Rockies make immediate power play
Hard-throwing collegiate Weathers goes No. 8 overall in Draft
DENVER -- Possibly seeking bullpen help quickly, the Rockies selected Vanderbilt right-handed reliever Casey Weathers with the No. 8 overall pick in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft on Thursday.
Weathers, who began his junior college career as an outfielder before discovering he could throw hard, went 12-2 with seven saves in 31 appearances this season. Weathers struck out 75 and walked 21 for the Commodores. He was named an All-American by Collegiate Baseball/Louisville Slugger and Rivals.com.
Many scouting reports pegged Weathers, who turns 22 Sunday, as the type of pitcher that can be in the Majors quickly, possibly this summer. His fastball has been clocked at 98 mph but usually is 93-95, and his slider, which has topped out at 91, is comparable to those of many successful relievers.
Rockies scouting director Bill Schmidt was conservative, saying a guy of his ability "ideally" could be in the Majors within "a couple of years."
The Rockies concentrated mostly on collegiate players Thursday, when five rounds were completed.
They took left-handed, power-hitting outfielder Brian Rike from Louisiana Tech in the second round, 72nd overall; catcher Lars Davis from Illinois, the Big Ten Player of the Year, in the third round, 102nd overall; Atlanta-area high school left-hander Isaiah Froenberger in the fourth round, 132nd overall; and Miami (Ohio) University right-hander Connor Graham in the fifth round, 162nd overall.
Schmidt said the Rockies entered Thursday with a good idea that their man would be available in the eighth slot.
It's the 11th time since the Rockies began drafting in 1992 that they've chosen a pitcher. Two of those were at Coors Field on Thursday -- Astros right-hander Jason Jennings (1999) and Rockies lefty Jeff Francis (2002). But it's the first time they've chosen a reliever.
"We thought it was a good fit for the club going forward," Schmidt said. "Starting pitching is important, but we've also learned the bullpen is important. We get a power arm potentially in the back of the bullpen.
"There's still some work to be done."
Schmidt said internal discussions have begun regarding whether the Rockies would have him work as a starter to begin his Minor League career to get him greater experience, but that would be determined by assistant general manager Bill Geivett and player development director Marc Gustafson.
Weathers is one of two Vandy pitchers chosen in the top 10. Left-handed starter David Price went No. 1 overall to the Devil Rays. Vanderbilt won the Southeastern Conference championship this season and advanced to the finals of the NCAA Nashville Regional before being eliminated by Michigan.
|1. TB||LHP||David Price||Vanderbilt U|
|2. KC||SS||Michael Moustakas||Chatsworth HS (Calif.)|
|3. CHC||3B||Josh Vitters||Cypress HS (Calif.)|
|4. PIT||LHP||Daniel Moskos||Clemson U|
|5. BAL||C||Matthew Wieters||Georgia Tech|
|6. WSH||LHP||Ross Detwiler||Missouri St U|
|7. MIL||LF||Matthew LaPorta||U Florida|
|8. COL||RHP||Casey Weathers||Vanderbilt U|
|9. ARI||RHP||Jarrod Parker||Norwell HS|
|10. SF||LHP||Madison Bumgarner||South Caldwell HS|
In the last several days, Weathers and the Rockies began to be connected by those that follow the Draft.
"I'd been moving up [the Draft boards]," Weathers told the Tennessean newspaper in Nashville. "I tried not to look at it too much, but I had all my buddies on the team telling me I'd been projected here or there. Coach [Tim] Corbin said he'd talked to them about my character, my intangibles.
"It's very exciting for me and my family; I'm very fortunate. I'm honored that they thought that highly of me. I'll try to get there and take advantage of the opportunities I've been given."
A Rockies priority is to get players into the Minor League system quickly, and the chances are enhanced with this pick. Weathers played through his senior year in college, so he doesn't have the leverage of returning to school.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Weathers played at Sacramento City College in California before signing with Vanderbilt. He is from Elk Grove, Calif.
The Tigers selected Weathers in the 25th round last year, but he elected to return to school. He first enhanced his draft positioning last summer.
Playing in the Alaska Summer League, in which top college players use wood bats, he earned Closer of the Year honors by going 1-0 with a 0.84 ERA in 21 1/3 innings pitched for the Alaska Gold Pilots. Weathers also pitched for the Team USA squad that went 8-0 in the FISA World Championships at Havana, Cuba, in August.
The fact there was little mileage on his arm made him attractive to many teams.
"He's a fresh arm, a very athletic kid and very intelligent," Schmidt said. "He was a 3.8 student at Vanderbilt. He was the dominant college closer in college baseball this year."
Here's a look at the rest of the Rockies' top five:
Brian Rike, 21, batted .346 with 20 home runs -- one shy of the Louisiana Tech single-season record -- and 66 RBIs. His home runs and 74 runs scored led the Western Athletic Conference
Lars Davis, 21, from Grand Prairie, Alberta, Canada, hit .400 and posted a .461 on-base percentage with 13 home runs and 56 RBIs as a junior for Illinois this past season.
Isaiah Froneberger, who turns 18 on June 23, was a pitcher and outfielder at Forest Park High School near Atlanta, but most teams were interested in him as a pitcher. Froneberger has signed with Georgia.
Connor Graham, 21, and listed by Miami as 6-6, 233 pounds, went 5-4 with a 4.24 ERA with 76 strikeouts and 34 walks in 80 2/3 innings as a junior who served as the team's No. 2 starter.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.