Rodgers needs huge spring to claim 2B role
Prospect competing with Hampson, McMahon for starting job
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies top prospect Brendan Rodgers realizes he has to keep his spirits light even though his assignment is heavy.
Rodgers, baseball's No. 10 overall prospect according to MLB Pipeline, is being included as a legitimate competitor at second base. But given his youth and lack of experience relative to the group of young hopefuls (no Major League games for Rodgers, and just 19 in Triple-A) looking to win the everyday job at second base, the 22-year-old realistically has to prove he's a no-doubt, everyday starter in order to skip having to begin the season at Albuquerque.
After a strong performance in his first Cactus League season last spring (solid .286 batting average and .842 OPS, with three home runs), Rodgers will have to turn hot on the field while staying cool-headed.
:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::
"My main thing in the back of my head is to not put too much pressure on myself; that's what I've tried not to do over the years, just go out there and play," Rodgers said. "I deal with pressure pretty well. Obviously, in the Futures Game and stuff like that, it's there. But I try not to let it get to me."
Rodgers hit .232 and had a .264 on-base percentage in his brief Triple-A introduction, but spent that time listening and learning from teammates. On the practice fields before full-squad workouts began Monday, he found shortstop Trevor Story a perceptive and willing mentor. Rodgers was drafted as a shortstop but, like many Rockies prospects, has had to learn other positions just in case the big league opening was at something other than his primary spot.
"We were just working on double plays and stuff, and he's letting me know speed-wise on flips and throws and turns and placement of the ball," Rodgers said of Story. "Little things like that are really helpful for me, because that's stuff I'm working on and focusing on.
"I didn't tell him that I'm working on that stuff. I feel like he has a feeling I'm working on it, and he can pick and choose and give me little pointers and tips. That's really helpful."
But Ryan McMahon, Garrett Hampson and Pat Valaika possess Major League experience and have also spent time learning from Story. They also have some experience as starters and bench players. Rodgers is still at a learning stage, so if he's not always on the field in the Majors it may be beneficial for him to have daily playing time in Triple-A.
Rodgers will use Spring Training to show what type of action he'll be ready for when the season begins.
"Brendan's getting closer," manager Bud Black said. "There are some things we'd like to see cleaned up a little bit. But we think that he has a real chance to be an impact player, with the bat and with the glove. And he can run a little bit, too.
"Second year in big league camp, there should be a little more self-confidence, a little more feeling at ease. He's been around these guys for a couple years, being around the coaches, being around myself, we should see the talent emerge. Last year in Triple-A, he got some at-bats. Statistically, there were some things that showed up that might warrant a little bit more time, but we'll see how he looks this year in spring."
Leaving a freakish year behind
Righty reliever Carlos Estévez made 98 Major League appearances for the Rockies in 2016 and 2017 (8-7, 5.36 ERA, 11 saves), but last year was wiped out by freakish injuries.
After last year's first Cactus League outing, Estevez reached downward to spear a ball while playing catch and suffered a left oblique injury. While working his way back at Albuquerque, he had an outing when he never got fully loose, then sprained the UCL in his right elbow while pushing up from the bench. Estevez was able to return to Albuquerque before season's end but never made it to the Majors.
However, Estevez felt healthy while throwing in the Dominican Republic after the season. Known mostly for upper velocity occasionally topping 100 mph, Estevez said he feels capable of throwing just as hard, but also believes he is a complete pitcher, more than just a flamethrower. Plus, he is out of Minor League options and must prove himself this spring.
"Last year, my slider was working really well, even in the first game of spring," Estevez said. "I believe that got way better. My changeup is good, too. I'm working on my fastball everywhere."