UNDER FURTHER REVIEW – Is history repeating with 2024 Rockies?

It’s a little early to say for sure, but the 2024 edition of the Colorado Rockies is beginning to resemble the 2006 version.

In 2006, Colorado—still training in Tucson—was coming off a 2005 season in which it had the worst record in the National League: 67-95.

But with the farm system starting to produce a cadre of future stars—Matt Holliday, Garrett Atkins and Brad Hawpe the first among them—Clint Hurdle coaxed the Rockies to a nine-win improvement, a more respectable 76-86 record.

A year away were Troy Tulowitzki, Ubaldo Jimenez and others.

We all know what happened in 2007.

Could history be repeating itself? Let’s hope so.

That 2006 Rockies squad finished the spring exhibition season with a 17-12 record that was seventh-best overall (Arizona and Florida combined), fourth in the Cactus League standings.

This year, with two spring games remaining before today’s season opener in Arizona, Colorado’s 16-11 record ranked second among Arizona-based teams (behind the Dodgers) and fourth overall.

Nolan Jones, who broke Dante Bichette’s club record for outfield assists with 18; Ezequiel Tovar, whose .988 fielding percentage last season broke Tulowitzki’s MLB record for highest fielding percentage by a rookie shortstop, and whom the Rockies just signed to a seven-year, $63.5 million contract; and Brenton Doyle, who won the Gold Glove in his rookie season as Colorado’s center fielder, are this time’s approximations of Holliday, Atkins and Hawpe.  And home-grown Kyle Freeland fills the lefthanded ace role that was Jeff Francis’ then.

The coming wave includes catcher Drew Romo, infielder Adael Amador, slugger Hunter Goodman, versatile Sterlin Thompson and (take your pick of) outfielders Yanquiel Fernandez, Jordan Beck, Zac Veen and Benny Montgomery. Pitching prospects include Chase Dollander, Carson Palmquist, Jaden Hill and a few recovering from Tommy John surgeries.

The Rockies’ future was on display last week in Colorado’s Spring Breakout game. Afterward, manager Bud Black commented afterward, “They’re closer than they think.”

Outfielder Veen, Colorado’s top draft choice in 2020, said: There are a lot of great guys to be playing with.”

That’s the common thread that ties 2006 to 2024, and by extension, hopefully, 2007 to 2025. The first time they all wear Rockies purple in the Majors won’t be the first time they’re teammates. They will have come through the system together, as the ’07 group had.

“Probably four years out, three years out, we had 2008 as the year when it would all come together,” Bill Geivett, former Director of Minor League Operations for the Rockies, told me when I interviewed him for my book Game 163. “Those guys, with their talent, and just that mentality of playing together, they certainly sped up the timetable.”

The key was the approach the late Keli McGregor, then Rockies president, imbued in the organization: grow from within.

“I remember talking to Billy Schmidt,” Geivett said, “and going, ‘Okay, here we go . . . we’re going to have to scout them better than anybody . . . pick ‘em better than anybody, and . . . develop them better than anybody.’”

That “Billy Schmidt” is current Senior Vice President and General Manager Bill Schmidt, who was then Farm Director. One of his assistants today was that 2006 field manager, Hurdle. So, they know how this can work.

The plethora of promising prospects is at Schmidt’s direction. He saw first-hand how “grow your own” can be a winning philosophy. 

It breaks down into four parts: 

sign top international talent (such as Tovar, Fernandez and Amador); 

draft well (such as Romo, Beck and Dollander);

emphasize scouting (the basis for acquiring Nolan Jones last off-season and pitcher Cal Quantrill before this one, both in trades, and snatching pitcher Anthony Molina from Tampa Bay in the Rule 5 Draft); and

develop all those young players as teammates at various minor league levels as much as possible. 

“I think foundationally—when I say that, I mean the minor leagues—we’re a lot better than we were,” Schmidt said in a Q-and-A near the end of last season.  

The 2006 Rockies went through 26 position players and 24 pitchers, including late-season call-ups Tulo and Ubaldo. 

In 2024 it will be interesting to see not only the team’s final won-lost record but also the total number of players who appear on the roster.

Whatever, ask yourself how it might translate to 2025.Denny Dressman is a veteran of 43 years in the newspaper business, including 25 at the Rocky Mountain News, where he began as executive sports editor. He is the author of 16 books, nine of them sports-related. You can write to Denny at dennydressman@comcast.net.