The Dust Devils have their first batch of 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft picks in Pasco working out with the rest of the initial squad, which was released last week. Now that we know some of the rookies that will for sure be donning the blue and gold of the Dust Devils during the summer, let’s take a deeper look into their college careers.
The highest of the Rockies’ draft picks that has signed and made it into Pasco is Virginia Tech shortstop Timothy Smalling. Smalling was taken in the 15th round, 468th overall, by Colorado and was the third shortstop they selected in the draft. The 6-foot-3 and 207 pound 23-year-old was drafted in the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft as well by the Washington Nationals.
The Clifton, New Jersey, native originally went to University of Arkansas but transferred after two seasons. His statistics improved after his transfer where he batted .331 in 105 starts for the Hokies in 2010 and 2011. He ended his collegiate career at Virginia Tech with 16 home runs, 79 runs batted in, 90 runs scored and an on-base percentage of .388.
In the 17th round with the 528th pick overall the Rockies took right-hander William Rankin out of Southern Polytechnic State in Marietta, Georgia. At 6-foot and 192 pounds Rankin dominated for SPSU. In 14 games he had a stellar 1.94 earned run average with a 9-2 record in 83.2 total innings pitched.
In the following round with the 558th pick Colorado drafted righty pitcher Ben Alsup out of Louisiana State. As a regular member of the LSU rotation Alsup went 6-5 last season in 12 starts. In his 65.2 total innings pitched he had an earned run average of 4.66 with a .278 batting average against. Alsup was the first of the Rockies’ draft picks to sign and join the Dust Devils this season.
A few rounds later, in the 21st, the Rockies picked big first base bat Jordan Ribera out of Fresno State. At 5-foot-11 and 230 pounds, Ribera offers a lot of potential power at a traditionally powerful position. In 2010 he led the nation in home runs with 27 while hitting .343 with a team-high 20 doubles and 69 runs batted in. But, with the new bat rule introduced into college baseball in 2011, Ribera’s numbers slumped. In 56 games last season he batted just .240 with eight home runs and 45 runs batted in. The Rockies, and Dust Devils, are hoping that the Ribera that torched the WAC in 2010 and led the NCAA in home runs will arrive in Pasco this summer.
Adding a tinge of “local” flavor to the Tri-City roster will be right-handed pitcher Chris Dennis. Dennis attended the University of Portland after growing up in Bothell, Wash., about three hours from Pasco. Taken in the 34th round, Dennis led the Pilots relievers in appearances with 28 last season and had an earned run average of 2.29. Going 3-2, Dennis recorded a team-high 10 saves in 39.1 innings and had a solid .173 batting average against.
The latest pick to join the Dust Devils thus far is catcher Richard Pirkle, who was taken in the 35th round, 1068th Overall. Pirkle played at Georgia College and State in the Division-2 Peach Belt Conference. There he provided the power in the Bobcats lineup, hitting a team-high 12 home runs in his 52 starts. He also batted .301 with 37 runs batted in and drew a team-high 45 walks. Pirkle also showed his versatility, stealing 13 bases and having a .985 fielding percentage.