Thursday Rockpile: Occam’s Razor and the Colorado Rockies in the 2024 draft.

Florida State v Wake Forest
Photo by Isaiah Vazquez/Getty Images

Colorado Rockies news and links for Thursday, July 11, 2024

We are just days away from the start of the MLB amateur draft, which could easily be the highlight of 2024 for the Colorado Rockies. On the heels of their first 100-loss season in franchise history, the Rockies sit third on the draft board this year while sticking in the running for the top pick in 2025 (but that’s a story for another day).

We’ve already spent plenty of time discussing whom Colorado could snag with their first selection and that narrative will likely carry all the way up to the choice actually being announced. Only the Cleveland Guardians and Cincinnati Reds sit before Colorado, leaving the possibilities nearly endless.

While the Guardians and Reds could throw a wrench in the gears by selecting outside of the consensus top two on the board – Travis Bazzana from Oregon State and Charlie Condon out of Georgia – the fact remains that there should be plenty of options available for Colorado considering their position. What might be most important, however, is that the Rockies could have their pick of the pitching litter.

The board this year is heavy on collegiate bats. While Bazzana or Condon could fall into the Rockies’ lap at third overall or other highly-touted bats like Florida Gators’ lefty slugger Jac Caglianone, J.J. Wetherholt from West Virginia or Texas A&M’s Braden Montgomery could all be a great choice, the fact remains that Colorado’s management has an opportunity to balance the farm system with more pitching.

It’s a tired narrative in most mock drafts that default Colorado to the best pitcher available simply because the organization lacks ability to acquire pitching elsewhere and is still trying to figure out how to unearth better production from the hill at home. You see it more often than not, and for anyone that closely follows the franchise it generally comes across as little more than a tone deaf evaluation and rationale for the selection.

But…what if that simple explanation is the correct one? The Rockies system is currently disproportionately heavy on hitting talent and acquiring another high end arm with top-of-the-rotation potential is never a bad concept for any franchise. Beyond that, the recent rash of injuries to prospects Jackson Cox, Gabriel Hughes and Jordy Vargas — among numerous others — only compounds the theory.

Sticking in this realm of thought, the discussion for top mound talent in the class comes down to two names; Chase Burns of Wake Forest and Arkansas’ Hagen Smith.

The left-handed Smith had a standout season for the Razorbacks, posting some of the most impressive performances in recent NCAA history on his way to a 17.3 K/9 in 84 IP. We’ve already profiled him once before on the site and that assessment still holds true on the doorstep of draft day.

However, nearly all outlets tab Smith as a selection in the back end of the top-10. Not only grading him well behind numerous bats on the board, but also generally behind the other arm on the list; Burns.

In recent mocks, Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, USA Today all linked Burns to the Rockies. This sentiment has previously been shared by ESPN and the mlb.com team as well. It’s not farfetched to consider all this smoke leading to a fire. And, if the link does hold true, it could be a franchise-altering selection as ESPN’s Kylie McDaniel penned in his latest mock draft:

“It may not be the consensus view, but there are scouting directors who think Burns is better than Paul Skenes was as a draft prospect; you can’t deny their pitch grades and arsenals are pretty similar,”

While Smith’s 2024 campaign jumps off the page, an easy argument can be made that Burns’ was even better. The Demon Deacons’ ace posted a strikeout-to-walk of 191/30 in an even 100 innings while holding a 2.70 ERA and 10-1 record in 16 starts.

While the native Italian’s numbers were gaudy, it is arguably secondary to the eye-catching talent he showed in game. Consistently and easily reaching back for triple-digits on his fastball, Burns has three dominant pitches ranking either “plus” or “plus-plus” on the scouting scale while also displaying control and durability with his 252 13 IP in three NCAA seasons.

Could he be on the same level Pittsburgh’s Skenes? Possibly, but that’s a lofty comparison as Skenes appears to be nothing short of a generational pitching talent that achieves elite status as soon as he reached the professional ranks in the same conversation as Stephen Strasburg, Justin Verlander and Mark Prior before him.

Hypotheticals aside, Burns is still a very highly-regarded pitching prospect that every franchise would be happy to add. For the Rockies, it could be an opportunity to once again acquire the right pitcher at the right time as he can pair with last year’s top pick and former Tennessee teammate Chase Dollander to form a future 1-2 punch to dream on.

Would it be better than Bazzana or Condon falling to the third pick? Or taking Caglianone as a future lineup cornerstone and possible two-way threat? Maybe. Or maybe not. That’s what remains to be seen. But for now, Burns to the Rockies is an easy connection to make, and sometimes that may be all that’s needed to get it right.

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Colorado Rockies rookie Aaron Schunk dazzles on the field as his dad sketches stadiums | CBS News

A fun story about Eric Schunk, Aaron Schunk’s father. Aaron recently made his major league debut against the Chicago White Sox with his family in attendance. While at Coors Field, his architect father, continued his hobby of etching the ballparks and shared the story with the 9news team.

Twice as nice: Hilliard shows off his power in 2-HR game | mlb.com

Thomas Harding highlights Sam Hilliard’s multi-homer performance in Colorado’s 6-5 win on Wednesday evening.

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On the farm

Triple-A: Albuquerque Isotopes 14, Tacoma Rainiers 12

The Isotopes were on the right side of a vintage PCL slugfest despite being out-hit 18 to 13. Elehuris Montero knocked his first Triple-A dinger of the season while Sean Bouchard and Connor Kaiser also went deep in the game. Every Albuquerque hitter except Grant Lavigne recorded a hit and Dugan Darnell delivered 1 23 scoreless innings in relief.

Double-A: Hartford Yard Goats 8, Portland Sea Dogs 2

Kyle Datres first inning grand slam highlighted Hartford’s victory. Yanquiel Fernandez and Warming Bernabel each tallied three hits with Bernabel scoring two runs and driving in another. Alec Barger got the win in a bullpen game with two scoreless innings.

High-A: Spokane Indians 5, Everett Aqua Sox 4

It was a walkoff Wednesday for the Indians as Cole Carrigg scored the winning run to cap off his multi-hit game. Carrigg also drove in two runs — the only RBI in the game for Spokane — while Kyle Karros collected three hits and Juan Guerrero two. Blake Adams allowed two runs over six innings with five strikeouts to no walks while Carson Skipper got the win with his scoreless inning in the ninth. The Aqua Sox committed three errors in the matchup, accounting for four of Spokane’s runs.

Low-A: Fresno Grizzlies 6, Lake Elsinore Storm 3

The Grizzlies completed the system sweep behind a strong bullpen performance where they allowed just one run in the final six innings. Both of Brad Cumbest’s hits went for extra-bases, including a three run homer in the fourth inning, and he drove in four of Fresno’s six runs.

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Title: Thursday Rockpile: Occam’s Razor and the Colorado Rockies in the 2024 draft.
Author: Kenneth Weber

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