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.