Brendan Rodgers has carried loads of great expectations since the Rockies made him the third overall pick in the 2015 draft.
But what was once a burden has now become a challenge, and Rodgers is wrapping his arms around it.
“It was quite tough mentally and physically,” said the 25-year-old second baseman. “I’ve faced a lot of things early in my career, but I know how hard I’ve worked. Baseball is my life and I’m going to do anything to get on the field to prove that I I am who I am.”
Rodgers, along with catcher Elias Diaz, has been one of the Rockies’ breakout players this season. He entered the weekend leading the team with a .284 average, and his .805 ops was second only to CJ Cron’s .905. Rodgers, who didn’t hit his first big-league homer until June 5, now has 15 with 18 doubles and two triples.
During a recent 7-2 road trip to the Rockies, Rodgers hit .343 (12-for-35), with three home runs. And while his teammates have struggled to hit the road throughout the season, Rodgers has actually been more productive off Coors Field. He hit .282 with .864 Ops, and mashed 12 of his 15 homers.
“He’s just taking off,” said pitcher Kyle Freeland. “He’s got it all, and I think he’s really starting to feel it now.”
Rodgers’ next challenge could be much bigger. That is, filling a huge hole at shortstop with the possible departure of two-time All-Star Trevor Story, who will become a free agent at the end of the season and possibly sign with another team.
Unless the Rockies acquire Shortstop to replace the story during the off-season — which is a possibility — the job could belong to Rodgers in 2022. And make no mistake, Rodgers, who grew up playing less, wants a job.
“If Trevor is gone, I will certainly work in the off-season to be ready to play shortstop,” Rodgers said. “That’s always been my position. I definitely feel like I can take it to the next level and be an elite, everyday shortstop. I just want to get the chance.”
The story has been influenced by Rodgers’ development this season.
“We’re just getting a glimpse of what that might be,” Kahani said. “In a season, he can be an all-star-type player. I am aware of that. He’s just showing up. “
Still, Rodgers needs to answer some questions about his game as an infielder. A scout for the National League West team likes what he sees from Rodgers at the plate, but believes the field needs improvement.
“He has the skill, but I think he still needs to work on his footwork and anticipation, both on the short and on the other,” Scout said. “There are some balls that an elite fielder gets that Rodgers just doesn’t get. He needs to play more.”
Manager Bud Black still considers Rodgers a work in progress at both second and shortstop.
“We haven’t given him a ton of work at shortstop, so I don’t want to differentiate his skill level between[second and short],” Black said. “I will say this: He is a natural shortstop and he feels very comfortable there. It is second nature to him.
“At second base, he’s getting very comfortable fast, going to his left and going to his right and charging the balls. He’s becoming more and more confident at number two. At this stage But he still needs to clear things up because the game is much faster than a minor-league game.”
Rodgers was 18 when the Rockies dropped him out of Lake Mary High School in Florida more than six years earlier. He received a signing bonus of $5.5 million. At the time, Rodgers said that he wanted to make his big league debut by age 21.
He almost made it when he debuted for the Rockies on May 17, 2019, at the age of 22. But his big league journey has been rocky. Entering this season, he hit just .196 in 97 at-bats in 32 games with a .235 on-base percentage. Injuries, most notably a torn labrum in his right shoulder, which required season-ending surgery in July 2019, halted his career.
“I had shoulder pain many years ago and knew that, eventually, I was going to have surgery for it,” he said. “I’ll have good years and bad years with it. I’m glad we took care of it. It feels strong now.”
At the start of spring training, Rodgers was excited about the upcoming 2021 season.
“You didn’t see me, be me. I’m ready to be and get out there and show people what I’m capable of,” he said.
Black put the other way.
“There’s another year of maturity, and another year of growth, and I think now he sees himself as a boy[where]this could potentially be his year,” Black said. . “To make the statement, ‘I am a major league player.’ I think that’s how he sees things right now.”
But then another blow struck. During a Cactus League game on March 13, Rodgers strained his right hamstring while trying to steal second base. He did not play his first game with the Rockies until May 21.
But now, as the season comes to a close, Rodgers has certainly proved himself as a major leaguer.
“Over the past few months, we have shown independence and confidence in his game,” Black said. “He always believed he could play in the big leagues and hit the big leagues.”
But, Black said, Rodgers faces more work to become the player he has the chance to be.
“The thing I want to explain to Brendan is that I think it’s important for him to see himself as a complete player, both as an offensive force and a defensive force,” Black said. “It’s going to take time and work. I want to continue to see his work ethic and efficiency grow as a major league player. Because as you get older, you have a minor- It takes even more effort than a league player.”
rogers rocky road
June 2015: Selected by the Rockies with the third overall pick in the 2015 draft from Lake Mary High School in Lake Mary, Fla. Signed for $5.5 million.
Summer 2015: Played 37 games for the Grand Junction rookie-level team, scoring .314 runs in the second half.
2016: Hit .281 with 19 homers for Low-A Asheville and was named a midseason and postseason All-Star in the South Atlantic League.
2017: Combined to hit .336 with 18 homers in 89 games between High-A Lancaster and Double-A Hartford. Rodgers put together a 23-game hitting streak at Lancaster, which earned him promotion to Double-A.
2018: Named a MiLB.com Organizational All-Star and Midseason All-Star for the third consecutive season. He scored .275 in 95 games for Double-A Hartford, with 17 home runs, and 19 games for Triple-A Albuquerque, hitting .232.
2019: He made his major league debut in Philadelphia on May 17 and played 25 games with the Rockies before undergoing right shoulder surgery in July. Hit .224 for the Rockies. Played 37 games with Albuquerque, hitting .350, with nine homers.
2020: Played in seven games (four starts) for the Rockies in the pandemic-shortened season, going 2-for-21 (.095) without any home runs. He was placed on the injured list on August 31 with a strain on his right shoulder.
–Patrick Saunders, The Denver Post