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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.