Sunday Notes: Brendan Rodgers Was Born to Hit

Brendan Rodgers is living up to his billing. Drafted third overall by the Colorado Rockies in 2015 out of a Florida high school, the smooth-swinging shortstop slashed .336/.373/.567 between high-A Lancaster and Double-A Hartford last year. His calling-card bat speed on full display, he crashed 18 home runs in 400 plate appearances.

Rodgers was seemingly born to hit. He’s worked hard to hone his craft, but at the same time, letting his natural talent shine through is his M.O..

“I keep hitting as simple as possible,” explained the talented 21-year-old. “Body movement, stride, how my hands work… everything. I keep all it to a minimum. I try to not make the game harder than it is.”

Mechanically, Rodgers sticks with what he was taught “when he was younger.” He told me that the Rockies haven’t suggested any notable tweaks, and that for him “it’s all about being on time and in rhythm.”

He doesn’t have a leg kick — “just a little stride” — although he did have one back in his formative years. Wanting to feel more balanced, he “shut that down and spread out a little bit,” which he feels helps him stay in his legs better. Approach-wise, he attacks the baseball.

“I definitely like to catch it out front,” Rodgers said. “If you make mistakes, you’d rather make them out front than get jammed. I’ve been told by multiple hitting guys that it’s better to miss out front than it is to miss deep.

“My main focus isn’t to hit home runs — it’s to hit the ball hard — and I feel that I can hit the ball hard more consistently out front. When I miss my pitch it’s usually a fly ball. Launch angle… I don’t really know the specifics of it, but I do know that I hit the ball in the air more than I do on the ground. That’s what I want. I want fly balls and line drives, not ground balls.”

It’s hard to argue with his approach. Keeping things simple and driving balls in the air is a recipe for success, and based on his resume thus far, Rodgers is well on his way to having a stellar career.


I’m always intrigued by under-the-radar prospects who put up big numbers, and that’s a fitting description for Zac Houston. Detroit’s pick in the 11th round of the 2016 draft dominated opposing hitters last year. In 32 relief appearances between low-A West Michigan and high-A Lakeland, the Mississippi State product fanned 91, and allowed just 27 hits, in 58 innings.

Houston is a two-pitch pitcher. His secondary offering is a slider — “kind of a slurve, depending on the day” — while his primary weapon is a four-seam fastball that sits 92-94 and occasionally ticks up to 97. Augmenting that asset is a delivery that helps it play up.

“I’ve got good extension on my fastball and it gets on hitters pretty well,” Houston explained to me during his stint in the Arizona Fall League. “I’ve had people say I almost jump towards the hitter. Everybody who watches me says my delivery is a little different. I guess there are just a lot of moving parts.”

Digging in against the 6-foot-5, 250-lb. right-hander can be dangerous. He plunked 11 batters last summer.

“I’m not afraid to go in on hitters,” shrugged Houston. “If I hit a guy, I hit a guy. That’s not the end of the world. I’m never trying to — that’s never the goal — but I am going to establish the inside part of the plate. If that means hitting a few guys, so be it.”

Houston didn’t drill anyone in the AFL, but he certainly made opposing hitters uncomfortable. Following up on his regular-season success, he tossed 11-and-a-third scoreless innings, with 18 punch outs. Counting his numbers in the desert, the 23-year-old right-hander has a 1.36 ERA and a 14.4 K/9 in 99 professional innings. Why did he last until the 325th pick in his draft year?

“I thought I was going to go earlier,” Houston told me. “I had phone calls around the fourth and fifth rounds, asking if I’d take under slot, if I’d take this amount or that amount. You either say yes or no, and even then they still have a decision to make. Just because you say, ‘I’ll take X amount’ doesn’t mean they’re going to take you. It was frustrating experience, but I’m definitely happy with I ended up.”

It’s safe to say that the Tigers feel the same way.


When I talked to Phil Maton last summer (and to several people about him), the focus was on his high-spin heater. The article didn’t mention his changeup, as the pitch was essentially in his back pocket. He threw it “maybe five or six times” over the course of his 43 big-league innings with the San Diego Padres.

The 24-year-old right-hander hopes to utilize the offering far more often this season. “Not necessarily as a main piece,” he told me, “but I do need something to mess up timing. Guys here are really good. If they can just sit dead-red fastball, they’re going to put barrel on ball.”

Maton worked on his changeup all winter, trying to refine a grip he learned from bullpen coach Doug Bochtler last August.

“I kind of rotated it, almost to a backwards four-seam, to where it allows my middle finger to pull that horseshoe down,” explained Maton. “When I get extension, it snaps the ball down better, and goes a little arm side. It’s much different movement than I’m used to having. In the past, my changeups typically cut — they were almost like slow cutters.

“I think it was Boch’s grip when he pitched. I know it’s one he’s really comfortable with. He likes the concept of pulling that seam down, which is something that resonates with me because I grip the ball pretty tight. I grip most of my pitches pretty tight.”


According to Torey Lovullo, a couple of Arizona Diamondbacks players came into camp having worked on adding a little oomph over the offseason.

“I think we have a few guys making some nice swing adjustments,” the D-Backs manager told me in the early days of camp. “Nick Ahmed and A.J. Pollock, in particular. David Peralta, as well. From what I’ve seen so far, these guys are getting a lot of carry on their ball, a lot of backspin.”

Is the trio buying into the launch angle revolution?

“Potentially,” said Lovullo. “I haven’t gotten into the exact dialogue with them, but yeah, maybe angles and being able to backspin a ball and drive it out of the ballpark. We’ll see how it translates throughout the rest of spring training, but they’re all in a really good place with their approach.”

Two of the three players have remained in a good place. Peralta is 15 for 31 with one home run so far this spring, while Ahmed is 9 for 27 and has also gone deep once. Pollock is 8 for 33 and has yet to go yard.


Joe Maddon “isn’t 100% on board with” the launch-angle approach, which was evident when he was asked about Kyle Schwarber earlier this spring.

“When Scwarbs gets in trouble it’s because he (gets pull happy),” opined the Cubs skipper. “When he gets out of trouble, a lot of it is left-central or right up the middle. It’s more of a flat swing, a top half, inner half swing as opposed to a trying-to-lift swing.

“With the proliferation of the elevated fastball, and how popular that’s become, I want to see if guys start making different adjustments if that becomes even more prominent. It’s a copy-cat industry. Guys are looking for these little guys who throw elevated fastballs at 93-94 that you just can’t get to. That may force a physical adjustment from the hitters.”


On Thursday, we heard from Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto on various aspects of Dee Gordon’s transition to center field. Today we get some some perspective from Seattle manager Scott Servais.

“I think he’s got a chance to be a difference maker,” Servais said early in spring training. “I really do. The goal from Day One was for him to walk out there and look like an outfielder, and it took a lot of work just to get to that point. Now, to get to the point where he ultimately wants to go, to win a Gold Glove… you have to keep building. It’s going to take time, but I think he’s going to make the transition well.

“The biggest issue for Dee, and most guys who have his kind of athletic ability, is that when the ball goes up he’s going to think he can catch everything. You can’t catch every ball. Some balls you’re better off backing off and keeping (the batter) to a single as opposed to letting it turn into a double or triple.”


Reading Friday’s edition of The Perrotto Report, I learned that Jonathan Lucroy turned down a three-year, $21M offer from the Colorado Rockies before ultimately settling for a one-year, $6.5M deal with the Oakland Athletics. A Rockies source told Perrotto that Lucroy wanted to stay in Colorado, but presumably “got some bad advice from his agent.”

John Perrotto — one of the hardest-working baseball scribes out there — launched The Perrotto Report last month. It’s well worth the subscription price.



Jair Jurrjens and Jordany Valdespin have signed with the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League. Nate Freiman, who spent last season with the Ducks, has decided to retire.

The Toronto Blue Jays and Lansing Lugnuts have extended their player development contract through the 2020 season. The Midwest League club has been a Jays affiliate since 2005. In related news, Lansing will be hosting the Midwest League All-Star game on June 19.

Blue Jays pitching prospect Thomas Pannone — we featured him here last April — has been suspended 80 games after testing positive for a banned substance. In a written statement, the 23-year-old southpaw stated that he has taken a polygraph test, with the results showing he was truthful in his claim that he has never knowingly taken a PED. Pannone went 9-3 with a 2.36 ERA last year, with 20 of his 25 starts coming at the Double-A level.

Josh Whetzel, the longtime play-by-play voice of the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings, also calls games for the University of Buffalo, which beat No.4 seed Arizona on Thursday for the school’s first ever NCAA tourney win. Unfortunately, the Cinderella slippers fell off with a thud yesterday afternoon, as the Bulls were thumped by the Kentucky Wildcats.

Ed Charles, who played third base for the 1969 Miracle Mets, died earlier this week at age 84. His best season came with the Kansas City A’s in 1962, when he slashed .288/,356/.454 with 17 home runs. Charles wrote poetry and became known as the Poet Laureate of the 1969 Mets.


A piece of news you almost certainly didn’t miss was the announcement that minor league baseball will begin starting extra innings with a runner on second base. To say this compromises the integrity of the game would be an understatement. Stretching back to the days of Alexander Cartwright, reaching base (and for the defense, preventing batters from reaching base) has been the main objective of every plate appearance. All of sudden, phantom runners are going to be introduced?

The phantom will be considered to have reached via error, with no player being charged with an error — this in order to not compromise the pitcher’s ERA — which is both an official scorer’s nightmare and an absurdity. Do we need to introduce a new stat to cover this? Maybe something like PTBNL (Put There By Nonsensical Logic?) Actually, that acronym is already taken. How about HWG (Herb Washington’s Ghost)?

With this new rule, it will also be possible for a pitcher to face 30 batters and retire all of them… and be charged with the loss. This could happen in a variety of ways, a sacrifice bunt (!) followed by a sacrifice fly among them. In a nutshell, the pitcher would have thrown a perfect game, only to be undone by an aberration.



Troy O’Leary went 9 for 12 against Steve Sparks.

Paddy O’Connor went 4 for 7 against Johnny Lush.

Gabby Street went 2 for 24 against Jack Warhop.

Germany Schaefer went 1 for 10 against Charlie Chech.

Kaiser Wilhelm went 2 for 3 against George Kaiserling.


Jack Hamilton, who is best known for having thrown the pitch that seriously injured Tony Conigliaro in 1967, died late last month. Born on Christmas Day 1938, and raised in Morning Sun, Iowa, Hamilton had some happy memories as well. Two of them came against the St. Louis Cardinal as a member of the New York Mets. On May 4, 1966, Hamilton pitched a one-hitter (the lone hit was a bunt single), and on May 20, 1967 — he was traded to the California Angels less than a month later — he hit the only home run of his career, a grand slam.


Shohei Ohtani’s spring hasn’t gone well from a statistical standpoint. On the mound, the Angels rookie has been charged with eight earned runs in two-and-two-thirds innings (that’s a 27.00 ERA if you don’t want to do the math). At the plate, he has two hits in 20 at bats, which equates to a .100 batting average (that’s easy math.)

Spring training numbers are to be taken with a grain of salt, but given his high profile and two-way aspirations, Ohtani’s are hard to ignore. GM Billy Eppler recently told The Los Angeles Times that “it’s too early to make a judgment,” but with the Angels opener 12 days away, that won’t be the case for long, If Ohtani continues to scuffle, the Salt Lake Bees start their Triple-A season on April 5th.



Brendan McKay — Tampa Bay’s pick in the first round of last year’s draft — still aspires to be a two-way player. Marc Topkin has the story at the Tampa Bay Times.

Over at Pro Baseball Detroit, Mario Impemba wrote about how Ron Gardenhire not only manages the Tigers, he sits down to play cards with random fans and rides snowmobiles to raise money for charity.

The Boston Herald’s Michael Silverman talked to Ryan Westmoreland, eight years after Boston’s former top prospect underwent emergency brain surgery.

At La Vida Baseball, César Augusto Márquez wrote about how Eloy Jiménez — the top prospect in the White Sox system — is a huge basketball fan and once dreamed of playing in the NBA.

Audio highlights from last weekend’s SABR Analytics Conference can be found here.



MLB history includes 47 players who were born in Ireland. Of them, Patsy Donovan has the most hits (2,256), Jack Doyle the most home runs (25), and Tony Mullane the most wins (284). Joe Cleary, who threw one third of an inning (and charged with seven runs) for the Washington Senators in 1945, is the last Irish-born player to appear in a big-league game.

In 1923, New York Giants outfielder Irish Meusel struck out 16 times while leading the National League with 125 RBIs.

In 1949, Cincinnati Reds shortstop Virgil Stallcup came to the plate 589 times and drew nine walks.

Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Ace Parker played for the Philadelphia A’s in 1937 and 1938, and homered in his first big-league at bat.

Gene Conley pitched for the 1957 World Series champion Milwaukee Braves (he went 9-9, 3.16) and was a power forward for the NBA champion Boston Celtics in 1959, 1960, and 1961.

Former big-league right-handers Dave DeBusschere and Ron Reed were teammates with the NBA’s Detroit Pistons in the 1965-66 and 1966-67 seasons.

Kenny Lofton and Tim Stoddard are the only players to appear in both a World Series and an NCAA Final Four. Lofton hooped at the University of Arizona, Stoddard at North Carolina State.

Three players drafted out of the University of Maryland Baltimore County have played in the big leagues: Wayne Franklin, Rick Steirer, and Jay Witasick.

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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6 years ago

I’m not a huge fan of Rodgers. I know he’s young, but the lack of plate discipline means his offense is entirely reliant on really high BABIPs.

6 years ago
Reply to  dl80

A good deal in coloroado