'Professor' Rocchio a quick study in Minors

August 22nd, 2022

Shortstop Brayan Rocchio, who was promoted to Triple-A Columbus on Saturday, patterns his game after a few of the greatest shortstops to ever suit up for Cleveland.

If all goes according to his plan, the organization’s No. 4-ranked prospect hopes to have a similar career one day.

“Growing up I watched a lot of Asdrúbal Cabrera, he was my favorite player,” Rocchio said after taking batting practice recently in Akron. “I love [Francisco] Lindor. I try to do every single thing on the field like him.”

A switch-hitting shortstop who was born and raised in Venezuela -- like his baseball heroes Omar Vizquel and Cabrera -- Rocchio was one of the standout prospects from Cleveland’s highly touted international class of 2017 that included No. 2 prospect George Valera, No. 17 prospect Jhonkensy Noel and No. 18 prospect Jose Tena. Rocchio signed for $100,000 out of Caracas and immediately made an impact.

Starting out in the Dominican Summer League, he posted a .323/.391/.434 slash line across 25 games. He later earned a promotion to the Arizona Rookie League, slashing .343/.389/.448 with 14 steals while putting up a higher walk rate and lower strikeout rate than he did in the DSL.

He was added to Cleveland’s 40-man roster after a breakout 2021 season in which he hit .277/.346/.460 with 15 homers and 21 steals in 108 games between High A Lake County and Double-A Akron.

Assigned to the Double-A Rubberducks to start the 2022 season, the 21-year-old posted a 1.086 OPS in July after averaging a .702 OPS from April to June. He made his Triple-A debut over the weekend -- putting him just one step away from his big league dreams.

It's worth noting that he is ultimately competing against a plethora of other talented young infielders -- like current teammate and No. 11 prospect Gabriel Arias -- for a big league opportunity. He also has No. 12 prospect Angel Martinez (Lake County) and Dayan Frias (Low A Lynchburg) to consider.

At the big league level, Amed Rosario and Andrés Giménez are entrenched in the middle of the infield, so Rocchio’s road to the top won’t be easy. There’s also superstar José Ramírez and recently called-up No. 10 prospect Tyler Freeman. 

Rocchio, who is nicknamed “The Professor” for his makeup and intelligence, knows the situation. But history could work in his favor.

Like Cabrera and Lindor, Rocchio played short-season Class A ball by the time he was 18, and he had at least 200 plate appearances at Double-A or higher by his age-20 season. He has also posted a walk-to-strikeout ratio in the Minors that hovers between 0.50 and 0.60 -- just like his heroes did. He also has a similar career OPS in the Minors, posting a .777 mark in comparison to Cabrera’s .772 and Lindor’s .744.

In the meantime, Rocchio is enjoying the ride and carving out his own path. Friends like Valera, Noel, and Tena make the journey easier.

“They’re like my family, I enjoy the brotherhood we have,” Rocchio said. “Getting to grow up with these guys at different levels makes me feel lucky.”