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Colorado Rockies Draft Report Card

By David Rawnsley

Best Debut: RHPs Jason Jennings (1) and Ryan Kibler (2) showed why they were priority selections with strong first impressions. RHP Craig House (12) had a greater impact, saving 11 games and striking out 58 hitters in 35 innings for short-season Portland.

Best Athlete: Jennings was the top two-way player in college baseball last year and is anxiously awaiting a chance to get to hit in Coors Field. Unsigned OF Darin Naatjes (22), who is playing baseball and football at Stanford, had a football offer from Notre Dame and a basketball offer from Kansas.

Best Hitter: OF Chris Testa (5) has a nice lefthanded stroke and a mature approach at the plate. He should add more power with experience.

Best Power: Jennings hit 35 homers over the last two years at Baylor and may have the best power of all the Rockies’ picks. He won’t get a chance to fully exploit it, however. OFs Greg Catalanotte (8) and Danny Phillips (15) both have plus raw power, but must shorten their swings and make better contact to become true prospects.

Fastest Runner: Like many clubs, the Rockies found pickings slim for speed in the draft.

Best Defensive Player: C Josh Bard (2), who signed too late to play, has good quickness and above-average arm strength behind the plate. Eric McQueen (14), a second college catcher drafted, also is an above-average defender.

Best Fastball: House was a senior starter at Memphis who topped out at 92 mph this spring. Converted to the bullpen, he now throws 95-98 with a nasty slider.

Most Intriguing Background: Jennings grew up wanting to be an FBI agent. His grandfather was a senior agent in Dallas and was on the street when President John Kennedy was assassinated in 1963.

Closest to the Majors: Jennings’ combination of excellent command and a sharp slider is a quick ticket to Colorado. Bard’s catching skills will move him quickly if he shows he can hit.

The One That Got Away: If Naatjes concentrates on baseball at Stanford over football, he could emerge as a first-round candidate in three years. The Rockies signed their first 17 picks.

Best Non-Draft Sign: The Rockies finally signed 1998 draft-and-follow 3B Justin Lincoln (8). He has excellent power potential and above-average arm strength. He hit .241-6-44 for Portland but struck out too much (102 in 253 at-bats).

Summary: Unlike 1998, the Rockies didn’t sign any high-ceiling players but they selected a number who should play in the big leagues. Jennings, the 1999 College Player of the Year, has special makeup and should pitch in Colorado soon.

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