Rocky Road

Colorado knows top pick Tyler Matzek will be tough to sign

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DENVER—Signing their top draft pick in short order has been the norm for the Rockies. That figures to change with high school lefthander Tyler Matzek, whom the Rockies selected out of Capistrano Valley High in Mission Viejo, Calif., with the 11th overall pick.
The Rockies got tremendous talent values with LHP Tyler Matzek at No. 11, OF Tim Wheeler at No. 32 and LHP Rex Brothers at No. 34. They still have to sign Matzek, but it will be a huge coup if they can. 1B Ben Paulsen (third round) and OF Kent Matthes (fourth) are professional hitters.

Matzek, who is 6-feet-3 and 210 pounds, was projected to be a top-10 pick, particularly after his fastball hit 97-98 mph during the high school playoffs. But clubs backed off Matzek when they learned he was seeking what was described as precedent-setting money and presumed to mean he wants to surpass the record $7 million guarantee for a high school player given to Josh Beckett and Rick Porcello.

Matzek is the fourth straight pitcher the Rockies have taken with their first-round pick and the first high school pitcher they have drafted in the first round since they took Matt Harrington in 2000. Harrington turned down a $4 million bonus in negotiations that became protracted and bitter.

The Rockies had the Nos. 32 and 34 picks in the draft as compensation for the loss of free agent closer Brian Fuentes to the Angels. They considered taking Sacramento State outfielder Tim Wheeler with the 11th pick but chose him at No. 32. And with the 34th pick, the Rockies took lefthander Rex Brothers out of Lipscomb.

In recent years, Rockies first-round picks Christian Friedrich, Casey Weathers, Greg Reynolds, Troy Tulowitzki, Chris Nelson, Ian Stewart and Jeff Francis have signed soon after the draft. That could change with Matzek, who has a scholarship to Oregon. But given his high ceiling, the Rockies weren't about to back off when he was available with the 11th pick.


• In Matzek, Wheeler and Brothers, the Rockies chose players ranked by Baseball America in the top 17 of those available in the draft. So in the second round, the Rockies took something of a gamble by drafting third baseman Nolan Arenado from El Toro High in Lake Forest, Calif. Some scouts feel the muscular Arenado, who has a strong arm, will end up catching and there are mixed opinions on how well he'll hit.

• In the third round, the Rockies took Clemson first baseman Ben Paulsen, whose father Tom Riginos is Clemson's assistant coach and recruiting coordinator. Paulsen is a hitter reminiscent of Mark Grace with a smooth lefthanded swing whose power will determine his ultimate value.