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Pitching the prize in upcoming Draft

Rox eye arms in upcoming Draft

DENVER -- Two years ago, the Rockies' Draft-based approach was lauded. But that same homegrown team faltered to 74-88 last year and started this season poorly, which has put everything about the operation into question.

But Rockies scouting director Bill Schmidt doesn't have questions when he examines what the club has accomplished.

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"We believe in what we've done," Schmidt said. "People didn't think we were very good before [2007]. What I mean is a lot of our guys have never been really highly touted guys. But I think we've shown a pretty good track record of getting guys to the big leagues."

The pace has slowed a bit from a few years ago, when Jeff Francis was selected in 2002 and in the Majors to stay by late '04, and Troy Tulowitzki was taken in '05 and jumped to the Majors in '06.

Righty Greg Reynolds, the Rockies' top pick in 2006, arrived in '08, but injuries and inconsistency have set him back. He is the only player from the past three Drafts to make an appearance.

But the philosophy doesn't change.

The Rockies tend to stock up on pitching, although they've had more success developing those who have had collegiate experience. Righty Aaron Cook (second round, 1997) is the only pitcher selected by the club out of high school on the team's 40-man roster. The Rockies have been more successful signing teenagers from Latin America, where they have collected many arms, including current Colorado pitchers Ubaldo Jimenez, Manuel Corpas and Franklin Morales.

That could point to a college pitcher being chosen when the Rockies pick 11th overall.

MLB.com will offer live coverage and analysis of the entire First-Year Player Draft on June 9-11. MLB Network will broadcast the first round at 4 p.m. MT on June 9 from its Studio 42 in Secaucus, N.J., and those 32 selections also will be simulcast live on MLB.com.

Beginning with the 33rd pick, up-to-the-minute on-air coverage from the remaining rounds will shift exclusively to MLB.com, where host Vinny Micucci will be joined by MLB.com Draft expert Jonathan Mayo and Major League Scouting Bureau director Frank Marcos.

Once the first night is done, the Draft will continue with rounds 4-30, via conference call from MLB headquarters in New York, at noon on June 10. Rounds 31-50 will be on June 11, starting at 9:30 a.m.

Here's a glance at what the Reds have in store as the First-Year Player Draft approaches:

In about 50 words
The Rockies, long a model of stability, replaced their manager Friday, and the future direction of the Major League operation is uncertain. But with owners who insist on not spending now and hoping to make it later, the Rockies will always see the Draft as the basis for roster building.

The scoop
Schmidt sees a clear difference between this year's Draft and last year's.

"There's some college pitching and some high school pitching, but the really top-flight college bats are what's lacking this year," Schmidt said. "If there is a 40-home run guy or someone who develops that kind of power, I'd be surprised."

First-round buzz
Mayo projects the Rockies' top pick will be Missouri righty Kyle Gibson, but mentions North Carolina righty Alex White as a possibility. Arizona State righty Mike Leake is intriguing. If you're pie-in-the-sky wishing, a good one to wish for would be North Carolina first baseman-outfielder Dustin Ackley, who shouldn't fall out of the top five but could if there is a run on pitchers. He is considered a good hitter, but not a feared hitter.

Shopping list
The Rockies have been responsive to their deficiencies. The current roster lacks speed outside of center fielder Dexter Fowler, and infielder Eric Young Jr. is close. The Rockies need what everyone needs -- pitching and power. Schmidt said it's an outgrowth of the "best player available philosophy."

Trend watch
The Rockies' history says they're heavy on college players, but they have received contribution from high schoolers Ian Stewart and Fowler this year. Young, an infielder, played one year of junior college before signing (back when that was allowed), and can be counted as well.

Recent top picks
The club took a low-pressure route with 2008 top pick Christian Friedrich, a lefty out of Eastern Kentucky. He started this year with low-Class A Asheville, but earned a promotion to Modesto by posting a 2.18 ERA in his first eight starts. The '07 No. 1, Casey Weathers, a righty reliever out of Vanderbilt, suffered an elbow injury in the Arizona Fall League that required surgery, and he is rehabbing. The team's top pick from '06, Greg Reynolds, a righty out of Stanford, has had his season marred by discomfort in his upper back near his throwing shoulder. He recently received an anti-inflammatory shot.

Rising fast
Left-handed-hitting outfielder Charlie Blackmon, a 2008 second-rounder out of Georgia Tech, entered this week hitting .304 with two home runs, 23 RBIs, eight doubles and four triples at Modesto.

Cinderella story
For all the coverage and excitement about the Draft, the best stories are about the player who never hears his name called. For the Rockies, it's right-hander Matt Daley, who signed in 2003.

When the Rockies needed a reliever, they called up Daley from Triple-A Colorado Springs. He went 0-1 with 4.19 ERA in eight appearances before stepping on a bat while backing up home plate and suffering a sprained left foot. When he returns from the disabled list, he'll have chances. Remember, the Rockies have had good results from an undrafted righty before -- Steve Reed, who helped the 1995 club to the World Series and returned to the club later in his career to help a young bullpen.

In The Show
Reynolds' injury means no one from any of the past three Drafts is on the roster.

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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{"content":["first-year_player_draft" ] }
{"content":["first-year_player_draft" ] }