or are no longer with the club, plus those take in the supplemental round (1S).  A few ground rules for the list:

  1. As mentioned, these don't involve players drafted from 1-15;
  2. WAR figures are taken from Fangraphs, not B-R; and
  3. Cumulative Rockies WAR tallies the WAR produced by the draftee, plus anyone acquired in a trade for the draftee or drafted as a result of compensation gained by the draftee signing with another club*; and
  4. If the draftee never appeared with the Rockies, compensation received by the Rockies upon their departure is included in Cumulative WAR.
*So, when Jamey Wright, etc. was traded for Jeff Cirillo, etc., it doesn't include the WAR generated by Brian Fuentes and others who were acquired for Cirillo.  Simple.  In the event that a draftee was re-acquired by the team (Jamey Wright), Rockies and Cumulative WAR both include that production.

Year (Round, Pick)

Player

Rockies WAR
(avg/season)

Cumulative
Rockies WAR

Peak Rockies
wOBA/FIP

Career
wOBA/FIP

Method of Departure

1992 (1, 27)

John Burke (RHP)

0.3 (.1+)

0.3

4.77

5.96

Left baseball

1993 (1, 28)

Jamey Wright (RHP)

9.4 (1.6)

17.2

4.9

5.05

Traded for Jeff Cirillo, Scott Karl

1996 (1, 21)

Jake Westbrook (RHP)

N/A

-0.1

N/A

4.16

Traded for Mike Lansing

1997 (1, 18)

Mark Mangum (RHP)

N/A

2.6

N/A

N/A

Traded for Dave Veres, Mark Hamlin

1998 (1, 28)

Matt Roney (RHP)

N/A

N/A

N/A

5.77

Selected by Pirates in 2002 Rule V

1998 (1S, 36)

Choo Freeman (OF)

.-1.2 (-.4)

-1.2

.290

.270

Released in 2007

1998 (1S, 40)

Jeff Winchester (C)

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Released or lost in 2004 Rule V (unclear)

1999 (1, 16)

Jason Jennings (RHP)

15.2 (2.5)

19.9

4.09*

4.75

Traded for W. Taveras, T. Buchholz, J. Hirsh

2001 (1S, 44)

Jayson Nix (SS)

-0.3 (-.3)

-0.3

.185

.294

Signed as FA with White Sox

2005 (1S, 32)

Chaz Roe (RHP)

N/A

-0.2

N/A

N/A

Traded for J. Lopez


*Jennings 2001 FIP (3.91) was superior, but was over 39.1 IP. 

If you're superstitious like I am, or just a fan of coincidence, you'll be glad to note that they've never picked 20th or 45th overall prior to this year, so there is nothing jinxing those spots.  Also, the only other LHPs drafted within these parameters are Rex Brothers and Christian Friedrich (see below), who hold a lot of promise.

Total production while the draftees played for the Rockies: 23.4 WAR.  Cumulative production, as a result of the draftee's performance and any compensation received by the Rockies: 38.5 WAR. 

Let's give WAR an average value of $3M for 1992-2011, the period of the Rockies existence.  Using that number, Rockies accumulated $70.2M in total benefit from their draftees' performances.  Cumulatively, the Rockies received $115.5M in value from their draftees' performances and players acquired in exchange for the draftee.

For reference only*, Erik Manning's estimation of the value of first round draft picks provides interesting insight into first round picks.  Manning looked at the average value in terms of WAR (based on $4.4M per WAR) for first rounders from 2000-2009. 

*The WAR value I used is just a guess at the average for 1992-2011 based on the dollar value of WAR over the past few years and the understanding that the average MLB salary roughly doubled from 1999 to 2011.  Where where WAR might have been relatively low from 1992-1996/97, the period of growth in average salary that followed (resulting in higher WAR values in dollars) outweighs the earlier period.  This is not meant to be precise, but just a general idea of what standard value is from first round picks versus what the value realized by the Rockies.  Also, value in Manning's calculations will be higher than those from the 1990s due to the difference in WAR dollar value . 

Manning handily broke down the value produced into slots, and picks 16-20 provided $18.9M in value during their team controlled years.  Picks 21-30 provided $6.6M in value during their team controlled years. 

The Rockies picked twice between 15-20 (Mangum and Jennings), with Manning's expected value suggesting the club should have seen $37.8M in value.  Using $3M per WAR, the Rockies received $45.6M in value (it looks even better if you adjust for WAR inflation).  All of that came from Jason Jennings (who I believe accumulated all of it during team controlled years).  Jennings provided quite a bit of surplus value, both over what he was paid and what Manning's average says the club could expect.

They picked four times between 21-30, totaling 7.8 WAR and $23.4M (this does not include Jamey Wright's second stint).  Manning's average value suggests the Rockies should have seen $26.4M.  Again, adjust for the inflation between my average WAR value and Manning's figure, and the Rockies did ok on these picks.

The above is much more  an art than a science, but so is the draft.  While it would have been better to see more draftees make contributions to the big league team, Jason Jennings and Jamey Wright - even though we might remember the lows more than the highs - provided surprisingly decent value.  Also, the Rockies have made up for the inept first round picks with later round successes like Atkins (5), Barmes (10), Hawpe (11), Spilborghs (7), and Fowler (14). 


Also, Rockies drafts have been given pretty good marks in recent years.  Below is a list of the latter first rounders and supplementers that have not yet appeared in the majors:

Year (Round, Pick)

Player

2008 (1, 25)

Christian Friedrich (LHP)

2009 (1, 32)

Tim Wheeler (OF)

2009 (1S, 34)

Rex Brothers (LHP)

2010 (1, 26)

Kyle Parker (OF)

2010 (1S, 47)

Peter Tago (RHP_

2011 (1, 20)

Taylor Anderson (LHP)

2011 (1S, 45)

Trevor Story (SS)


Needless to say, there is a realistic chance, and rightful expectation, that a pair or a few of those players might dwarf the value gained from earlier draftees. 

One note on the first chart: If I'd ever heard of or read about Mark Mangum, I had long forgotten about it.  It turns out he now runs an insurance company in Texas and has a good sense of humor.
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