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Rockies grab power early, arms late
06/08/2004  8:34 PM ET
In the final analysis, the Colorado Rockies ended up with more pitchers (29) than position players (21) in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft.


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But as they say, first comes first. Before selecting even their first pitcher, the Rockies' top two picks symbolized what they wanted -- raw, strong hitters.

Pitchers can be found later in the draft. Prospects with solid, even advanced, fundamentals also can be found through meticulous scouting. But by picking high school shortstop Chris Nelson in the first round and muscular Ole Miss outfielder Seth Smith in the second, Colorado demonstrated a desire for offensive players with strong swings. Other skills can be developed.

The draft will be applauded by Rockies fans.

Colorado plays at Coors Field, where runs are scored and home runs are hit at a higher rate than any park in the history of the game. Yet first baseman Todd Helton is the only player developed by the system who has ever been considered a run-producing threat. A few players with skills such as speed (Quinton McCracken, Juan Pierre, Chone Figgins) and baseball skills (Craig Counsell, Josh Bard, Jody Gerut) have come through. But big bats other than Helton were practically non-existent until recent drafts, and are only beginning to be seen.

Like last year when the Rockies went after third baseman Ian Stewart from Garden Grove, Calif. -- and have watched him put up strong power numbers since -- scouting director Bill Schmidt's mind was on offense and not much else.

"If you are going to get a high school shortstop, he has to be an offensive player," Schmidt said. "Otherwise you can go get those guys in the Dominican or [get] a college player."

Smith played football and baseball at Ole Miss, and figures to transfer his football strength to home run power once he concentrates on baseball.

The first pitcher chosen, Auburn right-hander Steven Register, also had philosophical implications. A team which is often dependent on its bullpen because it is tough to find starters to consistently pitch a high number of innings, the Rockies made their first pitcher a reliever.

Register, however, showed he could pitch at length. He moved into the starting rotation late in the season and finished 7-0 with a 4.02 ERA with 52 strikeouts in 56 innings. Register's 25 career saves placed him second in school history and tied for sixth in the history of the Southeastern Conference.

Of the 29 pitchers the Rockies took, 18 were right-handers.

Colorado reached into its backyard to take Broomfield High School second baseman Colt Sedbrook in the 42nd round.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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