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Rockies selecting from unfamiliar slot

Rockies selecting from unfamiliar slot

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DENVER -- The Rockies' scouting and player development systems had a banner year in 2007. A mostly homegrown roster made it to the World Series. Baseball America magazine named the club its organization of the year.

The flip side of that is that the Rockies must operate from the lowest position in their history, 25th, in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft in June.

But in a Draft that goes 50 rounds and is rendered inexact by the fact that most players must be developed and kept healthy, there is no need to despair over the Draft position, according to Bill Schmidt, the Rockies' scouting director since 2000.

"It's hard to say how it will play out, but we will believe we will get a good player at No. 25," Schmidt said. "You go back and look at Bobby Crosby (25th in 2001), Matt Cain (25th in 2002), Jeremy Bonderman (26th in 2001) and Noah Lowry (30th in 2001). There have been a lot of good players in that area of the Draft."

MLB.com will carry every pick of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, which takes place June 5-6 at The Milk House at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla. Day 1 coverage begins at noon MT with a simulcast of ESPN2's broadcast of the first round and compensation picks. The remaining rounds on Day 1 will be shown exclusively at MLB.com, with live analysis on site from MLB.com Draft guru Jonathan Mayo.

Several of the top amateur prospects are expected to be in attendance in Orlando for Day 1 of the Draft, and each of the 30 Major League clubs will be represented by front-office executives and baseball luminaries. Fans are welcome to attend Day 1 of the Draft, and admission to The Milk House is free with seating limited to a first-come, first-served basis.

Day 2 will get under way at 9:30 a.m. MT and continue through Round 50, if necessary. Every pick on Day 2 can be heard live at MLB.com.

Here's a glance at what the Rockies have in store as the Draft approaches:

In about 50 words
The Rockies concentrated on college players who could move quickly during the early rounds of recent Drafts, and it's paid off in a number of high picks getting to the Majors quickly. Look for them to concentrate on pitching and athletic ability, whether they go with college or high school players.

The scoop
Schmdit has avoided outlining specific strategy regarding the top pick when the Rockies have drafted early, which has been their customary position. Now he has to be ready to go in a number of different directions. The Rockies are prepared in case a player they believe will go early falls to them. If not, Schmidt said, they have a group of pitchers they like.

First-round buzz
Two high school pitching names have surfaced in industry scuttlebutt and mock Drafts -- Highland (Ill.) right-hander Jake Odorizzi and Newhall (Calif.) Hart left-hander Mike Montgomery. Another high school player getting a lot of attention is Vanderbilt signee Anthony Hewitt, a shortstop from Salisbury (Conn.) School who might be moved to other positions. Stanford catcher Jason Castro also has been mentioned.

Shopping list
The Rockies' farm system has developed a crowd of middle infielders, with former top picks Jayson Nix (2001) at Triple-A Colorado Springs after an unsuccessful big league debut; former top pick Chris Nelson (2004), Eric Young Jr. and Corey Wimberly at Double-A Tulsa; Hector Gomez at Class A Modesto and Everth Cabrera at Class A Asheville. "I think we're going to going to look to corner guys, and to getting some bats, per se, in the system," Schmidt said. "But you never know, so you've got to keep that flow of talent going."

Trend watch
Of course, it goes without saying that the Rockies need pitching. They have nothing to apologize for when it comes to a homegrown mound presence -- 13 pitchers on their 40-man roster are homegrown, although nine were non-drafted free agents (eight from Latin America). Last year, seven of the first 11 picks were pitchers. Also, just three of the top 20 picks were out of high school, which fits in with the Rockies' pattern. On the 40-man roster, just three were drafted and signed by the club out of high school (pitcher Aaron Cook in 1997 and outfielder Matt Holliday in 1998, before Schmidt arrived, and Stewart).

Recent top picks
Rockies fans haven't had to wait long to see top picks. They're all over the active roster and, in one unfortunate case, the disabled list. They are right-hander Greg Reynolds (2006), injured shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (2005), third baseman Ian Stewart (2003) and left-hander Jeff Francis (2002).

Rising fast
The going thought was that right-hander Casey Weathers, last year's top pick, would move through the system quickly. He is at Tulsa -- 1-0 with a save, a .221 batting average against and 22 strikeouts against 11 walks in 20 1/3 innings over his first 20 appearances.

Cinderella story
Left-hander Josh Newman was taken in the 19th round of the 2004 Draft, and has outperformed several higher picks. Newman debuted in the Majors last season and has been called up twice this year.

In The Show
Reynolds is in the rotation and performing as well as anyone. He might have been in the rotation at the end of last season if not for a shoulder injury that required repair. But he has been impressive early in his Major League career.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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