Today we conclude our Purple Row Prospects (PuRPs) for the mid-season 2018! In case you missed it, here are prospects 30-26, prospects 25-21, prospects 20-16, prospects 15-11, and prospects 10-6. Garrett Hampson began the top five, Ryan Rolison was revealed as number four, Colton Welker took the third position, and yesterday Peter Lambert was the penultimate prospect. As a reminder, in this edition of the PuRPs poll, 31 ballots were cast, with 30 points granted for a first place vote, 29 for second, etc.
1. Brendan Rodgers (930 points, 31 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: 1 — High Ballot 1 (31), Mode Ballot 1
How did he enter the organization?
2015 1st Round, Lake Mary (FL) HS
Why did he make the PuRPs list?
It’s a clean sweep for Rodgers in this edition of the PuRPs list, as he placed first in every voter’s ballot. Rodgers, 2015’s no. 3 overall pick, was the consensus top talent in a group that included #1 pick Dansby Swanson and #2 selection Alex Bregman. The 21-year-old, 6’0” righty 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. Rodgers possesses elite bat speed and plus instincts with no glaring holes in his game.
After a 2017 season that saw him dominate High A and hold his own in Double A, Rodgers began 2018 with Hartford in a repeat performance. Hitting against pitching that was on average 3.3 years older, Rodgers posted a .275/.342/.493 batting line in 402 plate appearances with the Yard Goats with 17 homers among 42 extra base hits and 12 steals. His 128 wRC+ and plate discipline (8% walks, 19% strikeouts) both represented steps forward from his 2017 crack at the league. Rodgers showed enough of a mastery of the Eastern League that he was promoted to AAA earlier this week after a second straight appearance in the Futures Game. In two games with Albuquerque, Rodgers has gone 3 for 9 with a double.
As was the case last year, Rodgers was much more comfortable at home than on the road. In Hartford, Rodgers posted a .295/.377/.552 line against a .253/.302/.431 mark as a visitor. He displayed more power against lefties (.570 slugging) vs. righties (.466), but overall showed a pretty small platoon split. Defensively, Rodgers played mostly shortstop (58 games) with a significant minority of games at second (21) and third (17) base. Across those positions, Rodgers has committed just five errors this year (compared with 18 last year).
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 20 prospect in MLB overall.
MLB.com continues to be the high organization on Rodgers, ranking him 6th in minor league baseball with a 60 FV grade:
Rodgers offers more upside at the plate than most middle infielders, possessing all the tools to hit for average and power. He has a quick right-handed swing, good feel for the barrel, fine pitch-recognition skills and plenty of strength. He makes consistent hard contact, and the only quibbles with his offensive game are that he rarely walks and occasionally gets pull-conscious.
When Rodgers was in high school, scouts debated whether he was a long-term shortstop. The consensus now is that while he doesn’t have the quickness and range teams typically desire there, his arm strength and instincts allow him to get the job done at short. He could be a solid defender at second or third base, though Nolan Arenado blocks him at the hot corner in Colorado.
Rodgers receives plus (60) grades here for his Hit and Arm tools with average or above ratings across the board.
A scout at the Futures Game on Sunday described Rodgers as “quiet good”: There’s little flashy about his game, but he continues to produce, with a real breakout year in 2018 in his first season playing in a park that isn’t extremely hitter friendly.
Rodgers has exploded with 17 homers already for Hartford, and ranks in the top 10 in the Eastern League in homers and doubles, while playing solid defense at shortstop, thanks primarily to a strong throwing arm and excellent hands. He’s a 40 runner at best and I know multiple scouts who think his slowness and lack of agility will push him to second base, but he hasn’t played himself off of shortstop yet.
In May, Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs gave Rodgers a 60 FV tag as clearly the best prospect in the system:
He’s hit everywhere he’s been since high school and continues to look fine, if unspectacular, at shortstop. He’s above average in every way at the plate (the bat control, power, feel for opposite-field contact, ability to punish mistakes), which means he’s got a good chance to be an All-Star if he stays at shortstop, and it looks like he’s going to.
In their mid-season list update, Rodgers was ranked as the 10th best prospect in baseball.
Baseball Prospectus ranked Rodgers 17th in baseball in their mid-season top 50:
Why he’ll succeed: The second most famous Brendan Rodgers in sports offers potential 25-home-run power at the 6, and he’s improved enough to make you think he can stick on the left side of the infield.
Why he might fail: Double-A has revealed larger concerns about how Rodgers swing plays against better velocity and breakers, and he’s hit just .250/.295/.450 away from the bandbox in downtown Hartford. A below-average hit tool means less of the plus raw gets into games and he’s just an average regular up-the-middle.
As a counterpoint to this exuberance, Jeffrey Paternostro of BP had some great insight in May as to how his opinion of Rodgers evolved and how he looked in High A ball vs. Double A through a scout’s eyes.
Here’s some video on Rodgers courtesy of Baseball Census from last September:
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 potential All-Star shortstop who serves as a middle of the order bat. The electorate and I both happen to agree with them, which is why Rodgers earned every first place vote and why I gave him a 60+ Future Value grade.
Rodgers has now made it to the Triple A level, which means the countdown to a big league call-up is officially on, perhaps as soon as this September if the Rockies think he’s ready to contribute to the stretch run. More likely, the Rockies will start Rodgers off in Albuquerque at the start of 2019 (as he isn’t yet Rule 5 draft eligible yet and therefore doesn’t require a 40 man roster spot) to give him more seasoning at that level. That is, unless Rodgers forces the issue and the team has a DJ LeMahieu-sized hole at second base to fill.
Either way, I’d expect Rodgers to make a big league impact sometime next year. What position he’ll play when he gets there is up for debate, but I’m hopeful the offensive impact will be there regardless.