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Don’t make up your mind on Brendan Rodgers yet

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Rockies news and links for Saturday, June 5, 2021

On May 17, 2019, Brendan Rodgers made his major league debut. It was a long-awaited call-up for the annual top prospect of the Rockies farm system and was greeted with a huge amount of enthusiasm from the fanbase.

Unfortunately, in July of that year it was revealed that Rodgers had a torn labrum in his right shoulder and would require season-ending surgery to repair the damage. This was a big blow at the time and, in hindsight, is the biggest reason for why we are here, two years later, still waiting for Rodgers to establish himself.

After rehabbing through the second half of the 2019 season and offseason, there was hope the Rodgers parade would be thrown in 2020. But the pandemic season proved to be more of a lost cause for Rodgers and the Rockies than 2019 was. Rodgers appeared in just seven games in 2020 before being shut down again due to shoulder issues. There was no surgery required this time and the Rockies intentions to be overly-cautious with Rodgers in 2020 were clear. But the result was the same as 2019, a small sample of below-average performance before being shut down due to shoulder issues.

2021 comes and...Rodgers gets hurt in spring training. A hamstring injury kept Rodgers out of game action until May but now he is back! The performance, however, is still not great. Since returning to the Rockies on May 21, Rodgers has a .205/.279/.231 slash in 12 games with only one extra-base hit.

That’s the story of Brendan Rodgers’ last 749 days since first reaching the majors on May 17, 2019. That’s a long duration of time, but not nearly enough games to definitively say what Rodgers is as a big leaguer yet.

The injuries have been frustrating — there is no argument there — but they have been a stumble at the goal line in the career of Rodgers to this point. Before reaching the big leagues in 2019, the hype train carrying Rodgers was absolutely justified by his performance at every stop in the minors.

Brendan Rodgers MiLB wRC+

Year Level wRC+
Year Level wRC+
2015 Rookie 95
2016 A-Ball 135
2017 High-A 184
2017 Double-A 104
2018 Double-A 129
2018 Triple-A 44
2019 Triple-A 147
fangraphs.com

This is a minor league track record to believe in. Rodgers earned his stripes by showing major offensive production at every stop. Additionally, when repeating levels at Double-A and Triple-A, Rodgers greatly improved his performance from his first go-round, leading to the belief that he can adjust to improved competition.

But why hasn’t that Brendan Rodgers shown up at the big leagues yet? Well, first off, a shoulder injury for any hitter is a tough hill to climb. Nolan Arenado’s power output in 2020 dropped considerably after an injury to the AC joint in his left shoulder in July, an injury which ultimately led to him being shut down for the season. In 2018, it was Kris Bryant whose shoulder was ailing and leading many to believe he would never regain his MVP-caliber form. Neither required surgery to recover from their injuries, but Michael Brantley did after his labrum tear in 2016 and he wasn’t the same hitter again until 2018.

The injury itself is a major component for why we haven’t seen the best of Rodgers yet, but another huge factor to consider is simply that he hasn’t been able to accrue the number of games yet to make any meaningful sample size of production.

Since Rodgers seems destined to take the reins at shortstop if (or when) Trevor Story departs, it is fitting we take a look at Rodgers’ history so far compared to the man who preceded Story at the position: Troy Tulowitzki.

First let’s look at how each fared in the first taste of big league action.

Rodgers vs. Tulowitzki Debuts

Stat Rodgers '19-'20 Tulo '06
Stat Rodgers '19-'20 Tulo '06
Games 32 25
AB 102 96
AVG .196 .240
OBP .235 .318
SLG .227 .292
HR 0 1
BB 4 10
K 33 25
baseball-reference.com

Now, let’s look at how the start to each of their first full seasons match up.

Rodgers vs Tulowitzki First Full Season

Stat Rodgers 2021 Tulo 2007
Stat Rodgers 2021 Tulo 2007
Games 12 10
AB 39 37
AVG .205 .162
OBP .279 .262
SLG .231 .216
HR 0 0
BB 2 4
K 9 14
baseball-reference.com

Tulowitzki started off pretty shaky to begin his big league career as well, but we all know what he became and that’s the whole point; Rodgers still has time to become that core offensive piece we’ve all expected him to be.

This is not to say my crystal ball is telling me that Rodgers will become Tulo. Rockies fans will gladly take it if it happens, but it’s unfair to expect Rodgers to live up to the expectation of becoming the best shortstop in the game. It is similarly unfair for anyone to watch the historic start to Trevor Story’s career and denounce Rodgers when he doesn’t blow up onto the scene in a similar fashion—or to simply lean on Rodgers to immediately take over as the next face of the franchise as the core from the 2017 and 2018 playoff teams continues to erode.

A lot of expectations have been put on Brendan Rodgers, and so far it has not worked out as planned. It’s fair to have concerns about the health of the shoulder and that is where we need to hope for the best. But when it comes to talent, there is still plenty in his profile that should allow us to believe in him. However, one thing we learned from our first star homegrown shortstop this millennium is that sometimes patience is needed before they finally flourish.

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Rockies Insider: Three individuals with Colorado ties to watch on Team USA baseball roster | The Denver Post ($)

With baseball set to rejoin the Olympics, the qualifying rounds are under way. Team USA is currently playing in the Baseball Americas Qualifier and Kyle Newman of The Denver Post touches on three names familiar to Rockies fans that are part of the squad. Former Rockies outfielder Matt Kemp and relief pitcher DJ Johnson are players on the team, while long time Rockies coach and front office assistant Jerry Weinstein is serving as bench coach. If Team USA wins the qualifier round, they will join Japan, South Korea, Mexico and Israel later this summer in Tokyo for the Olympic games.

Tapia heating up after meeting with family | MLB.com

After being mired in a slump accounting for the worst 20-game stretch in his career, Raimel Tapia has needed to find ways to turn to his season around. On a recent road trip to New York, Thomas Harding sheds light on Tapia being able to visit with his older brother, Anotonio Linares, and how it may be just what he needed to start heating up again.

On the farm

Triple-A: Las Vegas Aviators 4, Albuquerque Isotopes 2

The Isotopes fell to Las Vegas 4-2, marking their fifth loss in the last six games. José Briceño and Taylor Motter drove in the only two runs for Albuquerque, both coming in the sixth inning. On the positive side, Joe Harvey continued his dominance of the Triple-A, striking out the side in a scoreless ninth inning. Harvey now has 10.1 scoreless innings to his name this season.

Double-A: Bowie Baysox 6, Hartford Yard Goats 2

Hartford also came out on the losing end of their game tonight against the Bowie Baysox, dropping their record to 7-21 on the season. The bottom of the Yard Goats lineup, catcher Max George and center fielder Mylz Jones combined to go 0-7 with six strikeouts in the affair. Jameson Hannah looks to be on a tear since returning from the injured list, collecting two hits Thursday night in his first game back and adding three more on Friday. Jake Bird threw three shutout innings in relief, lowering his season ERA to 2.21 while Todd Scioneaux struck out the side in order in the ninth.

High-A: Spokane Indians 3, Tri-City Dust Devils 0

Spokane shut out the Tri-City Dust Devils behind a strong outing by right-handed starter David Hill. Hill threw six innings with just two hits and a walk given up while striking out six. Derrik Watson, PJ Poulin and Shelby Lackey combined for three scoreless innings out of the bullpen, the trio collectively allowed one hit, two walks and struck out six. Isaac Collins, recently promoted from Low-A Fresno, was one of six Indians hitters to collect a hit in the game.

Low-A: Fresno Grizzlies 2, Visalia Rawhide 1

All-May PuRP Mitchell Kilkenny continued his demolition of the Low-A ranks, throwing six innings of one-run ball. He struck out eight while only allowing three hits and issuing no walks. Catcher Drew Romo continues to swing a hot bat, collecting two hits for the third straight game. Juan Mejia picked up his eighth save after pitching a scoreless ninth inning.

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