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Twins Daily 2019 Top Prospects: #6 Brent Rooker

After winning the SEC triple crown and dominating the lower levels of the minor leagues in 2017, Brent Rooker was ready for a challenge. The Twins sent him straight to Double A for his first full season of pro ball. It was a tall order. Early on, it was looking as though that aggressive assignment may have been a mistake, but Rooker eventually powered through.
Position: 1B/LF
Age: 24 (DOB: 11/1/1994)
2018 Stats (AA): 503 PA, .254/.333/.465, 22 HR, 79 RBI
ETA: 2020
2018 Ranking: 7

What's To Like

Power. Rooker’s strong, but it’s not like he’s biggest guy around. Still, his in-game power is drool-inducing. He tied for the Southern League lead in doubles (32) and hit 22 homers in 2018, the most of any Twins minor leaguer. Rooker also led the Southern League in line-drive rate at 26.0 percent and he had the sixth-lowest groundball rate in the league at 34.3 percent, according to FanGraphs.

The real kicker is it took him two months to really get going. Through May, Rooker was hitting just .240/.282/.411 (.693 OPS) in 49 games. He eventually found his footing. Over his final 81 games, he hit .264/.362/.498 (.860 OPS) with 15 home runs, 52 RBI and 48 runs.

The big difference as the year progressed was in Rooker’s strike zone awareness and plan of attack. This is a guy who loves to hit, and can be caught being too aggressive at times. He walked in just 4.9 percent of his plate appearances through those first two months, but from that point forward he posted an impressive 12.7 BB%.

What's Left To Work On

There’s a lot of swing and miss in Rooker’s game, which is often cited as a concern, but the bigger issue may be his defense. Trying him out in left field is a bit of a stretch, but he’s not particularly stellar at first base either. It’s not that Rooker’s some out of shape beer league softball player, he definitely has some athleticism, but there’s just a stiffness to the way he moves. The Twins have given him 77 starts in left field and 55 at first base so far, maybe he would be better off focusing on one position?

Back to the strikeouts, seeing 150 Ks on Rooker’s ledger is certainly eye-opening, but a 26.4 K% isn’t going to cripple his value. The concern, of course, is that rate will escalate as he climbs the ladder. To his credit, Rooker did cut his strikeout rate from 28.8 percent through June (313 PAs) to 23.5 percent from there forward (255 PAs), but that’s going to be an area he needs to continue to keep under control.

While he eventually heated up after a slow start, Rooker cooled off again at the end of the season. In his final 30 games, he hit just .173/.298/.264 (.561 OPS). He was slated to get some more looks in during the Arizona Fall League, but was forced to sit out due to an ankle sprain.

What's Next?

It wouldn’t be a shock to see Rooker back in Double A to start the year, but he should see plenty of time in Rochester this coming season. If all goes well and a need arises, he’s a candidate to make his major league debut sometime in 2019. There’s already a bit of a roster jam at 1B/DH on the big club, but an injury could blow the doors wide open for Rooker’s arrival.

Twins Daily 2019 Top 20 Prospects

Honorable Mentions

20. Jose Miranda, 2B/3B
19. Jorge Alcala, RHP
18. LaMonte Wade, OF
17. Zack Littell, RHP
16. Gilberto Celestino, OF
15. Yunior Severino, 2B
14. Ben Rortvedt, C
13. Ryan Jeffers, C
12. Stephen Gonsalves, LHP
11. Nick Gordon, SS
10. Akil Baddoo, OF
9. Blayne Enlow, RHP
8. Lewis Thorpe, LHP
7. Jhoan Duran, RHP
6. Brent Rooker LF/1B
5. Coming soon

Learn more in the 2019 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook. It’s available in paperback or as an eBook.


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43 Comments

Lots of doubters with our #6. Hopefully we get lucky with Rooker and he shows us why he was such a great college hitter, and we can put up with defensive inadequacies due to his bat.

Rooker will be 24 years old for the entire 2019 season. He could be in AAA before he has 1000 professional PA, and in the majors before the end of the year. That's a lot of progress for a 4-year college player. 

 

To compare his progress to players that turned pro at 16 or 18 years old is a bit much. He's a bat-first college prospect with a high floor. If he stays a major leaguer beginning in 2020, the Twins will control him until he's 30. That's all of his peak years with the bat. Sounds fine with me. 

 

There are only a few comps (college position player) from the back-end of the first round who have had any success in the majors. The best is Aaron Judge, taken with the 32nd pick in 2013, one year younger than Rooker. Here are his stats, by age:

 

22: A, A+ .308/.419/.486 (2014)

23: AA, AAA.255/.330/.448

24: AAA .270/.366/.489

24: MLB .179/.263/.345

25: MLB .284/.422/.687 (2017)

MLB K% - 31.6%

 

I'm not saying Rooker will be as good as Judge. In fact, I'd be happy if he's half as good. The point is - even the great Aaron Judge didn't make it to the majors until he was 25. I'm sure the Yankees are just fine with the situation.

 

The only other successful comps for 2010-2017 are Jackie Bradley Jr and Stephen Piscotty, who had similar career tracks by age.

 

 

 

    • birdwatcher, Thrylos, DocBauer and 4 others like this

 

Pretty unfair to be comparing him to Acuña and Soto.That was never even close to the expectation for Rooker (or it never should have been).I don't know what you were expecting from a college senior drafted 35th overall, but so far he's progressed pretty well, though the question marks that were always there haven't magically disappeared either.

I am not comparing him to the individual players, but right now the trend is for players to come to MLB younger and I did expect him to do that.

 

Getting called up after only one full season in the minors seems like pretty unrealistic expectations. There has been one player from the 2017 draft who has gotten called up to the majors, Kyle Wright. He went 4th overall and has pitched a total of 6 innings. By these standards Keston Hiura and Brendan McKay are failures as well.

 

Had the Twins not signed both Nelson Cruz and CJ Cron, I'd be pretty confident that the Twins would give Rooker every chance to earn a spot on the team out of spring training. Or if they were doing the service time bit, call him up a couple of weeks after the season started.

You are probably right, but I did expect him to be competing this year.

 

Statistics tell us that prospects selected in this range generally have maybe a 50% chance of even sniffing the bigs and maybe a 30% shot at being better than league average. There is one, possibly two position players on that under 25 list that did not have higher expectations attached to them on their signing dates.

 

Personally, I've had a lingering suspicion that people have been harboring unrealistic expectations for Rooker all along based on fantasies about his light tower power persona. I have a nagging suspicion that a #6 ranking here is a bit generous. 

 

I admit to knowing nothing, but I'm more excited about a few others on this list. Miranda, Rortvedt, Gordon...

I accept that.I thought he got off to a good start, I read too optimistic reports and I bought into them.I really thought we had something in Rooker and yes, I did expect him to be here quicker.His college playing counted for low minors to me.  

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sweetmusicviola16
Feb 08 2019 05:03 PM

So far in these lists the "What's Left To Work On" has been extremely significant. Lets hope these prospects get it better than the others have in the last decade.

    • Mike Sixel likes this

Basically, what I get from Rooker is that he's good.He's not great.Don't know if I agree with the "dominated lower levels".He was .282 in E-Town.Jeffers was .422 w/a few less RBI, and then continued that to Cedar Rapids.I know Cedar Rapids isn't Fort Myers, but I just don't think dominated is the right word.

 

Regardless, I like Rooker.I'd love to get frustrated with him and his abundant strikeouts and sparing walks at the major league level, then see him go back to back behind Sano in game 7 of the ALDS in 2020.Just saying.

I know I've posted this before, but Rooker improved each month:
 
K%
April - 29.6
May - 28.6
June - 28.0
July - 24.2
August/Sept - 22.8
 
BB%
April - 2.2
May - 7.0
June - 11.2
July - 13.3
August/Sept - 13.4
 
Heading into the draft Rooker was known to be obsessive about crafting his hitting technique, he's a great candidate to always be able to adjust. And his last month isn't much to be worried about, his strikeout and walk rates were peaking at that time but he had insanely bad luck with a .210 BABIP.


This!

Age 24 is not exactly old for AAA...even if he does "warm up" at AA to begin the season...and he could see Minnesota before the year is done.

His numbers improved EVERY SINGLE MONTH! That is learning, adjustments and progress. Yes, the last month was a downer. But it's a long season, and his FIRST full pro season. Even top prospects, and ML players as well, have those stretches where their BABIP just suffers for some reason.

I will take his season long improved numbers.

What does perplex me is the comment about appearing "stiff" as I've read various reports he is a good athlete with at least average speed. I find this perplexing. I find the idea of his playing a single position to be interesting, but I think it would be a disservice to both he and the Twins. It's just way too early in his career, only a season and a half in, to pigeonhole him. He needs coaching and development time at both spots. In time, he can hopefully be comfortable at both OF corners, as well as 1B, to just be average.
    • Danchat, Dr. Evil, SF Twins Fan and 1 other like this

Rook has plenty of time to work on his swing as I see him as the perfect replacement for Cruz in 2021 ... One thing a designated hitter has to have is power, and he has that going for him .. In fact, the lack of homeruns have held the Twins back for decades. Just watch how many more runs we score and how much more exciting the games will be this year. I cut my teeth on Killebrew and Allison. Nothing like a big tator ...

The ranking seems high given Rooker’s defensive liabilities, but I think there’s something here with him at 1B/DH. I’d like to see him in MN in Sept if he continues the trends he started last season.

Otherwise, he seems like a player that could be packaged in a trade for someone who could help the big club.

With the lineup essentially rotating out 3-5 spots every year now, why not let a guy with some power see what he can do against MLB pitching. Cruz is here for 2019, 2020 if everything goes amazingly.

The game seems to be changing so low on-base, high power guys might be more valuable than we thought a few years ago. I'm not sure. I hope Rooker pushes his way into the Twins lineup quickly though.

    • Mike Sixel and dbminn like this

The game seems to be changing so low on-base, high power guys might be more valuable than we thought a few years ago. I'm not sure. I hope Rooker pushes his way into the Twins lineup quickly though.


Absolutely.

 

The game seems to be changing so low on-base, high power guys might be more valuable than we thought a few years ago. I'm not sure. I hope Rooker pushes his way into the Twins lineup quickly though.

 

He and other power-only players will definitely get their value back if they expand rosters. I hope the MLB fathers approve it for 2020.

    • gunnarthor likes this

A nice thing about the state of the Twins roster is that they don't have to rush guys through the minors to the big league team unlike 4-5 years ago. The roster has gotten stronger and I hope they will challenge for the division, but I don't feel they will win it.

 

It would be nice to see guys like Rooker,Lewis, Kirilloff, Romeroand others get some meaningful playing time late this year as the Twins "roar" to the finish line. 

 

I am not comparing him to the individual players, but right now the trend is for players to come to MLB younger and I did expect him to do that.

On the flip side of that argument, it means he's under team control through his prime this way. (Under the current CBA.)

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howieramone2
Feb 10 2019 02:22 PM

 

Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't we have members who said he was too old to draft in the 2nd round. Also, could somebody show me where the trend is for younger players to come to the MLB.

 

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diehardtwinsfan
Feb 10 2019 07:16 PM

You're welcome to dig up the draft thread Howie, but I'm pretty sure most of us were pretty happy we got him there. 

 

and also, wasn't he a supplemental first rounder?

 

Unrelated to Booker, but the Honorable Mentions ranking flips Gonsalves and Gordon from where they were originally ranked.


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