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Rockies' first-round picks: booms, busts, and tonight's pick

Will Colorado go pitcher with ninth overall selection?
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Posted at 3:31 PM, Jun 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-10 17:31:01-04

As Major League Baseball owners and players continue to squabble over an agreement to resume play, the teams are on the clock.

Major League Baseball will hold the first round of its draft Wednesday, beginning at 5 p.m.

It is an awkward time. Baseball has been unable to find a compromise to restart its season. And now teams will add players with bright futures, a jarring juxtaposition to the mood surrounding the sport as major leaguers sit at home and the real possibility remains that the minor league season will be canceled.

This represents a dramatically different selection process. The draft has been sliced to five rounds instead of 40. Undrafted players can sign for a maximum of $20,000, a significant money loss for prospects since more than 500 drafted players exceeded that amount a year ago.

The Rockies hold the ninth pick overall. The most connected names to Colorado include Georgia right-handed pitcher Emerson Hancock, Louisville left-hander Reid Detmers, Arkansas outfielder Heston Kjerstad and California high school catcher Tyler Soderstrom.

The draft remains one of the most difficult exercises, weighing potential and projection, sometimes of 18-year-old kids. Since 1992, the Rockies have made memorable first-round picks. The list includes a potential Hall of Famer (Todd Helton), a breathtaking shortstop (Troy Tulowitzki), and too many mistakes on pitchers.

My Denver7 look at the best and the worst of the Rockies' first picks in the amateur draft:

Top 5 Best First Picks

1. 1B Todd Helton, 8th overall, 1995
Five-time All-Star, 369 home runs, 569 doubles, 2,519 hits. He leads the team in every meaningful offensive category, and is beginning to gain traction in his Hall of Fame candidacy.

2. SS Troy Tulowitzki, 7th overall, 2005
Five-time All-Star, finished in the top-10 in MVP voting 3 times, won two Gold Gloves. Tulo helped change the culture in 2007, providing the edge and attitude to help the Rockies reach their only World Series with 21 wins in 22 games before the Red Sox swept them. Tulo is coaching at the University of Texas.

3. LHP Jeff Francis, 9th overall, 2002
Won 64 games for Rockies, and anchored staff that reached 2007 World Series. Francis brought intelligence to the mound, and when he commanded the inner-half of the plate was an ace.

4. RHP Jason Jennings, 16th overall, 1999
Jennings showed up and competed, relying on a filthy sinker. He was an accomplished hitter, giving the offense another threat on days he pitched. He won 2002 National League Rookie of the Year honors with a 16-win season. He finished with 58 victories for the Rockies.

5. LHP Kyle Freeland, 8th overall, 2014
A former star at Thomas Jefferson High School in Denver, Freeland delivered the second-best season ever by a Rockies pitcher in 2018. He led the Rockies to the playoffs, finishing fourth in the Cy Young Award voting. Freeland posted a 17-7 record with a 2.85 ERA and muzzled the Cubs in the postseason. The Rockies desperately need him to bounce back after a miserable 2019 campaign.

Honorable mention:

--RHP Jon Gray: Has never been the ace the Rockies expected, but has been a decent big league starter who has the talent to continue to excel. He was edged out slightly for the fifth spot by Freeland.

-- OF David Dahl: Has made one All-Star team. If he stays healthy, he should crack the Top 5 on this list.

--3B Ian Stewart: Looked like future All-Star early in his career. But slumps, injuries and lacking motivation prevented him from reaching his potential.

The Bottom 5 First Picks

1. RHP Matt Harrington, 7th overall, 2000
He turned down $4 million. Never signed or played for Rockies. The negotiations were a mess from start to finish. Harrington turned down money from other teams in subsequent years and never panned out.

2. RHP Mark Mangum, 18th overall, 1997
A miss, pure and simple. Flamed out in Double-A.

3. RHP Greg Reynolds, 2nd overall, 2006
Reached majors with the Rockies, but will always be remembered for injuries and the team selecting him instead of third baseman Evan Longoria, who was their pick until hours before draft. Reynolds is pursuing a career as a firefighter in Northern California.

4. RHP Casey Weathers , eighth overall, 2007
A reliever with eighth overall pick? A reach made worse by Weathers failing to develop. The righty never came close to reaching the majors.

5. OF Kyle Parker, 26th overall, 2010
Former Clemson QB failed to live up to the hype. Big-league career fizzled after 132 career at-bats.

Honorable mentions:

--RHP Matt Roney: No big league time with the Rockies. Taken in Rule 5 draft by Pirates.

--LHP Tyler Matzek: Had star talent. Was on way before he got the yips. Is trying to make comeback with Braves. Would be a great story if returns to the majors.

--RHP Riley Pint: Has time to execute a U-turn, but the challenge is real when acknowledging his 124 walks. His fastball was once clocked at 100 miles per hour, however, Pint owns a 3-20 record in the minors with a 5.71 ERA in 156 low-level innings.