The Colorado Rockies are a self-proclaimed “draft and develop” organization. Consider he first part, at least based on what we know right now, to be a success. But only time – a lot of it – will really tell. As Bill Parcells would say, they’ve bought the groceries. Now they have to prepare the meal.
It’s that second part, the development, that hasn’t gone so great for the Rockies in recent years.
There’s no bigger crapshoot than the MLB draft. If a team is “successful” with one-fourth of their selections in a given year, they deserve a salute. According to MLB.com’s Jim Callis, MLB teams should not plan on restocking their whole farm system in one or two drafts.
“If you get two legitimately productive big leaguers – guys who are regulars or in a rotation or bullpen and play for five or six years – you’ve done better than most teams,” Callis said on a recent episode of The Park Adjusted Rockies Podcast.
If that low number surprises you, consider this: Going back and looking at the 1982 draft class for the Houston Astros, yours truly (3rd round) and catcher Mark Bailey (4th) were the only draftees to reach and stick in the big leagues for any length of time. So the Astros draft that year, absent of any All-Stars, was pretty much an average one by MLB standards.
Experts have praised the Rockies for their crop of picks in this year’s draft. Colorado selected and will try to sign 22 new prospects, including 16 pitchers. Of the 22, all but one came from the college ranks.
Top pick Gabriel Hughes from Gonzaga was considered by some to be something of a “reach” pick with he 10th overall selection, but according to Callis, Hughes was probably the best college pitcher – with no injury history – available this year. He’d been projected to go about a dozen picks later. Still, the Rockies took him and then stayed the course and kept grabbing more pitching. It’s ironic that this year’s draft class of college pitchers was considered weaker than other recent classes. That didn’t deter the folks at 20th and Blake. You can never have enough pitching.
Colorado had what amounted to three first round draft picks, including supplemental picks after losing free agents Trevor Story and John Gray in free agency. According to Callis on MLB.com, “Colorado was the only club to land three of MLB Pipeline’s 30 highest-rated prospects and one of just two (along with the Reds) to grab 10 Draft Top 250 prospects in the first 10 rounds.”
The web site ranked the Rockies as having the second best draft in all of MLB. But if only two or three of these guys are going to wind up playing at 20th and Blake, how much of a boost is it really in terms of an on-field upgrade within say, three years? If your plan is “draft and develop” you need to have more than a two guys come up and become big league difference makers out of your farm system, right?
If this draft turns out to be as good as it’s hyped, Colorado needs to get four or five of these prospects into purple pinstripes.
What all this really means is that a team like the Rockies, who haven’t had many players from their farm system reach the big leagues in recent seasons, need to tweak their development plan if they want to turn things around during what’s left of this decade. Since we already know that the Jeff Bridich days of spending money on a bunch of unproductive free agents is over, that only leaves the trade market to supplement their own draft.
This year’s trade deadline is looming. Colorado could look to trade away some of their big league talent – CJ Cron, Daniel Bard, etc – for highly rated minor league players who’ve already beaten the odds and progressed to the upper levels of someone else’s farm system. If they Rockies made say, three trades, and were able to bring back six top minor league prospects from other farm systems, the “development” part of the plan could get a significant boost, and the timetable to become a legit contender in the National League could accelerate significantly.
Standing pat and expecting two guys from every draft to turn you into a contender is a plan that’s destined to leave you in a proverbial hamster wheel.
Be sure to catch Mark Knudson and Manny Randhawa on the Park Adjusted Rockies Podcast each week, available on all major Podcast platforms.