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The Rockies' Lucky No. 7
TOM VERDUCCI
March 31, 2008
How great was the '05 draft? Six teams passed on shortstop Troy Tulowitzki—and even after he led Colorado to the World Series, only one of them regrets it
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March 31, 2008

The Rockies' Lucky No. 7

How great was the '05 draft? Six teams passed on shortstop Troy Tulowitzki—and even after he led Colorado to the World Series, only one of them regrets it

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And coming soon: a gifted set of outfielders taken out of high school in '05. The group includes Cameron Maybin of the Florida Marlins (No. 10), the centerpiece of the package the Detroit Tigers surrendered to get third baseman Miguel Cabrera; Andrew McCutcheon of the Pittsburgh Pirates (No. 11); Jay Bruce of the Cincinnati Reds (No. 12), the No. 1 prospect according to Baseball America; and Colby Rasmus of the St. Louis Cardinals (No. 28). Says O'Dowd, "There's never been a draft like this."

The class of '05 is chock-full of made-to-order franchise players, men who understand and even welcome the responsibility of representing their team, their city and their game. Says Royals senior scouting director Deric Ladnier, "It's rare when you see somebody come along where you say, 'This guy is the complete package.' And yet that year there were several guys you could say that about. They're going to be the face of the game for a long time."

By happenstance, they're also inheriting the toxic mess of the Steroid Era: The draft came just three months after the congressional hearing in which Mark McGwire destroyed his reputation and Palmeiro pointed a fateful finger. For the players of the class of '05, drug testing has been part of their professional lives. Their clubhouse culture, while not assumed to be entirely pure, does not encourage using performance enhancers as an accepted tariff of competition. Says Tulowitzki, "I'd be in favor of any test, a blood test, whatever, if it means keeping the game clean."

In his first season Tulowitzki called out teammates, not just opponents; dragged a franchise that had never won a playoff series into its first Fall Classic; earned his own goose-bump-raising signature chant at Coors Field (rhythmic clapping followed by a shout of Tu-LO!); then signed the biggest contract (six years, $31 million with a club option for $15 million in 2014) given to a player with less than two years of service—after which he bought his mother, Susan, a house and promised to be a fixture in the Denver community. "I'm willing to do that and want to do that," Tulowitzki says.

Team leader? Community activist? Baseball ambassador? Anti drug advocate? Power-hitting shortstop who's built like Cal Ripken (6'3", 205 pounds), moves like Robin Yount and leads like Derek Jeter? There can be only one question about a 23-year-old who meets the franchise-player gold standard.

How the heck did he last until the seventh pick?

TULOWITZKI AWOKE on the morning of June 7, 2005, convinced he was headed to Seattle. The Mariners held the third selection. "A couple of minutes before the draft," he says, "they'd called me and said, 'You're our guy.'"

The first two picks held no mystery. The Diamondbacks knew they were taking Upton the moment they clinched the worst record of 2004—and with it the first pick of '05. Every club had scouted Upton since he was 13. Arizona had someone at every game of his senior season at Great Bridge High in Chesapeake, Va.

Even in the richest draft ever, says Mike Rizzo, then the Diamondbacks' scouting director and now Washington's assistant G.M., "it was obvious there was a gap between him and the other candidates. He ran a 6.3 60, showed a plus arm, had prodigious power as a 13-year-old, had a great family background and had gone through every test at the highest levels of competition and just dominated. His professional attitude, the immense physical assets—he had the perfect package. A very high-reward, very low-risk type."

Upton hit .221 in 43 games last year, and .357 in the post season. "I believe he's going to be a superstar," Rizzo says. "Nothing would surprise me with his ability."

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