Among the three middle infielders selected with the 2015 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft’s first three picks, one is a star, one has endured a bumpy ride in the majors and one has yet to make it.
With the announcement that Brendan Rodgers will be sent to AAA-Albuquerque to begin the 2019 season, his status is once again affirmed as the latter.
The other two, of course, are Alex Bregman and Dansby Swanson, both taken ahead of Rodgers in 2015. The two also heard their names called while on the campus of two elite collegiate baseball programs: Louisiana State and Vanderbilt.
Rodgers, who chose to bypass a collegiate career, was taken out of Lake Mary High School, setting his path up to differ from his peers.
Ahead is an analyzation of where each lies in their current baseball endeavors, along with why Rodgers is still on par developmentally.
Alex Bregman (MLB debut: July 25th, 2016)
Of the bunch, Bregman has garnered the lion’s share of the bragging rights thus far.
In his three seasons with the Houston Astros, the former shortstop-turned-third baseman has thrived. After an unspectacular beginning in 2016, Bregman’s production has multiplied as a top-of-the-order force for the 2017 World Series Champions.
In the last two years, Bregman has slashed .285/.374/.504 while slugging 25 home runs per year and swiping a combined 27 bags. The infielder has also shown his versatility, appearing at four separate positions, with a five-game stint at designated hitter as well.
Last season was the apex of Bregman’s young career as he finished fifth in the American League Most Valuable Player race with an AL All-Star debut as well.
On the date of his first appearance with the Astros, Bregman was 22 years old, identical to Rodgers’ current age.
When comparing their AA minor league numbers, the two had similar success, with Bregman’s numbers beating out Rodgers in on-base percentage and slugging percentage among others. Thus far, Rodgers has the advantage in both basepath production (12 steals) and in the field.
Though it is hard to envision a start at the pace of Bregman, Rodgers has yet to fall drastically behind the superstar, with his AAA results being a similar dwarfed sample size.
Dansby Swanson (MLB debut: August 17th, 2016)
Among the three, Swanson has had the most downward trajectory in recent years.
When he debuted towards the latter end of the 2016 season, Swanson immediately made an impact. In 149 plate appearances in his inaugural season, Swanson slashed .302/.361/.442 with each coming from shortstop sans a lone pinch-hitting appearance. Since that stint, things have been choppy for the former Commodore.
Since his breakout, Swanson has slashed a mere .235/.308/.359 in 1084 plate appearances, tallying only 20 home runs combined and 242 strikeouts compared to 103 walks. Though he has shown flashes of excellence, the Brave’s young infielder has been replaced multiple times in the lineup, even being demoted to AAA-Gwinnett in 2017.
While his timeline is ahead of the Rockies’ youngster, so too is his experience. At only 25 years old, Swanson’s career has plenty of life left. Without adjustments though, he will likely be reserved to a bench role if the team is unable to trade him.
If called up to begin this year, Rodgers would likely have had similar growing pains. Allowing the possibility of large regression isn’t desirable for the Rockies’ staff.
Brendan Rodgers (MLB debut: TBD)
While Rodgers is lagging behind the aforementioned Bregman and Swanson, it’s important to include context.
Due to his absence of experience in college, Rodgers is still multiple years of tangible baseball tenure behind his associates.
Thus far, through his first four years in the organization, Rodgers has battled being younger than his competition, rising up the ranks nonetheless. In 1524 plate appearances since his debut in the club’s farm system, Rodgers has gotten on base at a .346 clip, slugging .491 in the process.
The continuation of those numbers will be a boon to his chances of joining the team at Coors Field.
A glaring problem for his lack of time at the highest level is a lack of need. With Trevor Story entrenched at Rodgers’ former position, the latter has been forced to adapt. In the minors, he has shuffled between each infield position outside of first base.
With Nolan Arenado also holding the third base spot, there has been little reason to rush Rodgers in his development. The club has chosen to make sure he is called up for good upon his debut, rather than rotating him between levels.
The 2019 season is going to be pivotal.
Both Arenado and Story have created a foundation for the Rockies infield, with David Dahl and Charlie Blackmon as pillars in the outfield. An ascension for Rodgers, overtaking both Garrett Hampson and Ryan McMahon throughout the course of the impending season would be ideal for the organization.
Setting their best players on the same timeline will enlarge the team’s title hopes in the next three years before Arenado’s opt-outs begin. Those hopes will heavily rely on another batch of young talent from the franchise’s farm system with their growth possibility currently capped by prior hefty financial commitments.
If he fails to make it to the bigs prior to the 2020 season, it will not serve as a reason to panic. Any farther down the road though and the connotations of his delay will change.