PuRP No. 3: Brendan Rodgers (990 points, 37 ballots) | Winter 2014 Ranking: NR | High Ballot 1 (3), Mode Ballot 3
One of the great dilemmas Purple Row Prospect voters have every year is the placement of draft picks that are just beginning their professional careers, relying heavily on pre-draft scouting reports and unsure of how those gaudy high school or college stats will translate to minor league baseball. It's unsurprising, therefore, that Brendan Rodgers, whom the Rockies took with the third overall pick in this year's draft, was difficult for PuRPs voters to place.
The newly turned 19-year-old shortstop out of Lake Mary High School in Florida was widely considered by national prospect writers to be this draft's top overall talent -- a talent that the Rockies rewarded with a $5.5 million signing bonus ($723k below slot). Once he signed, almost all of the prospect writers who included recent draft picks in their midseason top prospect updates included Rodgers in their top 25 overall list (ranking him as the best prospect in Colorado's system). It seems like a good idea then to let the scouting reports do the talking.
Keith Law ranked Rodgers ninth overall in his midseason list:
Rodgers was the best player available in this year's Rule 4 draft -- he was taken third overall by the Rockies -- as a true shortstop with plus hands and a plus arm, great feel to hit, and a track record of performance against the best high-school pitching in the country. I think he'll grow into at least average power, and his only below-average tool will be his running speed, though his instincts at short and his hands are both good enough to make him a plus defender in spite of his lack of fleetness.
MLB.com placed Rodgers 10th overall in their update:
The Orlando area high schooler has gotten considerably stronger in the last year and he generates power with an easy, compact stroke. He doesn't have to muscle up to hit home runs, and his bat speed and all-fields approach bode well for his ability to hit for average as a pro. He's a quality athlete with solid speed and above-average arm strength, one who draws comparisons to the Cubs' Addison Russell.
There's a split camp as to whether Rodgers can remain at shortstop, though he has soft hands and good instincts. Should he move to third, he'd be an outstanding defender there, one whose power potential would fit the offensive profile for the position well.
Rodgers has plus raw power and an advanced hitting approach that gives him a chance to be an above-average hitter with above-average power. Rodgers has more present strength than most top high school shortstops. As one scouting director explained, his body looks like that of a college shortstop. Some scouts worry that he may outgrow the position, but he has the body control, soft hands and above-average arm that leads many scouts to believe he will remain at shortstop as he matures.
Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs had Rodgers second overall in the draft and attached a 55 FV to him:
Rodgers has been the top bat in this prep class for over a year, flashing plus bat speed, raw power, instincts and arm strength
Rodgers is the most talented player in the class, and if there's such thing as a steal with the third overall pick, he is just that. The right-handed hitting shortstop is quick to the ball but gets extension, and because he transfers his weight and has above-average bat speed, he'll be able to hit for both average and power as he fills out. He's a solid-average defender at shortstop with a plus arm, but a loss in speed could see him have to move to third base. The bat will play there, but if he can stick at shortstop, he's a future All-Star.
Rodgers is a ways away from Coors Field, but keep those scouting reports in mind when you need to warm your heart in the cold, baseball-free winter. The next few regular seasons too, I suppose.
Thus far in his brief professional career (almost all of which has occurred after polling closed), Rodgers has struggled to find his footing in Rookie ball Grand Junction. In 125 plate appearances against pitchers that are on average about three years older, Rodgers has a .243/.320/.342 line (70 wRC+), while in 23 games at shortstop he has committed nine errors. Not an auspicious debut from a prospect that was so highly touted, but at this point the sample size is much too small to draw any major conclusions about this line's effect on his prospect status.
Ultimately, I'm a believer in the tools and the scouts that have placed Rodgers among the game's top 25 prospects, which is why I was one of the three voters to place him atop my PuRPs ballot. It will be very interesting to see how the Rockies treat Rodgers next year; will they move him to full-season ball despite his short season struggles, or will he instead be held in extended spring training until he gets placed with Grand Junction or Boise next summer? I wouldn't be too surprised by either move, but I'm hoping for the former if only to see him get more professional plate appearances and experience.
Contract Status: 2015 first round, not Rule 5 eligible (2019), three options remaining
MLB ETA: Late 2019