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Rockies Find More Power for Coors

June 3, 2003
By Barney Hutchinson

DENVER--The Colorado Rockies jumped on a much sought-after commodity in the 2003 amateur draft Tuesday, grabbing power-hitting third baseman Ian Stewart with their first pick.

Stewart became only the second position player drafted by the Rockies in the first round proper after Todd Helton went eight overall in 1995. The only other first pick the Rockies have used for a position player came in 2001 with Jayson Nix in a supplemental first-round.

Stewart, drafted 10th overall in the first round, is hiting .483 for La Quinta High in Garden Grove, Calif. It is the power numbers that have the Rockies drooling: 15 home runs and 60 runs batted in.

"Ian is a good fit for our club in our ballpark,'' said Bill Schmidt, the Rockies director of scouting. "He has power potential with the bat, an energy to play the game, and I've seen him for a while. I like the bat. You can't get enough bats.''

The Rockies will have to wait for that potential, at least until the 2006 season or beyond. When he arrives, he could be the Rockies' equivalent of the Cincinnati Reds' Austin Kearns or Adam Dunn. In fact, the Reds had an eye on Stewart as their first pick at 14th overall overall, just four slots after the Rockies.

Schmidt went from high school power to the Big 12 for pitching, drafting right-hander Scott Beerer from Texas A&M in the second round and left-hander Aaron Marsden from Nebraska in the third round. They added Texas Tech third baseman Christian Colonel in the fifth round and took catcher-outfielder Rick Guarno int he fourth round.

"It just worked out that way with the Big 12 and pitching,'' Schmidt said. "We had to get the bats up top. We figured the arms would be there. I wasn't that enamored with the pitching in this draft. Bats were taken early.''

Stewart's power dominates any conversation. Will his defensive skills keep him at third base?

"We think he can develop as a third baseman,'' Schmidt said. "You're going to read things. Some people think he will have to eventually move. We think he has a chance to be average at third base. His chances to hit with power. The hands are OK. There is work to be done.''

Schmidt foresaw no problems getting Stewart under contract. The Rockies have had problems signing top of the draft choices in the past, beginning with the Matt Harrington fiasco that saw a California prep pitcher go unsigned as the seventh overall pick in 2000.

"He is playing in the CIF playoffs and graduates June 17,'' said Schmidt, who wants to place Steward at rookie level Casper, Wyo., in the Pioneer League. "So he might be a little late. But we believe he's ready to enter professional baseball.''

The Rockies' draft unknowingly gathered at College Station's Olsen Field March 14 this spring when Nebraska edged Texas A&M 3-2. Marsden took the win, giving up two runs on 10 hits in 7 2-3 innings. He faced his possible future teammate in Beerer, who plays in the outfield for Texas A&M when he is not closing games. Bearer went 1-for-2 off Marsden with a double.

"We like his pitches for our ballpark, a sinker-slider,'' Schmidt said of Beerer. "He pitched very well coming down the stretch. At some point in time, they have started and we look upon them as starters.

"We liked Marsden a lot. He's a big strong kid and I was looking for a left-hander at that point. We think he can be successful here. Pitchers in the Big 12, Pac-10, SEC and ACC, those guys are pitching in games and giving up runs, trying to keep there teams in games. Those traits play very well here.''

The Rockies' Jason Jennings, the National League rookie of the Year in 2002, came out of Baylor, another Big 12 school.

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