The draft. The infusion of new blood into a team is the foundation of building a successful franchise. For the NBA, NHL, and NFL, respectively, help can be achieved through the draft almost instantly. Gabriel Landeskog of the Colorado Avalanche and Von Miller of the Denver Broncos both massively improved their teams just months after hearing their names called at the podium.
Baseball, on the other hand, rarely sees a draftee make an immediate impact. The vast majority of prospects require plenty of seasoning in college and the minor leagues before a spot in the big leagues is a remote possibility. Some players may spend the better half of a decade trying to reach the limelight of the show. So while the newest Colorado Rockies are still donning their freshly stitched purple-pinstriped uniforms, let’s take a stab at their pro potential. After all, this is what makes the draft fun.
Dahl was Colorado’s top selection, checking in as the 10th overall pick of the 2012 MLB Draft. His high standing did not surprise scouts, who see the Alabama high schooler as one of the top outfielders in this class. Dahl is a well-rounded prospect and is remarkably athletic. He has solid speed and can fire the ball in the mid-90s from the outfield. Offensively, Dahl possesses power and the ability to hit for average. We are all well aware of Colorado’s deficiencies in the scouting department, but this selection was lauded by several baseball analysts. Some draft experts claim the only Rox prospect above Dahl is the heralded Nolan Arenado.
Dahl originally committed to play college ball at Auburn, but the Rockies lured him to the farm system thanks to a hefty $2.6 million contract. With such money invested, Colorado will obviously want to carefully groom him without rushing the outfielder into an overwhelming situation. Expect to see Dahl start in the Rookie League within weeks and quickly climb up the ladder.
Big Leagues ETA: Opening Day 2015
I know what you’re thinking… any pitcher drafted by the Rockies should be disregarded like a new Lindsay Lohan flick, and the supposed flaws in Butler’s game only fuel the skepticism. Eddie Butler was lights out while playing for Radford and finished the season as the co-pitcher of the year for his conference. The 21-year-old brings some serious heat with his 97 mph fastball and displays an intense, businesslike demeanor on the mound. Power pitchers of his stature are almost nonexistent in the current Rockies club.
However, Colorado’s second overall selection has a very thin frame at 6’2, 165 lbs, that worries scouts and his secondary pitches are average at best. Many are unconvinced he is durable enough to last in a starting rotation, even though he registered three complete games in 14 starts as a junior. On the plus side, Butler is out of college and will immediately jump into Colorado’s farm system. The lanky flamethrower certainly fits the profile of a high risk, high reward prospect. We’ll be able to have a better idea of his potential in the near future.
Big Leagues ETA: 2016 Summer
White is made from the same mold as fellow draftee David Dahl. He dominated high school ball in Florida and his letter of intent was courted by every SEC school. White was sold on joining the Florida Gators, but now plans on signing with the Rockies instead. He brings tremendous speed and an excellent bat to the table. In fact, he swiped 34 bases on 37 attempts his senior season while posting a .416 average. He also has an undying love for the game. White toiled with pitching in high school before cementing his future as an outfielder, just because he wants to be a part of every game.
The athleticism of White and Dahl undeniably spur thoughts of Colorado’s current OF tandem of Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler. The thought of both eventually prowling the sprawling grass at Coors Field may seem far-fetched, but each appears to have a respective bright young career ahead of them. They may very well be teammates on several different levels, and may present a Drew Pomeranz/ Alex White type dilemma, as to where one will be called up to the majors when the other falters. Either way, the Rockies outfield prospect depth has certainly been addressed.
Big Leagues ETA: Summer 2015
The Rockies apparently believed girth was needed on the mound. Warner is a behemoth, standing at 6’7, 195 lbs, and played high school baseball just down the road at Pine Creek. The senior dominated play in the state and claimed Gatorade’s Colorado Player of the Year honors, striking out roughly 12 batters per seven innings while hitting around .500. The Rockies pried him away from NC State just days after the draft.
Warner’s body is far from MLB ready and his skill, while noteworthy, is very raw. It can be argued he was light years ahead of any other high schooler in Colorado based on his talent alone. Despite the gaudy numbers, Warner is viewed by scouts as a long term project. His body is not fully developed and he needs to add some power to his pitches, which are currently clocking in around 90 mph. Warner can certainly improve in all areas, but it is going to take several years and some serious commitment. And based on how the Rockies have groomed pitching prospects, Warner finds himself in a difficult spot. He may very well fall into Colorado’s endless rap sheet of draft day failures.
Major Leagues ETA: None
Willoughby entered his college ball days as a shortstop, and was taken aback when coaches asked him to try his hand at pitching. Three years later, Willoughby sits in Xavier’s record books as the all-time saves leader. His rapid ascension up the prospect list has to be enticing for the Rockies, who spent a fourth-round pick on the righty. He claims to have a slew of weapons, including a slider, cutter, and changeup to compliment his 95 mph fastball.
The native of Columbus, Ohio, has a clouded future due to his quick learning curve, and is likely still discovering his true ability on the mound. Stepping into semi-pro ball will surely inflict some culture shock on Willoughby, who is just weeks away from his 22nd birthday. But if the youngster can corral his emotions and continue to progress, the Rockies may have found a future staple to the bullpen. Call it a gut feeling, but I’m going with the latter.
Major Leagues ETA: Summer 2014
Murphy’s game is all about power. He was the Mid-American Conference Player of the Year in 2011 and drove in just under one run per game in 2012. He passed on the draft last season to work on his defensive skills, resulting in moderate improvement. He has a good arm and gunned down over 42 percent of base stealers, but is still refining his all around play. Some scouts claim Murphy will struggle to hit for average at the higher levels, but the pop in his bat sets him apart from other players.
Murphy’s offensive game bears similarities to Wilin Rosario, Colorado’s current young gun catcher. Rosario, at this point in time, is obviously a more finished product. Murphy contains some definite potential, but appears to be a long-term project. Some serious strides will need to be made before Murphy can be considered a legitimate pro-level prospect.
Big Leagues ETA: None