2017 California League Top 20 Prospects


(Photo by Tom DiPace)

Championship Series
Modesto (Mariners) 3
Lancaster (Rockies) 0
Best Record
Lancaster (Rockies), 87-52 (.626)
Most Valuable Player
D.J. Peters, OF, Rancho Cucamonga (Dodgers)
Pitcher Of The Year
Nick Neidert, RHP, Modesto (Mariners)

SEE ALSO: California League Top 20 Chat

To qualify for a Minor League Top 20 Prospects list, a position player must have one plate appearance per team game, a starting pitcher must have one-third of an inning per team game and a reliever must have 20 relief appearances.

What the California League lost in quantity, it made up for in quality in 2017.

The league had its fewest number of teams since 1981 after contracting High Desert and Bakersfield at the end of the last year. Despite the loss of two franchises, the league saw a sharp uptick in the talent on the field.

Top draft picks filled the league and excelled, with top-10 selections Brendan Rodgers, A.J. Puk and Cal Quantrill shining in particular before being promoted at the all-star break. In their place came another wave of talent, headlined by Jon Duplantier, Jahmai Jones and Keibert Ruiz.

More than two dozen players were considered potential everyday big leaguers or rotation members by evaluators, squeezing many worthy prospects out of the Top 20. That doesn't include Rancho Cucamonga righthanders Walker Buehler and Mitchell White and Stockton third baseman Sheldon Neuse, who highlight those promoted before accumulating enough innings or plate appearances to qualify.

1. Brendan Rodgers, SS, Lancaster (Rockies) | 📹
Age: 21 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 180 Drafted: HS—Lake Mary, Fla., 2015 (1)

Rodgers turned heads when he hit .400 in the first half before being promoted to Double-A. He returned to Lancaster at the end of the year to get extra reps in the playoffs after missing nearly 40 games with a hand injury and a quad strain.

When healthy, Rodgers earned wide praise for his elite hand-eye coordination, approach, pitch recognition and ability to drive the ball to all fields. He stays balanced in the box and is quick and controlled with his hands, resulting in a smooth swing that looks easy but packs thump.

"The way he's able to have that knack of taking a nice easy swing, even on 100 mph fastballs, just how easy his swing was . . . that's something for me that really stood out," Rancho Cucamonga manager Drew Saylor said.

Evaluators want to see Rodgers walk more but still regard him as a future plus hitter with enough power to impact a game. He hit .461 at home but also .308 with a .523 slugging percentage away from hitter-friendly Lancaster.

Rodgers lacks the optimal speed for shortstop but positions himself well, possesses sure hands and has a plus, accurate arm. He covers more ground than expected because of advanced instincts and projects to stick at the position.

222 44 86 21 3 12 47 6 35 2 1 .387 .407 .671

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