The Colorado Rockies will make the 23rd pick in the MLB draft this week. From there they will make the 62nd and 77th pick, and then in the way these drafts go, they will make a lot more selections (37 more, to be exact).
The promise of future success makes each prospect exciting, and each one of them benefits from the fact that we haven’t yet seen them fail.
And yet the timeline of player development means we won’t see most of these guys for years, if at all. The ability to follow minor league systems and track progress helps, but ultimately the whole process requires a lot of patience from the organization and fans alike.
For this exercise, let’s take a look at picks going back to the 2013 draft who have reached the big leagues. The year before that, in 2012, David Dahl was the team’s first round pick. He is arguably just now settled in as the everyday player we all expected him to be — a short 7 years later.
That draft also provided current closer Scott Oberg (15th round). He just broke through last year. So yea, these things take time!
Jon Gray (1st round, 3rd overall) made his debut in 2015 and has been a regular in the rotation since 2016. In that time we have been treated to some ace moments, some high-profile meltdowns, and a lot of heated internet debate about his mental fortitude. His 2019 season is off to a strong start.
Ryan McMahon (2nd round, 42nd overall) struggled to find his footing in the seasons before this one. It’s still been herky jerky in 2019, but he actually seems to be playing better now that Brendan Rodgers is with the club and sharing time at second base.
Also, those two playing means Pat Valaika (9th round, 259th overall) isn’t a regular. That’s probably a good thing, though Valaika still probably has value as a utility player and pinch hitter.
Left-handed pitcher Sam Moll (3rd round, 77th overall) is currently a member of the San Francisco Giants organization. He never appeared for the Rockies, who traded him to Oakland, but he did pitch in 11 games for the A’s in 2017. His ERA was 10.80.
Infielder/outfielder Jordan Patterson (4th round, 109th overall) never felt like he had an obvious path in the Rockies organization. He had 19 plate appearances in 2016 and is now a member of the Toronto Blue Jays organization.
Outfielder Mike Tauchman (10th round, 289th overall) tried to knock the door down a few times but could never produce in the big leagues for the Rockies. He’s now getting regular playing time for the New York Yankees, because of course he is. He’s currently slashing .211/.306/.411.
Kyle Freeland (1st round, 8th overall) has been in the news this week for reasons we all know. Hopefully his tune-up in Triple-A will yield the same positive results as Gray’s in 2018.
Left-handed pitcher Harrison Musgrave (8th round, 233rd overall) is on the big league roster but currently on the injured list. He provided some clutch performances out of the bullpen last year by being more than the long reliever he was initially expected to be. Musgrave has appeared in 10 games so far in 2019 and posted a 3.60 ERA.
Left-handed pitcher Sam Howard (3rd round, 82nd overall) appeared in four games last season out of the bullpen and still appears to have a bright future.
Maybe you don’t remember Jerry Vasto’s (24th round, 713th overall) career with the Rockies. It was 0.2 innings long and ended with a 40.50 ERA. He has pitched in six career games, and he’s what the Rockies gave up to get catcher Drew Butera. What a tale.
Brendan Rodgers (1st round, 3rd overall) feels like he has been with the organization for an eternity, yet he just made his big league debut within the last month. Even in limited playing time, it looks like he is going to stay up for good: he has a .324/.378/.382 slash line in 11 games. He has looked comfortable at the plate, and if the power follows he could make an impact soon.
Speculation is that starting pitcher Peter Lambert (2nd round, 44th overall) will debut with the Rockies soon. The 22-year-old has been on a fast track of late and will be thrust into a pressure situation for a rotation that needs help if he does arrive soon.
Looking at it in this context, the 2015 draft is going as predicted: the top two picks are likely to be the first players to reach the Rockies. That’s actually unusual, or at least not guaranteed. That brings us to the 2016 draft.
Garrett Hampson (3rd round, 81st overall) made his debut in 2018. He is still trying to find his way this season, as evidenced by his .194/.224/.269 slash line. Hampson is still a top prospect in the organization, and he has risen to the top in a draft class that otherwise has been a mixed bag so far. That group is led by Riley Pint (1st round), who is still in Single-A.
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From 2017 on, the Rockies haven’t had any MLB debuts. That’s to be expected, especially with how typical development pace in the organization. Only two of the 36 first round picks of that draft have debuted. Maybe it will be top guys like Ryan Vilade, Grant Lavigne or Ryan Rolison who arrive. Maybe it will be a guy taken in a double-digit round.
We don’t know, and all of this is a good reminder that it’s hard to know how young men in their teens and young 20s will progress as people and baseball players. That unknown is why it takes years for these guys to reach the big leagues, but it is also what makes the draft so fun.
So let’s enjoy the draft Monday, and then let’s enjoy the next new guy, Peter Lambert, pitching in front of a defense that includes guys like David Dahl, Brendan Rodgers, Ryan McMahon and Trevor Story.