Brent Rooker Is ‘Ready to Go’ For a ‘Big’ Year
“With the way things are shaking out with negotiations, we may need to be ready to go at the drop of a hat,” Rooker said.
Rooker, 25, whom the Twins drafted with the 35th pick in 2017, was tearing it up for Triple-A Rochester before injuring his groin last July, hitting .281/.398/.535 with 14 homers in 65 games.
Less than three weeks after Rooker hit the IL, Byron Buxton crashed into the center field wall in Miami, effectively ending his season and opening up a spot in the outfield.
Jake Cave filled that spot more than admirably. He hit a monstrous .361/.418/.705 with 11 extra-base hits in 21 games in August for the Twins.
Another outfield spot opened in early September when Max Kepler missed significant time with a shoulder injury.
26-year-old LaMonte Wade Jr. was called up to the Twins and played in 24 games in September, hitting a measly .204/.338/.389.
Rooker didn’t get his chance last summer, but he understands that he is quite literally a phone call away from joining the Bomba Squad.
“I feel like I’m in a place where, when called upon and when the opportunity shows itself, I’ll be ready to come up and contribute and help the team win games.”
The numbers back it up.
Rooker was the 2017 National Player of the Year at Mississippi State after posting numbers you’re more likely to see in MLB The Show ‘20.
He hit .387/.495/.810 with 23 homers in 67 games.
In his final three months at Double-A Chattanooga in 2018, Rooker hit .264/.362/.498 with 40 extra-base hits in 81 games.
“I want to continue to learn as much as I can.”
Rooker’s hitting profile looked similar to Miguel Sanó’s in 2019 with massive pop, a considerable number of walks and, to a traditional baseball fan’s dismay, some strikeouts.
“I never want to be pinned down to a certain profile,” Rooker said, “but power is going to be what allows me to have success.”
The right-handed Rooker mashed same-side pitchers to the tune of a 1.010 OPS last year. Against lefties, his OPS dropped to .714. Why?
“That’s a really good question,” Rooker said, “that’s something I really dove into last year.”
“The splits aren’t as prominent in previous seasons,” he said, “but I do think there’s something about the way my swing is grooved that causes right-handers to fall more into my bat path.”
Rooker said consistently beating lefties is something he’s been working on after seeing advanced statistics.
“I’m hoping that whenever we get going, you’ll start to see that work pay off,” he said, “If I can get my OPS against lefties in the same ballpark [as against righties] that’s gonna be good news.”
Yes, it will.
Rooker flies under the radar in the Twins system, mostly due to the presence of top-100 prospect outfielders Trevor Larnach and Alex Kirilloff.
Playing alongside Larnach, Kirilloff, top prospect Royce Lewis and breakout catcher Ryan Jeffers in spring training, Rooker hit .286/.400/.333 with a double.
“All of those guys, plus several others, are really good players with a lot of upside, as well as being great people.”
Rooker hasn’t yet played more than a few spring training games with his future Twins teammates, but he’s looking forward to it.
“I’m excited to see all of those guys continue to progress.”
Rooker is perhaps the closest of any Twins prospect to joining the team. In 259 minor league games, Rooker is hitting .267/.357/.505 with 54 homers.
Larnach and Kirilloff are on their way, but the underrated Rooker is also on the verge of bringing his big bat to Minneapolis when play resumes.
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