Welcome to the 2021 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2021. 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.
★ ★ ★
No. 9, Brendan Rodgers: 1.3 rWAR
Entering the 2021 season, patience was running thin for heralded prospect Brendan Rodgers. After playing just 32 games in the past two seasons due to reconstructive shoulder surgery, belief in his talent started shifting into more of a myth.
After devouring the minor leagues with a 129 wRC+ in over 1,500 plate appearances from 2015-2018, he was understandably slated as the replacement for D.J. LeMahieu entering 2019. But his time in the major leagues since then had been brief and unproductive. After that and watching David Dahl rise, fall and finally depart after seasons plagued by injury and underwhelming performance, expectations were mounting for Rodgers to finally make good on the hype.
Rodgers entered spring training healthy and expected to take a starting spot on the infield. Then, on March 13th, Rodgers strained his right hamstring. Anticipation turned to dread as the injury turned out to be serious, causing Rodgers to miss the start of the season. 44 regular season games would pass before he finally returned.
It’s easy to forget that on top of recovering from the injury he sustained in March, Rodgers was still acclimating to life against major league pitching at this point. In the prior two seasons, Rodgers had played just 32 games and accumulated only 102 plate appearances with the Rockies big league club. In his first 12 games, Rodgers had collected two multi-hit performances but was off to a slow start overall with a .205/.279/.231 slash through 43 plate appearances. He hadn’t taken off, but that wasn’t reason to give up on him yet.
On June 5th, he hit his first big league homer in a pinch-hit appearance at home against Oakland lefty Jesús Luzardo.
Brendan Rodgers goes deep to straightaway center for his first career homer. pic.twitter.com/Twa6t08ma8— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) June 6, 2021
Rodgers would add two more against Miami a week later and was starting to heat up. He would finish June with four bombs and combined to hit .308/.389/.538 for the month. Finally, the long overdue coming-out party for the annual top-100 prospect had arrived.
His bat would cool a bit for the next two months, although he remained near league average with a .277/.310/.458 line and 91 wRC+ over 174 plate appearances through July and August. In the final stretch, breakout Rodgers re-appeared as he posted an .824 OPS in his final 122 plate appearances to finish the season strong.
Brendan Rodgers 2021 Totals
It was a solid season overall for Rodgers and the first body of work to truly evaluate him on. We learned some tendencies, such as his reverse home/road splits and his propensity to hammer south-paws far more than righties. His walk rate was in the bottom three percentile but his strikeout rate better than league-average. He also played adequately defensively between the two middle infield spots, even posting a 10.0 UZR/150 in 163 ⅔ innings at shortstop.
There is still a grain of salt to be taken with many of these numbers for Rodgers as it was over 102 games. But for 102 games he was healthy and productive, translating his enormous potential into success on the field for the first time in the in big leagues. After his 2021 season, we now have a foundation to start forming an opinion about Brendan Rodgers the player moving forward - and that foundation is promising.