DENVER -- Zac Veen brought his rapidly growing frame and his pro baseball dreams to a gym at Marucci Clubhouse Orlando, where Rockies infielder Brendan Rodgers befriended and mentored him.
“Whenever I’d see him I’d think, ‘Man, it would be cool to play with him,’” said Veen, 18, who is on the cusp of getting his wish.
The Rockies selected the 18-year-old Veen, a 6-4, left-handed-hitting outfielder from Spruce Creek High School (Port Orange, Fla.) with the ninth overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft on Wednesday.
The Rockies also selected Drew Romo, a switch-hitting catcher from The Woodlands (Texas) High School, with the 35th overall pick to round out Day 1. Romo has been the starting catcher on the Team USA 18U National Team the past two seasons. Some analysts consider Romo the best high school defensive player at any position in this year’s Draft, and the Rockies see offensive potential.
The Draft continues on Thursday with Rounds 2-5. The MLB Network preview show begins at 2 p.m. MT/4 p.m. ET, with live coverage on MLB Network and ESPN2 beginning at 3 p.m. MT/5 p.m. ET. Go to MLB.com/Draft for complete coverage, including every pick on the Draft Tracker, coverage and analysis from MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo, the complete order of selection and more. And follow @MLBDraft and @MLBDraftTracker on Twitter.
Veen is happy to have been selected by the same team as Rodgers, 23, the third overall pick in 2015. Rodgers broke in with the big league club last season and could be in for more MLB action since he has recovered from a right shoulder injury that shortened his '19 season.
“He’s somebody that I can just count on to go to for advice, whether it’s on the baseball side or in life,” said Veen, who noted that veteran Rockies catcher Drew Butera -- who shares a birthday with Rodgers (Aug. 9) -- also works out with him and Rodgers. “There were times where I asked [Rodgers] how he handled the pressure of having scouts and a bunch of people at your high school games. He gave me his advice, and it worked for me this year.”
"Great kid," Rodgers said. "He works hard and is determined to be great. He has some serious potential in my eyes."
It wasn’t just the company Veen keeps that attracted the Rockies. He has a left-handed swing that can do damage and long body that’s adding muscle.
“I'd say freshman year was about 5-foot-10, maybe 140 pounds,” he said. “I got up to 6-foot, maybe 160 pounds my sophomore year. My junior year I went in probably 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds. Then going into this year, in the summer, I was about 180, but going into the spring, I was 205-206.”
And he put all that added size and speed to use during a spring season shortened to 11 games due to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the Daytona Beach (Fla.) News-Journal, Veen slashed .500/.627/.969 with three home runs, 17 stolen bases, 10 RBIs and 15 runs scored. He was named Gatorade's Florida Player of the Year for high school baseball.
The selections of Veen, the No. 7 Draft prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, and Romo, the No. 35 prospect, are examples of the Rockies’ best-player-available philosophy. Last year, the Rockies didn’t draft a high school player until the 31st round -- but that was last year. This year, the Rockies took Veen, who committed to the University of Florida, and Romo, an LSU commit, with their first two selections.
Rockies scouting vice president Bill Schmidt said John Cedarburg, the team’s Central and South Florida area supervisor, has been tracking Veen for years, and the club began zeroing in on him last June. The Rockies saw Veen (and Romo) play in person during the abbreviated high school season.
“It’s a fluid, slightly rising swing with the ability to impact the baseball," Schmidt said. "He uses his hands real well. He’s got good, raw power. He’s got good balance, rhythm and timing to his swing.
“He played center field in high school. Most of your better players are going to play center. But we play them all over in the Minor Leagues, all three positions. As the body matures, we’ll see here it goes. ... Needless to say, in our ballpark you’d like to see a lesser center fielder playing left field. He’s more than capable of doing that. He’s got the arm strength to play right. We’ll see what the future holds as he develops into a man.”
Rodgers dropped Veen a text Wednesday, reminding him that he has reached a beginning and not a goal.
“He said, ‘Congrats. You know the hard work doesn’t [stop] now. This is when the real hard work happens,’” Veen said.