Brent Rooker Makes MLB Debut
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs, Twins DailyOn Thursday night, Brent Rooker received The Call that every ballplayer dreams about. Twins minor league director Alex Hassan was on the phone. He was busy at the time, but seeing Hassan’s name made everything else not terribly important.
News broke shortly before 11:00 on Friday morning that Max Kepler was heading to the Injured List and Rooker’s contract was being selected.
Soon after, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli was asked about Rooker.
In Game 1, Rooker batted seventh and played left field. Eddie Rosario got the game off against southpaw Matthew Boyd.
In his first plate appearance, Rooker swung at the first two pitches. A couple of pitches later, he was hit by a pitch. The last Twins player to be hit by a pitch in his first plate appearance? LaMonte Wade in 2019. Before that, you have to go back to Brian Dinkelman in 2006.
Rooker came to the plate again in the fifth inning and hit a 102 mph line drive right at the shortstop. He was removed from the game for defensive purposes.
In Game 2, the manager put Rooker into the cleanup spot in the Twins lineup. With a runner on in the first inning, he struck out.
However, he came up again in the top of the third inning with runners on first and second base and two outs. On the first pitch, he drilled a line drive to left field at 112 mph for a single. Jorge Polanco came around to score the first run of the game. Rooker was able to record his first hit and his first RBI in the same at bat. He flew out to right field in his third at bat of that game. Willians Astudillo pinch hit for him in the seventh inning.
All in all, a nice debut for the Twins slugger.
Twins fans have been excited to see Rooker debut. When the Twins drafted him with the 35th overall pick in 2017 after a Triple Crown-winning performance at Mississippi State, it was the second year in a row that the team drafted him. A year earlier, they took him in the 38th round, but he bet on himself and it paid off.
Just for fun, here were his stats from that Triple Crown season. In 67 games, Rooker hit .387/.495/.810 (1.306) with 30 doubles, 23 homers and 82 RBI. He was the first player to post a Triple Crown season in the SEC since Rafael Palmiero in the early 1980s.
He signed quickly and went to Elizabethton just to get back into the swing of things after time off after the college season. In 22 games, he hit .282 with five doubles and seven homers. He then skipped Low-A ball, jumping straight to High-A Ft. Myers where he hit 11 more homers in 40 more games. His 18 home runs were the most by a Twins minor league player in his draft season in 27 years.
At Double-A Chattanooga in 2018, he hit .254 with 32 doubles and 22 homers in 130 games. He spent the 2019 season at Triple-A Rochester where he hit .281 with 16 doubles and 14 home runs in 65 games. He missed most of the season’s second half with an injury. However, he got healthy and was able to represent Team USA in the WSBC Premier 12 where he was a teammate with Caleb Thielbar.
For the second straight season, he received an invitation to big-league spring training in 2020. When Summer Camp began, Rooker saw quite a bit of time playing in preseason intra-squad games.
He has been working at the Twins alternate site in St. Paul, until today when he got that call.
Rooker has good size, and he is quite strong. At spring training a couple of years ago, a national baseball writer asked me to point out Rooker. When I did, he told me that he was surprised by how athletic Rooker was. Because of his power numbers, the assumption was that he was big and burly and slow and unathletic.
Rooker is long and lean. He’s not fast, but he is a good athlete. In high school, he was the quarterback on the football team, a top scorer on the basketball team and obviously a great player on the baseball team. All three teams went to state championship games.
Rooker has a very strong approach and mentality at the plate. He is built for power and he has built his swing to provide a lot of power. That showed in 2019 when, after really struggling through his first month in Triple-A, he hit .302/.432/.558 (.990) with 14 doubles and 10 homers in 49 games.
Like Miguel Sano, Rooker has the ability and the power to hit the ball very hard and a very long way. Like Miguel Sano, Rooker also strikes out a lot. But as you can see from his minor league numbers, he takes a good at bat and is willing to walk.
Defensively, well, no, he won’t be a Gold Glove winner, but he can play both corner outfield positions. He’s not Eddie Rosario in left field. He’s certainly not Max Kepler in right field. But he will make the routine plays. He can also play an adequate first base if needed.
Rooker is also very smart. He’s got a good head on his shoulders. He comes from a good family that was supportive of him. Rooker also is a student of the game. He has embraced video. He has embraced the analytics of the game. He understands himself as a player, his strengths and his weaknesses. He’s also shown an ability to make adjustments over the course of a season.
Rooker is certainly a player that has been talked about and written about at Twins Daily a lot since the draft. Take a look back at these past articles on Rooker.
- Interview with Twins Second Pick Brent Rooker (June 2017)
Rooker Promotion: Aggressive, or No? (July 2017)
Rooker Chasing Russo (Get to know Paul Russo) (August 2017)
Episode 2: Seth’s Twins Talk (with Brent Rooker, Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff (Jan 2018)
Twins Daily 2018 Top Prospects: #7 Brent Rooker (February 2018)
Rooker Getting into the Swing of Spring (March 2018)
Twins Daily 2019 Top Prospects: #6 Brent Rooker (February 2019)
Episode 2: Get to Know Pat Dean and Brent Rooker (March 2019)
Twins Daily 2020 Top Prospects: #9 Brent Rooker(February 2020)
5 Questions with Twins Prospect Brent Rooker (March 2020)
Brent Rooker is ‘Ready to Go’ for a “Big” Year (May 2020)
Should Brent Rooker Get First Crack at First Base?(July 2020)
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