High schoolers fit Rockies' Draft needs best
Club not worried about time it will take for young players to develop
DENVER -- The priority to find the right player, and not worry as much about how long it will take him to develop, led the Rockies to select high school players for seven of their first 11 picks in the 2015 MLB Draft, which concluded Wednesday.
MLB.com's top Draft prospect, Lake Mary (Fla.) High shortstop Brendan Rodgers, went to the Rockies third overall, because the D-backs (Vanderbilt's Dansby Swanson) and the Astros (LSU's Alex Bregman) went with collegiate shortstops.
"First and foremost, he's a baseball player -- there is work ethic and drive to be good," Rockies vice president of scouting Bill Schmidt said. "He played a lot last summer, and I had the opportunity to watch him through the summer and fall. We were impressed."
Collegiate players might be a little older, but the Draft didn't present many players with the all-around tools of Rodgers, the power potential of third baseman Tyler Nevin (38th overall) of Poway, Calif., or the pitch mixes of righties Mike Nikorak (27th) of Stroudsburg, Pa., Peter Lambert (44th) of San Dimas, Calif., or Javier Medina (77th) of Tucson (Ariz.) Sahuaro High.
Add to that group Fort Collins (Colo.) Rocky Mountain High center fielder Cole Anderson (10th), a versatile athlete who will mature physically, and lanky Gulf Coast (Fla.) High lefty Mike Zimmerman, who threw a perfect game and two other no-hitters this year, and there's potential.
If the Rockies have to wait a little longer for those attributes to play out, so be it.
"With high school kids, the benefit is that if they do come quick, the length of their career is going to be longer, and hopefully some of them will do that," Schmidt said. "Some will get here quicker than others. But what's important is that they all get here."
The Rockies stuck with their pattern of taking the best player on their Draft board, and they still were able to address their perpetual need by taking pitchers with 11 of the first 16 choices.
Special assistant Rick Matthews, who was the Rockies' pitching coach in the Arizona Rookie League in 1992 and has been with the franchise ever since in Major and Minor League pitching-related capacities, and director of pitching operations Mark Wiley are concentrating on finding pitchers with the best chance of success. They are using statistical analysis and adding their knowledge of pitching to attack the issue.
The upper-round collegiate pitchers include the West Coast Conference pitcher of the year in University of San Diego righty David Hill (4th), two members of an Arkansas staff in the College World Series in righties Trey Killian (9th) and Sam Thole (14th), Big 12 Tournament co-Most Outstanding pitcher in Texas righty Parker French (5th), South Carolina lefty Jack Wynkoop (6th) and an intriguing low-angle righty in Daytona State righty Justin Lawrence.
"Mark did see a number of amateur pitchers, but because of his other duties, not as many as he has in the past, and that's where Rick has helped out," Schmidt said. "They have their observations on what works, what the coaches can correct and what's harder to correct. Statistical analysis comes in, but you need to know what makes a guy tick, and that's where the scouts come in. So it's something we're working on, putting all that together. It's not a secret or not anything everyone in the business isn't doing."
The Rockies also are hoping they hit on a couple of collegiate hitters -- Cal Poly San Luis Obispo first baseman Brian Mundell (7th), whose college numbers went down after a Tommy John surgery two years ago, and Cal State Bakersfield shortstop Mylz Jones (13th), who last summer hit .307 in the wood-bat Alaska Collegiate League and was named the circuit's sixth-best prospect by Baseball America Magazine.