One of the great dilemmas Purple Row Prospect (PuRP) 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 the 2015 draft, was difficult for PuRPs voters to place and that they ranked him lower than the scouting consensus.
The 19-year-old shortstop out of Lake Mary High School in Florida was widely considered by national prospect writers to be the 2015 draft's top overall talent -- a talent that the Rockies rewarded with a $5.5 million signing bonus ($723,000 below slot). Once he signed, almost all of the prospect writers who included recent draft picks in their midseason top prospect updates placed Rodgers in their top 25 overall list (ranking him as the best prospect in Colorado's system). The trend has thus far continued with most of the preseason 2016 national lists that have been released so far. It seems like a good idea then to let the scouting reports do most of the talking.
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.
Keith Law ranked Rodgers ninth overall in MLB on his mid-season 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's preseason 2016 list placed Rodgers 12th overall (sixth among shortstops):
With his lightning bat speed and strength, Rodgers generates plus power with an easy right-handed stroke. He doesn't sell out for homers and uses the entire field, which should allow him to hit for a solid average as well. Rodgers has the potential to put up similar offensive numbers to former franchise icon Troy Tulowitzki, whom Colorado traded to Toronto last summer.
Rodgers is a fine athlete with average speed and solid arm strength. Scouts who saw him as an amateur were split on whether he'll stay at shortstop, though most gave him credit for soft hands and good instincts. Rodgers could become an above-average shortstop or plus third baseman, and his bat would profile at either position.
Baseball Prospectus placed him 20th in their preseason 2016 top 101:
Rodgers was the third straight shortstop taken to start the 2015 draft, but he may end up the best of the troika. He won't get to the majors as quickly as Dansby Swanson or Alex Bregman, the two SEC players picked ahead of him, but with a potential plus hit-plus power offensive profile and a glove that will keep him on the left side of the diamond, Rodgers may be worth the extra wait. Fortunately, time is one thing the Rockies have had plenty of lately.
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 -- and during the next few regular seasons too, I suppose.
In his first professional season, Rodgers struggled a little to find his footing in Rookie ball Grand Junction. In 159 plate appearances against pitchers that are on average almost three years older, Rodgers produced a .273/.340/.420 line (95 wRC+) with 13 extra-base hits, while in 29 games at shortstop he committed 12 errors. Honestly, that's a perfectly acceptable stat line for a teenager in the Pioneer League. Rodgers did rake at home (.338/.400/.550 in 89 plate appearances) and hit well after the All-Star break (.314/.368/.486 in 76 PAs) after a slow start. It wasn't an electric 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 his prospect status.
Ultimately, I'm a believer in the tools and the prospect gurus who have placed Rodgers among the game's top 25 prospects, which is why I was confident about becoming one of the five voters to place Rodgers atop my PuRPs ballot. I'm looking forward to seeing what the Rockies will do with Rodgers next year. Presumably he'll start out at Low-A Asheville, but the option will remain to move him up or down based on his performance at that level. Rodgers will be at the tip of the next big prospect wave for the Rockies, which should crest in the 2019-2020 timeframe. Hopefully there's a worthy MLB roster awaiting his arrival.