Rockies manager Bud Black twice skipped a chance to play professional baseball to stay a student. His third chance at the Major League Baseball draft worked out just fine, but not without torment.
“The first couple hours, not too much anguish,” Black said of waiting to be drafted in 1979. “Then we were in the 10th and 11th rounds and I was like, ‘Really? I thought I was better.’ And then I said, ‘Whatever.’ ”
Black was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 17th round and received a $1,000 signing bonus. He used that money to buy enough gas to drive from Southern California to Bellingham, Wash.
The Rockies won’t have to wait until the 17th round Monday to pick a player. But they will have to wait. Their selection at No. 48 will be the lowest first pick in their 25-year history. Last year, the Rockies had three picks in the top 50. They drafted within the top five each of the past five years.
This year, Colorado has three picks among the first 100 and just two on the draft’s first day — No. 48 and No. 70, both in the second round. They also have the No. 86 pick. The three-day draft starts with the first two rounds Monday and runs through Wednesday.
Black was pick No. 417, a value pick if ever there was one. His 15-year career as a big-league pitcher ended with a 21.1 WAR (wins above replacement). Orel Hershiser went 23 picks later to the Los Angeles Dodgers and pitched 18 years for a 56.8 WAR.
The Rockies have to hope for similar fortuity. By signing free agent Ian Desmond away from the Texas Rangers, for five years and $70 million, Colorado had to forfeit the 11th pick as compensation (given to Texas at the back of the first round).
In the 15 years before Jeff Bridich became their general manager in 2014, the Rockies used 22 first-round picks on 13 pitchers and eight of them never pitched in the majors for the Rockies. Since then, one first-round pitcher already is contributing: left-hander Kyle Freeland (the 2014 pick at No. 8).
But the Rockies’ first pick this year will be their lowest since they drafted shortstop Jayson Nix at No. 44 in 2001.
But even the No. 1 pick seems in the wind. California’s Hunter Greene would be a rare pick at No. 1 as a high school right-hander, perhaps enough to scare away the Minnesota Twins. Vanderbilt right-hander Kyle Wright and Louisville’s Brendan McKay, a pitcher turned first baseman, might jump up instead.
Regis Jesuit pitcher Caleb Sloan, a 6-foot-3 right-hander, might be the top prospect in Colorado. But his draft position is complicated by a firm commitment to Big 12 power Texas Christian.