Rockies 2011 Draft Preview

It’s that time of year again, Rockies fans. Monday is the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.

The Rockies have a history of drafting well, and look to continue that history. Here’s a list of the 19 players the Rockies have taken in the first round and where they are now, thanks to the Denver Post’s Irv Moss.

1992 – John Burke, pitcher, not playing baseball
1993 – Jamey Wright, pitcher, Seattle Mariners
1994 – Doug Million, pitcher, deceased
1995 – Todd Helton, first baseman, Colorado Rockies
1996 – Jake Westbrook, pitcher, St. Louis Cardinals
1997 – Mark Magnum, pitcher, not playing baseball
1998 – Matt Roney, pitcher, not playing baseball
1999 – Jason Jennings, pitcher, not playing baseball
2000 – Matt Harrington, pitcher, not playing baseball
2001 – Jayson Nix, infielder, Toronto Blue Jays
2002 – Jeff Francis, pitcher, Kansas City Royals
2003 – Ian Stewart, third baseman, Colorado Springs Sky Sox (Triple-A)
2004 – Chris Nelson, infielder, Colorado Rockies
2005 – Troy Tulowitzki, shortstop, Colorado Rockies
2006 – Greg Reynolds, pitcher, Colorado Rockies
2007 – Casey Weathers, pitcher, Tulsa Drillers (Double-A)
2008 – Christian Friedrich, pitcher, Tulsa Drillers (Double-A)
2009 – Tyler Matzek, pitcher, Modesto Nuts (Advanced Single-A)
2010 – Kyle Parker, outfielder, Asheville Tourists (Single-A)

The Rockies have the 20th pick in the first round of the 2011 draft. Who do they need at the big-club level?

Catcher: Chris Iannetta has looked sharp both offensively and defensively, but has shown that he can be a bit streaky this year. If he can buck the streaky trend, signs show that he’ll be the long-term guy behind the plate at Coors. With Matt Pagnozzi, Jordan Pacheco, and Wilin Rosario all showing signs they’re ready to take the leap to the big leagues, the Rockies really don’t need a franchise catcher any time soon.

First Baseman: Todd Helton is, of course, the everyday first baseman for the Rockies. He’s hitting like he’s 28 instead of 38, but you have to face facts – Helton is getting older, and he’s down to his last few years in Denver. The Rockies need to look at long-term replacements for Helton, and the draft is the perfect place to do that. They’re projected to take C.J. Cron in the first round on Monday. Cron is a 6’4″, 230-pound first baseman out of the University of Utah who hit .379 in two years at Utah. He also hit 31 home runs in just those two years, so he could probably be assigned to Single-A Asheville and still find success. The Rockies have a few prospects in the Minors who can play first, most notably being Mike Paulk in Triple-A Colorado Springs.

Second Baseman: The Rockies have a few candidates for the starting job at second base, but no one has stepped up as of yet. Jonathan Herrera is the odds-on favorite to win the job full time, but that’s mainly because of his defensive ability. Chris Nelson and Eric Young, Jr. have played well at second, but neither have taken the mantle. Jose Lopez fizzled out fast at second, and was quickly released. Hector Gomez may be the second baseman of the future, but he’s still a year away. He may be a September call-up, but he’s not ready to start 100+ games at the Big League level. Second base is another position the Rockies need to look at when drafting.

Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki isn’t going anywhere. Period. If a player wants to make it to The Show as a shortstop, look for another team or learn another position, because shortstop is taken and will be for a while. It’s good to have depth, and the Rockies do have depth, but Tulowitzki can easily start 150 games, so it’s not really a position the team needs to concern themselves with right now.

Third Base: There’s a black hole at third base, but Ty Wigginton seems to be filling that void. Ian Stewart failed expectations, and was duly rewarded with a demotion to Triple-A Colorado Springs. If he can get his swing back, he can play third for the big club again. Wigginton seems to be claiming the job for himself, though. A veteran signing at third could give the Rockies an advantage, but if Wigginton keeps swinging the bat at the pace he has been, the job looks to be his. They have talent in the Minors, but as with every position, depth never hurts.

Outfield: The Rockies’ outfield has always been a strength of theirs. Carlos Gonzalez and Seth Smith have proven themselves to be capable, talented everyday starters, but Dexter Fowler’s 70 strikeouts so far in 2011 is concerning. He’s in the lineup everyday solely for his defensive capabilities, which are among the best in baseball. However, the Rockies need production, and with talented outfielders waiting in the Minors, Fowler could soon be out of a job. Look for outfielders to once again be drafted heavily by the Rockies in 2011. Last year, the Rockies took Kyle Parker from Clemson last year, and he’s already making waves in Single-A Asheville.

Starting Pitching: It’s in a state of flux now, but The Rockies need starting pitching. They’ve always needed starting pitching. It’s something you can never have too much of. As we saw with Jorge De La Rosa, you never know when something bad will happen to your ace. Ubaldo Jimenez has struggled, De La Rosa is down for 2011, when he’s on his game, Jhoulys Chacin is good but when he struggles, he really struggles. Juan Nicasio has been spectacular in his two starts, and Aaron Cook is on his way back. They have talent in the minors, and the Rockies have drafted pitching hard recently. Look for them to continue that trend this year.

Relief Pitching: The bullpen is one of the strengths of this team. Rex Brothers was just called up, Clayton Mortenson has proved effective in long relief, Greg Reynolds can throw with the best of them, The Matts (Reynolds, Belisle, and Lindstrom) can provide the Rockies with some of the best relief, and Huston Street is proving himself to be among the most effective closers in baseball. With talent in the minors, the Rockies have always drafted relief pitching well. Look for that to continue again in 2011.

Here’s a list of the Rockies possible first 3 picks. Since the draft can last up to 50 rounds, it’d take a while to list them all here.

Round 1: C.J. Cron, first base; Jed Bradley, LHP; Alex Meyer, RHP/Kolten Wong, 2B
Round 2: Brian Brickhouse, RHP; Jake Cave, OF; Charles Tilson, OF
Round 3: Charlie Lowell, LHP; Erick Johnson, RHP; Adam Conley, LHP

Check out Seedlings to Stars, the official Minor League and MLB Draft blog of the FanSided baseball blog network for a mock draft and complete minor league and draft coverage.

The 2011 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft takes place Monday, June 6 through Wednesday, June 8 in Secaucus, New Jersey. Watch RoxPile for daily updates and a comprehensive list of Rockies draft picks coming later this week.

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