DENVER—And to think, the only reason Troy Tulowitzki slipped to the Rockies with the seventh pick in the 2005 draft is that he wanted to play shortstop.
Milwaukee was ready to take him at No. 5, but with J.J. Hardy already in place at short, the Brewers wanted Tulowitzki to agree to a move to third base. Ditto Toronto, which had the No. 6 pick but felt well-stocked in the middle infield with first-round picks Russ Adams (2002) and Aaron Hill (2003).
“When I came out of college some people had their doubts,” Tulowitzki said. “They thought at 6-foot-2, and 200-some pounds, they thought I should be a third baseman. I didn’t feel that way.”
Seven years later Tulowitzki has driven home his point—and then some. He won his first Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards in November, marking him as the best shortstop offensively and defensively in the National League.
“It validates me for a couple reasons,” Tulowitzki said. “I always felt I was capable at shortstop. Maybe I thought that more than other people, but I had no reason to doubt my ability.”
Nobody else can doubt the ability anymore, either. Watching Tulowitzki play brings back memories from a couple of decades ago, when Hal Keller was the scouting director and farm director for the Mariners. He would emphasize to his minor league personnel that before they tried to change young players, they had to give them a chance to fail.
“We aren’t dealing with cookie cutters,” Keller said. “We sign kids and they have been successful all their life. So why do we think they can’t continue to be successful? Besides, if a young man fails he will be more receptive to your suggestions.”
Mind Your Own Business
Too often baseball executives can’t resist meddling in the areas they hire other people to handle.
Cincinnati first baseman Joey Votto won the NL MVP. Many people also believe he is the reason Kasey McKeon was fired as Reds scouting director.
Votto, coming out of high school in Toronto, was an under-the-radar prospect in the spring of 2002. Reds scout John Castleberry saw him in a showcase in Florida and brought Votto to Cincinnati for a workout. McKeon, wanting to make sure nobody got wind of Votto, didn’t inform anybody else, including then general manager Jim Bowden. The Reds took Votto in the second round, and by the 2003 draft McKeon had been replaced.
Just last June, Diamondbacks scouting director Tom Allison wanted to draft Florida Gulf Coast lefthander Chris Sale sixth overall. The Arizona pro scouts who had dabbled in the amateur evaluations pushed for Texas A&M righthander Barret Loux, despite reports from the amateur scouts of arm problems.
The pro scouts won the battle. Arizona wound up dropping negotiations with Loux altogether because of concerns about his arm. (He signed as a free agent with the Rangers in November.) Sale? He went to the White Sox, 13th overall, and finished the season in the major league bullpen.
In 2004, Padres scouting director Bill Gayton was told he could draft the best player with the No. 1 pick, and focused on Long Beach state righthander Jered Weaver and Florida State shortstop Stephen Drew, both of whom were represented by agent Scott Boras.
Three days before the draft, then-owner John Moores threw Gayton a curve, vetoing his draft plans and telling the front office it needed to find a cheaper pick. The Padres settled on shortstop Matt Bush, a San Diego area high schooler who wasn’t even on the original Padres wish list.
Bush struggled on the field at shortstop, prompting a move to pitcher, and has battled injuries as well. He spent 2010 in the Rays organization and has never played above Class A. He has also battled off-field issues that began shortly after he signed, and could safely be called the worst No. 1 pick in the history of the draft.
Meanwhile Drew, with the Diamondbacks, and Weaver, with the Angels, have long since established themselves in the big leagues.
The only other player in the first 24 selections that year who has not made it to the big leagues? Rice righthander Wade Townsend, the eighth pick overall by the Orioles—a selection ordained by owner Peter Angelos, who then declined to authorize the money to sign Townsend. The Orioles’ scouting department had targeted shortstop Chris Nelson, who went ninth overall to the Rockies. He has not been a huge success, but he did reach the big leagues in 2010.
• Allison, fired in the Arizona front office shakeup, will assume a Midwest crosschecker role with the Red Sox.
• Eddie Bane, fired as the scouting director with the Angels, joined the Tigers as a pro scout.
• Gayton, who was never allowed to make his own first-round choice until his final year, 2009—when he took oft-injured outfielder Donavan Tate—was hired as a pro scout by the Cardinals.