There is a very good reason that prospects are often compared to lottery tickets. Many times, even when they are highly rated by scouts and groomed extensively by the teams that they hope to join, the wash-out rate is immense. Roughly half of all players drafted in the first round never even make an appearance in the major leagues - and the odds get quite a lot steeper very quickly.
While it is easier to think that the heartbreaking failure of many well-thought-of prospects won’t strike at the top minor league talent of the Rockies, believing that would be only lying to ourselves. Unfortunately, that statement is true about the Rockies’ best and most beloved prospect, Brendan Rodgers. If everything works out for Rodgers, he has a good chance to be a major part of a very good team. However, most of his value rests on his offense, and that may prove to be an issue.
The problem with offense-first prospects is that while they often have lots of good qualities, they never polish those traits to the point where they are usable. Unlike players with a defense-first profile, offensive prospects require a lot of moving parts to all work perfectly together. Nearly any festering imperfection or flaw in that player’s game will destroy his value. In Rodgers’ case, that flaw could be the way he hits the ball.
As you can see on this bar graph, Rodgers has a batted ball profile that heavily favors ground balls. Although this percentage of ground balls works for most players, it is almost always a death knell for a player whose value rests on his power. This is because a power hitter cannot utilize his strength unless he puts the ball in the air. While ground balls result in outs less often than fly balls, they almost always result in singles. Fly balls, though, can result in any number of outcomes that are far more beneficial. In short, with the exception of certain elite speedsters, ground balls are bad for batters. It can, however, be made to work.
While Rodgers has garnered comparison to such star shortstops as Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Correa, one player that hasn't been compared to but probably should be is Houston Astros slugger George Springer. Springer’s 2012 scouting report from MLB.com showed him to be similar offensively to the Rockies’ beloved shortstop prospect.
Springer doesn’t get cheated at the plate, and there were some concerns about holes in his swing impacting his ability as an all-around hitter. He will swing and miss, but he will draw some walks. His quick bat generates a ton of raw power, which will play as a plus if he continues to make consistent contact
The similarity between these two players is obvious from a scouting standpoint, but analytics shows one that is even deeper.
|Line Drive %||Ground Ball %||Fly Ball %|
|George Springer||20.3 %||48.2 %||31.5 %|
Clearly the Astros star has a propensity for ground balls, and sports a batted ball profile that is nearly identical to that of Rodgers. That can be seen as an encouraging sign, one that shows that this kind of risk doesn’t automatically equal failure. Furthermore, Rodgers also takes full advantage of what balls he does put in the air, posting a highly impressive—but not unsustainable—home run per fly ball rate of 18.5 percent.
Now, don’t get me wrong—even if his ground ball rate ends up completely negating his power, he still is a useful piece. However, Rodgers has average speed and no indication of an ability to post a batting average or on-base percentage that approaches the level his raw power is at. He will surely be a much better player if he can find a way to harness his power and make it work for him in the chances that he does get. His home runs per fly ball rate says that he has a shot to do just that.