Rooker Promoted: Aggressive, or No?
Image courtesy of Mariana Guzman (photo of Brent Rooker)So, I went to Baseball-Reference (I know, obviously) and researched which college hitters were drafted ahead of Brent Rooker in the 2017 draft. I was curious to see where other teams had started those players and where they are now, if different. Secondly, because Rooker is a four-year college guy (the Twins actually drafted him in 2016 in the 38th round), I thought it would make sense to look at the college hitters drafted in the first round in 2016 as well. For them, I was curious where they got to by the end of 2016 as well as where they are right now, midway through the 2017 season.
I’m willing to admit when I’m wrong, but I did have a couple of assumptions in my mind before doing the research.
- I assumed that none of the other college hitters drafted in 2017 have reached High-A yet. I did expect that a couple of the very high draft picks would be at Low A by now.
- I assumed that most of the college hitters drafted in 2016’s first round were at least at High-A, unless there was an injury at play or something.
(4) Brendan McKay - Tampa Bay Rays - There were rumors that the Twins were interested in the two-way player from Louisville. To this point, McKay has played in just two games in the New York-Penn League (NYPL) which is a short-season A league. The Twins don’t have a short-season A club, but the level is between Advanced Rookie Leagues like the Appalachian League and Low-A Leagues like the Midwest League. McKay is 0-8 with 4 strikeouts, but I think that would be considered Small Sample Size.
(7) Pavin Smith - Virginia - Arizona Diamondbacks - Smith has played in 20 games for the DBacks affiliate in the Northwest League. Like the NYPL, the Northwest League is a short-season A league.
(8) Adam Haseley - Virginia - Philadelphia Phillies - Smith’s teammate began his pro career with three games in the GCL before moving up to the NYPL where he’s played in 14 games.
(9) Keston Hiura - Milwaukee Brewers - Hiura, who was drafted out of UC-Irvine, has played in 15 games for the Brewers affiliate in the Arizona League which is similar to the Gulf Coast League (the lower short-season league), though he is hitting .435 (1.339 OPS).
(11) Jake Burger - Chicago White Sox - Burger was drafted out of Missouri State. He played in four games in the Arizona League before moving up to the White Sox Low A affiliate in the South Atlantic League (Low A).
(17) Evan White - Seattle Mariners - The first baseman was drafted out of Kentucky. The Mariners have had him play 14 games so far in the Northwest League (short-season A).
(22) Logan Warmoth - Toronto Blue Jays - The middle infielder selected out of North Carolina began his career with five games in the GCL. He moved up to the Northwest League (short-season).
(23) Jaren Kendall - Los Angeles Dodgers - The Wisconsin kid was drafted out of Vanderbilt. He signed on the final signing day, so he is yet to play in a game.
(33) Kevin Merrell - Oakland A’s - Drafted out of South Florida, the A’s placed Merrell in the NYPL to start his career.
Of nine college hitters drafted before Brent Rooker at the 35th pick, here is the quick breakdown of where they are playing right now:
Low Rookie - 1
Advanced Rookie - 3
Short-season A - 3
Low A - 1
Rooker played 22 games for Elizabethton (Advanced Rookie) before playing in his first Ft. Myers Miracle (High-A) game on Tuesday night. While he is the first to play in High-A from this group, it doesn’t mean he’ll be the last. In fact, it’s likely he won’t be. He shouldn’t be as the 35th overall pick, not when there are five college hitters who were taken in the first 11 picks. And, of course, on an even bigger level, we won’t really know the value of any of these picks for another half-dozen years, at least.
The College Hitters Drafted In 2016s First Round
(2) Nick Senzel - Cincinnati Reds - The second overall pick in the draft out of Tennessee, Senzel reached the Midwest League last season. He began this year in the Florida State League, but he was promoted to AA where he has now played 23 games.
(5) Corey Ray - Milwaukee Brewers - Drafted out of Louisville, Ray started his career with three games in Low A before being pushed to High A where he played 57 games to end the season. That is where he remains to this point in the 2017 season as well. The only difference is that the Brewers High-A affiliate is now in the Carolina League.
(10) Zack Collins - Chicago White Sox - Collins was playing in the Florida State League shortly after playing in the College World Series. That is where he remains to this point in the 2017 season.
(11) Kyle Lewis - Seattle Mariners - Lewis was believed by some to be a possibility as the #1 overall pick. He fell to #11 and played some in the short-season A ball league. He had a major knee injury and has just recently began to play in 2017, playing two games in High A.
(16) Matt Thaiss - Los Angeles Angels - The first baseman from Virginia began his career last year in rookie ball before playing 52 games in Low A. He began 2017 in High A before being promoted to AA about a couple of weeks ago
(22) Will Craig - Pittsburgh Pirates - The third baseman from Wake Forest spent his entire 2016 pro season in the NYPL. This season, he jumped straight to High-A, where he remains.
(32) Will Smith - Los Angeles Dodgers - The catcher from Louisville spent about two weeks in rookie ball, 23 games in Low A and 25 games in High A in 2016. He began 2017 in High A with 72 more games in High A. He was promoted to AA about a week ago. He played one game before landing on the DL.
(39) Anfernee Grier - Arizona Diamondbacks - After signing last year out of Auburn, Grier split his 2016 between two levels of the rookie leagues. He has spent the 2017 season in Low A ball.
There were eight college hitters selected in the first round of the 2016 draft. Here is where they ended their 2016 season (First pro season):
Short-season A - 2
Low A - 3
High A - 3
Here is where those eight players are right now:
Low A - 1
High A - 4
AA - 3 (the three players have a combined 33 games in AA)
Brent Rooker was the Triple Crown winner in the SEC this year at Mississippi State. He is the first to do that since Rafael Palmiero. In other words, he should be considered an advanced hitting prospect. Hence, he was selected with the 35th overall pick a year after the Twins made him the 38th round pick.
I understand that Rooker is 22, and he will turn 23 in November. While many want to push him to the big leagues in 2018 or early in 2019, I’m not even a little bit concerned about that. I want him to come up when he is ready to come up and contribute, whether that is in June of 2018 or July of 2020. The reality is that the Twins can get 6+ seasons out of a player before free agency hits. I don’t care whether those are their age 21 through 28 seasons or 25 through 32 seasons.
Brian Dozier was a four-year guy. He debuted within two years of being drafted. Mitch Garver was a four-year guy. As a catcher, he’s taken a little longer to develop behind the plate. So, he’s 26, but when he comes up (hopefully soon), he will be ready to go. Trevor Hildenberger was a five-year college guy. His first pro season was spent only in the GCL. Does that matter now? We need to get rid of the stigma placed upon these guys that they are older than their level, even if it is factual. It just isn’t all that important.
At the same time, I do think it is important to do a little research like this. I didn’t know what it would tell me. However, when honestly comparing where Rooker is relative to his draft class (2017) or his age class (2016 college draft picks as juniors), the Twins are certainly pushing him with this promotion to Ft. Myers.
Looking at this, I was curious where some of the other college hitters that the Twins drafted and signed in recent years are now. Here’s a very quick look.
(7) Matt Albanese - Bryant College (RI) - Elizabethton (debuting this season due to wrist injuries)
(9) Mitchell Kranson - California - Ft. Myers
(10) Brandon Lopez - Miami - Ft. Myers
(14) Andre Jernigan - Xavier - Cedar Rapids
(22) Hank Morrison - Mercyhurst (PA) - Cedar Rapids
(23) Caleb Hamilton - Oregon State - Cedar Rapids
(29) Dane Hutcheon - Montevallo (AL) - Elizabethton (down from Ft. Myers for Rooker)
(31) Juan Gamez - NDSU - Elizabethton (drafted as catcher, transitioned to pitching)
(34) Joe Cronin - Boston College - Cedar Rapids
(39) Casey Scoggins - Tampa - Release (after spending time in Ft. Myers early this year)
From 2015, Chris Paul (6), Sean Miller (10), Zander Wiel (12), and Jaylin Davis (24) are with the Miracle. LaMonte Wade (9) and Alex Perez (23) are with the Lookouts. Five other college hitter picks have been released.
I show this only to show how difficult the path is to the big leagues, even for college hitters. Even for college hitters from big-time colleges in big-time conferences. Baseball is Good, but Baseball is Hard!
- Sconnie, DocBauer, Tom Froemming and 2 others like this