As we gather together this Friday to gab about Rockies baseball, we should first take a minute and look back at the former 1st round draft picks the Rockies have made over the past, let's say, decade, and where they are today:
2001: SS Jayson Nix - After spending 2010 in the majors between the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago White Sox, Nix put up some respectable AAA numbers in 2011 in AAA Las Vegas along with some downright putrid ones with the Blue Jays. Nix was non-tendered by the Rockies in 2008 and has bounced around free agency and waivers since then. Gone.
2002: LHP Jeff Francis - Francis posted 4 increasingly strong seasons with the Rockies, peaking in 2007 when he won 17 games and started Game 1 of the World Series. Francis then posted parts of 2 below-average season before hitting free agency after 2010. He then posted a questionable season with the Royals, making 31 starts and throwing 181 innings. Injury really threw this guy's career off the tracks. Gone.
2004: SS Chris Nelson - We've been watching Nelson and his stone glove travel around the infield over the past couple of years. Injury really hampered his development, and it's looking pretty bleak regarding his chances of sticking in MLB any longer. Still Here.
2005: SS Troy Tulowitzki - Tulo is the best SS in baseball. Still Here.
2006: RHP Greg Reynolds - An incredibly questionable pick at #2 overall, especially with 3B Evan Longoria, LHP Clayton Kershaw, and RHP Tim Lincecum still on the board, Reynolds had an uphill battle to begin with. After injury completely derailed his minor league career, Reynolds pitched terribly in 94 MLB innings between 2008 and 2011. He's been traded to the Texas Rangers. Gone.
2007: RHP Casey Weathers - You don't take a reliever with the 8th overall pick in the draft. You just don't. Did we learn NOTHING from Matt Anderson? Weathers had Tommy John surgery while in AA and just hasn't been able to find his control. He was traded with Ian Stewart to the Cubs. Gone.
2008: LHP Christian Friedrich - A seemingly similar story to Reynolds (except without the #2 overall stigma working against him), Friedrich looked real good coming up from High-A Modesto, and then got hurt. Since joining the Tulsa Drillers, Friedrich has seen his strikeout numbers drop and his hittability skyrocket. There's still MLB hope for him, but he might be best served as a trade chip at this point. Still Here.
2009: LHP Tyler Matzek - When we drafted this incredibly raw but incredibly high-upside kid, I was nothing but excited. Since the Rockies tried adjusting his mechanics away from the Marshall system he'd come into pro ball with, I'm almost tired of hearing his name, as it's typically associated with "The Rockies screwed him up" and "Rabble Rabble Greg Reynolds". Still Here.
2009: CF Tim Wheeler - In case you missed it, Wheeler's 33 HR set a Tulsa Drillers record for homers in a single season. Given the number of outfielders the Rockies haven't traded away yet in front of him in Charlie Blackmon and... uh... Seth Smith? Michael Cuddyer?... not sure where I was going with that. Whatever, it sounds like the organization is still high on Wheeler, but it's going to be a huge question mark as to whether his power numbers will show at the MLB level. Still Here.
2009s: LHP Rex Brothers - Despite being completely overshadowed by Atlanta's Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters, Brothers quietly posted a 2.88 ERA over 41 innings in his rookie season, striking out 13.1 batters per 9 and only allowing 7.3 hits per 9 innings. The kid has "closer" written all over him. Still Here.
2010: RF Kyle Parker - Parker had a strong debut in the Rockies' organization in Asheville of the South Atlantic League, posting a .850 OPS with solid power, yet worrisome strikeout rates. Here's to hoping his Age-22 season in Modesto shows growth, and that we might have a corner OF/1B candidate in Parker for when Todd Helton retires. Still Here.
2010s: RHP Peter Tago - Tago is still about as raw as they come. He still has a bigtime fastball, it's just a question of where it's going. Still a ways away from even talking about MLB. Still Here.
2011: LHP Tyler Anderson - This Oregon Duck signed at the deadline, and hasn't pitched for Colorado yet. Still Here.
2011s: SS Trevor Story - Story posted an impressive organizational debut in Rk Casper, batting .268/.364/.436 over 64 games. He's a hard worker and an excellent athlete. There's a lot of projectability for this kid. Still Here.
So now that we've gone through a decade of Rockies 1st round picks, let's see what we have left, as far as MLB players go:
That's one "hit", one probably "hit" in Brothers, and Chris Nelson, who is fighting for a utility role.
Before we bust out the pitchforks... actually, no. It's really hard to rationalize that much draft failure in the first round. The best rationale seems to be "they make up for it in depth", but it's almost harder to get behind that. Depth is fine, it's good, but it's depth. For a team that suffered through a relatively long rebuild, there's just not a lot to show for all the patience. You can almost see the trend after Tulo: pick all the safe college guys with limited upside but a good shot at said upside being a MLB upside (the exception, of course, being Matzek). You can sort of excuse some of it, as the Rockies DID make the World Series and also won 92 games in 2009, and there just isn't that much "WHOAH" talent left in the 20's, but still, it's like in football practice: Don't try not to get hurt, because trying to let up and playing it "safe" is just going to get you hurt in the end, anyhow. Playing it safe tends to turn around and bite teams in the long run.
I remember during a game last year where Francis was pitching for Colorado. We could have assembled an entire infield of Rockies 1st round picks (minus catcher, I guess): Todd Helton, Chris Nelson, Troy Tulowitzki, and Ian Stewart, all backing up Jeff Francis. We probably lost that game.