An interesting tidbit floated to the surface of a Blake Street Bulletin post about Rockies outfielder Dexter Fowler. The speedy center fielder is a big piece of the Rockies (oddly constructed) push for the playoffs in 2012. The post goes on to note the Rockies don’t exactly have the best draft record over the last ten years.

They point to Jonah Keri’s recent work on the Astros, the team with the worst draft development record in baseball. The Astros produced just four big leaguers from their 2005-2007 drafts, which is bad. The Rockies can only claim five players ran the full gamut from draft day to big league roster. That is bad, too.

Even more puzzling, the last Rockies draft pick to regularly toe the rubber as a Major League starter was Jeff Francis, drafted in 2002. How can that be?

The Rockies don’t have the best franchise history but they have made the playoffs twice in that fallow draft span, reaching the World Series in 2007. The Rockies recent history of draft successes and letdowns show how tricky a process wading through the process can be.

The Rox failure to develop starting pitching isn’t for a lack of trying. They famously selected big Greg Reynolds out of Stanford University with the second pick in the 2006 MLB draft. This pick is famous because 1) Reynolds hasn’t really amounted to anything, making a few highly dubious starts in 2008 and 2011 and 2) the Rockies selected Reynolds over Evan Longoria. Whoops.

Why or how could the Rockies pass on Evan Longoria? Coming out of college as a shortstop, Longoria was thought of as complete player with a high ceiling. But the Rockies passed, likely due in no small part to the player they drafted the year before: Troy Tulowitzki.

Tulowitzki, you might remember fell to the Rockies after former Toronto Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi (reportedly) overruled the draft room and passed on Tulo in favor of college lefty Ricky Romero.

The hue and cry over the Jays failing to pick up a potential franchise player like Tulowitzki has died down considerably with Romero accession to vice-Face of the Franchise. Romero is a very nice player who took his time getting to the big leagues, time he needed to develop. Tulowitzki is a star, probably the best all-around player in the National League and a franchise cornerstone of some regard.

Would the Blue Jays like a do-over on the 2005 draft? Perhaps. Given the chance, about 80% of front offices would take mulligans on their first round draft picks. If the Jays take Tulo, do the Rockies take Romero? If the Rockies have Romero and not Tulowitzki, do they take Jennings over Longoria?

Drafting for need is a dangerous game. If the Rockies feel pressured to take a pitcher to reverse this trend, they could easily pass over a much more talented player. A few pitchers lurk in the low minors who could become starters (Chad Bettis, for one) but the priority for the Rockies remains putting good players on the field. As many as they can.

Signing Michael Cuddyer to a three-year contract may run counter to this thinking but the Rockies are going to do Rockies-styled things. Their draft history is just that: history. Colorado cannot make up for mistakes already made in one fell swoop. The Tulowitzki feather in their caps sure does make for a big eraser.

Comments (6)

  1. Richardi passed on Tulo because in’02 he had taken shortstop Russ Adams over Scott Kazmir, Nick Swisher, Cole Hamels, James Loney, Jeff Francoeur, Joe Blandon, Denard Span, Joey Votto and Matt Cain. In the 2nd round of that same draft he took David Bush over John Lester and Brian McCann. AA has said that he learned from those drafts to always take the best player available and not worry about positional needs. The positional thing can sort itself out over time and through trades. In the 4th round of ’03 Richardi took Kurt Isenburg over Papelbon and in ’04 he took Curtis Thigpen over Dustin Pedroia and Hunter Pence. Romero was in the ’05 draft and the player who went 23rd in that draft was Jacoby Ellsbury. How would today’s Jays look with Votto at first, Pedroia at 2nd, McCann behind the plate and Papelbon closing? Even getting one or two of those drafts right would have made a huge difference.

    • Some of the guys taken behind Adams had MUCH bigger bonus demands (Frenchy, Hamels & Cain) which contributed to the Jays taking Adams. Adams also raked in college. And the minors. And his first call-up.

      • The Richardi era Jays avoided the big bonus guys and often chose college guys over high school players because they were a safer pick, they’d arrive faster and they were cheaper. Unfortunately, most of the impact talent was (and is) in the high school ranks. The AA Jays have been willing to take the risks and pay the money. That should pay dividends. But the new CBA has put an end to the aggressive draft policy of the AA Blue Jays. Not sure how that is going to pan out going forward.

        • When you dig down to that later rounds, the whole league had overlooked those players. So any team in the league could say “how good would we look if we only took Votto, McCann, Pedroia, and Papelbon.” This situation isn’t unique to the Jays.

          • Yeah. You can criticize draft picks in the first round, but beyond that, everyone’s been passed on at least once. Even the team that took the future star passed on them at least once.

  2. Wasn’t there also a rumour that the Rockies passed on Longoria because he wasn’t Christian? I seem to remember there being a kerfuffle over that.

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