DENVER -- Tweaks in the Rockies' front office and scouting operations over the past year mean more people are in position to have input in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, but longtime vice president of scouting Bill Schmidt said there has been no change in emphasis.
The Rockies have the third overall pick -- second highest in their history -- which not only means a shot at one of the top overall prospects but good positioning in subsequent rounds. To help with the process, chief baseball officer Dan O'Dowd has increased his involvement in scouting and player development, and new director of pitching operations Mark Wiley also is playing a role in shaping what the Rockies need in that area.
Schmidt said the Rockies always have been on the same page when it comes to deciding whom to pick.
"We're looking for guys that are good players that are going to have some impact when they arrive at Coors Field, and some longevity as well," Schmidt said. "Dan and Mark have been important parts of the process, but our philosophy is the same.
"Pitching-wise, no doubt, we're going to look for what works at altitude, no doubt. But it's no different than what [senior vice president of Major League operations] Bill Geivett is looking for with the Major League club, and what [player development director] Jeff Bridich is emphasizing. We want to get ground balls, and in scouting we're operating with the same criteria."
Schmidt, who usually is close to the vest this time of year, declined to discuss any specifics with this year's Draft. He also declined to give opinions of overall talent in the Draft. That's just as well, since the Rockies have moved toward drafting the best player in the slot rather than setting a position-specific agenda. The understanding that middle infielders can be shifted to the outfield and corner players also could fit in the infield or outfield corners means positions are not as high a priority in baseball drafts as in other sports, where players must contribute immediately.
So although pitching will always be a premium at altitude, most experts expect the Rockies to take the third-ranked prospect in MLB.com's Top 100 -- University of San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant, who leads NCAA Division I baseball in home runs this year with 31 going into regional tournament play.
Bryant, a 6-5 junior from Las Vegas, has 54 career homers and is a semifinalist for the 2013 USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award. Against top competition last summer he led Team USA in slugging percentage.
Almost as important as his bat, Bryant has displayed plenty of athletic ability. He has displayed a strong arm at third base and has shown the ability to play a corner outfield position. Many project him as a future first baseman. In addition to his power bat, he has displayed useable speed.
The ability to move would be important to Bryant if the Rockies take him and he moves quickly through the Minors as projected. Rookie third baseman Nolan Arenado appears to be the real deal, so Bryant could find time in the outfield or be the heir apparent to Todd Helton at first base.
Here's a glance at what the Rockies have in store as the Draft approaches:
In about 50 words
The Rockies have settled on a best player/athlete available philosophy, which fits the Major League staff -- specifically, manager Walt Weiss, hitting coach Dante Bichette and pitching coaches Jim Wright and Bo McLaughlin coach by fostering competitiveness, figuring that a player's athletic ability will lead him to the right mechanics.
With the two top pitchers, Stanford's Mark Appel and Oklahoma's Jonathan Gray, not expected to fall beyond the Astros and Cubs, who have the top overall picks, most Draft analysts expect the Rockies to grab Bryant.
Experts say there is little chance that either of the top pitchers, Appel or Gray, will fall to the Rockies, and the club will be quite happy to take Bryant. However, the Rockies have done their homework on both and have taken a hard look at Appel just in case he is available.
Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team has an allotted bonus pool equal to the sum of the values of that club's selections in the first 10 rounds of the Draft. The more picks a team has, and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. The signing bonuses for a team's selections in the first 10 rounds, plus any bonus greater than $100,000 for a player taken after the 10th round, will apply toward the bonus-pool total.
Any team going up to 5 percent over its allotted pool will be taxed at a 75-percent rate on the overage. A team that overspends by 5-10 percent gets a 75-percent tax plus the loss of a first-round pick. A team that goes 10-15 percent over its pool amount will be hit with a 100-percent penalty on the overage and the loss of a first- and second-round pick. Any overage of 15 percent or more gets a 100-percent tax plus the loss of first-round picks in the next two Drafts.
For the Rockies, the No. 3 overall pick is valued at $5,626,400 and the second-round pick is valued at $1,327,600. The overall pool for the Rockies' top 10 rounds is valued at $10,199,400.
The Rockies simply need as many good players as possible, and they'll let player development sort out the positions. The big club has shown a willingness to give prospects their opportunity before turning to trades and free agency.
The Rockies no doubt would like to reverse the trend of injuries and rough performances from starting pitchers in the early rounds of recent Drafts. Lefty Christian Friedrich (first round, 2008) is battling back issues, and lefty Tyler Matzek (first round, 2009) is working past control issues at Double-A Tulsa. Of course, righty Greg Reynolds (first round, 2006) battled injury and had minimal time with the Rockies, and righty reliever Casey Weathers (first round, 2007) also was derailed by injury and never appeared for the big league club. Maybe the impressive early work of lefty Tyler Anderson (first round, 2011) and righty Eddie Butler (supplemental first round, 2012) is a sign of more success. Anderson had 39 strikeouts to 13 walks in his first eight starts at Class A Modesto and Butler pitched so well at low-A Asheville (5-1, 1.66 ERA) that he has been moved to Modesto. This year, Colorado's second pick is No. 42. MLB.com Draft expert Jonathan Mayo's list of the Top 100 Draft Prospects is populated with right-handers from 40 to 45 (TCU's Andrew Mitchell, Oklahoma Sate's Jason Hursh, UC Irvine's Andrew Thurman, Farragut (Tenn.) High School's Kyle Serrano and University of San Francisco's Alex Balog).
• Recent Draft History •
He rose and fell, but the Rockies expect second baseman Josh Rutledge (third round, 2010) to return. Rutledge skipped Triple-A when the Rockies called him up last July to play shortstop in Troy Tulowitzki's absence, and he did well enough to be given a shot at the second-base job on Opening Day. Rutledge slumped and showed he needed work defensively at second base, so he is doing a brush-up at Triple-A Colorado Springs.
Left-handed-hitting outfielder Corey Dickerson started producing immediately after the Rockies made him an eighth-round pick in 2010 out of Meridian (Miss.) Community College, by hitting 45 home runs in his first year and a half of pro ball. Already at Triple-A Colorado Springs, Dickerson was hitting .360 with seven home runs, 12 doubles, 10 triples and 26 RBIs through Thursday.
In The Show
The current roster shows more success out of the Draft when it comes to position players than pitchers. First-rounders Helton (1995) and Tulowitzki (2005), second-rounder Arenado (2009), bonus baby Dexter Fowler (14th round, 2004) and Jordan Pacheco (ninth round, 2007) are starters, with Pacheco starting more lately as Helton tries to reverse his struggles. Eric Young Jr. (30th round, 2003) also has received a number of starts in the outfield. With Jeff Francis (first round, 2002) on the disabled list, the only drafted pitchers are relievers Rex Brothers (second round, 2009) and recently promoted Rob Scahill (eighth round, 2009).
Rockies' recent top picks
2012: David Dahl, OF, Class A Asheville (disabled list with torn hamstring)
2011: Tyler Anderson, LHP, Class A Advanced Modesto
2010: Kyle Parker, OF, Double-A Tulsa
2009: Tyler Matzek, LHP, Double-A Tulsa
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less