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Rockies MLB draft 2016 review: Picks, successes, and lessons learned

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Year Two of the Bridich Era saw a shift away from high upside picks, but stayed with the growing power arm trend

The 2017 MLB Draft is a few weeks away, we want to know: how have the Colorado Rockies approached the last few drafts and what does it tell us about how they might approach this year? Yesterday we reviewed the 2015 draft class, most of whom are still in the minors. Today: we are reviewing the 2016 draft class. (Click here to see a full table of the 2016 draft class at RockiesRoster.com, and you can find Purple Row’s coverage here)

Unlike in previous years, there was no consensus top talent in the 2016 MLB Amatuer Draft. Mock drafts from March all the way to the day before the draft had a lot of trouble forecasting who would go first overall to the Phillies, offering any number of permutations of the following ten picks. The top tier of talent (both pitching and hitting) was crowded, which made following day one of the draft that much more interesting.

Philadelphia selected prep outfielder Mickey Moniak, someone many mock drafts figured would fall to the Rockies at fourth overall. Instead, Colorado took Kansas prep pitcher Riley Pint, the second of six pitchers taken in the top ten. It was known when he was drafted that it would likely take time to iron out his mechanics to be more repeatable long term, as well as adjusting to a professional work load. By taking the high upside righty, general manager Jeff Bridich seemed to continue the trend from 2015 of valuing upside in the draft. Pint has struggled with his command so far, allowing over 10 H/8 and 6 BB/9. Right now the Rockies seem to have him on a strict pitch count, so count on a long road to the show for Pint.

Bridich did not continue along the “high-upside”/high school strategy all the way through the draft, however. They picked just one other high schooler before the 32nd round. The only other high schooler who eventually signed, Colton Welker (fourth round), has been incredible for the Low-A Asheville Tourists so far this year, hitting .343/.385.538 with five home runs and four stolen bases in 38 games. As is the case with everyone in this draft, Welker (no. 19 PuRP) is a long way from the majors but being the lone “high upside” pick could pay off for the Rockies eventually.

Other than these two players, it was all collegiate for the 2016 Rockies draft. Their picks after Pint, Robert Tyler at 38th overall and Ben Bowden 45th, line up with an emphasis on power pitching, both drafted for their lively fastballs. It was unclear what roles Tyler and Bowden would occupy, with many thinking the Rockies would fastrack the college arms to the majors by sticking them in the bullpen. It’s still unclear if management will, as promised, keep both “in their current roles.” Tyler (no. 18 PuRP) allowed five runs in seven innings pitched, all “starts” for Short Season Boise that lasted no more than 11 batters and seems to be headed back to the Northwest League again this year. Bowden (no. 17 PuRP) pitched exclusively out of the bullpen for Asheville in 2016 ( 23 23 IP, 3.04 ERA, 11 K/9, 5.7 BB/9) but remains in extended spring training, along with most of the 2016 draft class.

There are a few that are in full season ball. Asheville boasts 13 of last year’s draftees on their squad, including a number of the power arms Bridich has been targeting. Reid Humphreys (seventh round), who played both sides of the ball at Mississippi State, has been riding his fastball-slider combo to a 2.16 ERA and 8.6 K/9 in 813 IP, and Bryan Baker (11th) has 29 strikeouts and just four earned runs allowed in 2623 IP. The potential steal of the class could be JD Hammer. Drafted in the seventh round (710th overall) out of Marshall University, Hammer has allowed just two runs in 2013 innings, with 33 strikeouts and just four walks against competition that is the same average age. Besides, that’s an 80-grade name for a closer.

There are two more position players worth highlighting. Third round pick (and no. 22 PuRP) Garrett Hampson has been stellar for the High-A, giving some 2015 draft picks a run for their money. Drafted out of Long Beach State and slapped with a “quintessential scrappy college gamer” label evoked images of slap hitting David Eckstein types. He’s been more than that, hitting .305/.373/.412 with two home runs and 15 steals while playing up the middle next to top PuRP Brendan Rodgers. Finally, Vince Fernandez (10th round, from UC-Riverside) adds to the already impressive depth in the outfield for this system. Consider: despite hitting .310/.370/.527 last year in Grand Junction and .327/.385/.562 so far this year in Asheville, he did not make it into our Top 30 PuRPs.

We won’t be able to draw any conclusions about the quality of this draft class for a long time. We can see that Bridich continued to value power arms, and that he gave preference to college players. The Pint pick may turn out to be a blip on the radar, long term, or it could be an indication that the Rockies simply missed out on all the young players they were targeting in the later rounds.

The question going forward: is Bridich one to target high upside high schoolers, as he did in 2015, or does he prefer the safe route, going after collegiate bats and arms as he did in 2016?