DENVER — For one day, everyone could sit back and relax.
The Rockies’ draft picks could take a sigh of relief, knowing they had signed their professional contracts and that the stress of the draft was over. The scouts and executives could take it easy, content with the months of work they put in to select their future stars.
“It’s so satisfying,” senior director of scouting Marc Gustafson said. “Today and when they get to the big leagues are my favorite days. You get to bring new guys into the system and then hopefully they develop.”
On Thursday, the real work will begin. By Wednesday afternoon, the Rockies had signed 20 of their 21 draft picks, and all will report to Arizona on Thursday to begin training and competing in the Arizona Complex League. They are still waiting on 19th-round pick Elijah Trest, who is deciding whether to finish his senior year at Arkansas or go professional. The Rockies also signed free agent pitcher Luke Taggart from Oklahoma.
Because of the realignment in the minor leagues this year, this is the first time players will report to Salt River, as opposed to former rookie league affiliate Grand Junction. After two weeks, some players, likely position ones, will be promoted to low-A Fresno.
At the top of the class is Benny Montgomery, the No. 8 overall pick, who signed for a $5 million bonus. The Rockies passed over Vanderbilt pitcher Kumar Rocker in the first round, aiming to save money to select LSU hurler Jaden Hill in the second round, who they signed for a $1,689,500 bonus, the full value for the slot. Supplemental second-round pick Joe Rock inked his deal for a $953,100 bonus.
Montgomery is a power hitter who has almost unheard of speed for his 6-foot-4, and still growing, frame. The Rockies envision a future outfield with Montgomery, Zac Veen — their 2020 top pick — and Brenton Doyle.
Hill is three months removed from Tommy John surgery, and has not reached the strengthening phase yet, which is the step before throwing. The Rockies had access to his medical records before the draft, and trusted that he would return to the same form he showed before the injury.
“There is some risk, because he had surgery,” Gustafson said. “But at the end of the day it’s a very good decision in our mind.”
Hill will meet with the Rockies medical staff in Arizona, and make a plan for his recovery. They were especially attracted to his athletic ability. Before the injury, Hill was projected as a potential top pick.
“Things happen for a reason,” Hill said. “I learned a lot from it and I think I’ll be better for it.”
Rock, meanwhile, salvaged his standings after a challenging freshman year, where the pressure of being the Friday night starter for Ohio University got to him. He throws a fastball, slider, change-up mix, and had a 2.33 ERA last season for the Bobcats.
“I love it here,” Rock said. “It was cool to see my name called and I can’t wait to get to work.”