It’s common wisdom that the draft has diminishing returns the further down the board you go. First round picks are usually decent bets to have major league careers, though not necessarily long or successful ones. And it is by far not the case all the time. It’s basically a coin flip right now whether or not fourth overall selection Riley Pint will ever see the majors. The larger the selection number gets, the less likely the player is to see major league action.
That is to say, there’s not a lot we can say about the future potential of the Rockies first four selections — the picks in the top 100. But we can look back to see who the most successful players are who have been chosen in those spots. And, like last year, we can also dig up some names most people have never heard of that form pretty good spoonerisms.
Round 1, Selection 23
The Rockies have never picked in the 23rd spot. Last year, they selected Ryan Rolison in the 22nd spot, and that pick is looking mighty good right now. Based on my non-comprehensive look all of the selections, I don’t think there are any players taken 23rd overall who ever played on the Rockies. The closest we can get are Brandon Wood, who played in the Rockies’ farm system in 2012; Chi Chi González, who is in the system right now; and a different Steve Reed drafted by the Reds in 1974 and who never made the majors.
Seven players drafted in the 23rd spot posted a career Baseball-Reference WAR above 10. They are:
Jason Kendall, 41.7 (Pittsburgh, 1992)
Jacoby Ellsbury, 31.1 (Boston, 2005)
Christian Yelich, 29.2 (Miami, 2009)
Mo Vaughn, 27.2 (Boston, 1989)
Aaron Sele, 20.1 (Boston, 1991)
Luis Alicea, 11.9 (St. Louis, 1986)
Phil Hughes, 10.7 (New York Yankees, 2004)
The Red Sox have found a lot of success with the 23rd overall pick of the draft, which tells us nothing other than this is all kind of random. As of now, there are no Hall of Famers drafted from the 23d spot. Christian Yelich, however, is poised to become the best player ever drafted from the spot, and he could also be this position’s first Hall of Famer.
Dave Leeper (Lave Deeper), Kansas City, 1981
Maxwell Sapp (Saxwell Mapp), Houston, 2006
Rip Rollins (Rop Rillins), Philadelphia, 1981
Second Round, Selection 62
The 62nd overall pick in the draft has landed anywhere from a compensation round, which is still technically the first round, to the fourth round when there were fewer teams. This year, the Rockies will pick at this spot in the Compensation Round B. Like the 23rd pick overall, this is the first time the Rockies will choose at this spot. There will be lots of pressure for whoever is chosen here.
There are far fewer players with more than 10 career WAR who were drafted here. In fact, there are only three:
Andre Ethier, 21.2 (Oakland, 2003)
Jeff Weaver, 15.2 (Chicago White Sox, 1997)
José DeLeón, 14.0 (Pittsburgh, 1979)
Alex Verdugo, who the Los Angeles Dodgers drafted 62nd overall in 2014, has just 2.1 WAR so far but is a pretty good bet to join this group of 10-plussers. There are two more absences from this spot in the draft that are common with the 23rd: From my eyes, there are no players drafted here who ever played for the Rockies, and there are no Hall of Famers. There are not even any maybes.
Morgan Cooper (Corgan Mooper), Los Angeles Dodgers, 2017
Tommy Mendonca (Mommy Tendonca), Texas, 2009
Competitive Balance Round B, Selection 77
As opposed to the firs two picks, the Rockies have picked from the 77th spot five times in their history. None of them have panned out so far. The most successful one, as measured by the fact that he even made the majors, though not for the Rockies, is 2013 selection Sam Moll. The other players the Rockies drafted here include:
Chris Buglovsky, 2000
Aaron Marsden, 2003
Carl Thamore, 2011
Javier Medina, 2015
Medina, at least, is still in the Rockies system. He pitched 21 1⁄3 innings for Boise in 2018.
There are no players chosen with the 77th pick who have compiled more than 10 WAR; so, obviously, there aren’t any Hall of Famers here. In fact, there are only four players chosen here who have at least 1.0 WAR:
Alex Wilson, 4.9 (Boston, 2009)
Rich Folkers, 1.9 (San Francisco, 1966)
Ken Patterson, 1.8 (New York Yankees, 1985)
Blake Wood, 1.0 (Kansas City, 2006)
There seems to be just one player selected here to ever log major league playing time with the Rockies. José Morales (Minnesota, 2003) played in 22 games for the Rockies in 2011. He finished his career with 0.6 WAR. His final game with the Rockies on June 15, 2011, was the final game of his major league career. He probably didn’t know it at the time.
Jace Fry (Face Jry), Chicago White Sox, 2014
Larry Broadway (No spoonerism necessary for a name like this), Montreal, 2002
Round 4, Selection 100
This is where it gets weird. Of all the players chosen in these four slots, Jason Kendall had the best career as measured by WAR. That makes sense given it was the 23rd pick. The second and sixth most successful big leaguers, however, were selected 100 overall.
Ron Gant, 34.1 (Atlanta, 1983)
Shane Mack, 21.6 (Kansas City, 1981)
To put this in perspective, Gant’s 34.1 WAR in his career is about 7-times the career WAR as everyone drafted in the 77th spot combined. Mack’s career WAR total is about 4.5 times that of every player drafted in the 77th spot. To be clear, the lesson is absolutely not that it’s better to pick 100 than 77, just that the randomness of selections that low in the draft have resulted in two guys being exponentially more successful in one spot than another.
This should be of interest for Rockies fans because Gant played for the Rockies for half of a season. They signed the 36-year-old outfielder prior to the 2001 season and traded him to Oakland halfway through for Robin Jennings. So the question is not how good of a player can the Rockies draft with the 100th pick, it’s which player drafted by someone else will they sign as a mid-30s veteran only to “flip” him for a guy named Robin who will have a grand total of one game and three plate appearances as a member of the Rockies? If history is any indication — and in this case it most certainly is not — we’ll have to wait until 2037 to find out.
The Rockies have picked with the 100th selection twice. In 1999, they selected the fifth most successful player ever chosen at 100, Josh Bard. He put up 3.3 WAR in his 10 year career, none of it with the Rockies. His longevity had a lot to do with the fact that he was a catcher. The Rockies also selected Joel Moore with the 100th pick in 1993. He never made the majors. Other notable selections here are Kirk Niewenhuis (New York Mets, 2008), who went to high school in Denver, and a different Mike Hampton (Cincinnati, 1994).
Ron Cash (Con Rash), Los Angeles Dodgers, 1967
Hut Smith (Smut Hith), Baltimore, 1992
Bill Hobbs (Hill Bobbs), Chicago White Sox, 1965
Shane Mack (Mane Shack)
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The draft begins this Monday night. Let’s hope the Rockies find their Kendalls and Gants in the mix and not just entertaining spoonerisms.