Rockies Relying on Draftees

Since 2000, the Colorado Rockies have produced only two draftees who have reached at least 10 WAR over their careers. The Rockies have succeeded despite their poor performances in the draft due to a combination of shrewd acquisitions (Carlos Gonzalez and Jorge de la Rosa), and great scouting in Latin America (Ubaldo Jimenez and Jhoulys Chacin).The importance of the Rockies’ ability (or inability) to excel in the draft will be put to the test this season, however, as their success will depend heavily on their home-grown talent. As Paul Swydan mentioned in his Team Preview article, the Rockies will need strong seasons from Dexter Fowler, Chris Iannetta, Seth Smith and Ian Stewart in order to make another run at Rocktober. Based on the Rockies’ recent history in the draft, counting on their home-grown talent is a risky proposition.

By putting so much faith in their home-grown prospects, the Rockies are hoping to reverse a trend of awful drafting over the past 10 seasons. Since 2000, their track record in the draft can be considered spotty at best. What’s worse is that the Rockies have missed on a lot of their first round picks over that period.

          Colorado Rockies' 1st Round Draft Picks
        Year              Player              WAR
        2000          Matt Harrington          0
        2001            Jayson Nix            0.5
        2002           Jeff Francis          13.8
        2003            Ian Stewart           4.1
        2004           Chris Nelson          -0.3
        2005          Troy Tulowitzki        17.8
        2005*            Chaz Roe              0
        2006           Greg Reynolds         -0.5
              *Indicates Supplemental Pick

While Jeff Francis was a solid contributor to the team, Troy Tulowitzki is the only star the Rockies have produced since 2000. None of the other players listed have experienced success at the major league level with the exception of Stewart, whom the Rockies will rely on heavily this season.

When the Rockies have been able to graduate a player from the minors, the results have been average at best. Sure, the Rockies received value from Clint Barmes, Garrett Atkins and Brad Hawpe, but all of those players came with flaws. That trend will be tested this season as the Rockies will attempt to discover whether Stewart, Smith, Fowler and Iannetta can handle full-time roles. This new group of Rockies enter the season with the same flaws as the former Rockies, and more playing time could prove disastrous if they can’t adjust on the fly. In the past, players like Seth Smith and Ian Stewart could step in if Hawpe or Barmes were ineffective. The Rockies no longer have that quality depth, however, so they really need the new batch of home-grown talent to rise to the occasion.

While it’s entirely possible that each of those four players exceed expectations in full-time roles, it’s more than likely one or two of them falter (or simply fail to adjust). Smith and Stewart will need to prove they can hit lefties before they find themselves platooned once again, while Fowler needs to flash the tools that once made him a top prospect. Iannetta has succeeded at the major league level before, and a visit from the luck fairy would go a long way in completing his comeback. If they can overcome those obstacles, the Rockies will be in great shape this season.

Unfortunately for the Rockies, recent history is not on their side. It’s more than likely this new batch of prospects will follow in the footsteps of the old batch of prospects. They may establish themselves as useful players, but far from ideal options. Without the depth of those former Rockie teams, there will be no safety net this season if any of their home-grown talents falter. In a suddenly crowded NL West, that risk could cost the Rockies a shot at another Rocktober.




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Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.

29 Responses to “Rockies Relying on Draftees”

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  1. Tim says:

    I think this article proves how dreary the Rockies’ postseason chances are. They are currently relying completely on their draftees and sabermetrically strong but standardly weak rotation to make them succeed in the best hitters’ park in baseball. I think it’s about impossible to predict that these guys will finish higher than third in the NL west.

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    • How does this show Colorado’s chances to be dreary? They specifically highlight that they’ve succeeded in trades and the international market which is what the team will heavily rely on this year. Also all the guys mentioned as Rockies draftees are still quite young, so past (first round) failures don’t really speak much about their abilities. Colorado can easily finish first in the West, it’ll be a tight division.

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      • biondino says:

        “Sabermetrically strong but standardly weak” doesn’t actually mean anything, does it? If you think it doesn, now’s the time to resurrect the half of your argument that wasn’t proved wrong in the previous reply.

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      • Tim says:

        Look at the players they’re rolling out there this year bro! Besides Tulo and CarGo, they don’t have a single reliable hitter in their entire lineup. They have zero chance in 2011, yet this team seems to be perpetually overrated by the baseball community because of a few stud players.

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      • Their lineup isn’t anymore or less reliable than the others in the NL West. Let’s be realistic, the Giants are expecting a lot out of whom exactly? Sandoval (unreliable)? Huff (unreliable)? Posey (one year of work)?

        The Dodgers? They’re all about unreliable.

        The Padres? Their lineup has been full of holes for years.

        The Diamondbacks? The only thing they do reliably is strike out.

        I am not saying the Rockies are a fantastic organization – by no means are they. But can they compete in the NL West? Absolutely. Perhaps that speaks more to the weakness of the division than the strength of Colorado but show me a team in that division that is far and away better. The Giants pitching is better, no doubt, but the Rockies pitching is serviceable to compete.

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      • fredsbank says:

        not a single reliable hitter other than tulo and cargo, yeah this might be true, but at least the rockies have those 2; in the rest of the division, the best hitter is a second-year catcher in a pitcher’s park, so you’re not really making as good of a point as you think you are.

        you sound like a giants guy, tim, and dont forget that it took career years from several players to get them to where they were last year.

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    • GiantHusker says:

      Considering the Rockies opposition in the West, it’s about impossible to predict that these guys will finish lower than third. Second seems likely, and first is possible. And I am a Giants fan.

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    • fredsbank says:

      hey tim, what’s your last name?

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  2. DavidCEisen says:

    Honestly though, when looking at teams first round draft picks how many teams can’t be described as spotty?

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  3. Ben says:

    The decision to draft Greg Reynolds over Evan Longoria was widely panned at the time… Hindsight is 20/20, but wow…

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  4. mondogarage says:

    By focusing solely on the draft, you’re conveniently ignoring Ubaldo Jimenez, who has already produced 15.6 WAR, and well over 10 in just the last two years.

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    • Chris Cwik says:

      This is true, but I do mention the Rockies’ success in their Latin America Scouting program in the intro paragraph.

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      • hringer says:

        Chris, I normally really enjoy your stuff, but frankly, I feel this piece doesn’t meet your normal standards. If I wanted this level of analysis, I’d rather go to Bleacher Report.

        I agree that the Rockies have made several picks that, in hindsight, haven’t panned out. However only looking at their number one picks over the last decade is an incredibly small sample size to draw conclusions from.

        I looked at every teams’ number one overall picks from the last decade, and it’s rare for any team to have produced 2 players with at least ~14 WAR. Only COL, ATL, TBR, SFG, NYM, PHI, and TEX have done that. Most teams have NOBODY who’s contributed more than 2 or 3 WAR.

        Clearly, they have had success with this model, reaching the playoffs in 2007 and 2009 with essentially entirely home-grown teams. You really did this subject a disservice with this under-researched article.

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  5. biondino says:

    How about another article called “Yankees Relying on Massively Overpriced Megastars”, since it’d be about as insightful? Or “Two-thirds of the Majors Relying on Draftees”?

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  6. Chris Cwik says:

    @hringer

    Your criticism is tough, but fair.

    It’s true that I only included 1st round picks in the chart above, but I think it goes to show that they’ve missed pretty hard early on.

    If I had the room to include their entire drafts, you would see that the Rockies have performed pretty poorly over the last 10 seasons. Over those seasons, their only impact players were guys like Atkins and Barmes. Those guys are severely flawed players. You can’t honestly look at any of those drafts and come to the conclusion that the Rockies were successful. 2004 has a chance, but that’s only if Fowler, Smith and Iannetta breakout this season.

    Thankfully, they have experienced success in Latin America and through trades.

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    • hringer says:

      You are a baseball scholar, so I will defer to you when it comes to analyzing overall drafts. I would think that the Rockies level of success isn’t unusual or poor, given that most drafted players don’t contribute anyhow.

      I think that clearly SOMETHING is working, because they don’t make “blockbuster” deals in trades or FA signings. They have simply been one of the better home-grown teams, high draft picks or not.

      Overall, the Rockies have produced two superstars (Tulowitzki, Holliday) two All-Stars (Hawpe, Atkins) multiple regulars (Barmes, Stewart, Smith, Francis, Cook etc.) and some bench pieces. Most teams are built around a few good players and then a mix of average players with upside. Hawpe, Atkins, Barmes, Francis, and Cook are all downhill now, but they all contributed to two playoff teams.

      2-for-10 ain’t bad for First Rounders though, most teams don’t seem to have more than 1 player contribute.

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      • Chris Cwik says:

        I don’t mind the criticisms, so long as they are constructive.

        If I missed a point, or didn’t look into something deep enough, I appreciate the conversation it can generate. The Bleacher Report comment hurt a little, though.

        It’s true though, SOMETHING about their approach has worked. It seems as if they are getting just enough from their draftees to contend. They may not have the best drafts, but they are able to succeed through other means.

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      • Chris, I am a fan of your work as well. With respects to the “something” must work. Teams aren’t always adept at finding talent in the draft but some teams make very solid trades, the Rockies seem to maximize that see: CarGo, Betancourt, de la Rosa, and I think Lindstrom and Mortensen are good going forward too. I think the Rockies have been smart at getting a lot from a little and finding good pieces that work (Giambi has been effective in his role).

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      • hringer says:

        @Chris

        I should retract the Bleacher Report comment. They would have ranked the drafts by pitcher wins and homeruns.

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      • Chris Cwik says:

        @hrr

        and also grit

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  7. brendan says:

    I’d be interested to know how other teams have fared w/ their picks over the past 10 yrs. I wonder if 2 players w/ 10+ WAR is really so few, compared to other teams. Thinking back on the As picks (I’m a fan), I can think of quite a few that haven’t panned out.

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  8. Chris Cwik says:

    David,

    As a White Sox fan, I have definitely dealt with the same issues over the past decade. There’s certainly something to be said about teams that can succeed in this manner, but if they miss on any of those deals, it’s not like any home-grown guys are going to step in and succeed. I think you have to give a lot of credit to the scouting departments of those teams. They seem to do a great job of pointing out guys that appear “broken” and manage to turn them around.

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  9. E3PO says:

    Has anyone mentioned the Rockies developing Matt Holliday yet?

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  10. Matty Brown says:

    I really like the Rockies because of players like the ones you listed.

    They all take walks, have varying degrees of power(mostly strong) and are solid defensively from what I gather. (not sure about Stewart though)

    I expect strong seasons from all 4. I see them all as 2.5-3.5 WAR players.

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  11. Resolution says:

    The Rockies have done much better recently in the draft (past two seasons?), but the real success of the team has really been trades and probably their pitching coach.

    Look at the Jason Jennings and Matt Holliday trades, in addition to the Rockies giving up next to nothing for JDLR and Jason Hammel, Rafael Betancourt, Felipe Paulino, Matt Lindstrom – they pretty much always got a quality return and in the Holliday trade two more or less superstars (CarGo and Street).

    In fact these trades all center around pitching which may be why their offense has been the weaker link recently…

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  12. Slappy says:

    Brad Hawpe in 7 seasons with the team:

    .280/.374/.492.

    If that’s flawed…

    And so we are clear, while he certainly won’t ever win a GG in the OF, he was never as bad as the lame defensive metrics imagine him to be.

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