Following Wednesday’s draft, Rockies General Manager Jeff Bridich and Vice President of Scouting Bill Schmidt took questions from the press about the first round of the 2020 draft, which led to the Rockies selecting two high school players — outfielder Zac Veen and catcher Drew Romo.
Schmidt had been watching Veen since June 2019, though Rockies scout John Cederberg has been following his development for several years. According to Schmidt, Veen has a “fluid, slightly rising swing with the ability to impact a baseball. He uses his hands real well. He has good, raw power. There’s a lot of good rhythm, balance, and timing to the swing.”
Although Veen played primarily center field in high school, the Rockies will see which part of the outfield is the best fit for him.
“We play them all over in the minor leagues,” Schmidt said. “We’ll see what the future holds as he develops into a man.”
It was also noted that Brendan Rodgers and Veen had worked out together in the same facility in Orlando, Florida. Schmidt acknowledged that he knew they were working out alongside Drew Butera, but admitted that he had not spoken to Rodgers about Veen.
While there was some surprise that Veen was still available for the ninth pick, the Rockies had prepared for any scenario.
“Nothing ever surprises me any more,” Schmidt said.
The Rockies were also pleased with their draft of catcher Drew Romo. According to Schmidt, Romo’s “defensive skills, at this point, are ahead of his offense. [He’s] very polished for a high school kid.”
“He’s been exposed to a lot of quality competition,” Schmidt continued. “He’s caught a lot of good arms. We think as a staff, personally, there’s a lot of upside to this kid.”
Bridich added, “We like his swing. We like what he brings at the plate and not just behind it. There’s going to be a lot of development for him in all areas.”
“We feel as though this kid is extremely well equipped to make this leap and excel,” he continued. “That doesn’t mean he’s not going to struggle — that’s part of the development process.”
Bridich also added that the Rockies Zoom conference with Romo in his family was “very impressive.”
In terms of Romo’s leadership skills, the Rockies are optimistic. Schmidt said, “It’s just his presence on the field.” He also noted that Romo’s teammates and coaches have called Romo a “field general type guy.” He receives respect and is invested in the pitchers he catches.
“Those are things you see watching Drew play,” Schmidt said.
“The pitchers raved about him,” Bridich said, “his attention to detail and the confidence they had on the mound when throwing to him.”
Scouting during a pandemic
Bridich and Schmidt agreed that the biggest challenge was not getting to see players finish out their seasons and their progression. Schmidt specifically noted that it had an impact on their ability to see “cold weather” players.
For college players especially, Bridich mentioned that the reduced sample size of college play presented a challenge since the Rockies were not able to see player development and improvement “right up to the draft.”
Off the field, Zoom calls gave the Rockies an opportunity to get to know players better and to let players learn more about the organization in place of in-person meetings. The team was also thankful that they had experienced scouts given the lack of available video, and both Veen and Romo were watched by Rockies scouts prior to the draft.
Player development plans
The Rockies did not hesitate to draft two high school players. Schmidt said the team “did a lot of work” on both players, and given that the organization is set up to develop high school players, Veen’s and Romo’s lack of experience was not an issue.
“It always comes down to the maturity of the kid,” Schmidt said, “and is he ready to handle what’s going to be thrown in front of him, generally speaking, probably failing for the first time in your life. Are they mature enough to handle that?”
At the end of the day, the Rockies, like much of baseball, are unsure as to how player development will work this year.
“We’ve brainstormed a number of potential different things,” Bridich said, “but we’re not entirely sure yet how any of baseball is going to work this year.”
He added that while there have been rumors about a possible developmental league or an extended Arizona Fall League, uncertainty remains throughout baseball, largely because of COVID-19.
“It’s tough to commit to anything right now,” he added.
“I think COVID has impacted everybody, whether you play baseball or not,” Bridich continued, “and so certainly there’s going to be some kind of impact because this is a season in a year unlike any other any of us have ever been a part of in our lifetime. Everybody’s just trying to make the best of it. We need more information about our industry before we can make the best of the remaining developmental time, or potential developmental time, for the rest of this year.”
As the draft moves into its second day, Schmidt isn’t worried.
“There’s still a lot of good players that are available,” he said. “We’re going to continue to add talent.”
Schmidt said the new draft format will lead players to make their own decisions in terms of whether they’re ready to enter professional baseball.
“I don’t think anyone knows what’s in store post-draft,” he added.
Schmidt said the Rockies drafted the best available players, not necessarily for a specific position, and this will be their philosophy going into Thursday’s draft.
Purple Row will continue to cover the draft today.