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2020 MLB Draft: The Rockies’ organizational future—for the franchise and their selections

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Colorado’s draftees could address several needs. The “18-year old Larry Walker” could address far more than that.

Colorado’s six selections in the 2020 MLB Draft address their organizational needs. If the Rockies can ink a contract for each of them, an organization deemed “thin” by some could see an influx of premier talent—right where they could need it the most.

  • Outfield: Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser addressed before the draft how Colorado’s prospects featured “few outfielders of note.”

Colorado may have acquired the 18-year old Larry Walker.

  • Pitching: The 2019 Rockies held the 15th-best ERA in the National League. The altitude in Denver could always deter free-agent pitchers, but a drafted pitcher could cover that need.

Colorado landed two premier starters in the ACC.

  • Catching: Thomas Harding wrote in January how catching was one of Colorado’s biggest offseason needs—and only one catcher was a roster invitee to spring training.

Colorado picked up an 18-year-old backstop. “He’s already a professional catcher,” says Dan O’Dowd.

Each player has good reason for Colorado-specified successes. Their signings would be the first ‘official’ step toward an ambitious following from Rockies faithful—and a giant leap forward for organizational depth.

Day One: Position players over pitchers

Pick 1 (9th overall): Zac Veen, OF, Spruce Creek High School (FL)

In the words of TheDNVR.com’s Patrick Lyons: “Ladies and gentleman, we got him.” Zac Veen was projected to be taken way before Colorado selected at pick number nine.

Pitching remained an avenue that Colorado could easily pursue. Louisville pitcher Reid Detmers was next off the board at number 10 to the Angels—the presumed player Colorado passed on to sign Veen.

Detmers struck Angels representatives as a “strong fit”—the polished pitching candidate, with three years of ACC experience under his belt. As previous Rockies draft history has proven, both Jon Gray (3rd overall, 2013) and Kyle Freeland (8th overall, 2014) have been able to work their way into starting roles.

It isn’t to say a first-round pick is a perfect avenue to gain a starter (with all due respect—Greg Reynolds, 2nd overall, 2006; Riley Pint, 4th overall, 2016), but for altitude-heavy reasons, it is often the draftees making starts for the Rockies, rather than marquee free-agents.

“Five of the eight projected starters, and half of the eight competitors for the starting rotation that were in big league camp when Spring Training was suspended, are club selections,” notes Thomas Harding.

Detmers could have easily been a strong fit in Colorado, too, but can you honestly allow Veen to slip further? The potential fifth overall selection fell to nine: this could be like Charles Barkley falling from fifth to the 76ers to ninth to the Kings in the 1984 NBA Draft.

Veen’s future could be as simple as an expedited path to the big leagues. For now, baseball fans everywhere will have to eagerly await his professional debut—hopefully as soon as a potential Arizona Fall League expansion in the coming months.

Pick 2 (35th overall): Drew Romo, C, The Woodlands High School (TX)

With a catcher selected at pick 35, Colorado again passed on pitching—but they did acquire a young player that can presumably help shape many arms.

Ohio State catcher Dillon Dingler was available at this point in the draft. MLB Draft expert Jonathan Mayo projected the 21-year-old Dingler to go as high as 20th overall. With both he and Romo remaining at pick 35, Colorado opted for the younger candidate.

Rockies catching coordinator Mark Strittmatter was able to shape Tony Wolters from an infielder into a catcher with Gold Glove aspirations. Assuming Romo signs, Strittmatter now has an 18-year-old to work with.

It may take Romo a little longer to progress—or like Dingler, Romo can also choose to attend college. He is committed to LSU and has yet to sign with the Rockies.

Acquiring a more polished collegiate player (i.e. Detmers, Dingler) would suggest Colorado is playing the short game on the timeline; does two high schoolers mean the Rockies see themselves in contention a little further out?

Day One: Why the high schoolers?

Nolan Arenado went 59th overall in 2009, out of high school. He debuted in the big leagues in 2013. While it may be uncommon, it isn’t unheard of for a high school draftee to quickly make their MLB debut; Clayton Kershaw, 9th overall in 2006, debuted in 2008.

Some premier prospects can see their journey to the big leagues expedited, but there still remains an adaptive phase from a limited high school schedule (26 games for Colorado teams) to the big leagues (162 games). That adjustment for high schoolers is only furthered after a quiet, cancelled 2020 season. Some of these players may not have played a single game this year.

From a Rockies perspective, one can wonder just how long the club expects Veen and Romo to be ready. Colorado is set to see loads of free-agent spending expire in the coming years (i.e. Davis/McGee/Shaw/Desmond/Murphy), and the potential departure of Arenado may be coming.

But lest we forget: Veen has been compared to Cody Bellinger, another high school draftee. It didn’t take Bellinger long to make himself known — he debuted at 21 and won the NL Rookie of the Year.

He won the NL MVP at 23.

Day Two: Pitching, of course

Pick 3 (46th overall): Chris McMahon, RHP, Miami (FL)

Having already passed on first-round arms, Colorado wasted no time in acquiring a pitcher in the second round. They may have landed a first-round-worthy player in the process.

McMahon (via Zoom on Friday): “You just have to keep going, obviously, and keep proving people wrong. Show them that I didn’t deserve to slide into (the second round). I plan on doing that.”

The right-handed McMahon throws a mid-90’s fastball with late action. “He pairs that with an above-average-to-plus changeup capable of getting swings from both sides of the plate.” Compared to a more breaking-ball-oriented pitcher, McMahon features a pitch mix that could play well at Coors Field.

He was projected as high as the 25th selection this year. The MLB Draft assigns slot value money with each pick; the difference in value from the 25th to 46th pick is over $1 million.

Colorado also has the fifth-highest bonus pool figure for the draft this year. It may suggest the Rockies can pay him enough money to prove that first-round worth within the organization—instead of at the University of Miami next year.

Pick 4 (81st overall): Sam Weatherly, LHP, Clemson

“I think he’s a big-leaguer,” says Clemson head coach Monte Lee. “I think he’s a first-round pick, but that’s my opinion.”

The left-handed Weatherly also features a mid-90’s fastball, with an “above-average” slider and a “changeup that remains a work in progress.” His pitch mix is strikingly similar to Jon Gray, which would also reason well in altitude.

If Colorado signs Weatherly and McMahon, their experience in the premier ACC could further reason for an expedited path to the big leagues.

*If a current college junior (i.e. Weatherly/McMahon) is on pace to graduate in four years, the NCAA waiving spring eligibility for 2020 means they could receive their degree in 2021 and retain junior leverage. This may further entice a player to return to college—and could raise their asking price this year.

Pick 5 (110th overall): Case Williams, P, Douglas County High School (CO)

TheDNVR.com’s Drew Creasman said of the top picks: “[Colorado’s] top priority has got to be signing those guys, getting them into the organization, making sure they’ve got the slot money available.” Douglas County High School’s Case Williams was not on Baseball America’s Top 500 list, nor was he on MLB.com’s list of Top 200 Prospects,” as Purple Row’s Renee Dechert mentioned on Friday.

Williams was thereby under-the-radar—and perhaps someone that would sign at a discount. An inexpensive fourth-rounder would allow Colorado to commit more money for the players selected prior.

Williams is committed to Santa Clara (CA). If he elects to begin a pro career instead, the Rockies will land another 18-year-old, this time a prospect all too familiar with the thin Colorado air. Williams can reportedly work in some velocity, too: “I did hit 96 last summer, I think in July.”

Day Two: One more position player

Pick 5 (140th overall): Jack Blomgren, INF, Michigan

One final acquisition rounded out the Rockies’ selections—a guy that has shown he knows how to win.

Jack Blomgren has plenty of experience at shortstop for the University of Michigan. He slashed .314/.417/.401 in a 2019 campaign that helped lift his team, as a regional three seed, out of an Oregon State regional, a UCLA super-regional, and all the way to the College World Series final.

Blomgren was the fourth Wolverine selected in the 2020 draft. Colorado’s infield needs may be in less demand than outfielders, catchers or pitchers, but if Blomgren can attack the minors with the same 2019 tenacity, he may very well stand out.

What happens from here—for this year?

2020 cancellations allowed the draft to take center stage—thus allowing the names Veen, Romo, McMahon, Weatherly, Williams and Blomgren to become even more well-known. Each player still has the opportunity to play in college next year without losing substantial leverage, and their exposure in a highly-televised draft could reason for greater visibility if they do. Should they opt for college in 2021, it could mean more money down the road.

As for what’s ‘immediately’ next: a patient waiting game, like any other current minor leaguer. Each player could see an extended negotiation period up until mid-August.

If Colorado can sign all six of these players, however, their needs will have been met.

An 18-year old Larry Walker would do far more than just fulfill a need, too.