Welcome to the 2019 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2019. The purpose of this list is to provide a snapshot of the player in context. The “Ranking” is an organizing principle that’s drawn from Baseball Reference’s WAR (rWAR). It’s not something the staff debated. We’ll begin with the player with the lowest rWAR and end up with the player with the highest.
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No. 43, Brendan Rodgers: -0.8 rWAR
The future is now! Since being drafted by the Colorado Rockies with the third overall pick in the 2016 draft, Brendan Rodgers has found himself toward the top, and often atop, of Rockies’ prospect rankings. He will retain his rookie status heading into the 2020 season and currently sits at No. 1 in our PuRP rankings. 2019, however, was a disappointing major league debut for Rodgers considering his lofty expectations.
After being promoted to Triple-A for the second half of the 2018 campaign, Rodgers struggled immensely, with a line of only .232/.264/.290 in 19 games. He was given another go at Albuquerque to begin 2019, and the second time was the charm. With nine home runs, a .350 batting average and a 16.9% K-rate through 140 plate appearances, the Rockies determined it was the correct time for their prized prospect to get the call to the game’s highest level.
On May 17, with the team’s record sitting at 20-22 and Garrett Hampson and Pat Valaika both not getting the job done, it was Rodgers’s time to shine. He looked fine to begin with, hitting .313/.371/.375 with two doubles through his first 32 plate appearances. The next 46 plate appearances, however, were horrid (.159/.196/.159) and featured not a single extra-base hit.
By the time his season came to an end due to injury, Rodgers’ final batting line was .224/.272/.250 in 25 games, resulting in a, um, disappointing DRC+ of only 47. He struck out in exactly one-third of his plate appearances, which would certainly suggest the 23-year-old was struggling to keep up with major league pitching.
There was actually a brief period (June 15-20) in which Rodgers was optioned to Triple-A, but an injury to Trevor Story resulted in him being called right back—that is, for only a few days before his season ended due to right shoulder impingement.
We didn’t hear much about Rodgers’ condition until he posted a photo on Instagram on July 16 featuring himself in a hospital bed with his right arm in a sling.
MLB.com’s Thomas Harding reported it was a surgery for a labral tear in his right shoulder. Evidently, this was a fairly serious injury. It’s not known for exactly how long Rodgers was experiencing discomfort in his shoulder, but it’s quite possible it could have played a role in the diminishing returns in his performance as the season wore on.
What role could Rodgers play in 2020?
At the surface, the infield appears crowded. Nolan Arenado is obviously going to play third base and Story is obviously going to play shortstop. Ryan McMahon took the reins as the everyday second baseman in 2019. Daniel Murphy saw most of the time at first base and will enter 2020 in the second year of a two-year, $24 million contract. Hampson and Valaika are also on the 40-man roster representing potential roadblocks for Rodgers.
However, everyone mentioned in the previous paragraph (besides Arenado and Story) was rated as a below average hitter by DRC+. It is by no means a stretch to say it’s possible a healthy Rodgers provides more value than any of them. The most likely opportunity for Rodgers will come if McMahon is shifted to first base and Murphy is relegated to more of a bench role.
If all goes well, Rodgers won’t be eligible for PuRPs polling again by the middle of next season.