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Past & Present: A history of Rockies first-round draft picks

With the June draft upon us, here's a look back at who the Rockies have made their first selection in the team's 21 previous opportunities.

Todd Helton, the Rockies first round pick in 1995 was one of, if not the best in franchise history.
Todd Helton, the Rockies first round pick in 1995 was one of, if not the best in franchise history.

I'll admit it, I love the draft, whether it be the MLB draft, NFL draft, NBA draft, whatever. I even watched the MLS SuperDraft this year (Deshorn Brown and Dillon Powers FTW). If there are players being selected by teams in a fixed order, I'll probably tune in. So, on draft day, I thought it would be a good opportunity to look back at the Rockies history of drafting in the first round through the years, and I'll include my preferred (and projected) first pick in 2013.

Without further ado, here's a look back at the 21 men who became the first pick of the Colorado Rockies in the June draft, and a peek at one who may well be the 22nd man on that list:

1992 (27th overall):

John Burke

University of Florida

Career Summary: With the franchise's first ever selection in the Rule 4 draft, the Rockies took a local kid in Burke, a graduate of Cherry Creek High School. Burke was a first team All-American at Florida in 1992 before being selected by the expansion Rockies with the 27th pick that year. He fared well in the low minors, posting sub-4.00 ERAs at three different levels of A ball and was Baseball America's No. 49 ranked prospect before the 1994 season. He made his big league debut with the Rockies on August 13, 1996, his first of 11 relief appearances in the majors that season. He then made 17 appearances, including nine starts, with the Rockies in 1997. He compiled a 6.75 ERA and -0.5 WAR in 74 2/3 Major League innings in his career. He retired after the 1998 season.

Where Is He Now?: Burke currently resides in Littleton.

Pick Grade: C. I give the Rockies a bit of slack here, I get that they wanted to make a symbolic pick, taking a Colorado kid with the franchise's first ever draft choice. After all, Burke did make the big leagues and the only big name the club really left on the board was Johnny Damon, who went 35th to Kansas City.

1993 (28th overall):

Jamey Wright

Westmoore (Okla.) HS

Career Summary: For the second straight season, the Rockies went pitcher in the first round. This time a big high school righty out of Oklahoma. Wright made his debut with the Rockies on July 3, 1996, making his first of 15 starts that year. He was a staple in the Rockies rotation for the next three years, including a 1998 season in which he won nine games and pitched over 200 innings with a 5.67 ERA, before leaving for Milwaukee after the 1999 season. Over the next 14 seasons, Wright played for 10 different major league teams, including another stint with the Rockies in 2004-05. In his two stints in Denver, he threw 791 2/3 innings, going 35-52 with a 5.40 ERA. As he progressed into his 30s, he transitioned into a relief role. He has thrown nearly 2,000 innings in 616 games in his MLB career.

Where Is He Now?: At 38, Wright is still in the Major Leagues as a middle reliever for the Tampa Bay Rays. He has thrown 27 innings in 24 games in 2013 with a 4.33 ERA and a 1-1 record.

Pick Grade: A-. While his career has not been distinguished, any time a guy is in the big leagues 20 years after you draft him, it was a very good pick.

1994 (7th overall):

Doug Million

Sarasota (Fla.) HS

Career Summary: Million was the Gatorade High School Player of the Year coming out of Florida in 1994 and the Rockies made him the 7th overall pick that year. He was Baseball America's 19th ranked prospect going into the 1995 season and dropped to 69th on that list headed into 1996. He had a 4.12 ERA in 478 1/3 innings pitched in four minor league seasons.

Where Is He Now?: While playing video games with a teammate near the end of the 1997 season, Million suffered a severe asthma attack and passed away at the age of 21.

Pick Grade: Incomplete. It's not fair to grade the selection of someone who died so young. No one could have seen the tragedy with Million coming and the rest of his career is impossible to project.

1995 (8th overall):

Todd Helton

University of Tennessee

Career Summary: For the first time in franchise history, the Rockies took a position player with their first round pick. That was a very, very good decision. In 17 MLB seasons, Helton has 2,448 career hits, 573 career doubles (21st all-time), 360 home runs, 1,367 career runs batted in and a .319/.417/.543 career batting line. He has added five all-star appearances, four Silver Sluggers, three Gold Gloves and was a key part of the Rockies winning the pennant in 2007. There will be a robust debate when he becomes eligible for the Hall of Fame near the end of this decade.

Where Is He Now?: The same place he's been since he took the mantle from Andres Galarraga in 1998, at first base for the Colorado Rockies. Ten years from now, the answer to this question should be simply, "Cooperstown."

Pick Grade: A+. Helton has compiled nearly double the career WAR of the next best position player taken in the first round in 1995. His number 17 will certainly be the first to be retired by the Rockies when he retires. It cannot be understated how great of a pick this was.

1996 (21st overall):

Jake Westbrook

Madison County (Ga.) HS

Career Summary: Westbrook was traded three times before his 23rd birthday. The Rockies traded him to the Expos for Mike Lansing in 1997, the Expos sent him to the Yankees for Hideki Irabu in 1999 and the Yankees shipped him to Cleveland for David Justice in 2000. Westbrook then spent a decade with the Indians, throwing nearly 1,200 innings in nine seasons with Cleveland, making an all-star team in 2004 and nearly facing the team that drafted him in the 2007 World Series. He moved on to St. Louis in 2010 and won a World Series ring with the Cardinals in 2011. He won his 100th career game earlier this season.

Where Is He Now?: Westbrook is still with the Cardinals, though on the disabled list at the moment. He made a rehab start at AA Springfield on Tuesday and is 2-1 with a 1.62 ERA in six MLB starts in 2013.

Pick Grade: B+. No doubt a very good evaluation of talent when the pick was made, but the grade gets knocked because he never appeared in a Rockies uniform.

1997 (18th overall):

Mark Mangum

Kingwood (Tex.) HS

Career Summary: Mangum spent about as little time as possible in the Rockies organization; he was traded for Dave Veres in 1998. Mangum never made the big leagues at all, putting together a 4.19 ERA in six minor league seasons, never making it above AA.

Where Is He Now?: According to this article from 2010, Mangum is selling insurance in Houston.

Pick Grade: F. Mangum never made the Majors and really didn't get close. Considering that Adam Kennedy and Jayson Werth were among the next five picks, this was a poor selection.

1998 (28th overall):

Matt Roney

Edmond North (Okla.) HS

Career Summary: Roney kicked around the minors for five seasons before being selected by Pittsburgh in the Rule 5 draft. He threw 100 innings for the abysmal 2003 Tigers and made three relief appearances for the A's in 2006. He pitched 745 innings in eight minor league seasons with a 4.19 ERA. He had a 5.42 career ERA in 104 2/3 MLB innings.

Where Is He Now?: The trail on Roney goes cold after he was suspended 50 games for a positive drug test while in AA with the Blue Jays in 2007. His Wikipedia page says he is currently a free agent.

Pick Grade: D-. The fact that he made the big leagues at all precludes this from getting an F grade, but this was about as close to that as you can get.

1999 (16th overall):

Jason Jennings

Baylor University

Career Summary: Jennings made history in his big league debut on August 23, 2001, when he threw a complete shutout and hit a home run against the Mets at Shea Stadium, becoming the first player ever to do so in his MLB debut. He carried the success into his first full season in 2002, a year that saw him go 16-8 with a 4.52 ERA and take home NL Rookie of the Year honors. He made 156 starts over six seasons with the Rockies, compiling a 58-56 record and a 4.74 ERA before being traded to Houston for Willy Taveras, Taylor Buchholz and Jason Hirsh. He finished his MLB career with a season in Houston and two in Texas.

Where Is He Now?: Jennings was a non-roster invitee with the A's this spring, but failed to make the club. He appears to be retired from baseball now. He makes his home in Dallas, Texas.

Pick Grade: B+. While the 2002 class of NL rookies was nothing to write home about, winning a Rookie of the Year award is impressive. Putting together a winning record on the mid-2000s Rockies is nothing to sneeze at, either. All in all, a good pick, but not outstanding.

2000 (7th overall):

Matt Harrington

Palmdale (Calif.) HS

Career Summary: Harrington, the Gatorade High School Player of the Year in 2000, turned down the Rockies' $4 million signing bonus after the draft, turned down $1.2 million from the Padres when they drafted him in the second round a year later and again chose not to sign as Tampa Bay's 13th round pick in 2002. He played several seasons of independent ball and had a brief spring training stint with the Cubs in 2007.

Where Is He Now?: Earning $11.50 an hour working in the tire department at a Costco in his home town of Palmdale, Calif. This ESPN piece does a wonderful job of chronicling the entire Harrington saga.

Pick Grade: F. Harrington serves as a cautionary tale for both players and teams alike. The Rockies should have seen the ego, entourage, bonus demands, etc. and stayed far, far away,

2001 (44th overall)*:

Jayson Nix

Midland (Texas) HS

Career Summary: Nix made his Rockies debut in 2008, sporting a woeful .395 OPS in 65 plate appearances. However, he has been mostly competent in subsequent seasons as a utility man with four different AL teams, with a .651 OPS and 35 home runs in just over 1,100 career at bats. His best season was 2009 with the White Sox when he hit .224/.308/.408 with 12 homers and 1.5 WAR in 290 plate appearances.

Where Is He Now?: Nix has spent both 2012 and 2013 with the Yankees, seeing significant playing time this year filling in for Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. He is currently sporing a career-best .248 average and .320 OBP in 170 plate appearances.

Pick Grade: D+. Nix was awful in a Rockies uniform, and drafting a utility man who can't hit above .250 is nothing to brag about. But he did make the big leagues, so I guess that's something.

*The Rockies forfeited the 18th overall pick in 2001 when they signed Mike Hampton, but received the 44th pick as compensation for not signing Matt Harrington the year before.

2002 (9th overall):

Jeff Francis

University of British Columbia

Career Summary: Francis shredded the minor leagues, especially in 2004 when he went 16-3 with a 2.21 ERA between AA and AAA. His rookie year in MLB was 2005, a year that saw him go 14-12 with a 5.68 ERA. He improved significantly with a 4.16 ERA and was the ace of the staff for the NL champs in 2007, posting a 17-9 record and a 4.22 ERA in the regular season and earning wins in Game 1 of the NLDS and NLCS, posting a 2.13 ERA in those two games. His career was derailed by a shoulder injury in 2008 and was eventually granted free agency after the 2010 season. He returned to the Rockies in 2012.

Where Is He Now?: Francis is in his second stint with the Rockies, albeit on the DL. He has posted an ERA of 6.00 in eight starts in 2013.

Pick Grade: A. Francis is second in Rockies history with 63 wins and seventh with a 4.90 ERA in his career with Colorado. In 2007, he was ninth in voting for the NL Cy Young Award and was the unquestioned ace on a team that went to the World Series. Certainly Dan O'Dowd's first hit on a first round pick as Rockies general manager.

2003 (10th overall):

Ian Stewart

La Quinta (Calif.) HS

Career Summary: Stewart arrived as a September call-up in 2007 before playing half a season with the Rockies in 2008 that included 30 extra base hits in 266 at bats. His prodigious power came to the forefront in his two (mostly) full seasons with the Rockies in 2009 and 2010, years in which he combined to hit 43 home runs in 811 ABs. However, he also struck out 248 times in those two seasons posting K-rates of 28.1% and 24.9%, respectively. After a dismal 2011 (.464 OPS in 136 plate appearances), he was traded to the Cubs prior to the 2012 season.

Where Is He Now?: Stewart started the 2013 season with the Cubs on the disabled list before being sent to AAA Iowa, where he has posted a .514 OPS and 32.4% K rate. Unless he turns it around soon, his Major League career may be over.

Pick Grade: C. Stewart did put together a couple of decent seasons in a Rockies uniform, but an inability to hit and reports of a bad attitude may be ruining his career as we speak. Not totally fair to call him a bust, but he also hasn't been a success.

2004 (9th overall):

Chris Nelson

Redan (Ga.) HS

Career Summary: Nelson was drafted as the Rockies shortstop of the future...until they took another one a year later. Nelson moved through the minors slowly, making his MLB debut in 2010, a 17 game stint that included a memorable steal of home against the Reds at Coors Field. He finally saw regular playing time in 2012, sporting a .301/.352/.458 line with nine home runs and 53 RBI in 111 games. However he struggled out of the gate in 2013 and was designated for assignment in late April.

Where Is He Now?: After being released by the Rockies, Nelson was picked up by the Yankees where he played in 10 games before being DFA'd once again. He is now with the Angels, his third organization of 2013.

Pick Grade: C-. Nelson really has not lived up to expectations as a big league player, with his career rWAR currently a negative number. The Rockies wanted a shortstop of the future when they drafted Nelson and they did not get one, but hold that thought for a minute.

2005 (7th overall):

Troy Tulowitzki

Long Beach State University

Career Summary: Tulowitzki zipped through the minors, making his Rockies debut as a September call-up in 2006. In his rookie year of 2007 he hit 24 home runs, more than any rookie shortstop in MLB history. That was accompanied by a .291/.359/.479 line, 99 RBI and excellent defense for the NL champions. After struggling with an injury and something of a sophomore slump in 2008, Tulo returned with a vengeance in 2009 with a career-high 32 home runs and a 5th place finish in NL MVP voting. In both 2010 and 2011 he made the all-star game, won a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger. He missed most of 2012 with a groin injury but has returned to form in 2013.

Where Is He Now?: Playing shortstop and batting cleanup for the Rockies. Next month he'll be at Citi Field for his third all-star game. After the 2010 season, Tulo signed a long-term contract that will keep him in a Rockies uniform through at least 2020. He currently leads the NL with a .349 batting average, is third with 15 home runs and second with 48 RBI.

Pick Grade: A+. Tulo just might be the best all-around player in baseball right now. Anytime you draft a guy about whom that can be said at any point in their career, you've hit a home run (something Tulo's done 145 times in his career). Not only that, he's committed to the franchise for at least another seven seasons after this one and has seamlessly taken Helton's place as the face of the franchise.

2006 (2nd overall):

Greg Reynolds

Stanford University

Career Summary: The big righty from Stanford was thrown off track by a shoulder injury in 2007, after which he was never the same pitcher the Rockies took out of Stanford. He made 13 MLB starts in 2008, going 2-8 with a 8.13 ERA in 62 innings. He had another cup of coffee with the Rockies in 2011, posting 6.19 ERA in 32 innings. He was traded to Texas in 2012.

Where Is He Now?: Reynolds is currently with the Louisville Bats, the Reds' AAA affiliate. He has posted a 6-0 record and 2.65 ERA in 78 innings thus far in 2013.

Pick Grade: D-. The Rockies catch a lot of heat from fans for passing on Clayton Kershaw and Tim Lincecum with this pick, but I'm actually fine with that, Kershaw was an unlikely sign for the Rockies and Lincecum was an injury risk. However, I will not give them a pass for passing on Evan Longoria with this pick, they even had Tulowitzki, his college teammate in the organization already. Not a smart move to take Reynolds over Longoria, or really to take Reynolds at all for that matter.

2007 (8th overall):

Casey Weathers

Vanderbilt University

Career Summary: Weathers has been unimpressive in the minors to date, posting a 4.69 ERA in 169 career innings, never rising above the AA level. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2008. He was packaged with Stewart in a trade to the Cubs after the 2011 season.

Where Is He Now?: Weathers is still in the minors with the Cubs, though he hasn't pitched in 2013 due to injury.

Pick Grade: F. Even if Weathers hadn't been a total bust, this pick would still be getting docked a grade because you don't draft a relief pitcher with a top 10 overall pick. It's just a bad idea and a complete failure of a pick.

2008 (25th overall):

Christian Friedrich

Eastern Kentucky University

Career Summary: After breezing through the low minors in 2008 and 2009, Friedrich stumbled at AA in 2010 and 2011 before righting the ship in 2012. Friedrich made his Major League debut on May 9, 2012, giving up a lone run in six innings against the Padres. Friedrich made 16 starts with the Rockies in 2012, going 5-8 with a 6.17 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 84 2/3 innings before being diagnosed with a stress fracture in his lower back that ended his season in August.

Where Is He Now?: Still recovering from the back injury that ended his 2012 season, Friedrich will likely report to Colorado Springs when he is healthy.

Pick Grade: C. It's pretty apparent that Friedrich isn't going to be a big league star, but he could still very well be a serviceable rotation piece, which puts this grade where it is.

2009 (11th overall):

Tyler Matzek

Capistrano Valley (Calif.) HS

Career Summary: Matzek excelled in 18 starts in Asheville in 2010, compiling a 2.92 ERA and striking out 88 batters in 89 1/3 innings. He followed that up with an ugly 2011, with a 6.22 ERA and 96 walks in 97 innings between Asheville and Modesto. He leveled up with a 4.62 ERA at Modesto in 2012 and similar numbers in 2013.

Where Is He Now?: Matzek, at age 22, has spent the 2013 season at AA Tulsa, with a 2-5 record to go with his 4.37 ERA in 11 starts and a career low 4.8 walks per nine innings.

Pick Grade: Incomplete. I'm not willing to pass judgment on someone who is still 22 in AA, though as someone who always had boom or bust potential, Matzek seems closer to the latter at this point in his career.

2010 (26th overall):

Kyle Parker

Clemson University

Career Summary: Parker has lived up to his power potential thus far in his career, with at least 40 extra base hits in each of his first two full seasons in the minors. His 2012 season in Modesto was particularly impressive and saw him hit 23 home runs and drive in 73 runs in addition to hitting .308 with a .976 OPS. His on-base percentage has lagged a bit in 2013, but other numbers have remained steady.

Where Is He Now?: Parker is in Tulsa for his third minor league season at age 23, hitting .270 with 11 home runs and a .780 OPS.

Pick Grade: Incomplete. As with Matzek, Parker is too young for anyone to make a fair account of his career or grade on his selection.

2011 (20th overall):

Tyler Anderson

University of Oregon

Career Summary: Anderson made an impressive debut at Modesto in 2012, starting 20 games and posting a 2.47 ERA in 120 1/3 innings. He has made eight starts so far in 2013.

Where Is He Now?: Anderson has made eight starts at Modesto this season, with a 3.80 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 42 2/3 innings.

Pick Grade: Incomplete. Anderson was always viewed as a safe pick, so I doubt this grade will ever be an F, probably won't be an A either.

2012 (10th overall):

David Dahl

Oak Mountain (Ala.) HS

Career Summary: Dahl lit up the Pioneer League in 2012, with 22 doubles, 10 triples and nine home runs in 280 at bats at Grand Junction. He stole 12 bases as well. Dahl's 2013 was off to a rocky start, but seems to be back on track.

Where Is He Now?: After a brief detour to extended spring training, Dahl is back in Asheville. He has played just 10 games with the Tourists in 2013 with four doubles, a triple and a steal.

Pick Grade: Incomplete. If Dahl carries forward his 2012 form, this grade could be quite high when all is said and done.

2013 (3rd overall):

Kris Bryant?

University of San Diego?

Career Summary: Bryant hit .329 with 31 home runs, more than half of college teams, for the Toreros in 2013, despite being walked 66 times in 62 games.

Where Is He Now?: Waiting for his name to be called shortly after 5:00 Mountain Time today.

Pick Grade: N/A.

There you have it all 21 (and possibly the 22nd) first picks in Rockies history. Some good, some bad, some with strange and tragic stories. Someone will add his name to the list in a few hours, here's hoping he's more like the picks in 1995 and 2005 than the choices in 1998 and 2000.