Rockies Prefer Parker's Power

DENVER—Outfielder Kyle Parker has three years of football eligibility left at Clemson where he started at quarterback last fall. If the Rockies didn't think Parker, 20, was intent on playing professional baseball, they never would have taken him with the 26th overall pick in the draft.

Indeed, following the Matt Harrington fiasco in 2000, which was scouting director Bill Schmidt's first draft with the Rockies, the club has signed its first-round picks reasonably soon. Oh, the Rockies didn't get high school lefthander Tyler Matzek signed until minutes before the deadline last year, and it took a franchise-record $3.9 million bonus to sign him, but the bottom line is the Rockies drafted Matzek because they were confident they could sign him.

So, too, with Parker, who threw for 2,526 yards and 20 touchdowns and started all 14 of Clemson's football games last year, including the Music City Bowl where the Tigers beat Kentucky 21-13 and where Schmidt said he was impressed with Parker's athleticism.

"We've done some work and we feel that he wants to start his baseball career," Schmidt said. "He has a little leverage. He has three years more of football, but we believe that he'd like to get out and play.

"We think the upside's big. He's never really committed himself full time to baseball. Our feeling as a group was this guy had a chance to be a very good major league player."

Parker is the first position player the Rockies have taken with their first pick since shortstop Troy Tulowitzki in 2005. However, the club did take outfielder Tim Wheeler last year with their second first-round pick.

While the draft was unfolding, Parker was playing for Clemson against Auburn in the decisive game of the Auburn Regional. His three-run homer helped the Tigers win 13-7 to advance to a super regional. It was Parker's 20th homer of the season, making him the first student athlete to throw for 20 touchdowns and hit 20 home runs in the same school year in NCAA history.

Parker has hit .358/.486/.688 this season with 15 doubles, 20 home runs and 63 RBIs. Schmidt said Parker also possesses intangibles such as character and leadership. The latter was evident playing quarterback, where the Rockies have some draft history. First baseman Todd Helton, the eighth overall pick in 1995, went to Tennessee where he ended up as a backup to Peyton Manning. Left fielder Seth Smith, taken in the second round in 2004, played quarterback behind Eli Manning at Mississippi.

Unlike Helton and Smith, Parker is considered an NFL prospect at quarterback, though his size likely precludes him from being a first-round pick.

Parker has played right field for Clemson but did see time at first base. He's likely a corner outfielder in pro ball.

Parker graduated a semester early from Bartram Trail High in St. Johns, Fla., to go to Clemson, where he was an All-Freshman choice in 2008. He could help fill what has become something of a void in the Rockies system.  

"We've struggled to find righthanded bats that we think can hit and hit with power," Schmidt said, "and we like the potential for that with this guy."

Indeed, the Rockies have catcher Wilin Rosario at Double-A Tulsa and right fielder Kent Matthes at low Class A Asheville and not much else when it comes to homegrown righthanded power hitters in their system.

The Rockies took righthander Peter Tago, 18, of Dana Hills High in Dana Point, Calif., with the 47th overall pick, a compensation selection for the loss of free agent righthander Jason Marquis to the Nationals. Tago, who has committed to Cal State Fullerton, finished his high school career with a flourish Friday. He compiled 13 strikeouts, two walks and seven hits allowed in a seven-inning complete-game 5-3 win for unseeded Dana Hills against Placentia El Dorado in the California high school Division I semifinals. Dana Hills lost in the finals.

"He was up to 96 (mph), but he's usually 91-93," Schmidt said, "but (there's) a lot of upside there. He has a chance to be real good. He's very projectable, probably along the lines of Esmil Rogers—a Pedro Astacio-type arm, a loose, projectable arm."