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Woody Paige: Colorado Rockies have assembled a team to contend in present, future

March 6, 2018 Updated: March 7, 2018 at 6:37 am
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Colorado Rockies' Charlie Blackmon swings against the Arizona Diamondbacks during a spring training baseball game on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Scottsdale, Ariz. - Memo to Rockies manager Bud Black: If you really want to make co-owner Richard Monfort ecstatic this spring, start this lineup in a Cactus League game:

1. Raimel Tapia, RF

2. Brendan Rodgers, 2B

3. Charlie Blackmon, CF

4. Nolan Arenado, 3B

5. Trevor Story, SS

6. David Dahl, LF

7. Ryan McMahon, 1B

8. Jordan Patterson, DH

9. Tom Murphy, C

The starting pitcher should be Jon Gray, followed by Kyle Freeland, Tyler Anderson, Chad Bettis and Antonio Senzatela.

The Rockies' bench that day could include utilityman Pat Valaika, infielder Garrett Hampson, outfielder Sam Hilliard and catcher Chris Iannetta. And the extra pitchers would be Scott Oberg and Ryan Castellani.

Monfort could sit behind the first base dugout, buy himself a cotton candy and beam broadly.

In the owner's mind, that specific spring squad would be an emblazoned endorsement of his franchise's "draft-and-develop'' philosophy.

All 20 players are Home Grown Rox. Eighteen were drafted by the Rockies, and the other two were signed by the club as international free agents when they were teenagers.

Mostly unnoticed by the players, the manager, the coaches and the media hangers-on, Dick strolled to a back lot behind the Rox spring headquarters the other day and watched the "fishing contest'' devised by a couple of veteran pitchers. Players competed for cash by casting their lines at an array of stationary targets. Charlie Blackmon arrived in a complete fly-fishing outfit - waders, net and his own gear.

Monfort was enjoying the event, and spring training more so.

"It's fun to come down from Colorado to camp and see that most of these players out here are ours. This always has been our goal.''

The 59-year-old Monfort generally maintains a low public profile, but drifted further back in the shadows after he was reprimanded by the baseball commissioner four years ago for foot-in-mouth email responses to a couple of fans. He stated to one: "If you don't like the product and experience, don't come'' to the games. In the other he sarcastically suggested that "maybe Denver doesn't deserve a franchise, maybe time to find a new home.''

He was as frustrated as the fans were in 2014.

Finally, though, for the first time since taking over as chief executive officer of the Rockies from his brother Charlie in 2011, Dick could laugh last in 2017. The Rox made the postseason, albeit for only one game.

I've always liked Dick, even when our email exchanges were feisty, and we've had an adversarial relationship that ran hot and cold as journalist and owner.

But he was cordial as usual when we had a casual conversation last week. Then, he said: "You guys (in the media) wanted us to trade our great young prospects for veterans.''

He was basically exclaiming: "Hey, look at us now.''

OK.

Truth is, a slight majority of the players in camp at Talking Stick - 29 of the 57 - were drafted by the Rockies; six were international free agents signed by the Rox; nine players were obtained in trades, and 13 were veteran free agents who have signed with the Rockies.

It's highly likely that the opening-day 25-man roster could be made up of 15-16 players who were Rockies organization originals.

That achievement is remarkable for a franchise that in the past would have 16-18 players on the roster that came to Colorado from other organizations.

The big-league team could be comprised of five first-round Rox draft picks (Gray, Dahl, Story, Freeland and Anderson), four second-round selections (Arenado, Bettis, Blackmon and McMahon) and two third-round choices (catchers Iannetta and Murphy).

Add an eighth-rounder (Tapia), a ninth-rounder (Valaika) and Senzatela.

Rodgers (first) and Castellani (second) likely will be with the Rockies before the season is over.

And more top three draft choices are on the way in the next three years.

Yet, the Rockies will be top heavy in the bullpen with five or six veterans signed as free agents or acquired in deals - and still have to depend on high-ticket free agents scattered about.

Why is this man Monfort smiling?

Because his handpicked general manager, Jeff Bridich, has assembled a real team for the present that probably will vie for another wild-card berth - and a team for the future that finally may finish first in the National League West.

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