clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Analyzing outcomes for Twins rising minor leaguer Brent Rooker

Will the slugging righty become a mainstay in Minneapolis or be dealt at the deadline?

Photo by Seth Stohs/Twins Daily

The Twins drafted Brent Rooker in the 38th round of the 2016 MLB Draft. Not satisfied with draft position, Rooker returned for another year at Mississippi State and shot up draft boards, selected once again by the Twins. A year later in the 2017 Draft, the Twins picked Rooker once again, this time as the 35th selection in the draft. The college power hitter started impressing right off the bat in Twins farm system.

Making appearances with the Twins’ rookie league and High-A teams, Rooker mashed to the tune of 145 wRC+ (Rookie Ball) and a 166 wRC+ (High-A) and earned an aggressive promotion to AA to start the 2018 season. Rooker flew up prospect lists prior to his 2018 campaign at Chattanooga, including cracking some Top 100 prospect lists after his impressive MiLB debut. His 2017 slashline read .281/.364/.566 with 18 bombs and .930 OPS in his first 62 professional ballgames.

Less than a year after being drafted, Rooker was just two steps away from the majors, and predictably struggled a bit in his time with the Chattanooga Lookouts. Even with some dry spells in his offensive game, Rooker still posted a 124 wRC+ and nearly had an .800 OPS (.798) in 2018. His defense continued to be below average both in the outfield and at first base, but 22 bombs showed that the power was still there. He showed how streaky of a hitter he could be as well, with an OPS over 1.000 in June and July, but no higher than .739 in any other month.

This year got off to a poor start for the Tennessee native, as he battled injuries and hit just .222/.278/.478 in 24 games in May and April. He also had a strikeout rate a bit over 44% in that timespan, and it seemed as if Rooker was having a hard time adjusting to the upper levels of the minors.

Since returning to the lineup on June 1st, Rooker has been absolutely mashing. He has posted a slash line of .348/.508/.630 for an OPS of 1.138, striking out a more reasonable 29% of the time during that span. While Rooker has also likely been a bit lucky with an astronomically high .510 BABIP during that span, his career BABIP has always been a bit higher and he does hit the ball hard. Plus, he has to be doing something right if he is getting on base more than 50% of the time.

It’s easy to say that Rooker’s actual projections for future years should be somewhere between the two stints of his 2019 season. But with such dramatic results in his performance there are a wide range of values that could fit that bill. More importantly, how will he perform playing at the MLB level? Rooker has played in the outfield in every game this year at AAA, putting him in an interesting position as the trade deadline approaches.

If Rooker continues hitting anywhere close to how he has for the past month, it is clear that he is ready to get a shot in the MLB. Not currently on the 40-man roster, the Twins would have to shuffle some things around to pull the Mississippi State product up to the big leagues. If he could discover some kind of consistency with his good stretches of hitting, he would likely be an above average big league bat that would contribute power and on-base skills alike. Rooker’s future will change significantly in the coming months, so I put together three scenarios that I believe are the most likely for Rooker.

1. The Twins trade Rooker at the deadline for relief help or as part of a deal for a starting pitcher.

If I had to pick one Twins prospect that I think will be dealt at the deadline, Rooker would be at the top of the list. The Twins seem to think he fits best in the outfield, an area in which they are currently pretty well set. The trio of Rosario, Buxton, and Kepler look to be entrenched for at least a few years barring injury or a major downturn in performance, and Marwin Gonzalez will also be on the roster next year as another outfield option. Jake Cave and Lamonte Wade Jr profile to fill the role of fourth outfielder fairly well, while top prospect Alex Kirilloff is also primed to make his MLB debut in the near future.

This situation may make Rooker expendable, especially if he is being traded to a rebuilding team that is looking to bring in young bats. The Giants have been connected to the Twins for both SP Madison Bumgarner and RP Will Smith and their outfield has been dreadful, sporting the worst wRC+ in the league at a paltry 66 with a dead-last .269 wOBA. If the Twins do indeed trade with the Giants, a deal involving Rooker could make a lot of sense. Even if the Twins don’t swap with San Fran, Rooker could appeal to a variety of other teams as well. His recent hot streak has likely bumped up his trade value, and his high ceiling would be a plus for almost any rebuilding franchise.

2. Rooker becomes a fourth outfielder for the Twins or manages to find his way into the starting outfield.

Though this what the Twins seem to be grooming him for based on his AAA playing time, I don’t think it will be the case come 2020. While its true that Rooker would be a decent compliment to Rosario and Kepler as a right-handed bat, he may be too talented to slot in a 4th OF role where he wouldn’t get very many at-bats. His defense in the outfield is a bit below average, and he wouldn’t bring much speed to the squad either. Unless there is a major injury to one of the outfielders or the Twins decide to deal Rosario, Buxton, or Kepler (very unlikely), Rooker likely wouldn’t crack the starting lineup in the outfield for more than a few weeks at a time. As previously mentioned, Kirilloff’s impending MLB debut also cloudies the picture for Rooker’s outfield potential.

3. The Twins transition Rooker to first base full-time as the 1B or DH of the future.

This option doesn’t make a whole lot of sense considering Rooker hasn’t played a game this season at first, though it’s certainly his clearest path to playing in the big leagues. C.J. Cron and Nelson Cruz will both be free agents in 2021. DH seems like the more likely spot, though it would be a hard pill to swallow to place Rooker in a full-time designated hitter role right away in the bigs. On the flip side, it would also be hard to deny Rooker playing time next season if he continues to produce, though maybe Cruz will retire or the Twins will opt not to pick up his 2020 option. It seems likely that Sano also profiles similarly as a slugging right-handed first baseman or DH if he can’t provide solid defense at third.

The extremes of the Brent Rooker’s outcomes make him one of the most interesting players in the Twins farm system, especially as the trade deadline approaches. What do you think will happen with the red-hot Rooker? Vote on the poll and let me know in the comments section!

Poll

What do you think will happen with Twins minor leaguer Brent Rooker?

This poll is closed

  • 72%
    The Twins will dish him for some pitching help at the trade deadline
    (384 votes)
  • 19%
    He’ll play for the Twins as a first baseman or DH
    (102 votes)
  • 2%
    He will one day patrol the outfield pastures of Target Field on a regular (or semi-regular) basis
    (15 votes)
  • 4%
    He won’t crack the big leagues with the Twins
    (26 votes)
527 votes total Vote Now