About a month ago we put together a sign-up sheet on various draft-related topics, and one by one the writers selected the choices. The idea was so successful, it even brought Andrew T. Fisher out of hiding.
One of the big reasons for that success is the topics provided by the folks upstairs. Almost all of them are both interesting and informative; but there's one that just doesn't belong on the list, and that's the topic we've reached today. Not surprisingly, it was picked last.
The idea for this piece was to have one of us look at the farm system, figure out where it's weak, and then say: "The Rockies should draft 'Player X' because he fits nicely into the system". It sounds nice in theory, but in reality, that strategy is for losers. That's exactly the type of mentality that gets teams in huge trouble in the MLB Draft.
There's several reasons for this:
1) The amount of time it takes to harvest draft picks in MLB is longer than any other major sport. For instance, Charlie Blackmon was taken in the second round of the 2008 draft, and he's just starting to have a major impact now. There's absolutely no way any club can accurately predict what the team's specific needs will be that far in advance.
2) Not only is there a large gap between the time a player is drafted and the time a player actually starts making a big impact on a major league roster, but the exact time of that gap is unpredictable. A great player might become great in the major leagues two years after being drafted, four years after being drafted, or six years after being drafted. There's just no exact science to it.
David Dahl is a good example of this. He was taken in the first round of the 2012 draft and was expected to rise quickly thought the low minors, but he then lost all of his 2013 season with a leg injury. That lost season doesn't change his ceiling as a player, but it absolutely will mess with his arrival time.
3) If a team decides it needs to draft a player who plays a certain position (or not draft a player from a certain position), it's immediately shrinking the talent pool of star players on the board and increasing the likelihood of drafting a bust.
This is just bad strategy. The last thing you want to do with any pick (but especially with a pick in the top half of the first round) is get zero production out of it. This means you have to keep as many avenues open as possible to find the potential superstar players.
The ultimate example of this is also the most obvious one; and of course it's when the Rockies selected Greg Reynolds with the second overall pick back in 2006 instead of Evan Longoria because they already had Garrett Atkins at the major league level and Ian Stewart waiting in the minors. This decision haunted the franchise for years until Nolan Arenado arrived on the scene.
4) Since when do teams not want the best players? Let's take a hypothetical situation. Suppose Mike Trout was five years younger, in this draft, and you somehow knew what he would become and had the power to select Colorado's first player this June. Is there any scenario on God's green Earth where you don't take Trout? I don't care how many outfielders the Rockies have on the roster and in the minor leagues. You take nab the big fish and figure out where everybody plays later. You've got years to sort through it.
That's what the draft is in a sense. A free shot at any player you want from a huge crop of potential. You just don't know for sure where the real talent is located.
* * * * *
Drafting for "System Needs" is a horrible idea. The only thing the Rockies' system needs is the best player available. The tricky part, especially with this year's group of players is separating the pretenders from the contenders.
However, history tells us there's always, always, always at least one Superstar available by the time the eighth pick rolls around.
In fact, digging deeper, here's a list at some of the best players taken outside of the top ten picks in the drafts from last decade (2001-2010).....
(There's plenty more in most years, but I just took one from each season to prove a point)
2001: David Wright (#37 overall)
2002: Cole Hamels (#17 overall)
2003: Adam Jones (#37 overall)
2004: Dustin Pedroia (#65 overall)
2005: Andrew McCutchen (#11 overall)
2006: Max Scherzer (#11 overall)
2007: Giancarlo Stanton (#76 overall)
2008: Craig Kimbrel (#96 overall)
2009: Mike Trout (#25 overall)
2010: Chris Sale (#13 overall)
I'd take any of those players and put them on the Rockies right now if I could draft them.
This isn't to say we should expect the Rockies to find this kind of talent from a guy who is expected to be taken 40 slots down the line with the eighth overall pick, but it does show you that big time major league talent will be on the board when the Rockies make their selection.
That's all that matters. The Rockies just have to find that talent, regardless of position. Of course, that's easier said than done.