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KLEE: Another pitcher? Please, Rockies, take the sure thing - Kris Bryant

By: Paul Klee
June 5, 2013 Updated: June 5, 2013 at 5:50 pm

DENVER - This is a baseball story that will sound like a fairy tale. It is the narrative of a prodigy who thumps a baseball so far estimates on the distance are still unclear.

It happened March 9, just a few months ago. It happened during a night game, of course, and a tower of lighting was involved. Roy Hobbs, don't be jealous.

Kris Bryant, the generational slugger at the University of San Diego, unloaded on a pitch. The skyrocket home run soared over the 80-foot light tower in right field. How far did the baseball travel? At least 500 feet, the school says. At least.

This is the prospect the Rockies should select with the No. 3 pick in the Major League Baseball draft that begins Thursday. If Bryant is available - and most indications suggest he will be - the 6-foot-5, 215-pound 21-year-old should be their choice.

"Longtime scouts who have seen him a lot say Kris Bryant is the kind of bat that comes around every 15-20 years," Baseball America national writer Aaron Fitt said Wednesday.

What about pitching, you say?

What about pitching?

When the Rockies reach for an arm in the first round of the draft, they usually strike out. Not always, but mostly. Their recent first rounds are a mash-up of hard-throwing busts and shaky career starts.

Since the Rockies drafted Todd Helton at No. 8 overall in 1995 - a landmark draft choice, really - the club has used a first-round pick on 15 pitchers. Jason Jennings (No. 16 overall in 1999) and Jeff Francis (No. 9, 2002) were the good ones. If you want to go the supplemental route, Rex Brothers (a supplemental first-rounder in 2009) looks like one, too.

A handful of the others are TBD, hopefully developing through Colorado's farm system.

Christian Friedrich (No. 25 overall in 2008) is with Triple-A Colorado Springs and Tyler Matzek (No. 11, 2009) is with Double-A Tulsa, for example. Peter Tago (No. 47, 2010) is in extended spring training.

A few others - notably Greg Reynolds (No. 2 overall in 2006) and Casey Weathers (No. 8 in 2007) - fizzled out and no longer are in the organization.

When Colorado drafts pitching early, it usually fizzles out. That is fact. It's been true with both ends of the spectrum: prospects viewed at the time as a steal (Matzek) or as a reach (Reynolds).

What was it that Albert Einstein said about the definition of insanity? It is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

With Francis on a rehab stint with the Sky Sox, Einstein and the Rockies have the same number of first-round draft picks in their starting rotations: zero. But only one of them has drafted a pitcher in the first round 18 times.

I can think of three ways to explain these failures: poor scouting, poor development or just old-fashioned bad luck.

In fairness, the latter is a major factor. Even more so than the NBA or NFL drafts, the MLB draft should be considered a crapshoot. It is 40 rounds of choosing straws.

"This is all an educated guess," one MLB scout not associated with the Rockies told me Wednesday. "Let's be honest. We're predicting people here. You can't predict people."

Those are all reasons to dream a baseball dream: Bryant falls to the Rockies at No. 3 - and the Rockies are smart enough to take him.

Stanford's Mark Appel and Oklahoma's Jonathan Gray - a pair of right-handers - are projected to go 1-2. If that holds, Bryant would be available at No. 3.

Bryant needed only 62 games to smash 31 home runs, tops in the NCAA. He also hit .329, scored 80 runs and won the Louisville Slugger national Player of the Year award.

Rich Hill, his coach at San Diego, likes to say Bryant is the kind of guy you want your daughter to marry.

I like to say Bryant is the kind of guy you want to succeed Helton at first base.

"If you break it down tool-for-tool," Fitt said, "Kris Bryant is not that different than Bryce Harper."

I could try to sound smart and convicted by saying the Rockies MUST TAKE Bryant with their first pick. I don't know if that's true; no one does. The draft is a glorified raffle.

But given their history with pitchers, the big man with the big bat is the wise choice. If he's there at No. 3, the Rockies should take the sure thing: Bryant.

Enough with the fairy tales already.


Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

Feeling a draft

That cold streak at Coors Field can be traced to the MLB draft. Since Todd Helton became the face of the franchise with the No. 8 overall pick in 1995, here are the Rockies first-round picks- and where they are now:

2012 David Dahl OF - A Asheville

2011 Tyler Anderson LHP - High-A Modesto

2010 Kyle Parker 1B - Double-A Tulsa

2010 Peter Tago RHP - Extended spring training

2009 Tim Wheeler OF - Triple-A Colorado Springs

2009 Tyler Matzek LHP - Double-A Tulsa

2008 Christian Friedrich LHP - Triple-A Colorado Springs

2007 Casey Weathers RHP - Cubs

2006 Greg Reynolds RHP - Reds

2005 Troy Tulowitzki SS - Rockies

2004 Chris Nelson SS - Yankees

2003 Ian Stewart 3B - Cubs

2002 Jeff Francis LHP - Rockies

2000 Matt Harrington RHP - Retired

1999 Jason Jennings RHP - Retired

1998 Matt Roney RHP - Free agent

1997 Mark Mangum RHP - Retired

1996 Jake Westbrook RHP - Cardinals

1995 Todd Helton 1B - Rockies

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