Keep an eye on the First-Year Player Draft, where you can track tomorrow's major leaguers — and next week's Tri-City Dust Devils — before they make their initial splash into pro baseball. The draft will be held Tuesday (rounds 1-3 plus compensation picks) and Wednesday (rounds 4-50) in Secaucus, N.J.
Typically, at least half of the Dust Devils' roster consists of players fresh from the draft. The rest are players making their way up from the Colorado Rockies' rookie affiliate in Casper, Wyo., and others who are called to Tri-Cities to work on fundamentals or rehabilitate injuries.
But the biggest thrills often come from the draftees in their first pro seasons. Remember Charlie Blackmon, last year's second-round pick out of Georgia Tech? All he did was break the Rockies' short-season mark for hits, previously held by current Dodgers' outfielder Juan Pierre.
How about Christian Friedrich, the Rockies' first-rounder who spent most of his first season with the Dust Devils. The left-hander out of Eastern Kentucky made such an impression that he is listed among baseball's top 100 minor league prospects by Baseball America.
And that's just from last season. Don't forget that current Rockies Jeff Francis and Ryan Spilborghs both began their pro careers here in 2002.
There are even a few local players that could see their name come up on the draft board. From the college ranks, you can count on Richland graduate Kyle Conley to be selected in the first seven rounds after a monster season at University of Washington. Darrell Ceciliani, a Columbia Basin College outfielder, is also expected to go anywhere from round 3-6.
A few local high schoolers might even get the call on draft day, including Kennewick pitcher Tony Bryant.