Rooker has had an unbelievably up and down season. In March and April the right handed slugger posted a putrid -5 wRC+. After being sent down to AAA for a good while, he came back up in July and posted a 164 wRC+, only to dip back down to an 82 mark in August. Rooker appears to be finishing strong however, as he’s been 44% above league average in September.
Rooker has essentially switched off every other month between looking like an unusable player and being a pitcher’s worst nightmare. His final line of .206/.294/.413 is good for a wRC+ of 114, 14% above league average. The nature of how he got there however isn’t so straightforward and leaves the Twins with a few options to choose from.
Business as Usual
Rooker has cycled in and out of the lineup all season and at no point has really had a starting position. The Twins could continue to pick their spots to get him in the lineup as they have to try to put him in favorable matchups.
This issue with this however is Rooker has historically had reverse splits when it comes to hitting lefties and righties. 7 of his 8 home runs in 2021 have come off of right handed pitching and it’s a bit difficult to slot him into a lineup over someone like Kepler, Kirilloff or at some point Larnach against a right handed pitcher when these other bats have such a stark advantage.
Furthermore, it’s fair to wonder whether the inconsistent playing time is partially to blame for Brent Rooker’s hot and cold streaks. For a player who has so much swing and miss with such little plate discipline, consistent reps may be keeping him from unlocking his full potential.
Hand him the Keys
To combat any kind of concerns with splits or reps, the Twins could simply play Rooker nearly everyday. Larnach will likely begin 2021 in the minors and it could create an opening for him to really get a fair shake at showing what he can do between the DH spot and the corner outfield.
The down side of this idea has been well documented, as Rooker is far from an even league average defender. In his brief time in the outfield he’s been worth -2 Outs Above Average in left field and -1 in right. The bat would simply have to be unbelievable to make up for the troubles such a defensive downgrade would create.
It’s also difficult to envision anything close to a full time DH role. With Kirilloff back and Sano showing little improvement at first base, it’s easy to see the former filling nearly all of the time at first base, leaving Sano to more often than not fill the DH spot. For as frustrated as the fan base is with Sano, Rooker has a long way to go to prove that he deserves those at bats over him.
Find a Trade Partner
It’s a strong possibility that the National League will be adopting the designated hitter this winter which would create 15 more suitors for a defensively-challenged slugger such as Rooker. While he likely wouldn’t draw much of a return on his own, it’s easy to see him being a nice peripheral piece to a bigger deal with a team that has no immediate options at their newly opened DH spot.
While it’s always nerve-racking to part with a prospect who once had such shine, the Twins need to be realistic this winter. At 27 years old headed into 2022, Brent Rooker still has more questions than answers about his future in Major League Baseball. Those answers won’t be found while playing every 3rd or 4th day, and unless the Twins are prepared to provide a real opportunity, it’s really not even fair to him.
So which road should the Twins take? Does Brent Rooker need a fair chance at a full time job or has his window with the Twins closed? Let us know below!