Shortstop Brendan Rodgers is in his first big league camp, a developmental milepost that will launch a season where his versatility is expected to increase.
Farm director Zach Wilson said Rodgers would work at third base, a position he he has never played professionally, but not play there in major and minor league spring games. Wilson said Rodgers, 21, would play second base and shortstop this spring in both Cactus League and minor league games.
By the end of the season, Wilson said, "I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw kind of an equal split” for Rodgers between the three positions. The intent, Wilson said, is to make Rodgers more versatile "so that when his bat is big league ready, wherever that opportunity ends up,” he’s confident at any of those three positions.
Wilson likened this developmental approach to that employed with shortstop Trevor Story. Before reaching the majors on Opening Day in 2016, Story played 29 games at second base, 73 at third base and 409 at shortstop. Rodgers, the third overall pick out of Lake Mary (Fla.) High in 2015, has played 34 games at second base and 165 at shortstop.
He missed the first 17 games last season at high Class A Lancaster with a bruised left wrist before hitting .387/.407./671 in 51 games with 12 home runs. Rodgers then hit .260/.323/.413 with six homers and 17 RBIs in 38 games at Double-A Hartford, where he missed three weeks with a right quad strain and had 36 strikeouts and eight walks in 164 plate appearances. The righthanded-hitting Rodgers is short to the ball but with power.
"As he continues to get stronger and continues to see advanced pitching, that’s only going to continue to improve,” Wilson said. "He needs to see advanced pitching on a consistent basis. That’s where he’s going to continue to improve as he starts to see the big league type of breaking balls and the big league type of changeups and starts to recognize what he can attack and what he needs to lay off.
"I think you’ll see his strikeouts continue to go down and his walks continue to go up.”
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• In addition to Rodgers, other Rockies homegrown minor leaguers participating in their first big league camp include righthander Peter Lambert, 20; second baseman Garrett Hampson, 23; first baseman Brian Mundell, 24; and outfielder Sam Hilliard, 24.
• Jake Optiz, who is from the Denver area, will manage Rookie-level Grand Junction in his second season in the organization. Opitz, 31, was an assistant coach at Double-A Hartford in 2017 and originally was going to be the Grand Junction hitting coach this year before being named manager.
• Helmis Rodriguez will be the pitching coach on the second team the Rockies field this season in the Dominican Summer League. The 23-year-old pitched for seven seasons in the Rockies’ organization and went 4-2, 4.21 last year while repeating the high Class A level.
• Tom Sutaris, 48, will make his professional coaching debut as Lancaster’s hitting coach. Sutaris has a background as a college coach, first as a special assistant at Texas and then as a volunteer assistant coach at Incarnate Word in San Antonio in 2017.