Player: Brendan Rodgers
DOB: 8/9/1996 (Age: 18)
Height/Weight: 6'1", 190 lbs
School: Lake Mary HS (Florida)
College Commitment: Florida State
There is a turning point for every potential draftee, good or bad, that happens on the summer showcase circuit the year before he is eligible to be selected. Brendan Rodgers exploded onto the scene in a great way during 2014 with his efforts at the Perfect Game Classic and Under Armour All-American Game, among others.
ESPN Insider Keith Law noted in his scouting report on Rodgers that some of the doubts that have crept up for him this spring don't jibe with what happened against other premium talent in 2014:
Still the top prospect in the class for me, a true shortstop with feel to hit and the potential for average or better power down the road. Questions about his bat (such as his bat speed) seem spurious given how well he hit velocity all of last summer, garnering well more than 100 at-bats against the best prep pitchers in the country, with excellent results.
Having that many at-bats against elite draft competition is critical, because the showcase scene is designed to make players look their best in a single-game setting with pregame batting practice and workout sessions.
Once Rodgers reaches triple digits in at-bats, he goes from being an interesting novelty to something else entirely. He also played high school baseball in a good state for the sport with everyone knowing his potential.
The fact that Rodgers has come through the predraft process pretty much as the top prospect from beginning to end speaks about his talent and preparation with the spotlight on him.
In a draft lacking on a consensus top talent, Rodgers has been one of the standouts because of his ability to hit for average and power while looking like a natural shortstop who projects to play the position at the highest level.
MLB.com's list of the top 200 draft prospects ranked the Florida high school star No. 1 and compared him to another highly touted shortstop from the state who was drafted in the first round three years ago:
A quality athlete with solid speed and above-average arm strength, Rodgers should be able to remain at shortstop. He has soft hands and good instincts in the field. His all-around toolset is reminiscent of that of Addison Russell, who went 11th overall in the 2012 draft to the Athletics and joined the Cubs as part of the Jeff Samardzija trade last July.
While Russell is still developing at the MLB level, Rodgers' new team would be thrilled if he took that path through the minors. Baseball America had Russell ranked as the No. 3 overall prospect when this season started.
Rodgers will be fighting against something I like to call "Bubba Starling Syndrome." Rodgers is a better baseball talent than Starling was when Kansas City drafted him in 2011, but Starling was an older high school player who turned 19 two months after being drafted.
That will happen to Rodgers, whose birthday is on August 9. It's not a huge demerit for the shortstop, but it does put his development behind other high schoolers who won't turn 19 until the end of the year or early in 2016.
The good news is Rodgers has developed physically, with MLB.com's scouting report noting he's "gotten considerably stronger," to the point where it would be fair to expect him to look more ready for professional baseball than other high school draftee.
It also sounds like Rodgers has a strong enough head on his shoulders to handle the pressure that comes with being a high-profile draft pick. His father, Greg Rodgers, offered this assessment of his son's path to this moment to Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com: "He just stays so focused in the game, it doesn't really matter," the elder Rodgers said. "With more people watching him, he just continues to play the game at a very high level."
Impact is the key thing every team is seeking out in the draft—but especially at the top. Rodgers plays one of the most difficult positions on the field and has shown a knack for doing everything a team could want from an up-the-middle draftee.
He has the talent and mindset to handle everything that is going to come his way. He's the perfect blend of everything a team picking high could look for, and his journey begins now.
MLB Player Comparison: Jhonny Peralta
There was a time when it looked like Jhonny Peralta would need to move off shortstop, but he's really developed into a solid defender to go along with hitting for average and power.
Rodgers fits the Peralta description to the letter, though he does have more foot speed now than Peralta ever has had as a big leaguer. The Florida high school star won't be a burner on the bases, but he's smart enough to take an extra bag and won't cause any problems.
The 18-year-old has an excellent swing that's very short to the ball, with enough natural strength in his wrists and arms to drive it over the fence. He's got a solid approach and rarely gets fooled by offspeed stuff, allowing him to project as a high-average, high-on-base-percentage player with plus power.
Projection: First-division starter, occasional All-Star
MLB ETA: 2018
Chances of Signing: 95 percent
There's no reason to think Rodgers won't sign after hearing his name called so early Thursday. He does have a commitment to Florida State, though there haven't been any indications that college will cause his price to be substantial.
However, Rodgers can use the Seminoles as leverage to maximize his earning power. The slotting pool was established for a reason, and players have every right to take advantage of it. A team isn't going to take a player this high to not sign him. He will be in professional baseball before the signing deadline in July.