Rockies take prep SS Rodgers at No. 3
DENVER -- The Rockies found Lake Mary (Fla.) High School shortstop Brendan Rodgers too inviting to pass up, and selected him third overall in the MLB Draft on Monday night.
Rodgers, 18, measured last week at 6-feet-and-3/4 inches and 199 pounds, wowed scouts during showcases last summer and batted .368 with eight home runs and 23 RBIs during his senior season in high school. He was ranked the top overall Draft prospect by MLB.com. Rodgers became the third top-three overall selection in the Rockies' history, and the second in three years. They took Oklahoma right-handed pitcher Jon Gray third overall in 2013.
"I had a pretty good feeling about going third," Rodgers said. "It's a hitter's park [Coors Field] and it was where I wanted to be. I luckily ended up there."
Rodgers said he isn't certain when he will visit Denver, where he will be expected to undergo a physical and sign, but "hopefully it's soon, because I want to start playing." While there is no official word on the bonus for Rodgers, a Florida State recruit, the No. 3 overall selection is valued at $6,223,300 under the MLB slotting system.
Rodgers and his friends and family hit the jackpot even before the Draft. On Sunday, they watched the Yankees-Angels game, and a home run by the Yankees' Brian McCann landed in the hands of Ralph Nenna, the father of Rodgers' best friend. It was Ralph Nenna who introduced baseball to Rodgers, who was playing soccer and whose father, Greg, had played and coached soccer.
The Rockies used their other three picks Monday on high school players -- Stroudsburg (Pa.) right-hander Steve Nikorak at 27th overall as compensation for losing outfielder Michael Cuddyer to the Mets via free agency; Poway (Calif.) High School third baseman Tyler Nevin -- son of former big leaguer Phil Nevin -- at 38th overall, in Competitive Balance Round A; and right-hander Peter Lambert of San Dimas (Calif.) High School.
The only other time in the Rockies' history that they took high schoolers with their first four selections was 1998 -- pitcher Matt Roney, outfielder Choo Freeman, catcher Jeff Winchester and pitcher Jermaine Van Buren.
The Draft continues on Tuesday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com preview show begins at 10:30 a.m. MT, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at 11 a.m.
The Rockies were able to grab Rodgers because the teams ahead of them put a premium on the fact shortstop is the deepest collegiate position. The D-backs chose to go with the top collegiate player, Vanderbilt shortstop Dansby Swanson at No. 1 overall, and the Astros took LSU shortstop Lance Bregman.
This is the first time in the 50-year history of the Draft that shortstops have gone Nos. 1, 2 and 3.
Throughout the days leading to the Draft, many experts had the Rockies debating Rodgers and Illinois left-handed pitcher Tyler Jay, who spent almost all of his collegiate career as a reliever. Jay, however, made his first collegiate start for the Illini against Vanderbilt in Monday's NCAA Super Regional. He went 6 1/3 innings and gave up 10 hits, including a homer and a double to Swanson, and four runs.
But Rockies vice president of scouting Bill Schmidt, running his 16th Draft, in most cases takes the best player on the team's Draft board, rather than select by position. The Rockies have struggled throughout their history to develop pitching, have a standout shortstop in Troy Tulowitzki and are developing another player at the position in Trevor Story, who was taken 45th overall in 2011 and is in Double-A.
Rodgers said he looks forward to going to a system that has Tulowitzki as the Major League example.
"He's one of the best power-hitting shortstops to ever play the game, and he's someone I look up to, and hopefully in a few weeks I'll maybe get some tips from him," Rodgers said.
Schmidt said Rodgers has the "ability to hit and hit with power. He has fluid defensive actions. And has a chance to be an offensive player at the Major League level from the middle of the diamond."
Monday marked the fourth time in Rockies history that their first selection was a shortstop. They took Jayson Nix, who would start at second base, from Midland (Tex.) High 44th overall in 2001; Chris Nelson, who would make the team as a utility infielder, from Stone Mountain (Ga.) Redan High ninth overall in 2004; and Tulowitzki seventh overall from Long Beach State in 2005.
John Cedarbyurg, the Rockies' Central and South Florida area supervisor, was the primary scout on Rodgers.
Rodgers has the throwing arm and body for shortstop, and his power-average combination makes his bat one that could eventually put him on a Major League club, even if he has to change positions.
Rodgers also has had the benefit of working out with Major Leaguers in the Orlando, Fla., area, such as Rays shortstop Nick Franklin. He also has worked out with Marlins second baseman and Majors hits leader Dee Gordon. Rodgers played a year for Gordon's father, former Major League pitcher Tom Gordon, on the Florida Flash select club.
"I've known him since he was like 12," Dee Gordon said. "He's always been a great kid, and the sky's the limit for him. He's just gotta continue to work hard and he's gonna be a great player for whoever picked him.
"He can hit, field, everything. Who wouldn't take that?"
Former Rockies star Dante Bichette, who later served as the team's hitting coach, was one of Rodgers' coaches during his Little League days.