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Past & Present: Breaking the talent drought in the 2009 draft

After three disastrous drafts from 2006-2008, the Rockies finally put together a strong class in 2009 thanks in large part to a couple of high-upside high school picks.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Even putting aside three wasted first round picks, the Rockies draft classes from 2006 through 2008 were a complete catastrophe.

In fact, those three drafts only produced three players that so far have contributed positive WAR in a Rockies uniform, Matt Reynolds, Michael McKenry and Charlie Blackmon. Not to mention the fact that the 5.3 WAR contributed by those three players has mostly, if not entirely, been canceled out by negative WAR contributed by other members of those draft classes (Jordan Pacheco, Christian Friedrich, etc.)

Then came 2009, the Rockies had the 11th overall pick and saw themselves on the back end of a run of pitchers that started with Baltimore taking Matt Hobgood with the fifth pick, the Giants taking Zack Wheeler at six, Mike Minor going to Atlanta at seven, Mike Leake being taken eighth by the Reds, Jacob Turner at nine to the Tigers and Drew Storen being selected 10th by Washington.

The Rockies continued the run on pitching by taking who many considered to be the best high school arm in the draft, lefty Tyler Matzek. Matzek's struggles through the minor leagues have been well-documented both here at Purple Row and elsewhere, but he has been downright solid in his first major league season at age 23.

He has made 17 starts for the Rockies this year, posting a 4.23 ERA and 3.99 FIP in 106 1/3 innings, both of those numbers are better than Colorado's nominal ace Jorge De La Rosa, who just signed a two-year, $25 million contract extension. Matzek has been especially good in his last five starts, with a 1.75 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in 36 innings with 29 strikeouts.

The Rockies' other first-round pick in 2009, 32nd overall, was used on outfielder Tim Wheeler, who unfortunately seems to have stagnated at AAA, but their  pick in the supplemental round, 34th overall, brought them another southpaw in reliever Rex Brothers from Lipscomb University.

Say what you will about Brothers' struggles in 2014, but he has contributed 4.5 WAR and has a 3.46 ERA in 229 career innings with the Rockies. He was especially good in 2013, when he had a 1.74 ERA and 19 saves in 67 1/3 innings over 72 appearances, walking 36 and striking out 76.

But perhaps the Rockies' best pick in 2009 came in the second round at 59th overall when they took high school catcher/first baseman Nolan Arenado. Of course, Arenado was moved by the Rockies to third base, where he won a Gold Glove in his rookie year in 2013.  This season, a 23-year-old like Matzek, Arenado's offense seems to have caught up to his defense. He has an .828 OPS this season with 34 doubles and 18 home runs and has seen his wRC+ improve from 77 in 2013 to 113 in 2014.

In addition to Matzek, Brothers and Arenado, the Rockies took first baseman Ben Paulsen in the third round and reliever Rob Scahill in the eighth round. Though they have not had as much big league playing time, have been worth about half a win in their Rockies careers. The Rockies also drafted outfielder Corey Dickerson in the 29th round in 2009, though he went back to school for another year before signing with Colorado as the team's eighth-round pick in 2010.

After three lean years after the selection of Troy Tulowitzki in 2005, the Rockies needed to have a strong draft in 2009 in the worst way and, though the players are still young, signs are very promising that they did just that.