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The Rockies evolving draft strategy

Colorado Rockies news and links for Monday, August 1, 2022

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The 2022 draft is in the books. With all of the Rockies draftees becoming signees, it’s time to start speculation on where each player will start their career, and which players will reach the majors when.

This draft marked a seemingly major change in the Rockies draft strategy. Of the 22 players that they drafted, 16 were pitchers, headlined by Gonzaga Bulldog Gabriel Hughes. The organization, constantly searching for help on the mound, is looking to build pitching success from the bottom up. Looking at the Rockies recent draft history, this is easily the highest percentage of pitchers they’ve taken.

If you throw enough mud at a wall, some of it will stick. Or, in this case, if you throw enough young pitchers into the Rockies organization, some of them will come out the other end as serviceable major league arms. In the past, some of the arms have stuck. Looking at the Rockies draftees that have reached the majors over the same timeframe as the graph above, there’s no real pattern to be found.

With between three and eight players reaching the majors from Rockies recent draft classes, there aren’t enough data points to draw significant conclusions about the Rockies relative ability to develop pitchers and position players. But the Rockies draft classes do follow an overall trend with pitching development - namely it’s hard to project and develop 18 year-old high schoolers. Mike Nikorak, Riley Pint, Peter Tago were all first round selections by the Rockies and so far none have thrown in the majors. Tyler Anderson, Jon Gray, and Kyle Freeland, however, were all first round selections by the Rockies out of college and have each enjoyed their share of success in the MLB.

Anyone who’s watched or read Moneyball can tell you that drafting high school players is an inexact science, and everyone knows that drafting proven college players is a better bet. But the Rockies have developed more than their fair share of high school position players. Brendan Rodgers, David Dahl, Trevor Story, and Troy Tulowitzki are all names that come to mind. That offensive success, though, hasn’t been shared by the pitching corps, so the organization now looks to be adopting a quantity over quality approach.

At this point, it’s fair to wonder whether the problem is drafting the wrong arm, or drafting the right arm and letting it develop wrongly. In the aforementioned high school pitcher draft picks, there have been plenty of other high school pitchers taken later who have achieved success. Mike Soroka, out of Bishop Carroll (AB) HS was drafted one place after Mike Nikorak. Braxton Garrett, out of Florence (AL) HS, was selected three places after Riley Pint. Vince Velasquez, out of Garey (CA) HS, was drafted eleven places after Peter Tago. You can find success with high school pitchers (and the Rockies still may!), but it’s as much a question of development through the minors as it is a question of picking the hottest arm.

Regardless of their ability to develop pitching, the Rockies front office has realized that they need more homegrown pitching talent to succeed. So that development pipeline will be put to the test, with 16 new arms trickling into the low minors. Here’s hoping we’ll see them in Coors sooner than later.

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Rockies icon Charlie Blackmon on sticking it out with Colorado: “Never tell me the odds” | The Denver Post ($)

Despite previous Star Wars cameos as an X-Wing pilot and Chewbacca, this time Chuck does his best Han Solo impression - “Never tell me the odds”. His response to the Rockies lack of success is somewhat inspiring, but the odds are, well, low. With a player option in his contract for next season and a desire to continue his career in Colorado, the fan favorite Blackmon looks to again be a fixture in right field at 20th and Blake in 2023. Currently second all-time for the Rockies in games, hits, and total bases, he continues to solidify himself as a short lister for one of the greatest Rockies of all time.

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On The Farm

Triple-A: Albuquerque Isotopes 6, Las Vegas Aviators 5

Ryan Vilade (no. 8 PuRP) had a solo homer and an RBI single, Carlos Pérez had a solo homer and two other singles, and Sean Bouchard went 2-4 with a run scored and an RBI to lead the Isotopes over the Aviators (OAK). The team made the most of their offensive opportunities as a whole, going 4-5 with runners in scoring position. Recently demoted Justin Lawrence made his second appearance since returning to Albuquerque, tossing a scoreless eighth before giving way to Zach Lee for the save. Next, the Isotopes will go to El Paso to take on the Chihuahuas (SDP) after an off-day today.

Double-A: Hartford Yard Goats 5, Portland Sea Dogs 3

It was a three man show on the East Coast Sunday. Daniel Cope, Daniel Montano, and Aaron Schunk (no. 24 PuRP) each hit solo homers to lead the Yard Goats to a W. Montano finished 2-4 with a run scored and two RBI, while Schunk was 2-4 with two runs scored and an RBI. Cope outdid both of them, finishing 2-3 with two runs, two RBI, and a walk for good measure.

Will Gaddis earned the win in relief, and Gavin Hollowell earned his 12th save of the year in striking out all four batters he faced. The Yard Goats will start off August with a roadtrip against the Reading Fightin Phils (PHI) on Tuesday.

High-A: Tri-City Dust Devils 5, Spokane Indians 4

Spokane dropped a heartbreaker Sunday, giving up two to the Dust Devils (LAA) in the ninth to lose in a walk-off. The Indians managed only six hits on the day (with only one extra base hit, a Bladimir Restituyo double), but did their best to manufacture offense, stealing four bases (no. 1 PuRP Zac Veen had two) to plate four runs. Next, Spokane will welcome the Eugene Emeralds (SFG) tomorrow to kick off their August slate.

Single-A: Modesto Nuts 18, Fresno Grizzlies 5

It was a rough day for Fresno pitching Sunday. The staff combined to give up 18 runs on 13 hits and 10 walks, allowing two or more runs in five separate innings. The offense scored five runs themselves, but was only able to produce one extra base hit and were never really in the game. The Grizzlies will hope for some better bounces next up when they take on the San Jose Giants (SFG) starting tomorrow.

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