2022 couldn’t have started much worse for Brendan Rodgers.
The 25-year old former top prospect had just four hits, all singles, in his first 14 games. His average dropped as low as .078 at the end of April causing manager Bud Black to drop him to eighth in the batting order. With the Rockies off to a solid start, thanks in no part to Rodgers, there was considerable momentum for him to be sent down to AAA. Rodgers preached patience - “[g]ot to keep grinding”, he said, and Black agreed, continuing to put him in the lineup.
The patience has been rewarded. Rodgers recovered from his season-opening slump and began to heat up, peaking when named the NL’s Player of the Week to start the month of June. His splits to start the year show two completely different players.
Brendan Rodgers 2022 Standard Splits
Rodgers’ early season was plagued by a high strikeout rate and bad luck when he did put the ball in play. His BABIP has bounced back - baseball is a game of averages, after all - and Rodgers has reaped the benefits. He’s been more contact oriented at the plate, dropping his strikeout rate and walk rate, and that approach has yielded results. His batted ball rates over both ranges are similar, but he’s been able to make much more hard contact.
Brendan Rodgers 2022 Batted Ball Splits
Hit the ball hard and good things will happen. Taking a look at Rodgers’ 15-game rolling rates for both Z-Swing% (the percentage of pitches he swung at that were in the strike zone) and Z-Contact% (the percentage of those pitches he made contact with), there’s an obvious upward trend. His Z-Contact% peaks at around 91%, well above league average, in what was the middle of his eventual 20-game hit streak. His Z-Swing%, after starting well below league average levels, has returned to normalcy and now gone above average.
These stats don’t directly affect the other - just because a batter swings at a pitch in the zone doesn’t guarantee that they will hit it, and any combinations of high or low Z-Contact%s and Z-Swing%s are possible. But it does make intuitive sense that they would at least influence the other. In Rodgers’ case, as he felt more confident in the box, he made more (and better) contact with pitches, swinging at more of them. As those both went up, his overall offensive production has followed.
These are all good signs for Rodgers and Rockies fans alike. The early season sub-.200 BABIP wasn’t sustainable, and while the .361 value likely isn’t either, it’s certainly closer to the value he should be able to stay at long term. If the overall offensive production is able to stay in the same ballpark, the former prospect may have finally arrived.
From the day Rodgers was drafted to his rise through the minors, his bat has been his highest touted asset. His MLB career to this point has been mired with inconsistency - either injury related, pandemic related, or just plain cold stretches like the one to start 2022. He hasn’t looked the part of potential franchise player yet, but if the last month is an indication of things to come, he’s turned the corner. Hot streaks have a potential to end at any time and be just that - a streak. But when a young player is hitting at an elevated level for 30-plus games, the conversation turns from when the streak will end to this being the new baseline level. Let’s hope Brendan Rodgers is there now.
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On the Farm
Robinson Canó making his 2022 AAA debut in a SpongeBob SquarePants jersey was a tough act to follow, but this game did it’s best. The ‘topes gave up eight runs early to El Paso (SDP), then came storming back behind the bats of minor-league workhorse Wynton Bernard (3-4, 2 HRS, BB, 3 RBI) and Sean Bouchard (5-5, 2 2B, RBI, R).
SEAN. BOUCHARD.— Albuquerque Isotopes (@ABQTopes) June 13, 2022
He is 5-for-5 tonight and we are tied!! pic.twitter.com/vL0kQA7N4i
The bullpen (Logan Cozart, Reagan Todd, Jordan Sheffield, Zach Lee) provided four scoreless innings of relief and allowed Albuquerque to get back in the game. Now, the Isotopes will play the Salt Lake Bees (LAA) for their next six game series.
In what was a rare off day for No. 6 PuRP Ezequiel Tovar (0-4, CS), the rest of the lineup picked up the slack, finishing off a sweep of the Portland Sea Dogs (BOS) for their ninth consecutive win. Aaron Schunk (no. 24 PuRP) had a solo homer plus an RBI double, and Tyler Hill smacked a grand slam in the seventh to put the Yard Goats ahead for good. Michael Baird started his fifth game of the year on the mound, leaving after five innings with no decision after allowing two runs on three hits and a walk. Trent Fennell earned the win in relief, coming in to throw two scoreless innings. The Yard Goats have an off day today, then will welcome the Akron RubberDucks (CLE) to Dunkin Donuts Park for a new series Tuesday.
The bullpen had a long day at the office for Spokane Sunday, allowing five earned runs in three innings of work to end the Indians West Coast road trip. Braiden Ward and Zac Veen (no. 1 PuRP) wrecked havoc on the Emeralds (SFG) pitching staff in the fourth - Ward was hit by pitch in a full count, then stole second and advanced to third on a balk with Veen at the plate. Veen brought him home with a full count RBI single, and then stole second and third himself, and came home to score when the catcher threw the ball into left field. Andrew Quezada started the game for the Indians, allowing two runs in five innings of work before being relieved by the ultimately unsuccessful bullpen. Spokane now returns home for a two series homestand, kicking off Tuesday against the Hillsboro Hops (ARI).
In another six game series sweep for Rockies affiliates, the Grizzlies offensive outburst was more than enough to take down the Rawhide (ARI) Sunday. Every Grizzlies hitter reached base, and every starter but Yanquiel Fernandez (no. 25 PuRP) scored a run (although he added four RBI). The majority of the damage happened in the home fifth - Braxton Fulford led off with a homer, and EJ Andrews Jr. followed with a two-run jack of his own three batters later. The Grizzlies then took advantage of four walks, a hit by pitch, and a couple of errors, capitalizing with a Hunter Goodman (no. 27 PuRP) double and Juan Guererro homer. They ended up scoring 10 runs and bringing 14 batters to the plate, effectively ending the game. Tuesday the Grizzlies will continue their season with a series against San Jose (SFG).
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Summer is just beginning and Ezequiel Tovar keeps getting rave reviews from news outlets around the nation. Calls for Tovar to be promoted to the MLB level are already coming in, and will only get stronger should the 20-year old shortstop continue tearing through minor league pitching. FanGraphs’ David Laurila gets some perspective on Tovar’s development and season from two that have seen it up close - Yard Goats manager Chris Denorfia and Eastern League rival Portland Sea Dogs broadcaster Emma Tiedemann. We’ve all seen the stats (.951 OPS at time of writing), but both Denorfia and Tiedemann praised Tovar’s poise and composure, notable since he is competing against much older players. That composure will come in handy should the Rockies continue to promote him aggressively as they have been.
If you haven’t watched any baseball for the last year, let’s catch you up. C.J. Cron is good. He was the best offensive player on the 2021 Rockies, and has continued that work into 2022. With baseball’s annual Midsummer Classic coming up, he looks to be a prime candidate for the Rockies representative. Roxpile’s Kevin Henry takes a look at his chances, noting that they are brought down by the dearth of National League first baseman who are playing incredibly well right now. With Tyler Kinley landing on the 15-game IL, his potential candidacy also takes a hit. Let us know who you’re voting for in the comments below!
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