Cole Roederer Embraces The Pro Grind
Cole Roederer had two goals in mind when he left Arizona and reported to low Class A South Bend. The first one was staying healthy, an issue that limited his exposure during his senior year of high school and allowed the Cubs to draft him in the second round in 2018. The second idea revolved around the mature approach that convinced the Cubs that he should begin this season in the Midwest League instead of extended spring training.
"Never let myself give an at-bat away,” Roederer said. "If I can just do that for a season—like I’ve been trying to do this whole year—I definitely think the results at the end of the year will be exactly what I want them to be.”
It hasn’t been the smoothest season for a 19-year-old player who right now could have been unwinding after his freshman year at UCLA. But Roederer wanted this challenge and understood that he would have to go through slumps, make adjustments and embrace the grind.
The Cubs made a calculated gamble with the No. 77 overall pick last year, investing $1.2 million in Roederer’s future. Area scout Tom Myers got to know Roederer’s family in California and quickly saw potential in the lefthanded hitter with a confident attitude and the athleticism to play center field.
The Cubs needed that insight and intuition because a shoulder injury interrupted Roederer’s senior season at Hart High, a decorated program that has produced Trevor Bauer, Mike Montgomery, Tyler Glasnow, James Shields and the Valaika brothers. To help make their decision, the Cubs were given access to a private predraft workout at Roederer’s high school.
Beyond the money it took to turn down a high-profile school like UCLA, Roederer connected with David Ross during a predraft event at Wrigley Field for elite high school prospects. The Cubs also sold Roederer on their track record of developing homegrown hitters and a holistic system of player development.
Even if the numbers don’t show it yet—.211/.292/.351 with five home runs and 10 stolen bases through 73 games—this has been a learning experience for Roederer, hitting in cold weather, playing every day and developing a professional routine.
"I don’t take anything for granted,” Roederer said. "I’m definitely blessed with the situation I’m in right now.”
— As the July 31 trade deadline approaches, the Cubs feel like their top-to-bottom catching depth is an asset that could allow them to deal from a position of strength to upgrade the major league team.
All-star catcher Willson Contreras is 27 and under club control through the 2022 season. Victor Caratini, 25, has proven himself as at least an above-average backup catcher in the big leagues. P.J. Higgins, who was recently promoted to Triple-A Iowa, and Jhonny Pereda, now at Double-A Tennessee, played in the Arizona Fall League last year. Miguel Amaya—a two-time selection to the Futures Game before his 21st birthday—is the organization’s No. 2 overall prospect behind Nico Hoerner.
Add this year's sixth-rounder Ethan Hearn to the mix. The Alabama high schooler commanded a way-above-slot $950,000 bonus to buy out his commitment to Mississippi State.
— The Cubs describe righthander Adbert Alzolay’s latest issue as right biceps inflammation, another potential setback for a pitcher who has struggled to stay healthy. Alzolay left his July 17 start for Triple-A Iowa after just 3.2 innings, part of a July slump that has seen his Triple-A ERA rise to nealry 5.00.
A lat injury shut down Alzolay in the middle of last season and some discomfort on the same side of his body delayed his ramp-up in spring training and start to this season. The Cubs have viewed Alzolay, who made his big league debut in June, as a depth rotation option for the rest of this season and next year, and his name would be an interesting one in trade talks, assuming good health.
Patrick Mooney is a senior writer for The Athletic Chicago.