School: Mississippi State University; Class: Redshirt Junior
Position: 1B/RF; B/T: R/R
Height: 6-4; Weight: 220
Previously Drafted: Minnesota Twins, 38th round, 2014
Background: It wasn’t too long ago that Padres rookie Hunter Renfroe was considered the pop-up guy in the MLB draft. Renfroe, the eventual 13th overall pick in 2013, made just 30 trips to the plate as a true freshman and then batted a disappointing .252/.328/.374 in fulltime action during his sophomore campaign. He promptly followed that with a spectacular .345/.431/.620 triple-slash line. Well, fast forward four seasons and Mississippi State University has another major pop-up prospect in Brent Rooker.
A late round pick of the Twins coming out of Evangelical Christian High School in Tennessee, Rooker, who stands an impressive 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, got off to a slow start to his collegiate career: he redshirted his true freshman season (2014) and made just 83 trips to the plate the following year.
Finally with a chance to prove himself in everyday action, Rooker batted a solid .324/.376/.578 with 15 doubles, a pair of triples, 11 homeruns, and two stolen bases. And he continued to hit as he moved to the Cape Cod League during the summer as well. In 35 games with the Brewster Whitecaps, Rooker, who would eventually make it to the league’s All-Star contest, slugged .305/.338/.426 with 11 extra-base hits.
But no one could have foreseen what was lurking in the big right-hander’s bat heading into 2017.
In a career best 60 games for the Bulldogs, Rooker bashed and battered the opposition to the tune of .404/.505/.843 with an absurd 29 doubles, three triples, 21 homeruns and, just for good measure, 18 stolen bases in 23 total attempts. The best part of his progression as a hitter: he posted a vastly improved 48-to-41 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Projection: There’s a lot going on here, so let’s take it one step at a time. First, here’s a comparison between the breakout seasons by Rooker and Hunter Renfroe, the Bulldogs’ pop-up prospect – and eventual 13th overall pick in 2013:
Rooker’s production easily – and I mean, easily – surpasses his counterpart’s. But it’s important to point out that Mississippi State’s current slugger is also a year older, thanks to that redshirt a few seasons ago.
Now let’s take a look at how Rooker’s 2017 campaign stacks up against all Division I hitters since 2011. Consider the following:
- Just five Division I hitters have batted .400 with an OBP above .500 (minimum 275 plate appearances): D.J. Peterson, Jameson Fisher, Jason Krizan, Trenton Moses, and Danny Poma.
- Only Peterson, the 12th overall pick in 2013, slugged at least .800 – though he played half of his games in New Mexico’s bandbox home field.
- Only three players have posted a slugging percentage north of .800: Peterson, Kris Bryant, and, of course, Rooker.
- Only four players have slugged 29 or more doubles in a season: Rooker, Danny Poma, Jimmy Rider, and Jason Krizan.
- Only two players have bashed at least 20 homeruns and swipe at least 15 stolen bases: Andrew Benintendi and Rooker.
I could continue to go on and on…and on…about Rooker’s dominance this season. But there’s really no point. He’s arguably the best bat in the class; he’s taken big leaps in development in each of his past two seasons; he’s played well against elite competition…with wood bats; he’s showing plus-power, good speed, and his plate discipline is strong.
In the end, I wouldn’t be surprised to see his name called within the top 12 picks, though that comes with some trepidation about his age – which essentially makes him a senior. But Matt LaPorta was able to achieve the feat.
Rooker looks like a second-tier middle-of-the-lineup thumper. He’ll likely post triple-slash lines in the neighborhood of .270/.330/.500 with 30 homeruns and a handful of stolen bases.
Ceiling: 4.5-win player
Floor: 1.5-win player
Risk: Moderate to High
Grade: First Round