Draft day looms ever closer and the top of the draft is getting clearer as the days go by. The Rockies will not pick in the first round and this makes for some strategic maneuvering that they haven’t had to worry about so much in years past. The lack of a first round MLB draft pick means the money they could have used in the first round no longer exists, which means they are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to signing high-upside prep prospects.
The past two years, the Rockies were able to sign their first-round pick to under slot value, meaning they had more money to work with later in the draft to entice prep players who were selected lower than they had hoped. Brendan Rodgers signed for over $1 million under slot value and Riley Pint signed for around $400,000 under slot. Without the extra $4 million that would have come with the 11th overall pick had the Rockies not signed Ian Desmond, the Rockies find themselves with only just over $4.5 million to work with total. That’s almost $10 million less than the Twins, who own the top pick in the draft.
Obviously, financial concerns will play a big role in determining who the Rockies decide to select with pick number 48 and I want to talk about a few scenarios they will consider. These 5 options are, in my opinion, the most likely scenarios for the Rockies and each one has its positives and negatives.
Option 1: Proven College Arm
Risk Level: Very Low
Possible Selections: Wil Crowe, Alex Lange, Brendon Little, Nate Pearson
I see this as the most likely scenario for the Rockies. Selecting a college pitcher with a good track record of success makes sense for them in the second round. A pitcher with a high floor who has shown the ability to pitch at a high level represents a very low risk and gives the Rockies talent closer to the big club.
The biggest problem with this strategy is that there aren’t very many options that may be available to them in this spot. Crowe is the most likely to get to 48 but Lange, Little and Pearson will likely be selected earlier. Should their top targets get taken, the Rockies will likely move on to a different option.
Option 2: Breakout College Arm
Risk Level: Moderate
Possible Selections: Luke Heimlich, Blaine Knight, Jake Thompson
The risk level here grades out as moderate because as good as these guys have been this season, we don’t really have a good way of knowing whether their improvement is real or a fluke. There are certainly indications that the change is real and that they can sustain their success, but the lack of a track record will push them down in the draft.
Should the polished college arms go early, the Rockies will likely take on some risk for a guy they see as a potential back of the rotation arm who can help the club in the next 2-3 years. These guys have all shown the ability to adjust as their college careers have progressed and that will be even more important as they make the move to pro ball.
Option 3: Polished College Bat
Risk Level: Low
Possible Selections: Brian Miller, Stuart Fairchild, Gavin Sheets, Drew Ellis, J.J. Matejevic
The risk here is a little lower than the previous option, but I would be surprised if the Rockies went with a hitter over a pitcher. The hitters listed here are all in the realm of possibility, although the first three guys may very well be off the board by 48. College hitters carry minimal risk, except when it comes to the corner OF and 1B guys who need to hit in order to provide any value.
Although this is a weak draft for college bats, I think the hate has gone too far and I’d be very happy with any of these options. Any of these guys could be playing at Coors by 2020. These first 3 options make up an 80% probability so I think we are most likely to see a collegiate player being selected at 48.
Option 4: Signable Prep Player
Risk Level: High
Possible Selections: Jordan Anderson, Blake Hunt, Landon Leach, C.J. Van Eyk
The signable prep route is hard to project because teams have a better idea of who is likely to sign as a second rounder than I do. The names I’m throwing out are merely guesses at who may be signable largely because they aren’t as highly thought of on a national level and would likely be more willing to sign for second round value. They are still talented players but they don’t have the pedigree of other prospects.
There is a good amount of risk here in that the Rockies are reaching for prospects that would otherwise go later in the draft so they are not selecting the best available player. Passing on one of the aforementioned college players carries inherent risk and the Rockies may end up wishing they had gone the college route. However, if there is a player the Rockies really like and is not as high up on other boards, being able to offer second round money may give them the ability to sign a higher upside talent.
Option 5: Falling Prep Player
Risk Level: Very High
Possible Selections: Matt Sauer, Trevor Rogers, Ryan Vilade, Garrett Mitchell
The riskiest move the Rockies will likely consider is a high-upside prep player who falls to them in the second round. The reason for the high level of risk is the issue of signing a player who falls this far. Most of these players have, at one time or another, been considered first-round talents and you get a much better bonus in the first than in the second.
The chances of the Rockies taking this route are slim and, although I would love to see them go for it, it is hard to picture them risking the loss their first selection due to signablility. It would make more sense for the Rockies to go ahead and find a college player they think has a chance to move quickly through the system and help the club while the young, talented core is still together.
★ ★ ★
The total probability here adds up to 95% so there is a 5% chance of something else happening (selecting an injured player, reaching for a cheaper collegiate player to save money for the CBB round, etc.) but these 5 options are the MOST likely scenarios in my mind. Regardless, it goes to show that not having a first round pick doesn’t preclude a team from intriguing storylines.