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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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Next up were the Royals. Gordon went to high school and college in Lincoln, Neb., and like Brett, played third and had a sweet lefthanded stroke. "The ability, the makeup, the desire, the fact that he was a Midwesterner, it was a perfect fit," Ladnier says. "You knew he was going to be an exceptional player, but also a great representative of the Royals for many years."

Seattle, at No. 3, presented the first suspense in the draft. Scouts talk to one another enough to get a good idea of how the opening round is likely to play out. The Nationals were known to be taking Zimmerman, a strong hitter and extraordinary fielder who, like Gordon, had the added value of being a regional attraction (he grew up in Virginia Beach and played college ball at Virginia) with terrific intangibles. Seattle, though, had not shown its hand.

At home in Sunnyvale, Calif., Tulowitzki was hosting a draft party to which he had invited family, friends, coaches, "anybody in my life who had helped me in the game of baseball," he says. "Anybody who took me to any games or threw me any balls."

His phone rang. It was the Mariners, saying that they needed a catcher—during the '05 season they would use seven—and were choosing Jeff Clement. A 6'1", 210-pound lefthanded hitter, Clement was second alltime in home runs for USC (46), behind McGwire. Baseball America rated him the 12th-most-talented player in the draft.

Only five months later Seattle signed Japanese catcher Kenji Johjima to a three-year, $16.5 million contract. Clement, who played nine games in the majors in '07, is a career .276 minor league hitter with power, but he has work to do on defense. "Absolutely, we feel good about Jeff," says Seattle G.M. Bill Bavasi. "He'd be on our club right now if Joh weren't there. One thing we can't do with Clement is have him sitting and waiting. We have [Richie] Sexson at first, [Jose] Vidro at DH, Joh catching, so it's just too tough to get him at bats."

Washington, as expected, then took Zimmerman. Next up was Milwaukee, but Tulowitzki knew he wasn't going there. The Brewers had called him before the draft to work out a deal, but there was a catch: They'd just installed 22-year-old J.J. Hardy as their shortstop and wanted to move Tulowitzki to third.

Tulowitzki had been a shortstop his whole life, a kid in Little League who chased every fly ball and grounder he could get near and who still played the position with sandlot gusto. "A ball hog, that's what he is," Rockies third base coach Mike Gallego says. "And he doesn't just get to balls. You see a lot of players make spectacular dives and stops, but the guy is safe at first. Troy's got such a great arm that he throws him out too. He's a great finisher."

When Tulowitzki told the Brewers he had no interest in playing third, they took Braun, a University of Miami third baseman renowned for his bat but not his glove. (Colorado, for instance, had scouted Braun with the idea of making him a centerfielder.) Braun hit .324 last season with 34 home runs and 97 RBIs, edging Tulowitzki in the Rookie of the Year voting 128--126. This season he'll be playing leftfield for Milwaukee.

Toronto held the next pick. Tulowitzki waited for his phone to ring. The Blue Jays were torn between him and Ricky Romero, a lefthander from Cal State--Fullerton who'd been Tulowitzki's roommate on the powerhouse 2004 USA Baseball team, a squad that included Gordon, Clement and Zimmerman.

The Blue Jays had Russ Adams, 24, playing shortstop, and Aaron Hill, 23, a converted shortstop, as a utilityman. "We thought we had the position covered," says J.P. Ricciardi, Toronto's G.M. "One thing we thought about was, we can't get pitching unless we draft it. It wasn't as if free agents were knocking down our door."

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