With less than a week until the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft, the mock draft blogs are hot with their predictions on who they think will go where and when. With much of the Dust Devils’ roster filled with draftees taken during the three day, 50-round adventure, who the Rockies decide to take will largely decide what type of team the 2011 Dust Devils end up being. Here’s a brief look at a few of the projected first-round (20th overall) picks of the Colorado Rockies.
Levi Michael – SS: Michael, a shortstop playing at the University of North Carolina, jumped into the first-round pick debate after a very impressive sophomore season in 2010. He has then followed it up in 2011 well by batting .313 in 57 starts. He also drew 46 walks compared to striking out just 37 times while leading the team in on-base percentage at .459. Reports are saying that if the Rockies’ take Michael, it will be to groom him as a second baseman and potential future partner for franchise shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.
Matt Barnes – RHP: A righty from the University of Connecticut, Barnes has put together a spectacular 2011 campaign. Going 11-3 in 15 starts, Barnes threw three complete games and recorded a microscopic 1.12 earned run average. The 6-foot-4-inch starter threw for over 100 innings last season, striking out 105 while walking 28. You can never have enough good pitching and grabbing a guy like Barnes could give the team a solid future Major League starter.
Kolten Wong – 2B: Not related to former Dust Devil second baseman Joey Wong, Kolten hails from the University of Hawaii where he has torn apart the rest of the Western Athletic Conference pitching staffs. Wong batted .378, fourth highest in the WAC, in 57 starts this season. While only striking out 20 times on the year, Wong earned a .492 on-base percentage and stole 23 bases in 30 attempts. Similar to UNC shortstop Levi Michael, picking Wong in the first-round would likely signal the Rockies looking for a middle-infield partner to Tulowitzki for the future.
Alex Meyer – RHP: Standing tall at 6-foot-9-inches, Meyer is a big right hander with great velocity and an above-average breaking ball, according to various scouts. He was drafted with the 20th overall pick, the same pick the Rockies own this season, in the 2008 MLB draft by the Boston Red Sox, but decided to go to Kentucky instead. Last season with the Wildcats Meyer went 7-5 with a 2.94 earned run average in 14 starts.
Since the Dust Devils have been the single-season short “A” affiliate of the Rockies, a handful of first-round picks have made their way to the Columbia Basin.
MLB veteran lefty starting pitcher Jeff Francis made an impressive stop in Tri-City in 2002, not allowing a run in his four appearances. Other, more recent, first-round picks to feature for the Dust Devils’ include pitchers Rex Brothers (2009) and Christian Friedrich (2008). Both have gone on to more success and are the seventh and third rated prospects in the Rockies’ organization, respectively, according to MLB.com. Lastly, former Dust Devil outfielder Tim Wheeler (2009), who was the 32nd pick of the ’09 draft, played his first professional season in the Tri-Cities. He is now playing for the Rockies’ “AA” affiliate in Tulsa, where he is second on the team in batting with a .337 batting average.
You can catch the first round of the MLB First-Year Player Draft on Monday June 6th at 4 p.m. PT on MLB.com, with rounds 2-30 on June 7th and rounds 31-50 on June 8th. You can also follow the Dust Devils’ website, facebook and twitter accounts for all the latest team related MLB Draft information.