Query: who will be the Rockies everyday second baseman in 2021? Further, who will be the first baseman? Based on playing time in 2020, it looks like the answers to those questions involve some combination of Ryan McMahon, Brendan Rodgers, and Josh Fuentes. As I outlined a few weeks back, there is reason for concern if those are the options.
Let’s start with the most experienced of the bunch. Despite stretches of downright excellent production, McMahon has yet to find his footing in the majors.
It’s always been a battle with the league-average line for McMahon when it comes to overall offensive output. His career .317 wOBA puts him just above league average, not accounting for position. That might make for a decent second baseman, but doesn’t quite hit the mark of the slugging first baseman the Rockies have been lacking for nearly a decade.
The other two options, Josh Fuentes and Brendan Rodgers, have a combined 62 games of MLB experience under their belts. In his extended try out last season Fuentes proved himself a competent first baseman (3.0 UZR, 0 Outs Above Average) but with a long way to go at the plate (.323 wOBA, 86 wRC+). At age 27, it’s not impossible that he could make a step forward in his development, but it also remains unlikely. If Fuentes is the starting first baseman throughout most of 2021, something either went unbelievably right or horribly wrong.
Which brings us to Brendan Rodgers (not the Leicester City manager). Unlike Fuentes, Rodgers brings a first round draft pedigree to the offensive equation. Both Baseball America and MLBPipeline ranked Rodgers as the top prospect in the draft, even though he fell to the Rockies at no. 3 overall (the Dbacks and Astros elected to draft college shortstops, Dansby Swanson and Alex Bregman, ranked just behind Rodgers, a prep prospect). Despite being in the Rockies system for five years now, Rodgers enters his age-24 season in 2021. That still leaves him plenty of time to continue to develop into the hitter many projected him to be.
Rodgers’ career 7 wRC+ shouldn’t be taken too seriously. As Thomas Harding laid out on Thursday, Rodgers has not been healthy for any of his 32 games at the major league level. He’s a career .296/.352/.503 hitter in the minors, a career in which he jumped levels midseason three times. Even Bud Black acknowledges he doesn’t have a lot to prove in the minors, but just needs an opportunity in the majors.
"What does Brendan have to prove in the minors? Not a lot. He's hit in the minors. Now he just has to hit in the big leagues, and we've got to give him that opportunity."@Rockies manager Bud Black on the next step for @broddddd3: pic.twitter.com/ygBSoTbQw0— MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (@MLBNetworkRadio) December 16, 2020
Will he get that opportunity? Considering the offseason so far, I don’t think we should bet on the Rockies making a big splash to lure in, say, DJ LeMahieu or Carlos Santana to plug holes in the lineup. It looks like it will be up to McMahon, Fuentes, and Rodgers to try to lift the on the right side of the infield to at least a respectable shadow of the left side.
Between the current state of the roster and the complications brought about by the novel coronavirus pandemic, the window of contention is closing (if it hasn’t closed already). The key figure in all of this is Rodgers, both now and in the foreseeable future. Can he tap into that pedigree and keep that window of contention open a little longer? It’s quite the query.
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Speaking of future, if you missed Ian Desmond’s update on how he spent his summer earlier this week, it is well worth your time to see how he’s putting his time and money where his mouth is.
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