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  • Minnesota’s Forgotten Prospect


    Cody Christie

    He made his debut in 2020 and seemed to be off to a great start to his big-league career and then this spring he was given a chance to make the team. Now, he might be the team’s biggest forgotten prospect.

    Image courtesy of © Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

    The 2020 season was unique in more ways than one. For rookies making their big-league debut, this certainly had to be true as they stepped into a strange environment with no fans and a multitude of COVID protocols. In spite of these barriers, Brent Rooker was able to make his debut and find success at the plate, but have other prospects passed him by in 2021?

    Last year, Rooker was called up after Max Kepler was sent to the IL. He played in seven games and hit .316/.381/.579 with a home run and two doubles. Unfortunately, he was hit by a pitch and fractured his forearm which ended his season. His strong performance wasn’t limited to the big-league level either. He had posted a .928 OPS during the 2019 season and the majority of his games that year were at Triple-A.

    Spring training had to be an exciting time for Rooker. For the first time in his career, he had a good chance at making the big-league roster and those odds only increased after Alex Kirilloff’s rough spring saw him sent to the minor league side. However, Rocco Baldelli stressed the importance of defense and Rooker has little defensive value, so he was optioned to the alternate site.

    The team quickly needed Rooker at the big-league level after Josh Donaldson injured his hamstring. He played in three games and went 1-for-11 without an extra-base hit. He suffered a neck injury and didn’t hit much better after he returned from the IL. For the year, he has gone 3-for-29 with two extra-base hits and a 13-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio.

    His time in St. Paul has seen some good and some bad as he has hit .227/.366/.470 with five home runs and a double in 66 at-bats. What might be most encouraging is the fact that he has drawn 15 walks. Recently, he missed a few games with an injury, but it didn’t seem to bother him in the team’s weekend series. He finished the four-game set going 6-for-19 with two homers and a double. It’s a good to see some life in his bat, but he has plenty left to prove.

    Rooker and the Twins might have missed out on an opportunity to see what he can do with a regular role at the big-league level. Trevor Larnach and Kirilloff have been getting regular at-bats while Rooker continues to play at Triple-A. Those two players have always been seen as better prospects, but Rooker is already 26-years old, and he has been limited to less than 50 at-bats at baseball’s highest level.

    Entering the season, he was considered one of the top, if not the best, power hitting prospects in the Twins organization. His college experience and success in the minor leagues certainly prove his power hitting prowess. Now, he needs to find his swing again at Triple-A before more prospects continue to pass him by for opportunities with the Twins.

    Do you think the Rooker has become a forgotten prospect? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    He was having trouble getting recognition as a prospect before his MLB callup.  We all know a bad K rate is hard to overcome and generally means a hitter is not making enough contact to be a Major league baseball player.  Rooker has struggled as he has faced pitchers with better breaking balls.  his 35% K rate at AAA in 2019 had several of us saying he wasn't going to make it because 35% at AAA is only going to get worse at the MLB level.  This he proved as his K rate was 43% when with the MLB club in 2021.  Players with 43% K rates just don't stay in MLB for long.  That is just too many non-contact outs unless all of your hits go for HR's.  

    If you watched any games he was an easy out at the MLB level.  Just throw a diving ball over the plate and he would swing at it and miss.  It was sad to watch IMO.  Maybe he can get better but the odds are against him.  He would have to reinvent himself to become a player the Twins need.  I mean Kyle Garlick a waiver claim and Rob Refsnyder a journeyman look like better players than Rooker and we have Larnach and Kirilloff already establishing themselves and young guys not that far off so yeah I think he is on the edge of oblivion as a prospect.  Not saying he can't make changes and still make it but he is running out of time and his current approach won't get him there as he tried that and failed miserably.  He has to learn to lay off certain pitches and not K as much.  If he can do that he has light tower power that few players possess but he has to hunt better pitches to get to it.  Personally I don't see him making it but I hope he proves me wrong.

     

     

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    I haven't forgotten him, he's just been striking out too much to be a relevant prospect at this point. Unlike most other prospects, he's got plenty of experience under his belt and he should be "ready"... but he's not. He turns 27 at the end of the year, so it's not like he's young and raw. We don't need another Sano in our lineup, and as Dman said, we're better off finding RH hitting off the waiver wire. At this point, I'm hoping Wallner and Sabato don't go down the same path Rooker is going.

    If anyone is a "forgotten" prospect, it's Nick Gordon - he had lost 2019-2020 seasons, and is now riding the bench and is not being treated like a prospect... sure, he doesn't have a ton of upside, but I'd rather see him get some playing time. 

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    I have given up on Rooker as a top prospect.  He has power and a team like the Orioles or Tigers could use him - how about a trade.  I hate to see a player stuck in the minors with minimum hope of being called up when there are opportunities out there.  I would like more minor league free agency.  That does not change my mind about his status with the Twins.

    Kiriloff and Larnach are here to stay - if Buxton can be healthy (a huge if) he has center.  Refsnyder might be a comet that flames out soon, same with Garlick, but if either of them can continue their production we have four for the OF.  Although they seem to like Kiriloff at 1B.  In another year I see Celestino rather than Rooker as that additional OF - a true CF.   And we still have Sano on contract so I see him continuing to have a large number of plate appearances - at DH as Cruz moves on.  

     

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    Was so excited about Rooker when he got the call and to be honest, hit better than I expected.  Then that pitch cut his debut short.

    Have I forgotten about him, no.  Where I can see him contributing is as a Twins DH beginning next year.  But that is also where I see Sano, and like Sano, Rooker needs to reduce the number of strikeouts and get his average up a bit.

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    Is he forgotten, or just getting passed over?  He had a chance to start year with team and run with it.  Instead he played himself to the minors, where he has not forced is way back to the majors, despite having a lot of injuries to corner outfield guys.  

    I read some of the comments about Rooker by the powers that be when he was sent down.  They were very down on his lack of defense.  So unless Rooker can hit at a level that is so above replacement he will not be playing too much in the future.  We have two guys that have shown much more at the plate the year that just passed Rooker over for playing time.  It happens. 

    My guess is Rooker may get a chance again with Twins, or he gets DFA after this year and gets picked up by someone.  It is too bad he has not been able to have his bat take off this year.   

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    I think Rooker can still be a contributor to an MLB team, but I think his realistic ceiling is as a replacement level player. (I expect his career to be similar to Tyler Austin. He'll hit some home runs, but he'll be more of a bench bat for an average team, or a replacement level starter for a very poor team).

    At this point, I'm hoping that Rooker lights up AAA for the next month or two. Then he can be an add-in as part of a larger trade (like Luke Raley, Jaylin Davis, or Lamonte Wade). 

    Wallner will be breathing down Rooker's neck very soon. I imagine he'll be moved up to AA soon, and it wouldn't surprise me if he starts at AAA next year. So, by then Rooker will need to either move up or move on.

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    I think he is reasonably similar to Tyler Austin and maybe CJ Cron. If either was on the left handed side of the platoon they probably have a good opportunity to establish themselves. If you bat right handed and are limited defensively it is hard to get that opportunity. Cron stuck around on the Angels lot get that opportunity before being traded to the Rays for very little. Even a big year in Tampa Bay ended up with him on waivers.

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