In modern baseball, there are rich teams and there are poor teams, but there are no teams that do not rely on drafting and developing players to build their success. Even the famous Yankees dynasty of the 1990s wouldn’t have been so great had they not been able to build around stars like Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and Andy Pettitte. So despite what anyone may say, no team gets to where they are without the drafting and development of players.
Which brings us to the current iteration of the Colorado Rockies. They are in the position they’re in (namely, first place in the NL West) due in large part to their successes in the amateur draft and international scouting. Stars like Nolan Arenado (2009, second round), Charlie Blackmon (2008, second round), and Tyler Anderson (2011, first round) all came to where they are through this process.
With the 2017 MLB Draft (also known as the Rule 4 Draft) a few weeks away, we want to know: how has the team approached the last few drafts and what does it tell us about how they might approach this year? Of course, the team does not own a first round pick this year, due to the signing of Ian Desmond, but there is still plenty of drafting after that to be had, and so there is plenty to learn by gleaning through their history.
Thanks to our good friends at RockiesRoster.com, we can view draft classes going back to 2011, but we’ll only be going back to the famous 2013 draft. Most players in this draft are either still in the minor leagues or just breaking into the majors, which allows us to evaluate the farm system as it stands. This way we can focus a little more on process than getting caught up in results. (Click here to see a full table of the 2013 draft class, and you can find Purple Row’s coverage here)
The 2012 Colorado Rockies were bad. Injuries, ineffectiveness, and the ill-fated Project 5182 piggyback pitching plan torpedoed the season and left the Rockies at 64-98, their worst year in club history. For their efforts, they received the third overall pick. Heading into the draft, there was a consensus top 3: Stanford right-handed senior Mark Appel, Oklahoma junior Jon Gray, and San Diego senior third baseman Kris Bryant. This made the pick easy for the Rockies: whoever the Astros and Cubs passed on, the Rockies would scoop up. Though many expected that to by Bryant, the Rockies happily ended up with Jon Gray, and the rest is history.
But what about the rest of the draft? So far the only 2013 draftees to make the majors are Gray, Jordan Patterson (fourth round), and Pat Valaika (ninth round). Each of these were college players, of which the Rockies spent 22 of their 41 picks. Of those 22, a full 16 were pitchers (12 righties, four lefties). Only two of those college picks (Hunter Brothers in the 24th round and Alex Haines in the 33rd, both pitchers) failed to sign with the team.
2013 Draft Class, By the Numbers
That the Rockies seemed to target college arms shouldn’t be that surprising. Drafting guys who theoretically should need only minimal development and therefore have a quick path to the majors is appealing for a team that has had trouble developing pitchers. So far it hasn’t worked out that way; only Alex Balog, Sam Moll, Konner Wade, and Matt Pierpont (all college arms) have even made it as far as Double-A. Pierpont is the surprise of that group, as he was drafted out of Winthrop in the 26th round but had a 2.94 ERA with a 72:23 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 67⅓ innings at Double-A last season.
It’s looked a little better on the position player front. Nine of the 15 draftees were signed, and all six that weren’t signed (including Brody Weiss from Regis Jesuit High in Aurora) came from the high school ranks. Four of the fourteen drafted high schoolers are still with the organization: Ryan McMahon (second round), Dom Nunez (sixth), Michael Tauchman (tenth), and Wesley Jones (31st, though his last stop was with Boise last year). McMahon is repeating Double-A this year and making Eastern League pitchers pay for it; he may just live up to that second round pedigree. Nunez was drafted as a third baseman but was moved to catcher while he was in rookie ball at Grand Junction and, despite a slow start this year (he’s hitting .176/.315/.311 in 26 games at Double-A), the Rockies are very high on his future. Tauchman, despite hitting .308/.406/.496 for AAABQ, is probably pretty far from a spot on the major league roster, unless an emergency arises.
The college players still in the organization have made it to the Show, but didn’t rise quite as quickly as one might expect a “developed college bat” to rise. Valaika has carved out a nice spot as the Rockies primary utility guy and backup shortstop, but Patterson seems to be stuck in some sort of Triple-A purgatory.
The Rockies seemed to make a lot of low-risk picks in the 2013 draft, targeting many college players. But when all's said and done they may not see much benefit from them: only four players from this class made the most recent PuRPs list. Fringy major leaguers like Sam Moll, Jordan Patterson, and Pat Valaika don’t move the needle that much. In all, this draft class will rise and fall based on Jon Gray’s career and Ryan McMahon’s development.