DENVER -- Rockies vice president of scouting Bill Schmidt is taking a same-as-it-ever-was approach to a truly unusual 2020 MLB Draft -- shortened to five rounds because the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the amateur spring season.
A long-held philosophy of taking the best player on their Draft board when their turn comes, and the normal process of following high school players intensely the year before they graduate are behind the 2020 plan. They will have six picks, including the ninth overall and the 35th overall in Competitive Balance Round A.
“It's no different than any other year in terms of work, we've always had five rounds,” Schmidt said. “Years past, we had 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, all the way down to 40 or 50. We made the best decisions we can, and we’re still going to do that.”
If this Draft is like all others for Schmidt -- who has run the Rockies’ scouting since 2000 -- good luck predicting what will happen. The club’s initial selection has been a high school player eight of the 19 years. But last year the Rockies didn’t take a single high schooler until the 31st round, and they didn’t sign him.
There is more advanced analytical information on college players than high schoolers, whose competition and maturity levels are uneven. But rather than steer away from them, Schmidt says he and his scouting staff compensate with close observation. While the high school state tournaments and early-summer travel events were nixed, there were enough late-winter events to provide some intelligence.
And although they didn’t see a pandemic coming, Schmidt said, “As soon as [last year’s] Draft was over, we were working on this year’s Draft, which will be no different than getting ready for next year’s Draft -- we’ve worked for nine months on these high school guys.”
The Rockies went to the postseason in 2017 and '18, but plummeted to fourth place in the National League West last year. Still, the team is mostly young and mostly Draft-built. Five of the eight projected starters, and half of the eight competitors for the starting rotation that were in big league camp when Spring Training was suspended, are club selections.
Day 1 of the 2020 Draft airs tonight, June 10, on MLB Network and ESPN at 5 p.m. MT, and includes the first 37 picks. Day 2 begins at 3 p.m. MT on Thursday, June 11, on MLB Network and ESPN2, and spans the remainder of the 160 picks.
Comprehensive coverage will be available on MLB.com and MLB Pipeline, which will simulcast MLB Network’s broadcast. Go to MLB.com/Draft to see when teams pick, the Top 200 Prospects list, mock drafts from analysts Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo, scouting video and more. And follow @MLBDraft and @MLBDraftTracker on Twitter to see what Draft hopefuls, clubs and experts are saying and to get each pick as it’s made.
Here’s how the Draft is shaping up for the Rockies, whose first selection is the ninth overall pick.
State of the system
Outfits ranking prospects all put the Rockies near the bottom among clubs. But behind the big club rests an interesting group of early Draft picks who are on the cusp of being Major League factors. They include lefty starter Ryan Rolison, righty starter Ryan Castellani, lefty reliever Ben Bowden (who had a back injury during the spring), righty reliever Tommy Doyle, and some corner bats -- Ryan Vilade, Tyler Nevin (who had a rib issue during the spring) and Colton Welker.
What they’re saying
“There are some interesting high school pitchers and hitters. There are some good college hitters and pitchers. We’ll find out about seven or eight years from now.” -- Schmidt
Whom might they take?
The latest MLB.com mock draft has the Rockies nabbing University of Louisville lefty starter Reid Detmers. Other mocks point toward University of Arkansas outfielder Heston Kjerstad. Two other righty starters -- University of Georgia righty Emerson Hancock and University of Minnesota righty Max Meyer -- are in collegiate programs that the Rockies have developed strong information pipelines in recent years. It’ll be interesting, however, to see what happens if Point Orange (Fla.) Spruce Creek High School outfielder Zac Veen somehow is on the board at No. 9. Veen is from an area where Rockies scouts have deep relationships with the high schoolers.
Young starting pitching is all over the Major League roster, but you’d like to see more of it on the MLB Pipeline prospect list. After Rolison at No. 2 is Karl Kauffmann -- drafted last year -- at 13 and Castellani at 15. Catcher Dom Nuñez graduated from the MLB Pipeline list last year by cracking the Majors, but there is not a player at his position on the MLB Pipeline Top 30.
Just because the Rockies went 30 rounds without a high schooler last year doesn’t mean they’ll do the same this time.