DENVER -- Long Beach State shortstop Troy Tulowitzki has seen that the route to the Major Leagues can be a quick one, and he wants to get his trip started. That's exactly what the Colorado Rockies want. The Rockies selected the potentially powerful Tulowitzki, 20, seventh overall in the first round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft on Tuesday. Tulowitzki, a 6-foot-3 205-pounder who batted .349 with a team-leading eight home runs and 32 RBIs even though he missed 20 games with a hand injury, said he expects to sign quickly. Indications are he will be sent to high Class A Modesto.
"It's important for us to get the player out playing right away," Rockies scouting director Bill Schmidt said. "All indications are we should get Troy out playing right away." Tulowitzki's immediate predecessor at Long Beach State, Bobby Crosby, was Oakland's first-round choice in 2001, made the Majors for 11 games in 2003 and earned American League Rookie of the Year honors in 2004. The two are friends and plan to train together in the offseason. "He's in the big leagues right now," Tulowitzki said on a conference call from his Sunnyvale, Calif., home. "I need to prove myself, maybe work my way up there if I do what I'm supposed to do. We'll see what happens. "It's an awesome feeling. It's always been a dream of mine." Crosby believes Tulowitzki's future is bright, to the point that he may have Tulowitzki live with him this winter. "He's an amazing player," Crosby said. "He's gotten better every year, and he's going to be a good big league ballplayer." The desire to find out what happens soon is a key reason that the Rockies turned their attention to Tulowitzki, and preliminary talks with adviser Paul Cohen brought the sides close to a deal. Colorado did not find the same with Tennessee right-hander and Fowler, Colo., native Luke Hochever. According to Baseball America magazine's Web site on Monday night, Colorado talked with Hochever adviser Scott Boras but went in another direction when the dollars became too big. Hochever fell to 40th, when the Los Angeles Dodgers took him.Early projections had Seattle selecting Tulowitzki third overall. But when the Mariners took Southern Cal catcher Jeffrey Clement, the Rockies were prepared. Toronto, the other possibility for Tulowitzki, took Cal State Fullerton left-handed pitcher Ricardo Romero. The selection of Tulowitzki fits with Colorado's "best athlete available" philosophy of recent years under Schmidt. After going with pitchers with the first selection in nine of their first 11 drafts, the Rockies have gone with infielders to open the last three. There is already talent at shortstop in the organization. This season, Clint Barmes emerged as the starting shortstop and a prime candidate for National League Rookie of the Year honors until he suffered a broken collarbone in an accident near his apartment on Sunday night. Also, the Rockies took high school shortstop Chris Nelson in the first round last year. Last year's fifth-round pick, Matt Macri from Notre Dame, hit well in his pro debut but has been moved to shortstop because third base, his draft position, has a backlog at the upper levels.
"In the last couple of years, we've taken some athletic kids," Schmidt said. "You have Alex Rodriguez playing third base for the Yankees, and he had always been a shortstop. Things have a way of working out. The important thing is to add quality."
Asked directly, Tulowitski said he would change positions if it got him to the Majors quicker. But he said there has been no indication he would have to change positions, and that's fine with him.
"It was never a thought in my mind, nor the scouts'," he said. "I've always been a shortstop and I plan on sticking there."
Scouts agree that Tulowitzki has more powers than his college numbers indicate, because Long Beach State's stadium gives up few home runs or even extra-base hits. A better gauge is the four home runs he hit last summer, using a wooden bat, for Team USA.
If all goes well, playing at Coors Field will make up for all the power that his college park would not let him display.
"Maybe it's the baseball gods working in mysterious ways," said Tulowitzki, who missed those 20 games this season because of surgery to repair a broken hamate bone in his left hand.
This is the third time in club history that it has drafted from the No. 7 position. Tulowitzki will be attempting to change a history in that spot that has been tragic and contentious.
In 1994, Colorado took Sarasota (Fla.) High School left-hander Doug Million and signed him to a $905,000 bonus. But on Sept. 24, 1997, while pitching in the fall instructional program, Million suffered a severe asthma attack and died.
In 2000, Colorado selected Palmdale (Calif.) High School righty Matt Harrington, who never signed after negotiations that grew bitter. Harrington has been re-selected four times since, and could be taken again in this draft, but has never signed with a Major League club.
Long Beach State
Position: SS B/T: R/R
H: 6'3" W: 205
Born: 1984-10-10 Class: 4YR
Big, strong, well proportioned physique. Similar to Bobby Crosby. Excellent bat speed. Aggressive hitter w/ good extension. Soft, quick hands, average runner. Solid ML defensive tools w/ a chance to hit with power. Shows no glaring weakness.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Jeff Seidel contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.