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MLB Draft 2017: Projecting the Rockies’ first five picks

The Rockies will make their first selection at 48th overall

As we head into draft day I wanted to update my possible Rockies selections (you can find the original list here). I will use the same format but highlight just one player at each spot and expand a bit to include a few more selections.

Very little has changed from my first preview; however, I have now decided to embrace reality and concede that the Rockies are not likely to select a prep player with their top pick. The financial complications are too great to risk selecting a player who may not sign for slot value in the second round.

With that said, here are a few more guys to get familiar with as the draft approaches.

Round 2, Pick 48: Drew Ellis, 3B, Louisville

Who is he?

Ellis is finally being mentioned in draft circles closer to where he belongs. Through his two years at Louisville, he has shown all the skills necessary to be a great hitter at the next level. He displays good discipline, has a good feel for the barrel, can drive the ball to all fields, and shows tremendous power upside.

The knock on Ellis is where he ends up on a major league diamond. Right now, he is at least a capable defender at third and I would be surprised if he didn’t stay there through most of his professional career. He is a hard worker and has a good baseline to start from so he should be able to stick at the hot corner. Even if he is forced to move to first, the bat is good enough to make it work there.

Why is he a fit for the Rockies?

For me, Ellis would be the perfect pick for the Rockies as an underrated college hitter who would likely move quickly through the organization and be ready to help the club within a couple years while the core of the team is still together. I don’t understand the lack of attention he is receiving. Watching him hit, there aren’t any major red flags to suggest he can’t continue to produce the way he has in college. I think Ellis is a steal anywhere he’s picked after the first round so at 48, he’d be a fantastic selection for the Rockies.

Collective Balance B, Pick 70: Daniel Tillo, LHP, Iowa Western CC

Who is he?

I mentioned Tillo in my first preview (although I had his handedness written wrong) but didn’t go into detail about him. Tillo has two good offerings in a big fastball and a biting slider that is his best pitch. He throws a changeup on occasion but it will need quite a lot of work to become an average offering, although he does have a good feel for it. Tillo transferred from Kentucky this year after being used sparingly there out of the bullpen in 2016.

Tillo has limited pitching experience and tired out at the end of this year, leading to a ranking drop in a lot of places. This is his first full season as a pitcher focused only on baseball (he was a basketball star in high school), so I think with more reps and focus on his craft he will get more length.

Why is he a fit for the Rockies?

Tillo checks a couple boxes for the Rockies. He owns a good fastball and at least 1 solid breaking pitch and he is a college pitcher who has a chance to move quickly especially as a reliever. The Rockies may want to try him as a starter for a while to see if increased reps indeed lead to greater length but it wouldn’t be the worst thing to bring him through the system quickly as a high leverage bullpen arm. The only issue with Tillo is a signability concern as he is committed to Arkansas for the 2018 season but I think slot value here, maybe a little above, would be enough to lure him away.

Round 3, Pick 86: Landon Leach, RHP, Pickering HS (Canada)

Who is he?

Leach is a Canadian righty who has impressed scouts this Spring with a good fastball/slider combination. He has a clean delivery that he can repeat easily and has quite a bit of projection remaining. His fastball sits in the low-90s now and he can run it up to 96 at times. His slider has good bite to it and he can throw both pitches for strikes. He has shown good feel for a changeup but it’s a distant third pitch right now.

Leach can occasionally get off with his delivery for stretches during games. He seems to struggle a bit getting back to what works for him but this is correctable with instruction and more reps in a pro setting. Leach is an exciting player who has drawn praise for his makeup and work ethic. He keeps getting better and better.

Why is he a fit for the Rockies?

The Rockies are unlikely to spend their top pick on a prep guy as they have the past two years, but Leach could be this year’s first prep selection. Leach, in my mind, has huge potential as a power pitcher with solid off-speed stuff. Scouts have raved about his potential to pack on more velocity and blossom into a force on the mound. He has already shown the willingness to work hard to achieve his best and if he can reach that potential he could be a future star. He is underrated a bit on the national scale and would be a nice get here in the third round.

Round 4, Pick 116: Deon Stafford, C, St. Joseph’s

Who is he?

Stafford is a college catcher who has a good chance to remain behind the plate. He shows good instincts and possesses a strong arm with quick reactions. He has been a monster at the plate this year, showing a lot of power and the ability to hit the ball hard where it’s thrown. He is patient at the plate and shows good pitch recognition with a mature approach.

I would put Deon Stafford, Drew Ellis and Matt Whatley (who I covered in my first preview) in the same category of guys who I really like and can’t explain why no one else seems to like them. Stafford is another one who has all the tools to one day become an every day regular but is being overlooked at this point. He should end up right around the top 100 but I haven’t heard his name in that area yet.

Why is he a fit for the Rockies?

The Rockies have made it a point the last couple years to emphasize catching depth throughout the organization. They signed Ryan Hanigan this off-season, picked up Tony Wolters off waivers the prior season, and added Nick Hundley the previous year. Wouldn’t it be nice if that depth could come from within the organization? The Rockies grabbed Brian Serven from Arizona State in round 5 last year and I could easily see the trend continue with a college catcher somewhere in rounds 3-5.

Round 5, Pick 146: Freddy Tarnok, RHP, Riverview HS (FL)

Who is he?

Tarnok already touches 96 with his fastball and has a ton of projection remaining in his lanky 6’4” 190-pound frame. The fastball is his bread-and-butter and has a lot of late life on it. He also owns a curveball that has improved as the Spring has gone on as well as a changeup that he throws from time to time. He has played shortstop as well and only recently fully transitioned to focusing on pitching.

Tarnok hasn’t gotten a lot of play nationally but has been impressive this year. His delivery isn’t as clean as many would like but it is good enough to project a future starter. He has decent control and is confident in his arsenal. He would be a project for whoever drafts him but the potential is certainly enticing.

Why is he a fit for the Rockies?

We are in the 5th round so it is almost impossible to say who the Rockies may be looking at here. However, I have a feeling they will want a prep pitcher in the first 5 and this would be a good fit. Tarnok has potential to be a serious power pitcher with two good secondary pitches. The Rockies like the profile and trust their developmental pipeline when it comes to guys like this. If the Rockies take college guys with their first four picks, look for a prep arm here. Tarnok should be in play for them.

★ ★ ★

The lack of a first rounder leaves some uninterested in this year’s draft but there are plenty of talented players available from the second round and on. There are always undervalued guys in the later rounds, the key is identifying those guys.

The Rockies may not have the financial flexibility they’ve had in years past but there is a lot to be excited about. Draft Day is one of my favorite days of the year and even though the Rockies are without a first-rounder, I’ll be paying close attention.