The 1997 Draft: The Colorado Rockies draft a good starter but missed a great infielder

SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 4: Aaron Cook #28 of the Colorado Rockies pitches during a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park on September 4, 2011 in San Diego, California. The Padres won 7-2. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 4: Aaron Cook #28 of the Colorado Rockies pitches during a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park on September 4, 2011 in San Diego, California. The Padres won 7-2. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images) /
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Colorado Rockies, Philadelphia Phillies, Chase Utley
DENVER – APRIL 12: Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki #2 of the Colorado Rockies puts a tag on Chase Utley #26 of the Philadelphia Phillies at second base at Coors Field on April 12, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. The Phillies defeated the Rockies 7-5. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) /

In the rest of the first round of the 1997 draft, there were only two picks that the Colorado Rockies passed on but had at least 10.0 career rWAR.

  • #20 overall pick: SS Adam Kennedy, St. Louis (20.9 career rWAR)
  • #21: C Jayson Werth, Baltimore (yep, Jayson Werth was a catcher originally before becoming an outfielder) (career 29.2 rWAR)

There were also two good pitchers among the first 10 picks of the second round.

  • 2nd pick of the 2nd round: LHP Randy Wolf, Philadelphia (22.8 career rWAR)
  • 10th pick of the 2nd round: RHP Jeff Weaver, White Sox (15.2 rWAR)

But the Rockies decided to take a different pitcher with their second draft pick and he had a good career with the Rockies. They selected Aaron Cook out of high school in Hamilton, Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati.

Cook spent parts 11 seasons in the majors and 10 were with the Rockies (2002-2011). Cook was the Rockies best starter for much of the mid-2000s and he holds many of the team records in pitching or in the top 10.

  • 1st in starts (206)
  • 1st in innings (1312 1/3)
  • 2nd in wins (72)
  • 2nd in complete games (11)
  • 4th in BB/9 rate (2.798)
  • 7th in ERA (4.53)

While he was good for the Rockies, they could have drafted future Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley.

Utley was drafted six picks after Cook by the Dodgers and didn’t sign. He signed a few years later and he is, arguably, a future Hall of Famer. He has a career 64.5 rWAR, a six-time All-Star, a four-time Silver Slugger, and he had three top 10 finishes in NL MVP voting.

Had the Rockies drafted Utley, they would have had some stability at the position when they hadn’t had that since the late 90s. From 2004 through 2013 (Utley’s rookie year through his last All-Star appearance), the Rockies had 9 Opening Day second basemen in 10 seasons. Only Luis A. Gonzalez (2004, 2006) made multiple starts and only Clint Barmes (2010) made an Opening Day start at another position (shortstop in 2005 and 2006).

So, realistically, the Colorado Rockies could have had Scott Rolen, Jimmy Rollins, and Chase Utley, all of which were high Phillies draft picks between 1993 and 1997 and were key figures for World Series playing and winning teams in the mid-to late-2000s.

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