Colorado Rockies second baseman Brendan Rodgers is having a rough start to his first season as an Opening Day starter. Rodgers himself knows it as well as anyone else.
Playing against the Philadelphia Phillies on April 26th, Rodgers came to the plate against Phillies pitcher Nick Nelson. Nelson was having some trouble locating, giving up a double to CJ Cron and walking Ryan McMahon. Rodgers’ first pitch was a slider in the zone, but he fouled it off. He took the next three pitches for balls. So Rodgers was up 3-1 in the count with runners on base and no outs. Not to mention the Rockies were already trailing by nine runs. That’s not a ton of pressure for the at-bat. Rodgers then swung at the fifth pitch, a four seam fastball well above the strike zone, for a lazy pop-up to the first baseman.
Rodgers has been ahead of the count in 18 of his 59 plate appearances but hasn’t been able to turn that advantage into a single hit. He’s drawn more walks in his first 14 games in 2022, but that’s about the only way he can get on base. With runners in scoring position he’s 0-for-14 with an RBI. He’s walked three times but struck out four.
“I obviously didn’t intend to be in this slow start,” Rodgers told the Denver Post. “But I feel confident, still. I’m taking good swings, I’m just missing pitches, missing my pitch, that I usually don’t miss. It’s part of the game. Got to keep grinding.”
Brendan Rodgers has a good swing and can be an incredibly talented hitter. Nolan Arenado once told the Denver Post’s Patrick Saunders that “he thought Rodgers’ swing was one of the best he’d ever seen from a young player.”
The problem is that during his slump he’s definitely not putting that swing to good use. Rodgers’ plate approach has been overly aggressive. He’s swinging and missing on more pitches both inside and outside the zone, so pitchers are being more aggressive with him. Opposing pitchers are throwing him more early strikes and them prompting him to chase out of the zone. He’s struck out 16 times, third most on the team at time of writing.
His timing and swing location are off-kilter as well. Rodgers is hitting with a GB% of a whopping 51.6%—one of the bottom 25 figures in the league—frequently getting on top of a pitch and driving it into the dirt. He’s made strong contact with just 5.4% of the pitches he’s made contact with.
Brendan Rodgers through first 14 games
Rodgers is struggling to say the least, especially compared to his first 14 games in 2021. Among qualified batters he ranks last in batting average, slugging percentage, OPS, OPS+, and wRC+. His on base percentage is second worst in the league and his fWAR of -0.7 is the third worst figure in the league. His OPS+ and wRC+ stand out especially for just how much worse they are than the batter above him. Rodgers has an OPS+ of -21 while the next man up—Kansas City’s Whit Merrifield—has an 18 point lead on him with -3. Rodgers’ staggeringly bad wRC+ of -26 towers over Merrifield’s wRC+ of -4.
Now while it’s time to be concerned about Brendan Rodgers’ slump, it’s definitely too early to panic. At age 25 he’s still on average 4.3 years younger than his teammates. With just 14 games under his belt for the season, he has plenty of time to rebound. However, it might be time for a tune up with the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes. Rodgers as he is now isn’t valuable to the team. His -0.2 rWAR is tied for second worst on the team despite his solid defense. With a DRS at second base of three—tied for second best in the league at his position—you can see just how much Rodgers’ bat is dragging him down.
A short stint in Triple-A where he can still get regular at-bats to work on his timing and bat location could help him immensely. A former first round pick, top prospect, and now every-day second baseman, Rodgers has a tremendous amount of pressure on his shoulders to preform. Rodgers hit very well over his three stints with the Isotopes and the step down in competition might alleviate some pressure and help him find his swing. Rodgers slashed .322/.375/.520 in 22 at-bats in Albuquerque across parts of three seasons.
Optioning Rodgers could help the Rockies as well with the pending roster crunch. Rodgers still has two options left, and under the new CBA for this season any options used before May 2nd don’t count towards the new five-option limit. The Rockies can continue to use Alan Trejo at second base until he returns.
The second option is what Rockies manager Bud Black has already been executing so far: patience. Rodgers has started in 14 of the Rockies 18 games played thus far. Much like what would happen in Albuquerque, Rodgers needs consistent at-bats to keep tuning his swing and finding rhythm. Flat out benching him helps no one. We know Brendan Rodgers is a good players and can absolutely be the Rockies’ every day second baseman. His excellent 2021 campaign shows us as much. In 2021 Rodgers was worth 1.4 rWAR while slashing .284/.328/.470 with 15 home runs. He was also one of the Rockies’ better hitters on the road.
Regardless of which approach you take, the key point is this: be patient with Brendan Rodgers and continue giving him at-bats either in the big leagues or in Albuquerque and trust in the talented player’s true swing emerging. Both CJ Cron and Elias Díaz had slow starts in 2021 only to rocket to the finish line with some truly fantastic hitting. With only the first month of the season in the books, there’s plenty of time for Rodgers to do the same.
★ ★ ★
Jameson Taillon—a former teammate with the Pittsburgh Pirates—calls Rockies starting pitcher Chad Kuhl “one of my closest friends in the big leagues.” The two pitchers came up together in the Pirates organization and Taillon has nothing but praise for his friend Kuhl. Taillon believes the change in scenery with coming to Colorado has and will do Kuhl good.
★ ★ ★
On The Farm
The name of the game for the Isotopes was the long ball. Elehuris Montero, Carlos Pérez, Wynton Bernard, and Sean Bouchard all went deep against the River Cats. Montero and Bouchard both had strong games, going 2-for-4 and 2-for-3 respectively. Bouchard scored three runs and Montero had two RBIs. Starting pitcher Zach Neal pitched 5 2⁄3 innings of solid baseball, giving up two earned runs on six hits while striking out five. JD Hammer and Zach Lee held the River Cats scoreless during their relief work. Chad Smith allowed one run but the Isotopes’ lead held.
Rockies prospects kept pouring on the home runs in Harrisburg. Ezequiel Tovar, Willie MacIver, and Hunter Stovall all hit home runs against the Senators. MacIver has six on the season while Tovar now has four. Starting pitcher Mitchell Kilkenny gave up three runs on five hits through 4 1⁄3 innings of work. He struck out three but walked two. The Yard Goats’ bullpen took over in the fifth inning and shut the Senators out for the rest of the game. Riley Pint continued his excellent comeback season with a scoreless 1 1⁄3 innings of work, striking out one batter.
The only game without a home run from the Rockies affiliate, the Indians still poured on the offense for nine runs on 15 hits as the walloped the Aquasox. Six of the Indians’ starting nine had multi-hit games, including 3-for-4 nights by both Eddy Diaz and Grant Lavigne. Top prospects Drew Romo and Zac Veen both went 2-for-5, with Romo hitting his first triple of the season. Starting pitcher Mike Ruff earned the quality start with three runs on six hits over six innings of work. He struck out six batters. Boby Johnson (one inning) and Adam McKillican (two innings) finished out the game while holding the Aquasox scoreless.
The Fresno Grizzlies demolished the Stockton ports with ten runs on 17 hits. All but one of the starting nine had a hit on the day and seven had multiple hits. Juan Brito, Braxton Fulford, and Hunter Goodman all had three hits. Meanwhile the Grizzlies offense also offered up their fair share of home runs. Amael Amador, Hunter Goodman, Braiden Ward, and Juan Guerrero all launched the long ball. Starting pitcher Case Williams had one of the best starts of his young career, working for five innings while giving up one run on three hits. He walked two batters but struck out a career high eight. The bullpen, consisting of Luis Amoroso, Ever Moya, and Joel Condreay, kept the Ports hitless through four innings of work.
★ ★ ★
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