DENVER -- Todd Helton’s career is the gold standard for the Rockies. He was drafted and developed by the club, was a productive and inspirational figure during good times and a standard bearer when things were tough.
And they not only retired his No. 17 at the end of his 17th and final season, but they presented him with a horse, for goodness' sake.
The Draft has produced some of the best players to wear Purple Pinstripes, even if all of them didn’t gallop into the sunset like Helton.
Here are the top five Rockies homegrown Draft picks, as ranked by their Baseball-Reference wins above replacement totals in a Colorado uniform.
1) Todd Helton, First round, 1995 (61.8 WAR)
Had negotiations gone better in 1992 for the Padres, who selected Helton in the second round out of Knoxville (Tenn.) Central High School, he might have been one of the Rockies’ biggest nightmares. Instead, Helton went to Tennessee to play a little football and a lot of baseball, and was there for the Rockies with the eighth overall pick in '95. It worked out well.
2) Troy Tulowitzki, First round, 2005 (39.5 WAR)
After a few building plans failed, the Rockies decided in the early 2000s to build through the Draft, no matter how long or painful the process. Selecting Tulowitzki seventh overall out of Long Beach State was tantamount to hitting the gas pedal. Tulowitzki finished 2006 in the Majors, and in ’07 he emerged as a middle-of-the-diamond catalyst of a team that made the World Series.
3) Nolan Areando, Second round, 2009 (39.1 WAR)
No one was sure what to make of Arenado, a shortstop at El Toro High School in Lake Forest, Calif. Home run power had yet to kick in, but his hitting approach was advanced. His speed was questionable, but the way he set his feet and threw with strength and accuracy opened possibilities. It turned out the Rockies had a generational third baseman.
4) Trevor Story, First round, 2011 (21.0 WAR entering 2021)
The Rockies were already enjoying the play of Tulowitzki, a physically powerful shortstop, and figured they could never have too many. Although Story had committed to LSU, he made it clear he wanted to start a pro career. Given a chance to claim the position going into the 2016 season, Story proved he was right all along.
5) Matt Holliday, Seventh round, 1998 (18.5 WAR)
The Draft was different back then. It was before slotting -- assigning an industry value to each Draft position. Holliday was clearly top-of-the-Draft material, but he also was one of the top quarterbacks in high school football and could have played both sports at Oklahoma State. The Rockies came up with the money, and in return had one of their best players.
Honorable mention: Charlie Blackmon, a second-rounder out of Georgia Tech in 2008, who entered '21 with 17.9 WAR in a Rockies uniform.