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, Chone Figgins
KANSAS CITY, MO – SEPTEMBER 6: Third baseman Chone Figgins #9 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim fields his position as he throws to first base after catching a ground ball during the game against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri on Sunday, September 6, 2009. The Angels defeated the Royals 7-2. (Photo by John Williamson/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

In the third round of the 1997 Draft, the Colorado Rockies drafted first baseman Todd Sears out of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Sears only made 85 plate appearances in the majors and none of them came with the Rockies. The Rockies traded him to the Twins in July 2000 for second baseman Todd Walker. Walker was only with the Rockies for a calendar year (plus four days) for outfielder Alex Ochoa, who came from Cincinnati.

The Rockies then traded Ochoa to Milwaukee in a three-team trade in January 2002 that sent Todd Zeile to the Rockies. Zeile was past his prime but the then-36-year-old Zeile had a decent season as their everyday third baseman in 2002.

That was about as good as the Rockies could have done as none of the players after Sears in the third round (or the first 10 in the fourth round) made it to the majors with the exception of pitcher Matt Riley (97 2/3 career innings in parts of four seasons with a -0.2 rWAR, which was lower than Sears’ 0.0 rWAR and lower than the rWARs of Walker, Ochoa, and Zeile with the Rockies).

In the fourth round, the Rockies drafted the best player in the round: infielder Chone Figgins.

Figgins spent parts of 12 seasons in the majors, including an All-Star selection and he received MVP votes in four seasons. But not a single plate appearance came with the Rockies as they traded him to the Angels for the late outfielder Kimera Bartee. Bartee wrapped up his MLB career with the Rockies in a dozen games but he later became a coach for Pittsburgh and Detroit but passed away at the age of 49 due to a brain tumor.

Some of the other significant picks after the 4th round of the 1997 Draft included:

  • RHP Tim Hudson, 6th round, Oakland (on his second ballot for the MLB Hall of Fame in 2022)
  • LHP Cliff Lee, 8th round, Marlins (didn’t sign)
  • Future Colorado Rockies 3B Garrett Atkins, 10th round, Mets (didn’t sign)
  • INF David Eckstein, 19th round, Boston
  • Future Colorado Rockies OF Brad Hawpe, 46th round, Toronto (didn’t sign)

Next up on our list is the 1998 MLB Draft, where the Colorado Rockies struck out on their early draft picks but hit paydirt with a few later picks.

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