Under Armour Q&A: Brendan Rodgers

CHICAGO—Many evaluators believe that shortstop Brendan Rodgers has positioned himself as the top high school position player in the class. The Lake Mary (Fla.) High product has natural feel for the game with an up-the-middle profile. He offers a potent righthanded bat with plus raw power and natural feel for the barrel. Rodgers ran the 60 in 6.81 seconds at East Coast Pro and offers an above-average arm at shortstop.

He was one of the initial invites to the Under Armour All-America Game that were announced back in January. The 6-foot, 190-pound Rodgers sat down to talk about his summer and look ahead to Saturday’s Game in Wrigley Field at 7:05 p.m. EST.

How have the past few days been for you?

This has been tremendous. I had never heard of the W Hotel but this is incredible and to be on Lake Michigan is amazing. It literally looks like an ocean. It is so big. Walking in and seeing the lobby I felt like we were in a casino. Then our rooms and the hallways, everything was different and modern. It was pretty cool. The accommodations are very professional, with getting your size and pants tailored and your hat and glasses. It was pretty sweet to go in and take the pictures that we did. And the gear is incredible. It is a crazy amount of clothes, hats, socks and sliders, or whatever you need. It was probably double or triple the amount I thought we were going to get. I am excited for the Game.

The player lounge and the entire floor is incredible. (The wallpaper throughout the floor is covered with pictures of previous All-America Games).

They live up to being the best showcase.

How has the summer been for you? You have been very busy from Perfect Game National, events in Georgia, East Coast Pro and now both All-America Games.

It has been the best summer and best experience of my life. Everyone says that they their favorite time is vacation. Well mine is baseball because it is like a vacation because it is doing what I love. First was a Fort Myers tournament, then two weeks in Atlanta. I go to Atlanta pretty much every year and that is always fun. It’s all about playing baseball and hanging out with my buddies. Then going to the National, which was fun this year and I met a lot of new kids. A lot of new top players that I saw at the PG All-American Game are here too. I have gotten very close with them. East Coast Pro was insane because of how many people were there. I heard that it was 360 scouts and I thought ‘wow, that is a lot.’ Then I got there and I thought ‘wow, there are actually 360 scouts here.’ They are either all behind the plate or hiding in suites and scattered up the line. You just had to play your best and I felt like I played pretty good. That was another great event. Before that I got to stay at my buddy’s place in upstate New York, an hour and a half away from Syracuse. We stayed there the whole week leading up to ECP. He lives on St. Lawrence and there were yachts and jet skis and we were riding around for a week. That was like my vacation this summer for five days. Then we drove to Syracuse. After that was home for a few days and then went to PG. I met a crazy amount of people that I didn't know, so it was fun. It's the same thing here. I have met basically the same players and hung out with them. It has probably been the best summer I could have or will have in the next few years.

I was able to see you as an underclassman last summer and fall. You have always had natural feel for the game and easy power. Then I didn't see you this spring. The first time I saw you this summer was at PG National. It was evident in the first two swings you took in batting practice that your bat speed had improved tremendously, by at least a full grade. Could you feel that your bat speed really improved?

Oh yeah. From the end of Jupiter I started to work out a lot. From then on until February it was heavy and then during the season I would do my light stuff to stay strong. I left very strong at the National. I felt I ran pretty good and had been training for that. I hit good and my arm felt good. I didn't know I was going to throw 93 mph across the infield. I was at 87 last year and it hurt my arm after. After the 93 this year it didn't hurt.

That must have been fun to drive some balls out to straightaway center field during that BP.

Yeah, when I saw that one land I thought ‘wow.’ My BP thrower threw to me at PG National, the All-American Games and East Coast Pro. He has been tremendous.

Walk me through your East Coast Pro. It was tremendous.  Early on there were some balls where you got hits but you didn't square balls up, although you showed the strength to loft them over the infielders. The next few days you were locked in on every pitch. You had a home run and drove three other balls deep into the outfield in one game.

The first at-bat where I hit the home run was probably one of the best at-bats I have had in a year. It was a good pitcher in the low-90s with good offspeed. He got ahead on me 1-2 then I just fought off a couple of pitches, then he threw two straights balls and then I fought off another one. Then he tried to beat me with an inside fastball and I honestly got jammed on that and didn't even square it up completely. If I didn't get jammed a little bit it would have went further. My next at-bat, he threw me curveball-curveball-fastball, so it was 3-0. I didn't want to take a walk so he threw me a low and in fastball and that was probably the hardest ball I’ve ever hit in my life. If Daz (Cameron) wasn't playing where he was playing … when I hit it I thought ‘that is a triple.’ Then he is camped under it and I thought ‘never mind.’ Then the next two were to left center. I squared up my buddy Cole (Sands). I have seen him pitch all summer so I knew what he had and what his out pitch was. He threw me his out pitch, which is his changeup, and I squared it up, but it was a little too high. I was just locked in and I felt loose at the plate. I get taught to have a loose top hand and to stay relaxed. I just wait for my pitch.

Did you think that the drive to deep left field was gone off (Justin) Hooper at the PG All-American Game? I thought it had a chance off the bat.

I started to get close with people over the course of the week and then I realized a few days before the game that since he was the top lefty in the class, that I would probably face him. Then what do you know? I get up there and he is 6-foot-7 throwing 94-96 with dirty tail. He threw me a really good changeup that I swung through. Then he threw me two curveballs in the dirt that were balls. So I thought he has to come back with something. I was probably going to swing anyway, but it was a fastball. It was a little high and way outside, but I did square it up. When I hit it I thought ‘oh my gosh.’ Then I was rounding first and was bummed when I saw Kyle Dean underneath it. I felt like it would have been out of a lot of parks. That field is pretty big and I hit it right between the two dimensions. The ball hung up. There was a hang time of what …

I had a 6.69-second hang time and by the time it was caught it seemed like you were almost at second base.

When he caught it I was like two steps away from second base.

It is impressive that you are able to walk through multiple at-bats from weeks ago. When did that part of the game start to develop for you? It seems like you develop a lot of scouting reports on pitchers you might be facing.

Some players I have never heard of and I won’t know. Like Anthony (Molina), for example, I won’t know how his fastball-breaking ball-changeup combo is or if his breaking ball is a 12-6 curveball or a slider. I really started learning the game more at the end of my sophomore year and focusing on learning the game. There was a hard learning process from my sophomore year to junior year and it is starting to pay off. I know the entire arsenal of the pitchers on my Orlando Scorpions team. Or some of the other pitchers here, like Ashe (Russell). His out pitch is his slider and it is 82-83 mph but he doesn’t like to throw his changeup. He said he throws it like once a year and I can believe that. It is usually fastball-fastball-slider with him. It was really hard learning and getting the hang of it but I am glad that I started learning like that a few years ago and am not starting now because if should have that at the next  level and will be an asset. I feel like I can excel more because I know more.

Earlier you mentioned the workouts you had that enabled those strength gains. Can you walk me through those? I’m sure you must have been going pretty hard to gain as much strength as you did.

I was like 167 pounds in my sophomore year when I started working out. Then from my sophomore year to the fall or January I gained almost 30 pounds. I had a great trainer at D1 Orlando right by my house. I would go in before school at 4:30 in the morning every day. I would get to bed at like 8 after practice and homework. Nine (p.m.) was about the latest I would go to sleep so I could get up at 4. It was a mainly a Monday-Wednesday-Thursday-Friday schedule. Sometimes we would vary it. Monday would be chest and triceps. Then back and biceps. We did core was every day. It was the same routine as far as body parts but different workouts. I remember some workouts that were different but I just switched to another guy. But my whole Scorpions team goes to this trainer and says he is the best. He trains Dee Gordon, Rickie Weeks, Austin Rivers and so many pro athletes, as well as Nick Gordon, Foster Griffin and Forrest Wall. I am probably 190 or 192 right now and they said they could get me to 200 by the spring. That is good with me. I just want to be able to throw and hit. I am going to start up with him after this. I feel like it will be tough the first few weeks because I haven't worked out in a good amount of time and I will be sore and struggle. But when I get back into the routine I will be good. Waking up at 4:30 in the morning has helped train to me be a top player. I couldn't go after practice. So it either has to be at 10 at night or at 4 in the morning. I had fun with my trainer and we were proud of what I accomplished.

Farmers, CEOs and people that are working out are most of the people up at that hour. Do you have a favorite player at the major league level that you look up to?

It has to be Derek Jeter. I have watched the Yankees play but I don't like the Yankees. I just like Derek Jeter. I am actually a Red Sox fan, which is weird. He is a perfect example of a role model on and off the field. He signs for kids and when I met him he looked me straight in the eye and talked to me for a few minutes before his game. And he has more than 3,000 hits. He is a good role model to be inspired by.

You have worked hard to position yourself as one of the top players in the class. Where do you think you have the biggest room for improvement going forward to build on what you have done to this point?

I want to be a top performer at Jupiter. I want to work for the spring season by prepping to get better, to prevent injuries, to get strong and faster. I am going to stay cut and in shape and eat right. By the time high school season begins I want to hit every day and field every day and take a lot of extra groundballs. I want to have the best season of my life. I hit close to .400 last year with nine home runs and I want best both of those. The record for home runs at my high school is nine home runs, so I tied it. There is a board at my high with all of the records and my coach said he wouldn't put my name on there unless I broke the record. It is a good motivator. Plus I only have about 22 games in a season. So it is a home run in less than every three games. It is a challenge, especially since I am not going to try to hit home runs. They just happen when I have good swings. I want to show scouts my speed by swiping a few bags and playing good defense with minimal errors. I think I had two errors last year. Both were in the same game so I was pretty rattled that game, but I got through it. I won’t let it happen again. So having a great high school season and working hard to prepare for the draft. I am excited to finish this summer at the Metropolitan Baseball Classic. We will get at least three games on Citi Field. I had a great time at least year’s event.

You mentioned the lack of errors. Is that something that you pride yourself on? Because it seems like if you get your hands on a ball you will turn it into an out.

In the offseason I will work out and one day I’ll hit and the next I’ll throw. Monday I will work out the body and hit. Then on days when I don't work out I will both hit and throw. I take a lot of ground balls. In the offseason I take probably about 200 groundballs a day. It is a habit.

Thanks for your time. It’s been a lot of fun to hear about your work habits and you recall different at-bats.

I am really looking forward to Wrigley for Saturday’s game. It is probably my favorite park that I have been to so far and this has been an incredible few days. It's a privilege and honor to be here.