Im a Colorado sports fan thru and thru. The Broncos, Avs and Rockies are my preferred teams in their respective sports (I refuse to watch the NBA until they get rid of the charge/block/flop fouls) but the Rockies are MY TEAM. With all the turmoil in Denver area sports, by far, the Rockies disappointing play the last couple of years has been harder to watch. Why... because they were supposed to be the gem of the Colorado sport franchises.
Both the Avs and Broncos were in the cellar in their respective leagues. With the way they have drafted recently and moves made in free agency, the Avs and Broncos could be back to prominence a lot sooner then we think. The Rockies however are a lot farther away from dominance than any other Denver area sports franchise. Why...because there is no light at the end of the tunnel. At least with the Avs we have one of the best young players in the NHL (Matt Duechene) and promising prospects on the horizon. The Broncos just drafted the best player available in the NFL draft (Von Miller) and have a lot of talent in on their roster (Elvis, Champ, Clady, Royal, Ty Warren, McGahee, Lloyd) that should show up this season if they stay healthy. The Rockies, due to horrible drafting over the last decade, don't have anyone waiting in the wings to provide hope for the future. I know, I know, we have Tulo, CarGo and an aging Helton but the 6 other starters they throw on the field any given day, wouldnt start for 20+ other MLB teams. Do you think Ianetta is a starter with a career .220 BA? Seth Smith is a valued commodity as a corner outfielder with 15HR power potential? Fowler's glove might play but his bat and base running is better suited for the 8 hole not leadoff.
To make things worse, IF the Rockies had a competent player evaluation staff, they could be the BEST team in baseball right now. I know hindsight is 20/20 but the Rockies draft misses are compounded because of the people they DIDNT draft when they had a chance. Draft after draft they surprised every "expert" by drafting for need, not the best available player. Drafting for NEED doesn't work in ANY sport, let alone in baseball when draft misses are significantly more frequent then football, basketball and hockey....combined.
Lets take a look at what could have been if the Rockies drafted the best available player in each of their drafts over the last decade and not for NEED!
2002 MLB Draft
Rockies Select: #9, LHP, Jeff Francis
Best Player Available (BPA): LHP, Cole Hamels. If you are going after a lefty then go after the one with the highest sealing. Most "experts" considered Hamels and lefty Scott Kazmir the two best lefties in the draft.
Need: The Rockies were looking for a left handed, sinker ball pitcher to get ground balls in expansive Coors field. Hoping to draft a lefty to replace the mistake of signing lefties Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle. While Francis gave the Rockies a couple good years, when you are drafting 9th overall, do you spend that pick on a soft tossing lefty?
2003 MLB Draft
Rockies Select: #10, 3B, Ian Stewart
BPA: SS/OF, Adam Jones. Currently the CF for the Baltimore Orioles. Was considered a tough sign out of high school so slipped in the draft. Now is batting .295 with 18 HRs. Imagine Jones and CarGo roaming the outfield for the Rockies right now...could cover a lot of ground and combine for 60+HR
Need: Looking for a left handed bat at a corner position. In 2003 the Rockies had a 3 bagger, hitting .255 with 11 HRs by the name of Chris Stynes. They were obviously looking for an upgrade at that position.
2004 MLB Draft
Rockies Select: #9, SS, Chris Nelson
BPA: RHP, Jered Weaver currently the top pitcher in the American League. Dominated at Long Beach State and has the mound presence and pitching arsenal to play at Coors Field.
Need: Still looking for a middle infielder who can take advantage of hitter friendly Coors Field. Royce Clayton and his 8 HRs was the temporarily SS that season.
2005 MLB Draft
Rockies Select: #7, SS, Troy Tulowitzki
Finally got it right!!!
2006 MLB Draft
Rockies Select: #2 RHP, Greg Reynolds
BPA: The consensus top prospect in the draft was a player named Evan Longoria who happened to be there when the Rox were on the clock with the 2nd overall pick.They didnt draft Longoria because they had Ian Stewart in their system. If the Rox were content on going after pitcher, they had a litany of pitchers that were ranked higher then Greg Reynolds in the "experts" eyes. Most pro personnel had Tim Lincecum, Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw ahead of Reynolds in the draft.
Need: Looking for a projectable sinkerball pitcher to get ground ball outs in Coors field. Thus ignoring the flame throwing arms of Lincecum, Scherzer, Kershaw and Ian Kennedy, all of which are experiencing success at the big league level right now.
2007 MLB Draft
Rockies Select: #8 RHP Casey Weathers
BPA: OF Jason Heyward. A big lefty with legitimate 5 tool potential. Selective at the plate with power to all fields and one of the better outfield arms in the league. The top prospect in baseball during his stint in the minors.If they wanted a pitcher, there was a lefty by the name of Madison Bumgarner still on the board. That of a career 3.33 ERA and 220Ks in 259 IP already in the big leagues.
NEED: Once again the Rockies shock the so called experts and draft Casey Weathers who had a 1st round arm but was projected as a reliever. At that time, the Rockies new they needed to strengthen their pen. They looked around the NL and saw power arms coming from every team. They draft Casey Weathers, who has the power arm they covet. I remember the draft like it was yesterday. I was watching it on TV and when Weathers was drafted, the "experts" were shocked that the Rockies would select a projected reliever with the 8th overall pick....so was I.
2008 MLB Draft
Rockies Select: #25 LHP Christian Friedrich
BPA: RHP, Gerrit Cole. Yes... that Garrit Cole, the number one overall pick in the 2011 draft was selected by the Yankees a few picks after the Rockies. He obviously didnt sign because of a strong commitment to UCLA. If the Rockies didn't sign Cole, they would get a compensation pick in the following years draft. When drafting in the mid 20's you have to draft out of slot if you want value with the pick. That is how the Yankees and Red Sox keep drafting quality players at the bottome of every first round.
NEED: Seeing that Jeff Francis' days were numbered in a Rockies uniform, the Rockies drafted a college lefty to eventually replace Francis. I cant fault the Rockies on the pick. At the time he was the best college arm available in the draft. The knock on Friedrich was he had a stiff, max effort throwing motion, which has a tendency to lead to arm issues...and arm issues is the main reason he is not in Purple and Black right now. His development was delayed a year after battling arm issues at AA ball last year.
2009 MLB Draft
Rockies Select:#11 LHP Tyler Matzek
BPA: RHP, Aaron Crow...who was taken immediately after the Rockies selected Matzek. While Matzek is repeating low A ball this year, Crow is pitching in the All-Star game for the American League. Crow was considered a tough sign but so was Matzek, with a strong commitment to Oregon.There was also a guy named Mike Trout drafted later in the round. The same Mike Trout that was the number one prospect in all of baseball and at 19 is the starting in the OF for the Angels.
Need: Trying to bolster the pitching depth of their minor league systems they draft a projectable HS lefty. While Matzek can touch 97 regularly from the left side, you always inherit risk when drafting a HS pitcher...or any pitcher for that matter. One risk, they forget how to throw strikes. While Matzek is repeating low-A ball, we just traded Ubaldo for a pitcher drafted 4 picks after Matzek in Alex White...who already had his cup of coffee in the bigs and should join the Rox rotation in the next few weeks.
2010 MLB Draft
Rockies Select: #26 OF, Kyle Parker
BPA: OF, Kyle Parker. I do like this pick. When you are picking at #26 its tough to find an impact bat. Kyle Parker, in his first full season already has 18 HRs in the low A ball. He does have some holes in his swing, evident by the 104 Ks in 90 games. But now being fully dedicated to baseball, year round, he should blossom into a pretty darn good power hitter from the right side.
Imagine what the Rockies lineup could look like today if they drafted BPA instead of always reaching for need or signability.
LHP- DeLaRosa (when he returns)
RHP/LHP- Alex White, Drew Pomeranz (for the Ubaldo Trade)
Now, Im no expert, but looking at what Rockies Management could have done over the last 10 years, especially since they "Committed" to development/drafting, is almost painful. Imagine the line-up and pitching staff they could have assembled. The team above could/would be atop of the NL West, year in, year out for the next 10 years. Imagin a lineup that has Longoria, CarGo, Tulo, Adam Jones, Jason Heyward and Todd Helton...with out a doubt the scariest in the NL. Imagine a staff that had Hamels, Chacin, Weaver and Ubaldo (who wouldnt have been traded because this team would be in contention). That staff would rival that of the current Phillies.
I know, in most any sport you can go back and look at who a team should have drafted if they could. But the fundamental issue at point, is the Rockies repeatedly made the same mistake. In a sport where draft pick success rate is far worse than any other major sport the Rockies continually draft for need and not the best available player. Drafting for need in EVERY sport has been proven to fail because you overvalue a prospect based on need (Greg Reynolds) and miss out on top notch talent (Longoria, Lincecum, Kershaw). What is most puzzling, the Rockies completly ingnore the fact that they are contenders (usually) if they draft BPA they can stockpile their minor league system and use them for trades to bolster the MLB roster.It would have been okay to have both Longoria and Stewart in the minors. During the 2007 run, when the Rockies needed another pitcher, they could have used Stewart as trade bait.
Ahh what could have been....
***This is a blog not an essay. i dont proof read...I just type and publish.