Path to the Draft: Rodgers guided by Major mentors
Potential top pick assisted by former, current big leaguers
The spring before the Draft can be full of excitement and pressure for amateur players hoping to be selected by a Major League organization. Those in the discussion for top of the first round face even more scrutiny as June approaches. MLB.com will be following Brendan Rodgers, ranked No. 1 on MLB.com's Top 100 Draft prospects list, throughout the process. From the start of his senior year at Lake Mary High School outside of Orlando, Fla., all the way through Draft Day, Rodgers has given MLB.com full access to his life as the top Draft prospect in the country.
Most people are familiar with the old adage: "It's not what you know, it's who you know."
In Brendan Rodgers' case, what he knows because of who he knows has undoubtedly helped him develop into one of the best Draft prospects in the Class of 2015. From former big leaguers to coach him to current professionals to play and work out with, many knowledgeable people have helped Rodgers along the way.
Rodgers is sure to have them all in mind when he hears his name come off the board early on June 8. That's the first night of the Draft, with live coverage coming at 7 p.m. ET on MLB Network and MLB.com (preview show at 6 p.m. ET) of the first two rounds. Day 2 coverage starts at 1 p.m., with live pick-by-pick coverage of Rounds 3-10. Day 3 starts at noon on June 10.
There are pictures of a very young Rodgers with coach Dante Bichette in the Rodgers home. The shortstop played for Tom Gordon's travel team as well.
"We've been surrounded by a lot of baseball players, a lot of professional players," said Greg Rodgers, Brendan's father. "Danny Graves ["His son," Julie Rodgers, Brendan's mother, chimed in] is another guy who was on Brendan's team. He was still playing at the time."
"Luckily, the kids were the same age as Brendan," Julie said. "Dante's son was a year younger; Tom Gordon's son was a year older. They still managed to play on a lot of travel teams together."
The Gordon family has certainly been instrumental. Tom has been at the helm of a top-notch travel team, the Florida Flash. Rodgers got to play under the former big leaguer hurler and alongside his son Nick, who was a first-round pick of the Minnesota Twins a year ago and is currently ranked No. 31 on MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list. That also means Rodgers spent considerable time with Tom's older son, Dee Gordon, who just so happens to lead Major League Baseball in hitting.
"I met B-Rod when he was about 12 years old," Dee Gordon said. "He was a really good player then, and he's just blossomed into one of the greatest players in the high school ranks right now.
"He works out in the same place I work out in the offseason. He's just a wonderful kid, and he plays hard. The kid got some thump. He can absolutely play the game of baseball."
Rays infielder Nick Franklin, himself a first-round pick of the Mariners from nearby Lake Brantley High School back in 2009, has spent enough time working out with Rodgers, both in the gym with Gordon and on the field, to know he has the chance to impact the game.
"I've been around him a while for this past offseason," Franklin said. "We'd just work on the fundamentals of the game, being at short, where he naturally feels comfortable the most. Some of the same actions at short I have now … he already has. It took me a little bit, but he's already there. He's got pretty fluid actions at short. It's going to be interesting to watch, and I'm excited to see."
Rodgers, for his part, understands he hasn't gotten to this point alone and has been a veritable sponge, soaking up as much information as possible from all who have played the game at a higher level.
"I've had a lot of guidance," Rodgers said. "They all helped me out, they gave me little pointers about staying on my game, hustling on and off the field. I always go out there and play hard every single time. I've gotten a lot of help to be ready for what's coming."
The Draft is what's coming next, as Rodgers' season ended a while back, with only private workouts for teams on the schedule before June 8. He saw how the younger Gordon -- along with fellow 2014 draftee Forrest Wall, now a Rockies prospect -- handled it all. Rodgers has been taking cues from them for a while.
"Going into junior year, that summer, when I was with the Scorpions, I always played up, usually," Rodgers explained. "Playing shortstop with Forrest Wall and Nick Gordon, I'd always practice with them in the offseason. I got helpful tips from them even before they were drafted, them always being older and having a better clue as to what was going on."
Rodgers is pretty clued in now, and undoubtedly will pass along what he knows to players in the Orlando area -- a clearly talent-laded region -- when the time comes. And the younger players are likely to listen, as many predict bigger and better things for the high school infielder.
"Ultimately, he's got a great shot, not only just getting drafted, he's got a great shot at being at the big league level and staying there for a while," Franklin said. "I've seen a lot of guys, I've worked with a lot of high school guys, but he's probably one of the best high school guys I've ever seen."