Rockies Go Against the Flow, Select 2 High School Prospects To Open Draft
Major League Baseball set a record in the opening round of this year’s First-Year Player Draft on Wednesday, selecting college players with the first eight draft picks.
And then along came the Rockies and scouting director Billy Schmidt, who not only put an end to that streak with the selection of outfielder Zac Veen of Spruce Creek (Fla.) High School ninth overall, but used the 35th selection overall to draft catcher Drew Romo of The Woodlands (Tx) in the Competitive Balance Round A.
Not that it should have been a surprise.
The surprise was last year when the Rockies did not take a high school player in the first 30 rounds. That was only the second time since 2009 that the Rockies did not take a high school player in the first two rounds, and in the other instance, they did select third baseman Colton Welker in the fourth round in 2016.
It is safe to say that Schmidt likes the high school product.
He, however, also has been around long enough to realize that a high school player with a scholarship has leverage, so if they aren't selected in the first few rounds, it’s unlikely they will sign. Veen, as an example, has a full ride to Florida, and Romo has a full- ide to LSU, two of the elite college baseball schools.
He also knows that makeup is as important as ability.
“It comes down to maturity of the kid, and is he ready to handle what’s going to be thrown in front of him, probably failing for the first time in their life,” Schmidt said. “Are they mature enough to handle that?”
They are comfortable that Veen and Romo are mature enough.
It’s not like the Rockies felt either was an overdraft.
They, in fact, were a bit surprised that Veen and then Romo were available for them to draft.
“I am every comfortable with both guys,” said Schmidt. “I feel our organization is set up to develop high school players.”
Who is to argue with a big-league roster that includes Nolan Arenado (second round, 2009), Trevor Story (supplemental first round, 2011), David Dahl (first round 2012), Ryan McMahon (second round 2013) and Brendan Rodgers (1st round, No. 3 overall, 2015)?
And given where the players were selected, the organization is set up to meet the financial aspects of signing.
“That’s a question we will answer later,” Veen said when asked if he was set on signing a pro contract. “I love the Rockies organization, and I am happy they decided to give me an opportunity. All of that will take care of itself.”
He does work out at the same gym in Florida as Rodgers, and veteran catcher Drew Butera, who has spent time with the Rockies the past two seasons, and is expected to be on their active roster if big-league games are played this year.
Veen is the headliner among the two Rockies selections.
The Baseball America Scouting report on Veen reads:
Veen started to raise eyebrows as a junior in high school, when he went on a bit of a home run binge in Florida, including homering against the top prep pitcher of the 2019 draft class, Matt Allan. While Veen didn’t attend USA Baseball’s PDP League, he was quick to impress evaluators with his exceptionally smooth and loose lefthanded swing and elite frame. After packing on around 20 pounds of muscle over the offseason, Veen stands at 6-foot-5, 200 pounds—still with room to add more strength. Veen has one of the best batting eyes of the prep class and brings a patient approach to the table. He frequently gets into deep counts and waits for a specific pitch to hit. His swing has natural leverage and good loft that should allow him to continue tapping into his ever-increasing raw power, which is at least plus now and could eventually reach double-plus. There are some swing-and-miss tendencies at the moment and critics wonder about his ability to handle velocity and adjust to offspeed stuff away, though most scouts believe he’ll be an above-average or better hitter thanks to his batting eye, the looseness of his operation and the way his hands work during his swing. Veen plays center field for his high school team, but he’ll be stretched there as a pro, especially as he adds weight. He’s a fine runner now but could eventually become fringe-average or below and will fit best in a corner, where he should have more than enough power to profile. He’s a solid defender with good arm strength. Veen has one of the more high-upside tools profiles in the class thanks to his power potential, swing and frame. After entering the season toward the back of the first round, the Florida commit is now one of the favorites to be the first high school player selected in a class that’s heavy on college players at the top.
And he has grown into a potential impact outfielder.
“It is a fluid, slightly rising swing with the ability to impact a baseball,” said Schmidt. “He uses his hands real well. He has good raw power. Good balance and rhythm.”.
Veen has played center field in high school but would project as a quality corner outfielder at Coors Field, where the size of the outfield puts a premium on mobility in all three slots.
“I went from 160 to 205 pounds in the last two years, which is a good reason I have the power I do now,” said Veen. “I never try to hit with power. I look to get a good swing on the ball. I like to feel I am a good all-around baseball player. … I never take a play off.”
Romo has offensive potential, but the selling point on him was his ability as both a receiver, and a leader.
“His defensive skills are ahead of his offense,” said Schmidt. “He is very polished for a high school kid. He has been on the Team USA 18-and-Under as the starting catcher the last two years. We have been able to watch him against quality competition.
“Danny Montgomery and Jon Lukens were in Korea to watch him in the 18-and-under World Championships,” said Schmidt. “The summer before he was in Panama, and we saw him there. He has been exposed to a lot of quality competition and caught a lot of quality arms. We think there is a lot of upside to this kid.”
The Baseball America scouting report on Romo reads:
Romo has been regarded as an elite catch-and-throw backstop from essentially the first day he started playing high school baseball. Area scouts were quick to take note of his prowess behind the plate, and some think he’s been the best defensive catcher in the state for four years—and Baylor backstop Shea Langeliers was a top-10 pick in 2019. He’s at the top of a deep prep catching class in 2020, alongside the offensive-oriented Tyler Soderstrom, and teams believe he’s as high a likelihood major leaguer as you’ll find out of one of the riskiest draft profiles. Romo has soft hands, is an excellent blocker and receiver and brings a strong, accurate arm to the table as well. By the way scouts talk about his defensive reputation and ability, he has a chance to be a plus-plus defender with plus arm strength. On top of that, Romo offers solid raw power from both sides of the plate. His swing is a bit more grooved from the left side, where his righthanded swing is rigid with a tick more power. The biggest questions with Romo are how frequently he’s going to hit. He’s shown some swing-and-miss concerns and there’s reason to wonder how well he’ll hit against better pitching. Still, he has a good understanding of the strike zone and could carve out offensive value thanks to that, with some ambush power. The baseline for catcher offense in today’s game is low, and the scouting industry almost unanimously sees Romo as an impact defender at the game’s most premium position. So despite any offensive concerns, the Louisiana State commit has a chance to go in the first round or supplemental first round.