We’re coming into the home-stretch, and with less than a week before the Diamondbacks are finally forced to call a name, it’s time to start examining the cases for those players who have legitimate cases for the top overall selection.
We’ll be profiling our top 10 prospects: SS Brendan Rodgers, SS Dansby Swanson, RHP Phil Bickford, SS Alex Bregman, RHP Donny Everett, RHP Dillon Tate, LHP Tyler Jay, OF Kyle Tucker, RHP Jon Harris and OF Ian Happ.
Let’s start with Rodgers.
Let’s get some facts out of the way first.
Name: Brendan Rodgers
School: Lake Mary HS (FL)
Committed to: Florida State
Rodgers opened some eyes with his performances on the showcase circuit last year, but he’s been a known commodity since early 2013. He committed early to Florida State, allowing him to focus on his play.
During his senior season, Rodgers got off to a slow start, but showed plenty of power late in the year. He finished with eight duoubles and eight home runs in just 25 games. Granted, this is quite a small sample size, and for the most part stats accumulated in high school mean nothing, but it was nice to see him show the pop everyone had expected from him right off the bat.
That power, which grades out as a 45/65 on our scale, is just one of several above-average-to-plus tools that Rodgers possesses. He also gets high marks for arm strength (55/70), fielding ability (50/70) and hitting for both average (45/65) and power (45/65). And while speed isn’t expected to be a big part of his game he grades out well in that department too, picking up a 50/60.
Rodgers, by virtue of being a shortstop projected to go #1 overall, has received comparisons to other shortstops that have been selected first overall, including Carlos Correa, Tim Beckham and of course, Alex Rodriguez. The A-Rod comp is obviously way too generous, and the physicality of Correa makes that a misplaced comparison as well. Beckham, on the other hand, seems a very similar prospect, at least on the surface. Both players checked in around 6-0/6-1 and 190 pounds, and both dazzled scouts with a complete package of tools that included above-average speed, hitting ability and defensive prowess.
Beckham was never able to bring it all together, however, and while he has made it to the big-leagues, he hasn’t done much with the opportunity. While it’s unfair to label him a bust, we should all expect Rodgers to go on to have a much more productive big-league career than Beckham.
In fact, the most realistic comparison for Rodgers might be to 2012 first-round pick Addison Russell, who also hails from the state of Florida. Both players feature similar skill-sets and defensive versatility. Once he turns pro, expect Rodgers’ numbers in the minor leagues to look similar to Russell’s (see below).
The Case for Rodgers as the #1 Pick
The case for Rodgers hinges on one word: upside.
Anyone who favors Rodgers as the first pick, assumes that he will go on to become a better player than either Dansby Swanson or Alex Bregman, the two top shortstop prospects from the 2015 college crop. Rodgers compares favorably to both, but is his ceiling as a player of their caliber? If so, it would make more sense to draft the player that has more experience, and who will be ready to help the big-league club sooner.
Those who are high on Rodgers, as we are, make the prediction that he will go on to surpass Swanson and Bregman in terms of production at the plate, and in the field.
Let’s focus on the defense for a minute.
Swanson looked sharp at shortstop this season for Vanderbilt, and made some truly incredible plays, but don’t forget that he was playing shortstop for the first time in his career. His versatility will allow him to move all over the diamond, likely finding the easiest spot to plug him in, while still getting his bat to the big-leagues as soon as possible. Bregman was also plugged in at short for the first time this year and he won a spot on the SEC All-Defense team. Anyone who watched him play, however, saw what we saw: limited range and max effort on his throws. He might be an everyday shortstop at the big-league level, but he won’t offer above-average defense.
Even if he grows a few more inches, and puts on some weight, Rodgers still seems like the best bet to, not only stick at shortstop, but to thrive there.
Now, let’s move on to hitting.
It’s easy to sit here and project Rodgers as Swanson’s or Bregman’s equal at the plate, but it’s going to be an accomplishment in itself if he’s able to put up the kind of numbers each player put up in the toughest conference in college baseball.
Still, it’s hard to look at Rodgers’ plus bat speed, hit ability to make consistent contact, and his ability to handle premium velocity and not feel positive about him being a .300 hitter who generated 15-25 home runs per season.
Swanson and Bregman may also have that potential, but when you take into account the defense, Rodgers has to be the top choice.