With a month left before the MLB draft, the Rockies are preparing to choose from one of the deeper draft classes in recent memory. There is plenty of talent at pick 22 where the Rockies will pick in the first round. Based on recent draft trends, along with my own favorites, I’ve identified three candidates who make sense for the Rockies in the first round.
Mason Denaburg, RHP, Merritt Island High School (FL)
Denaburg has one thing the Rockies have gravitated towards over the past few years: a power arm. Denaburg was throwing 97 mph over the summer with a lot of run and bite. As with a lot of players with his profile however, he can struggle at times to find the zone. He pairs his fastball with a solid curveball that flashes plus. Since the start of the season he has unveiled a slider that shows promise and throws the occasional change up as well. Denaburg is also a very athletic kid who was a two-way player up until this season, doubling as the team’s catcher. He would be a solid catching prospect as well, with a ton of athleticism and a strong arm, but he chose to focus on pitching this season.
Unfortunately, Denaburg has been shut down with biceps tendinitis after an up and down spring that has caused his stock to drop a bit. He still has the arsenal, athleticism, and body type that teams look for in a starter though, so he likely won’t fall much further than 22, if he even gets that far. If the Rockies are willing to look past the injury and the inconsistencies this season, they could end up with a steal in the first round.
Triston Casas, 3B/1B, American Heritage School (FL)
Casas is an interesting bat first prospect who has a real chance to fall to the Rockies at 22. He has a ton of raw power and an advanced approach at the plate to avoid a lot of swing-and-miss. He’s a big kid at 6’4” and 240 pounds but is pretty athletic for his size. He has shown improved range on the infield over the past year and some scouts think he can stick at third, although most see a future as a plus defender at first. The power is to all fields and he sprays the ball effectively all over the yard. He’s one of the top high school bats in the class.
Selecting Casas would be a risk in that he’s likely a first base only prospect and teams don’t like spending draft capital in that spot. However, the Rockies have had a hole at first for a long time and getting a promising player in the organization who fields the position well and has the offensive profile for it makes a lot of sense. Over the last ten years, four high school first basemen have been selected in the first round. Eric Hosmer went 3rd overall in 2008, Dominic Smith went 11th in 2013, Josh Naylor went 12th in 2015 and Nick Pratto went 14th a year ago. It’s rare but selecting a High school first baseman early can pay off.
Logan Gilbert, RHP, Stetson University
Gilbert would be a bit of a departure in some aspects for the Rockies. He’s a college pitcher with a low-to-mid 90s fastball and somewhat iffy secondary stuff. Doesn’t sound great right? The thing about Gilbert is that he’s elite in one important area: extension. Gilbert uses his 6’5” frame to his advantage by releasing the ball way out in front of the mound. If you’re releasing the ball six feet in front of the rubber, your 93 mph fastball is going to look closer to 97 mph. Gilbert is said to have above-average major league extension already as a college pitcher. He also hides the ball really well and gets a lot of life on his fastball.
Gilbert’s secondary offerings can look great at times but they are likely too inconsistent right now to warrant a higher selection. He’s fallen a lot based on those inconsistencies, but the results are still there for him (2.76 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 6.81 K/BB) because of his outstanding extension, deception and athleticism. The Rockies have gravitated toward high schoolers with a lot of upside but I can see them stepping away from the mold to take a chance on Gilbert. He’s got a plus fastball, which they like, along with some quality developing offspeed pitches. Should the Rockies go that direction, he would be the first college first-rounder for them since Kyle Freeland.
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This year’s draft is so deep that the Rockies will have their pick of a collection of talented players. Should these guys be available, I’d be thrilled to see any of them end up with the Rockies. Under Jeff Bridich the team has generally not drafted based on team needs but have tended to select the best available player in their view. As a fan of the Rockies and of the draft I love the strategy and it’s proven to provide a deep and talented farm. Let’s hope for another first round hit in 2018.