For a few years now, the theme of the 2009 draft has always been the point where the front office started to turn the farm around. After the Rockies struck a gold mine with the Troy Tulowitzki selection in the first round of 2005, they went on a severe dry spell which helped fuel the team-wide collapse we saw in 2011 and 2012.
In fact, from the Rockies' second selection in the 2005 draft through their final selection in 2008, the pick that netted the most Wins Above Replacement (rWAR) in a Colorado uniform through the end of the 2013 season was current Diamondbacks reliever Matt Reynolds at 2.1. That's awful production.
There are a couple of things I should note however. First, Charlie Blackmon, who was taken in the second round (72nd overall) of the 2008 draft has passed Reynolds on that list this season. Blackmon turned 21 the summer he was drafted, so he seemed like an extremely unlikely candidate to start producing big numbers for the club six years after he was selected, but a weird set of circumstances including a foot injury seems to have caused just that. If the breakout this season is real, the 2008 draft won't be a complete failure.
Second, the Rockies actually selected two very good major league pitchers in the 18th round of 2006 (Andrew Cashner) and the 21st round of 2007 (Chris Sale). Unfortunately, they didn't sign either of them and both arms were drafted by other teams with much higher picks the following seasons.
No matter how you slice it, selections from the 2009 draft were the first to start rejuvenating the big club after a long drought of farm talent. Oddly enough though, the first two picks from that draft still haven't played a single game in the major leagues. Here are the particulars:
1st Round, 11th overall: SP Tyler Matzek | Current Level: Triple-A Colorado Springs
Want some Purple Row nostalgia? This thread is from the night the Rockies signed Tyler Matzek, minutes before the deadline to do so expired.
The community fell in love with his swing and miss stuff, a quality he possesses to this day. The problem for Matzek has always been that the hitters are not the only ones who don't know where his pitches are going.
Plagued by walks for his entire minor league career, Matzek carries a 6.1 BB/9 over 509.2 innings of minor league work. He's struggled with his command so much that his 4.2 BB/9 this year in Colorado Springs is actually the lowest he's sported at any level.
The journey has been slow, but so far Matzek's time in the minors has also been about survival. In 2011, he looked done after sporting a 9.82 ERA and walking 12.5 batters per nine innings in High-A Modesto. This is where the Rockies allowed him to go back home,straighten out his delivery and regain his confidence. Success hasn't come quickly, but Matzek is still climbing up the system.
His seven starts this season for the Sky Sox are emblematic of the enigma that is Tyler Matzek. In four of them, he's allowed one earned run or fewer, but in the other three, he's allowed four earned runs or more. Nobody mixes greatness and disaster quite like this guy.
Despite everything he's been trough since that euphoric thread on Purple Row nearly five years ago, Matzek is now close enough to the majors, and young enough (still just 23) to have an impact on the major league club at some point relatively soon. This long and unpredictable ride is still ongoing.
1st Round, 32nd overall: OF Tim Wheeler | Current Level: Triple-A Colorado Springs
Reviews were mixed on Wheeler when he was first drafted, and he didn't lean heavily one way or the other during his first two seasons in the organization.
That all changed in 2011 when Wheeler reached Tulsa. In what appeared to be his coming out party, Wheeler launched 33 home runs and posted a .900 OPS for the season while also swiping 21 bags. There were a couple of red flags including a high strikeout rate and an inability to hit lefties, but the power seemed real as almost nobody hits home runs the way he did in Tulsa.
Sadly, Wheeler's 2012 season was almost immediately derailed by a broken hamate bone in his wrist. He would come back mid season, but he was never the player he was in Tulsa. Two years and 1,000 plate appearances later, Wheeler is still stuck in Colorado Springs with only a third of the home runs he hit in just one season in Tulsa.
Some are still holding out hope that the power will come back, but that's looking less and less likely now. If it doesn't, Wheeler has almost no chance of making it in Colorado's crowded outfield. He also may get plucked out of the organization as he's Rule 5 eligible after the 2014 season.
1st Round Supplemental Pick, 34th overall: RP Rex Brothers | Current Level: MLB Relief Pitcher
Not only did this pick produce a productive player, it produced a productive player quickly. As early as 2011, Brothers was in the Rockies' pen striking out batters at a clip of 13.1 per nine innings. The success continued the following seasons as Brothers was dominant in 2012 and most of 2013. The only real knock on him was that he walked too many batters. However, his strikeout stuff was so good, it rarely hurt him.
In 2014, Brothers now finds himself at a very significant crossroads of his career. He's walking more and striking out fewer hitters than he ever has and he's less reliable now than at any point since his call up. He must adjust now, or the Rockies are not going to get much additional value out of this pick in future seasons.
2nd Round, 59th overall: 3B Nolan Arenado | Current Level: MLB Third Base
Arenado, selected out of El Toro High School in Lake Forest, Calif., is not only the crown jewel of the 2009 crop for the Rockies -- he might end up being the best player not named Mike Trout taken in this entire draft. He's still got some tough competition to hop over in Stephen Strasburg, Shelby Miller, Brandon Belt, and Jason Kipnis, but he's certainly capable of getting there.
Arenado just turned 23 last month and he's already accomplished so much. Last year it was all about winning the gold glove in his rookie year, but we haven't even come close to seeing what he can do with his bat yet. In 1,856 minor league plate appearances, Arenado struck out only 10.2 percent of the time, and that was against competition that was considerably older than him at every level. So while the .818 OPS down on the farm and the .706 OPS last season may not look impressive, this is a volcano waiting to erupt. His K% in the majors is just 12.4 percent, and Arenado is just starting to develop more power and get a better feel for his swing.
3rd Round, 90th overall: Ben Paulsen | Current Level: Triple-A Colorado Springs
Paulsen has made it to Triple-A Colorado Springs and is having his best season ever with the bat. Much of this could be due to the friendly hitting environment, but his .972 OPS is by far the best on the team (minimum 15 plate appearances). While the numbers are still out of whack at Colorado Springs, they are slightly more trustworthy than in the past thanks to the installation of the humidor before the 2012 season and the Sky Sox move to the more pitcher friendly American division this season.
Still, Paulsen is 26 and has yet play a game in the major leagues. That's usually not a good sign for the future. He provides nice depth at first base for now, but Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, part time Wilin Rosario, Ryan Wheeler, and (soon) Kyle Parker ahead of him, he's going to have a tough time cracking the next level.
Like Tim Wheeler, Paulsen is Rule 5 eligible at the end of the 2014 season.
Other Notable Picks
8th Round, 241st overall: Rob Scahill | Current Level: Triple-A Colorado Springs
Scahill made it to the major leagues in both 2012 and 2013 and did well in the "filler" role, but that's really his ceiling. This is a great story you want to root for, but unfortunately Scahill is also likely to be the victim of a roster crunch when the Rockies need to add somebody else to the 40 man soon. As disappointing as this probably will be for Rob, it also means that the Rockies have deeper talent than before.
For an eighth round pick, Scahill was a decent pickup.
29th Round, 871st overall: Corey Dickerson | Current Level: MLB Outfield
The Rockies did not sign Dickerson following the 2009 draft. Instead they selected him again in the eighth round of 2010 and signed him there. However, the fact that they took him deep in the draft twice is noteworthy and suggests the Rockies saw something here other clubs did not. Either way, Dickerson has turned into a gem.
For more on Dickerson, make sure to check out Jordan Freemyer's review of the 2010 draft where the Rockies continued to restock to farm.