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Rodgers set to compete for starting 2B role

No. 10 prospect in MLB sees similarities with Story in 2016
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

DENVER -- Rockies top prospect Brendan Rodgers aims to relive Trevor Story's story this Spring Training.

Rodgers was barely out of high school and in Minor League camp in 2016, the year Story grabbed the starting shortstop job by batting .340 with six home runs in Cactus League play. Like Story in '16, Rodgers -- the No. 1 prospect in the Rockies' system and No. 10 in baseball per MLB Pipeline -- is a recent top Draft pick whose highest level of experience is limited time at Triple-A Albuquerque.

DENVER -- Rockies top prospect Brendan Rodgers aims to relive Trevor Story's story this Spring Training.

Rodgers was barely out of high school and in Minor League camp in 2016, the year Story grabbed the starting shortstop job by batting .340 with six home runs in Cactus League play. Like Story in '16, Rodgers -- the No. 1 prospect in the Rockies' system and No. 10 in baseball per MLB Pipeline -- is a recent top Draft pick whose highest level of experience is limited time at Triple-A Albuquerque.

"I'm sure [Story] had the same goal and same mindset that I'm telling you right now," said Rodgers, 22, who arrived at the Rockies' complex in Scottsdale, Ariz., nearly three weeks ago to prepare to compete for starts and playing time at second base.

The difference is that Story had a fairly clear path to start at shortstop in 2016, with Jose Reyes facing an eventual suspension under MLB's Joint Domestic Violence Policy. Rodgers is competing at second with Ryan McMahon, who appeared in 91 regular-season games last year as a rookie; and Garrett Hampson, who saw action in 24 Major League games. Both also made postseason appearances. Add to them Pat Valaika, who struggled last year but was the Rockies' top pinch-hitter in '17.

But after Rodgers responded well while riding an accelerated learning curve in 2018, the Rockies have no qualms about identifying him as a candidate to start at second base.

Selected third overall in the 2015 Draft, Rodgers has batted .291 with an .837 OPS in his four Minor League seasons while playing shortstop, second base and third base. Last season he hit for a .275 batting average, .342 on-base percentage and .493 slugging percentage at Double-A Hartford, with 17 homers in 95 games. At Triple-A Albuquerque, Rodgers slashed .232/.264/.290 with no homers in 19 games, but dramatically increased his knowledge base.

Rodgers needed it. Hampson earned the late-season Major League nod over him at the end of 2018 because of a more advanced approach. Drafted in the third round in '16, Hampson is two years older than Rodgers, and had a three-year collegiate career at Long Beach State.

"I watched a lot more video this year and knew what I was going up against before it happened," said Rodgers, who signed a $5.5 million bonus after being drafted out of Lake Mary (Fla.) High School. "And in Triple-A, pretty much every time I had an at-bat, someone has already faced this guy. They would tell me little tips in how they attack, like what they do 0-2, 2-0. I just really listened and learned a lot."

Rodgers also appreciated the continuing mentorship of Matt Holliday, who was at Albuquerque preparing for a late-season comeback with the Rockies this past year.

"He's definitely a guy I want to keep in contact with over the years," Rodgers said. "He helped me mentally at the plate. That guy has been in a lot of tough situations."

Rodgers missed nine days in August with a strain at the bottom of his right hamstring. A right shoulder injury he suffered when he slipped at the end of a swing during one of the last Triple-A games knocked him out of the Arizona Fall League.

But Rodgers' health is now clean. So is his mind, after an initial flurry of interest came his way when longtime Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu signed with the Yankees, officially opening Colorado's second-base race.

"A lot of people were texting me about it," Rodgers said. "But I'm a laid-back kind of guy. I don't really think too deep into it. I just gotta go out and show people that I can play."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.

Colorado Rockies