DENVER -- The Rockies decided Monday that a right-handed power hitter is too rare and special to pass up, even if he can throw a football the way Clemson's Kyle Parker can.
The Rockies grabbed Parker, the Atlantic Coast Conference leader in home runs with 20, with the 26th overall choice in the first round of the First-Year Player Draft. Parker celebrated his selection by socking a three-run homer Monday night as Clemson beat Auburn, 6-3, in the Auburn Regional to advance to an NCAA Super Regional.
Parker, 20, also was the freshman All-ACC quarterback, having passed for 2,526 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2009, and has been projected as a high choice in the NFL draft down the line. But Rockies vice president of scouting Bill Schmidt said the team has received indication that Parker is willing to sign.
"We thought he was our best guy, no doubt, and we believe as a group he wants to start is professional career," Schmidt said. "He has a little leverage. He has three years more of football, but we believe that he'd like to get out and play."
The Rockies also selected high school right-handed pitcher Pete Tago of Dana Hills High School in Dana Point, Calif., with the 47th overall choice. Tago, 18, was chosen with the pick the Rockies received after losing pitcher Jason Marquis to the Nationals via free agency.
The selection of Parker marks the first time the Rockies have taken an outfielder with their initial selection since they began drafting in 1992, and the list of right-handed power hitters the Rockies have grabbed in the first round begins and ends with shortstop Troy Tulowitzki in 2005.
Those factors, and what Schmidt refers to as "intangibles ... makeup, character," led the Rockies to go after Parker even though many teams might have been hesitant because of the football factor.
"We've struggled to find right-handed bats that we think can hit can hit and hit with power, and we like the potential for that with this guy," Schmidt said.
The Rockies also upheld a tradition of selecting baseball stars who also happen to be college football quarterbacks. But unlike first baseman Todd Helton of Tennessee and outfielder Seth Smith of Ole Miss, Parker is considered an NFL prospect at his position. Helton ended up a backup to Peyton Manning and Smith backed up Eli Manning, and saw action for one play as a receiver.
Parker was a freshman in football but a junior in baseball. He graduated high school a semester early in 2008 to enroll at Clemson, and was the starting third baseman and No. 3 hitter. His .303 batting average, 12 home runs and 50 RBIs earned him freshman All-America honors from Baseball America. Parker's average dropped to .255, with 12 homers and 52 RBIs, as a sophomore.
"This year he played right field, the first baseman got hurt and they put him at first, so there's some versatility," Schmidt said. "He's shown the ability to move around on the field at the corners."
With a football future seemingly bright, the pick could be seen as risky, but in recent years the Rockies have made informed decisions with picks that were seen as risks.
In 2008, several teams didn't pull the trigger on Eastern Kentucky left-handed pitcher Christian Friedrich, but the Rockies took him 25th overall and were able to sign him.
Last year at No. 11 overall, the Rockies didn't shy away from left-handed high school standout Tyler Matzek of Capistrano Valley (Calif.) High School. Although Matzek had committed to the University of Oregon and told he could continue hitting, the Rockies signed him.
In 2004, teams stayed away from outfielder Dexter Fowler of Milton High School in Alpharetta, Ga., who had committed to the University of Miami, and he lasted until the Rockies grabbed him in the 14th round.
The selection of Parker also marks the first time the Rockies had ever made an outfielder their initial Draft choice. After selecting Matzek last year, they did pick outfielder Tim Wheeler out of Sacramento State as a compensation choice.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.