The 2020 MLB Draft made for a very busy five rounds over two days. After the action slowed a bit, General Manager Jeff Bridich and Vice President for Scouting Bill Schmidt took questions from reporters. They provided more insight into the Rockies’ draft choices, their thoughts on the remaining signing period, and the uncertainty surrounding player development.
2020 draft assessment
Despite the 2020 draft having fewer rounds, the Rockies are confident they have made significant contributions to their organization. Schmidt said that although he wasn’t sure the Rockies had addressed all their areas of need, “[I] like the to look at it more that we acquired some good talent to add to what we already have in our organization.”
He added that the Rockies “feel good about what we got accomplished.”
While there was uncertainty surrounding the draft, given its new format and COVID-19-related complications that limited playing time and scouting access, Bridich said, “We had a lot of the same conversations from scouts to agents, from Bill to agents, myself a little bit over the last few days that those conversations were very similar to the sorts that they usually are. The only true difference was that it was five rounds instead of 40.”
Signing additional players
Now the Rockies have to see what happens with unsigned players in the coming days. (Their signing period begins Sunday morning with teams being allowed to sign unlimited players with a $20,000 maximum signing bonus. For more on the process, read Justin Wick’s takes here and here.) The Rockies do not see this as unlike the usual draft in terms of relationships mattering, even though the process will be very different.
“We’ll go through this [48-hour] dead period,” Schmidt said. “We’ll find out who has interest, and then based on who’s available, we’ll make some decisions about who to approach to try to become Rockies.”
Schmidt says the Rockies are “always looking for good players,” so they’ll make evaluations based on who’s available, “but there is no hard-set number.”
He continued, saying, “I’d like to think we have a lot of experienced scouts, and everybody they turned in, they’ve gotten to know. And ultimately, as they get to know them, they talk about the Rockies organization and what we’re about, but they’ve built a relationship with the kid. Some decisions will be about the relationships. This is just a continued process of what we normally do.”
In some ways, the new draft format provides an opportunity for players.
“The opportunity for the kid to choose where he wants to go, that doesn’t happen a lot at the amateur level where the player gets to choose what organization he wants to sign up for,” Schmidt noted. “I would think kids have studied up on organizations in terms of how they treat their minor leaguers, how they develop players. So I think a lot of things for these kids, hopefully, they’ve studied, and their advisors will lead them or recommend them to certain places, and then ultimately, it’s going to come back to who they have a comfort level with.”
Uncertainty still surrounds player development
Even with the draft completed, there’s still no clear path forward for player development.
“I wish I could have some kind of perfect answer for that,” Bridich said. “We really don’t know. There’s a lot of things in play. What’s going on at the major-league level is going to affect what goes on with the rest of the industry. Add to that the COVID pandemic and travel around the country. We have to stay flexible.”
Then he said, “We’ll have plans in place, and we’ll have things that we’ll ideally like to do, but we have to be responsive to some other more critical, pressing, and even important things that are going on in the country and in the industry right now before we can make those decisions.”
As a result, the Rockies remain uncertain about the player development strategy for their new prospects.
“We don’t really know what the minor leagues are going to look like in the future, so it’s tough to say,” Bridich added. “In a traditional season or year, all these guys most likely would have started out at Grand Junction or Boise. But we’ll have to see what the landscape is. If we get playing again, this year, we’ll make those decisions then; if we get playing again next year, we’ll have to see, literally, what the minor league landscape will be.
“But first things first with these kids,” he continued, “we’ve got to get them in here and make sure they’re healthy and sign them up and get with them and think about the next few days and weeks before we think about the next months and years.”
The Rockies are very confident about their fourth-round, under-the-radar pick, Case Williams, a right-handed pitcher.
“Case was involved in our Scout Team program that played out in the fall,” Schmidt said, so the Rockies had worked closely with Williams through October. “We saw the changes that he made and got to know him a bit better and what he was all about that made us very comfortable about adding him to our organization.”
Bridich piggybacked on that: “What we saw on the broadcast, some of the information that was talked about that is available out there on some of the websites, is a little bit outdated information. It’s one of the things, when you have great scouts and you have people that are in touch with every area, but especially here at home, you have the most up-to-date and recent information, and you feel like you know the kid really well.”
“And we’re excited,” he added.
Bridich described Williams as a “powerful, big kid with a good frame to work with, and he’s born and raised right here in our backyard. Kind of like Kyle Freeland, he knows a little bit about pitching here.”
He stressed that while Williams’ experience with pitching at elevation was important, it “wasn’t the only piece.”
“He’s got a lot of talent, and he’s improved over the last year through hard work,” he said. “He put himself in position to be selected where he was.”
Schmidt liked other intangibles as well, noting that Williams was “about other people, about helping other people get better, but, at the end of the day, competing very well.”
Right-handed pitcher Chris McMahon was a player the Rockies had scouted since he was in high school.
“He wanted to attend the University of Miami,” Schmidt said, “which played out to be a good decision that continued his development.”
Schmidt also stressed that this has been a four-year recruitment process for the Rockies, and also mentioned that the team not surprised to see McMahon in the second round.
“There’s a lot of good players in a draft,” he said, “and there’s a lot of difference of opinions on players, so I can’t speak for why he was there. We’re happy, and we thought he was a good fit for us when it was our time to pick.”
Left-handed pitcher Sam Weatherly from Clemson “was a kid that we scouted in high school, too, from up in Michigan,” Schmidt said, “Probably with Sam, the strides that he made, the growth that he made as a person in the last year helped him. And he got off to a good start, and with that came confidence, and he put together a pretty good four-week run.”
He stressed, “It’s just not what we’ve seen in the last year or what we saw early in the year. This has been a four-year process with both individuals [Weatherly and McMahon].”
The Rockies are uncertain if Weatherly will be a starter or work out of the bullpen. According to Schmidt, “We think he has an opportunity to start. There’s some work to be done with him still in terms of the mechanics and delivery, and when you’re starting, you have the off days between the starts to be able to get some things accomplished. As his career moves down the path, decisions will be made on where he has the chance to give us the biggest impact — and what’s good for him.”
He also mentioened that Weatherly’s best pitch is his slider.
“He’s got a good arm. He’s got a good fastball — he’s learned to command it — but his slider is his out pitch,” he noted.
In the fifth and final round, the Rockies selected Jack Blomgren, a shortstop from Michigan.
“I think what he has inside of him is real special,” Schmidt said. “I think he’s a tough competitor that is all about winning. I think he’s about making other people around him better. As far as what goes on on the field, I think he’s a very steady player. There’s nothing really flashy, but when he gets between the lines, he’s trying to beat you.”
Schmidt added, “If you have to use a term with Jack, it’s ‘grind.’ But he’s going to do anything he has to to beat you.”
Emily Waldon, a national prospect writer, echoed Schmidt’s sentiments about Blomgren on Twitter.
#Rockies getting an absolute gamer in @umichbaseball SS Jack Blomgren. He makes his teammates better through the way he approaches his style of play. Tools don’t particularly dazzle, but he’s a playmaker regardless. A real life example of, “Just rub some dirt on it.”— emilycwaldon (@EmilyCWaldon) June 12, 2020
Following the rules
In a lighter moment, Nick Groke commended Bridich for wearing a mask when he was filmed by the MLB Network during the draft. (According to Groke, no other MLB baseball staff did, at least on television.) Bridich laughed and said, “Just trying to do my part.”
He added, “We did the draft in a few different rooms here at the ballpark, so I was just following the rules.”
Purple Row will continue its draft coverage, so follow along with our signings tracker for the most up-to-date information on the Rockies’ Draft Class of 2020.