Rox ink deals with second, third Draft picks
Nikorak, Nevin share excitement to get professional careers started
DENVER -- Right-handed starting pitcher Mike Nikorak of Stroudsburg High School in Pennsylvania already looks the part, at 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, with an easy smile and a way with words.
But how he'll look and pitch in the future fueled the magic of Thursday afternoon, when the Rockies announced that they have signed both Nikorak, the 27th overall pick in last week's Draft, and No. 38 pick Tyler Nevin, a third baseman out of Poway (Calif.) High School.
"It's kind of tough to put a projection on it right now," Nikorak said. "I'm still growing, but as much as my body can handle, I'm going to put that much weight on, or that much height. Anything that can make myself a better baseball player."
Nikorak was selected with the compensatory pick the Rockies received when they lost Michael Cuddyer to the Mets via free agency. According to MLB.com's Jim Callis, Nikorak's signing bonus is worth $2,300,000, or $295,400 above the figure that the Draft slotting system lists for his overall spot. The Rockies haven't confirmed the value of Nikorak's bonus.
As of Thursday afternoon, just two other first-rounders -- outfielder Trent Clark (15th overall to the Brewers) and right-hander Ashe Russell (21st overall to the Royals) had signed for greater than the slotted value.
Nevin, son of longtime Major Leaguer Phil Nevin (now managing at Triple-A Reno in the D-backs organization), was taken with the club's Competitive Balance Round A pick.
The Rockies' top three selections -- shortstop Brendan Rodgers (drafted third overall and signed on Wednesday for $5.5 million), Nikorak and Tyler Nevin -- will begin their pro careers with Rookie-level Grand Junction.
Nikorak throws a mid-90s fastball and has developed a knuckle-curveball that could become his out pitch. He also arrives with a fresh arm. After impressing scouts last summer on the showcase circuit -- where he and Rodgers became close friends -- Nikorak was limited by his high school coaches to 29 innings this spring. He has been throwing and staying in shape for more than a month but not putting game mileage on his arm.
"A lot of people I talk to really like the fact that my two-seamer is kind of like a sinker, so I consider myself a ground-ball pitcher," Nikorak said. "In Colorado, with the thin air, I know I've got to keep the ball down. I know I can throw the ball hard, and I'm working on my curveball and my changeup. I know I have a few more years to develop those pitches."
As a child, Nevin spent time with his father in big league clubhouses and on road trips. After his dad began working with Minor Leaguers, Nevin had enough presence to learn about what it takes to make it to The Show.
"It is, in fact, a grind, and it's not easy," Nevin said. "[Phil Nevin] didn't spend too much time in the Minor Leagues, but now he's coaching in the Minor Leagues, and I've seen firsthand guys who have spent five, six, seven eight years in the Minor Leagues, working their way to the big leagues.
"I'm ready for it -- this is all I wanted to do. I'm going to work as hard as I can."
Like Nikorak, Nevin has a lean frame that will grow naturally. He also has a quick bat that someday could produce power. Nevin said he has healed after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in October 2013, which cost him the '14 season.
"Everything's healthy; the elbow has never felt better," Nevin said. "At the beginning of the season, it was in the back of my head. But as it progressed, it never was an issue all season and it continues to be [a non-issue].
"As a hitter, I'm being the best Tyler Nevin I can be. If that's hitting 40 home runs in the Majors one day or if it's hitting 20, it doesn't matter to me."