Today we complete our Purple Row Prospects (PuRPs) for the midseason 2017. Last week we revealed prospects 30-26, then prospects 25-21, prospects 20-16, prospects 15-11, and Monday prospects 10-6. Prospects five through two got their reveal earlier this week. As a reminder, in this edition of the PuRPs poll, 40 ballots were cast, with 30 points granted for a first place vote, 29 for second, etc.
For each player on the PuRPs list, I'll include a link to individual stats (via Baseball-Reference), PuRPs voting stats, contract status (via Rockies Roster), a note on the 2017 season to date, and a scouting report from a national prospect writer. For what it's worth, I'll also include where I put each player on my personal ballot. All ages are as of the time the article was posted.
1. Brendan Rodgers (1,199 points, 40 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: 1 — High Ballot 1 (39), Mode Ballot 1
How did he enter the organization?
2015 1st Round, Lake Mary (FL) HS
Why did he make the PuRPs list?
Almost unanimously, Rodgers stands alone atop Rockies prospects according to Purple Row. 2015's no. 3 overall pick (and the consensus top talent in the draft at the time) signed for a Rockies record of $5.5 million because the high school shortstop was a potential five tool player at a premium defensive position. The 20 year-old, 6'0" righty possesses elite bat speed and doesn't have any glaring holes in his game, though the possibility exists that he will grow too big to be an effective shortstop at the major league level.
After a professional debut season with Grand Junction that was cut short by leg injuries and fatigue, Rodgers showed his prospect pedigree in 2016 with Low-A Asheville against players on average 2.4 years older than him. In 491 plate appearances with the Tourists, Rodgers hit a respectable .281/.342/.480 with 19 homers and 31 doubles — good for a 135 wRC+. He's produced this line while striking out less than last year (20%) and also walking less (7.1%), though neither rate is elite. More notable is that Rodgers didn’t just hold his own as one of the youngest players in the league — he thrived in his full season debut.
This year Rodgers didn’t just thrive for High A Lancaster, he obliterated pitching that was 2.6 years older than him. In 222 plate appearances with Lancaster, Rodgers hit .400/.419/.700 with 36 extra base hits including 12 homers — that’s an incredible 196 wRC+. It absolutely needs to be noted that Rodgers took advantage of a hitter-friendly park in a hitter-friendly league as few before him ever have. In 103 home at-bats for Lancaster, Rodgers hit an impossible .495/.522/.883 with 23 extra base hits! Compare that to a fine but not world-beating .308/.312/.523 road line and you have a data point worth considering with Rodgers.
After a well-deserved June promotion to Double A Hartford, Rodgers is now facing a much tougher hitting environment and a set of pitchers that is on average 4.2 years older than him. Correspondingly he has hit for a weaker .258/.324/.403 line in 136 plate appearances with the Yard Goats this year with a 21% strikeout rate and 5% walk rate. While those numbers don’t look like much, they still represent an above average 101 wRC+. In addition, Rodgers is hitting .266/.337/.457 in July after a tough start to his Hartford tenure — it seems like Rodgers is figuring out the level.
What do the scouts say?
The numbers are great, but the scouting reports are what really elevates Rodgers to an elite plane. According to national prospect writers, Rodgers is not only clearly the best prospect in the organization (he swept that position for all major prospect gurus I’ve read), he is a top 10-15 prospect in MLB overall.
Preseason Rodgers was given a role 55 tag with a 65 ceiling by 2080 Baseball:
The Tools: 55 hit; 60 power; 50 field; 55 arm – Rodgers’ plus power and potential for an above-average hit tool could make him an impactful contributor as a shortstop, with a chance for those tools to play up in the thin air of Denver. His hands and his reads should set him up well to stick at shortstop long term, though his lower half doesn’t display the quickness you generally look for in a six-spot defender. Rodgers has an above-average arm that could grow to plus at maturity and should play across the dirt, and his hands will likewise be an asset regardless of his final defensive home. He has fringy speed at present and he could settle in as a solid below-average runner after he fills out, but he has enough feel on the base paths to make the most of it.
Rodgers shows big right-handed power potential and has already begun to see that potential emerge in games. He utilizes well-above-average bat speed and solid bat-to-ball skills to get barrel to ball and produce loud contact to all fields. While he struggles some with same-side spin and more advanced off-speed stuff, Rodgers already demonstrates a decent approach in the box despite his young age, and he should hit for a solid average at maturity, albeit with some swing and miss tagging along for the ride.
Rodgers has the hands and arm to stick at shortstop long term, where his offensive potential could make him a star. The lower-half actions, however, can get a little stiff and sluggish. At present, he leans on a true first step and his soft hands to maximize his effective range and hold down the six spot effectively. Should he eventually move off of shortstop, he could profile effectively at both second and third base, giving the profile plenty of cushion.
Rodgers was rated as a likely 60/OFP 70 player by Baseball Prospectus — that’s a potential All-Star shortstop:
The Good: Rodgers spent most of the season at age 19 and continued to show the above-average hit and power tools that made him a top pick in the 2015 draft. The swing is simple, and Rodgers controls the barrel well. There’s enough loft that as he gets stronger the ball should keep carrying over the fence even outside of the Appalachians. If he sticks at shortstop the total offensive package here could make him a perennial all-star.
The Bad: So about that last part...Rodgers fits into the mushy middle category of “might stick at shortstop.” There’s enough arm so he could comfortably slide to third if need be, and he’ll flash good enough infield actions that you don't have to squint too hard to see him as a passable major league shortstop. The glove is a work in progress though, and if he loses some range in his twenties, a corner may call.
In their midseason list, Rodgers was moved up to the #9 prospect in MLB — and given the graduations that are sure to come over the next few months, he has a shot to be a top 5 prospect in their preseason 2018 list:
Rodgers generates more power than most middle infielders, thanks to his combination of bat speed and strength. He doesn't overswing and has good feel for hitting, so he should hit for average as well as pop once he makes some adjustments. He could use more patience at the plate and will have to alter his pull-heavy approach so he can better deal with offspeed pitches on the outer half.
When Rodgers was an amateur, scouts debated whether he could stay at shortstop. He's not quite as quick or rangy as the typical shortstop, but he's a good athlete with a strong arm who could be an average defender there. He could make more of a defensive impact if he shifts to second base (where he saw extensive action last year) or third base, and his bat should allow him to profile anywhere.
Here’s some video of Rodgers in batting practice two months ago courtesy of the Baseball Census:
When's he going to get to the Rockies and how good will he be once he's there?
The scouts and national prospect writers think that Rodgers is the best prospect in the system, a future All-Star shortstop, and middle of the order bat. The electorate and I both happen to agree with them, which is why Rodgers was first on my personal ballot and why I gave him a 65 Future Value.
Rodgers is holding his own currently at a Double A level that I didn’t expect him to reach until next year, so I’ve re-calibrated my MLB ETA expectations accordingly. He’s a candidate to repeat the level at the beginning of next year with a midseason move to Triple A, but the Rockies might just put him with the Isotopes next year if he continues to show improvement in Double A for the rest of the year. Either way, it’s not inconceivable that Rodgers will be a big leaguer as soon as next year — though 2019 is more likely. What position he’ll play when he gets there is up for debate, but I’m hopeful the offensive impact will be there regardless.
★ ★ ★
There you have it - the 2017 midseason Purple Row Prospects list. Stay tuned for a view of the entire list with some general commentary on its composition.