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A comprehensive history of Rockies first-round draft picks

Colorado Rockies news and links for Wednesday, July 5, 2023

The 2023 MLB draft is just a few days away on Sunday and fans eagerly wait to see what player the Colorado Rockies will select with the ninth pick in the draft. While a first-round pick in baseball (and most of the draft in general) is more of a shot in the dark risk of unknown potential than in other sports, let’s take a look back at the Rockies’ three decades of first-round picks, including supplemental and compensation picks, to see how they’ve done with the important first round.

1992: John Burke, RHP, No. 27 overall

Before they even played a game in Colorado, the Rockies selected pitcher John Burke from the University of Florida. Oddly enough, he had grown up in Denver and played at Cherry Creek high school. He made his big league debut with the Rockies in 1996 and went 4-6 with a 6.75 ERA in 28 games (nine starts) from 1996-97. These two seasons in Colorado were his only big-league experience.

1993: Jamey Wright, RHP, No. 28

Jamey Wright was selected out of Westmoore High School in Oklahoma and made his debut in 1996 with the Rockies. He ended up playing 19 years in the majors, including six seasons with the Rockies across two stints from 1996-99 and 2004-05. In his Rockies career, he posted a 5.5 bWAR with a 5.40 ERA in 140 games (132 starts).

1994: Doug Million, LHP, No. 8

Doug Million was the first high schooler taken in 1994 and he pitched four seasons in the Rockies’ system. He had a 4.12 ERA across 92 games but tragically passed away in August of 1997 from an asthma attack. The Rockies’ award for most outstanding player in their Minor League system is named for Million.

1995: Todd Helton, 1B, No. 8

In terms of first-round picks, Todd Helton sets the gold standard for the Rockies. He debuted with the Rockies two seasons after he was drafted in 1997 and played his entire 17-year career in Colorado. He leads the organization in most offensive categories and had a career 61.8 bWAR and is on the cusp of being elected to the Hall of Fame.

1996: Jake Westbrook, RHP, No. 21

After playing just two minor league seasons with the Rockies, Westbrook was traded to the Montreal Expos for Mike Lansing who had a solid three-season stint in Colorado. He would go on to play 13 seasons in the big leagues including an All-Star season in 2004 with Cleveland and a World Series Championship with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011.

1997: Mark Mangum, RHP, No. 18

Much like Westbrook, Mark Mangum played two minor league seasons with Colorado before he was traded to the Expos in a deal that brought back Dave Veres. Mangum never pitched in the Majors but is a longtime director of youth baseball programs in College Station, Texas. Meanwhile, Veres spent two seasons as a Rockie, recording 39 saves and a 3.99 ERA in 136 games.

1998: Matt Roney, RHP, No. 28 / Choo Freeman OF, No. 36 / Jeff Winchester, C, No. 40

Matt Roney was a compensation pick in 1998 due to the loss of Andres Galarrage and played in the minors through 2002 until he was selected in the Rule-5 Draft by Pittsburgh, but he only had some brief big-league stints in 2003 and 2006.

The Rockies gained another supplemental pick because of Galarraga and used that to select Choo Freeman. He ended up playing three seasons with Colorado (2004-06), mainly as a backup outfielder on the bench and pinch hitter.

Finally, Jeff Winchester was a supplemental pick from the loss of Walt Weiss. He played seven seasons in the farm system, showing some good flashes at the plate at times, but never enough behind the dish. He never reached the majors.

1999: Jason Jennings, RHP, No. 16

After debuting in 2001, Jasons Jennings earned the first and only Rookie of the Year award for the Rockies in 2002. He also made history as the first MLB pitcher to toss a shutout and hit a home run in his debut. He was a significant part of the rotation until 2006 having posted a 4.74 ERA in 156 starts, and was traded to Houston in 2006.

2000: Matt Harrington, RHP, No. 7

The Rockies never came to an agreement with Matt Harrington. He played independent baseball from 2001-2007 and never played affiliated minor league baseball despite being drafted four more times by other teams.

2001: Jayson Nix, SS, No. 44

After failing to sign Harrington and losing their original first-round pick after signing Mike Hampton, the Rockies selected Jayson Nix with a supplemental pick. Nix appeared in just 22 games for the Rockies and batted .125 in 2008, he did end up with a respectable seven-year career.

2002: Jeff Francis, LHP, No. 9

Jeff Francis had a solid career with the Rockies from 2004-08, 2010, and 2012-13. Injuries hindered his career but he is best known for his stellar season in 2007 when he won 17 games with a 4.22 ERA in 215 13 innings of work. He was recently inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.

2003: Ian Stewart, 3B, No. 10

Ian Stewart was once a highly touted prospect and spent five of his seven Major League seasons with the Rockies, but never quite hit his stride at the plate. He was eventually sent to the Chicago Cubs in a deal that brought DJ LeMahieu to the Rockies and has been out of affiliated baseball since 2015.

2004: Chris Nelson, SS, No. 9

Chris Nelson spent parts of four seasons with Colorado from 2010-13. His best season was in 2012 when he batted .301 in 111 games as the primary third baseman. His career struggled after that and he last played with the Albuquerque Isotopes in 2016 before retiring and entering the coaching world.

2005: Troy Tulowitzki, SS, No. 7 / Chaz Roe, RHP, No. 32

Troy Tulowitzki debuted in 2006 and spent 10 seasons with the Rockies. Tulowitzki made five All-Star Game appearances and won two Gold Glove Awards and could have been on a Hall of Fame track if not for injuries that plagued him. He was eventually traded in 2015 to the Toronto Blue Jays.

As a starter with the Rockies organization, Chaz Roe pitched from 2005-10 with some decent results in the minors, and the team decided to trade him to the Mariners in 2011. He went on to have a solid career as an effective reliever including five seasons with Tampa Bay from 2017-21.

2006: Greg Reynolds, RHP, No. 2

A pick that still haunts Rockies fans, Greg Reynolds pitched 27 games across two seasons (2008, 2011) with Colorado to the tune of a 7.47 ERA. He pitched one more big league stint in 2013 with Cincinnati that wasn’t great. Just don’t look up Evan Longoria’s career numbers.

2007: Casey Weathers, RHP, No. 8

Casey Weathers was dealt along with Ian Stewart to the Cubs for DJ LeMahieu. He didn’t dazzle much in the minors and elbow injuries kept him out of the Majors. He was last seen playing independent baseball in 2017.

2008: Christian Friedrich, LHP, No. 25

After debuting in 2012 and going 5-8 with a 6.17 ERA, Christian Friedrich saw time in 2014-15 with the Rockies. He ended up with a 5.81 ERA across 167 13 innings with the Rockies and last saw big-league action with the Padres in 2016.

2009: Tyler Matzek, LHP, No. 11 / Tim Wheeler, OF, No. 32 / Rex Brothers, LHP, No. 34

Tyler Matzek made 25 appearances, including 24 starts, with the Rockies from 2014-15 before he suffered the “yips.” Luckily for him, after a tough journey back that included time in independent baseball, Matzek made a big league comeback in 2020 with the Atlanta Braves and has been a key reliever for them ever since.

Tim Wheeler put up some solid years in the minors for the Rockies, including a 33-home-run campaign in Double-A in 2011, but he never broke through and was out of the system and baseball by 2015.

Rex Brothers was a solid reliever from 2011-13 but ran into a bit more trouble in 2014. In total, he posted a 3.42 ERA in 242 13 innings with 20 saves. He’s popped up with the Braves and the Cubs since then and was last seen in 2021.

2010: Kyle Parker, OF, No. 26 / Peter Tago, RHP, No. 47

Kyle Parker was doing everything the Rockies hoped he would when he was drafted. He had at least 20 home runs in each of his first three minor league seasons and had a solid OPS. It didn’t translate to the Majors however and he hit .182 with three home runs for the Rockies from 2014-15. He spent 2016 in the Reds system and didn’t play anymore after that.

Peter Tago never posted an ERA below five in his four seasons with the Rockies organization. He found some success within the Chicago White Sox system and has bounced around the independent leagues. He spent the 2022 season with the San Francisco Giants Triple-A affiliate and currently plays with the Capitales de Quebec of the Frontier League. He’s just 30 years old.

2011: Tyler Anderson, LHP, No. 20 / Trevor Story, SS, No. 45

Tyler Anderson Anderson battled through injuries and became a member of the Rockies’ rotation from 2016-19. He struggled with the home run ball, leading the Majors in 2018 with 30 allowed. He’s had some solid seasons since 2019 with the Giants, Pirates, and Mariners, and became an All-Star with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2022. He’s currently with the Los Angeles Angels.

Trevor Story burst onto the scene in 2016 as the everyday shortstop and played with the Rockies until 2021. In six seasons with Colorado he a two-time All-Star and two-time Silver Slugger and batted .272/.340/.523 with 158 home runs and 100 stolen bases while also plenty of stellar defense. He’s currently on a six-year deal with the Boston Red Sox.

2012: David Dahl, OF, No. 10 / Eddie Butler, RHP, No. 46

David Dahl had an incredible debut season in 2016 and became an All-Star in 2019 but injuries have plagued his career. The Rockies cut bait after 2020 and he hasn’t been able to stick in the big leagues since due to poor performance and injuries. He’s currently with the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate.

Once considered one of the pitchers of the future, Eddie Butler pitched three seasons with the Rockies from 2014-16 to the tune of a 7.12 ERA. He’s had stints with the Cubs and Texas Rangers but has been out of the league since 2018.

2013: Jon Gray, RHP, No. 3

Jon Gray broke in with the Rockies in 2015 and was a key member of the rotation through 2021. He became the first pitcher in club history to earn at least 10 wins in four straight seasons (2016-19). The Rockies couldn’t/didn’t re-sign him as he went to the Rangers in 2022 and is having one of the best seasons of his career in 2023.

2014: Kyle Freeland, LHP, No. 8 / Forrest Wall, 2B, No. 35

Kyle Freeland has been a leader of the rotation since breaking in at the start of the 2017 season. He placed fourth in the Cy Young Award voting in 2018 and has been fairly durable during his career. The Denver native has a career 4.33 ERA and is signed through 2026.

Forrest Wall displayed some solid on-base skills in the minors from 2014-18 before the Rockies decided to trade him to Toronto in exchange for Seunghwan Oh at the 2018 Trade Deadline. Since then he has bounced around the minors and is currently with the Braves Triple-A affiliate, still waiting for his big league debut at the age of 27.

2015: Brendan Rodgers, SS, No. 3 / Mike Nikorak, RHP, No. 27 / Tyler Nevin, 3B, No. 38

Brendan Rodgers was always viewed as the middle infielder of the future but has dealt with injuries time and time again that have robbed him of potential and truly seeing what he is made of. In his Rockies career, he’s batting .266/.318/.414 with 28 home runs across four seasons.

Mike Nikorak had a career ERA of 6.98 in four minor league seasons with the Rockies and chose to retire in April 2021.

Tyler Nevin was another prospect of the future. He belted 36 home runs in his minor league career with the Rockies with solid production overall before they traded him to the Baltimore Orioles in 2020 for Mychal Givens. He’s played just 84 games at the major league level to lackluster results and is with the Detroit Tigers organization.

2016: Riley Pint, RHP, No. 4 / Robert Tyler, RHP, No. 38

Riley Pint struggled with injuries and the inability to consistently throw strikes and announced his retirement in 2021. However, he returned in 2022 and had a solid minor league season, and finally cracked the big leagues in 2023 for one game. He’s currently in Triple-A, waiting for another chance to join the Rockies bullpen.

Robert Tyler pitched just three seasons of minor league baseball, struggling to a 6.26 ERA in 79 games and battled many injuries. He retired after the 2019 season.

2017: Did not have a first-round pick

Due to the signing of Ian Desmond, the Rockies lost their first-round pick for the 2017 draft.

2018: Ryan Rolison, LHP, No. 22 / Grant Lavigne, 1B, No. 42

Ryan Rolison had long been considered the top pitching prospect for the Rockies, but since 2018 has seen his stock almost disintegrate due to the injuries that have plagued him in recent years and it’s unclear if he’ll ever pitch for the Rockies at the major league level.

While still behind the prospect depth chart at first base, Grant Lavigne is still trying to make a name for himself in the Rockies system. Through five seasons thus far he is batting .269/.383/.405 with 40 home runs.

2019: Michael Toglia, 1B, No. 23

Michael Toglia has been considered the first baseman of the future if he can put the offensive abilities together. A switch-hitter has had plenty of power to spare in the minors and made his debut in 2022 with the Rockies. He has spent the majority of 2023 in Triple-A where he is batting .246/.360/.485 with 16 home runs in 67 games.

2020: Zac Veen, OF, No. 9 / Drew Romo, C, No. 35

Zac Veen has plenty of potential to be a star for the the Rockies. He’s got speed, some projected power, and some solid plate discipline. However, it was discovered he’s been dealing with a wrist injury since July 2022 that caused a concerning drop in production in Double-A and he is out for the rest of the season after undergoing surgery. Still, the future is bright for Veen if the youngster can put it all together.

Drew Romo is seen as the catcher of the future and has the chance to become the kind of franchise player the team has never had in that position. He’s been stellar on defense and through three seasons thus far is batting .273/.322/.402 with 16 home runs and 130 RBI.

2021: Benny Montgomery, OF, No. 8

He’s dealt with a couple of injuries, but Benny Montgomery is still progressing and making strides. The Rockies praise his athleticism and defense and hope that his bat can develop to achieve the potential he has. He’s currently batting .257/.351/.357 in High-A Spokane at the age of 20.

2022: Gabriel Hughes, RHP, No. 10 /Sterlin Thompson, OF, No. 31 /Jordan Beck, OF, No. 38

Gabriel Hughes is the latest pitching prospect to keep an eye on. He’s got the potential to be a power arm and Rockies fans got a brief glimpse in spring training. He’s dealt with some inconsistency this season, putting up some stellar games, mixed in with some messy clunkers. Still, he’s 21 pitching in Double-A in his first full pro season so the future is still bright for him.

In High-A, Sterlin Thompson is batting .390/.452/.647 with six home runs and incredible 18 strikeouts to 13 walks in 36 games. He’s also played plenty of third base and outfield and has done well at both.

Also in High-A, Jordan Beck is batting .291/.381/.564 with 19 home runs in 71 games. Playing all three outfield positions, things are looking really promising for Beck’s career.

2023: ?

The journey to the big leagues is a tough one and you never know who is going to pan out. Still, it’s concerning that a team that considers itself a “draft and develop” type of organization has struck out on a lot of their first-round picks. They’ve done well since 2019 with plenty of position player promise, but pitching remains a black hole. So, we’ll eagerly await their next pick this coming Sunday with the hope they can pan out to help the team in the future.

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Rox prospect Veen motivated following surgery |

As mentioned before, Veen is out for the season because of a wrist injury and Thomas Harding caught up with him to talk about his work back and what he has learned from his experiences thus far. He’s a tough kid with plenty of motivation to get better.

Freeland finding himself on the mound despite loss, dropping velo |

Freeland’s velocity has continued to drop this season, sparking a quest for the left-hander to figure out how to perfect his craft and become a precision artist on the mound.

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On the Farm

Triple-A: Oklahoma City Dodgers 7, Albuquerque Isotopes 4

Cole Tucker hit an inside-the-park home run as part of a three-hit night, but the Isotopes fell just short against Oklahoma City as starter Josh Rogers allowed three runs in 4 13 innings and PJ Poulin also allowed three runs in 2 13 innings.

Double-A: Hartford Yard Goats 7, New Hampshire Fisher Cat 6

It was an extra-inning walk-off victory for Hartford. Julio Carreras had three hits and drove in a pair. Kyle Datres also had a pair of hits and drove in two runs while Yanquiel Fernandez obliterated a ball for his fifth home run with Hartford.

High-A: Spokane Indians 11, Everett Aqua Sox 9

Connor Van Scoyoc turned in another solid outing, recording a quality start after allowing three runs in six innings with six strikeouts. Benny Montgomery turned in a four-hit performance, including a home run, and scored four runs. Jordan Beck also hit his 19th home run of the season.

Low-A: Fresno Grizzlies 5, San Jose Giants 4

Fresno also won the game in walk-off fashion in extra innings. Caleb Franzen tossed 5 13 innings, allowing three runs, while the bullpen combined to allow just one run. Skyler Messinger led the way with three hits, including his sixth home run of the year to drive in a pair.

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