2022 was a year of change for Brent Rooker, who was a member of four different organizations within the span of seven months. After five years with the Twins, Rooker was dealt along with Taylor Rogers to the Padres for Chris Paddack and Emilio Pagan in April 2022. From there, Rooker found himself on the move again at the trade deadline when San Diego sent him to the Royals for catcher Cam Gallagher. Rooker finished out the season in K.C. but was designated for assignment in November, paving the way for the Athletics to claim him off waivers.
As Rooker noted in a chat with MLBTR readers back in February, the specific timing of the trades made things particularly difficult since “
Stability isn’t usually a word associated with an A’s franchise that has made a habit of roster overhauls, including the latest fire sale that has seen the Athletics part ways with several prominent veterans as part of the latest rebuild. The result hasn’t been pretty, as the A’s entered play today with a league-worst 7-26 record, and the increasing possibility of a move to Las Vegas has led to a lot of public discord amongst Oakland fans.
Though it all, however, Rooker has become a major bright spot in the early portion of the 2023 season. Entering the year with a career .200/.289/.379 slash line over 270 plate appearances in the majors, Rooker has exploded to hit .333/.442/.726 with 10 home runs over his first 104 PA in an Athletics uniform. Rooker’s slugging percentage and 218 wRC+ lead all qualifies hitters, and his on-base percentage also leads the American League.
This kind of huge breakout caught even Rooker himself a little off-guard. “In a vacuum, the numbers themselves are more than I ever thought I could do,” Rooker told MLB.com’s Martin Gallegos and other reporters last week. “That’s not taking away the confidence I have in myself. That kind of production for a month’s worth of games is probably past even my expectations of myself, so that’s been a pleasant surprise for me.”
Such high-level production isn’t totally alien to Rooker, who has pretty consistently mashed minor league pitching over five seasons on the farm. This includes a career .274/.387/.590 slash line over 906 PA at the Triple-A level, which is a standout performance even with the caveat of 273 of those plate appearances coming in the hitter-friendly environment of the Pacific Coast League (with the Padres’ Triple-A affiliate). Rooker also carried some prospect pedigree as the 35th overall pick of the 2017 draft, and he was ranked 92nd on Baseball America’s top-100 prospects list prior to the 2018 season.
Despite this resume, Rooker couldn’t really break though on a Minnesota team that already had multiple up-and-coming outfielders on the active roster or in the farm system all vying for playing time. Rooker’s cause wasn’t helped when he suffered a fractured forearm in just his seventh big league game in 2020, and his only other extended taste of MLB playing time came in 2021, when he batted .201/.291/.397 over 213 PA for the Twins.
Still, that rough season had just enough glimmers of hope for Rooker that he told Gallegos and company that it has contributed to his big 2023 numbers. “The last two years, I’ve just been trying to figure out how to extend those good times that I had,” Rooker said. “I knew I could do it because I’d have weeks in Minnesota where I’d hit really well with a lot of success. That put it in my head and heart that I was good enough to do it. I just had to figure out how to do it for longer periods of time.”
It is probably safe to assume that some regression is inevitable, due to both Rookier’s .340 BABIP and the lack of track record to back up his early standing as an elite hitter. That said, there hasn’t been much luck in what Rooker has been doing, as his .479 wOBA is above his xwOBA….but not by much, as Rooker’s .447 xwOBA is still in the 99th percentile of all hitters. His barrel rate and walk rate are also both outstanding, and his overall hard-hit ball rate is well above league average. Strikeouts have been a persistent issue for Rooker throughout his career, but cutting his strikeout rate down to even a modest 22.1% (within the 49th percentile of hitters) has helped greatly, given what Rooker is doing with all that extra contact.
Landing a possible late bloomer on the waiver wire is a dream for any team, particularly a rebuilding Oakland club in sore need of some good news. Rooker entered the season with only one year and 59 days (1.059) of MLB service time, so he wouldn’t even gain arbitration eligibility until after the 2024 season, and free agency until after the 2017 season. Naturally, five great weeks doesn’t automatically turn a 28-year-old player into a building block, but if nothing else, Rooker’s presence gives the Athletics something to think about as they approach the trade deadline.
To be clear, all of that team control might make it unlikely that Rooker himself is traded, as the A’s might be intrigued enough to see what they really have in the outfielder beyond 2023. The idea can’t be entirely ruled out given the Athletics’ scored-earth approach to their rebuild process, but dealing Rooker after a big first half might backfire if Rooker does continue to be a quality regular going forward — “selling high” would perhaps become selling too soon.
Rooker has seen a lot of time at DH, and has seen some time in both corner outfield positions with borderline passable glovework. Not that Rooker is in any danger of losing at-bats at this point, but if any of Ramon Laureano, Tony Kemp, or Jesus Aguilar are moved at the deadline, that just opens up more playing time for Conner Capel or JJ Bleday, with Rooker picking up any extra at-bats in the corner outfield or at DH. Kemp and Aguilar are the likeliest to be moved since they aren’t under contract beyond 2023, and while Laureano is arbitration-controlled through 2025, he has received some trade interest in the past.
Almost a .1000 OPS in 900 AAA plate appearances and he’s just now getting an extended look? Crazy.
Kinda like Meneses
Not too crazy for a “win now” club like the Twins or Padres, but the Royals were unwilling to give him more than 25 ab’s?!?!??! Sounds like a “rich guy’s idiot nephew” management decision.
@case all your comments are on point in this thread, you know whats up!
The Royals kept Olivares over him. Go figure.
He did get a 60 game look in 2021 and was dreadful. Had a 33 K% and batted .200. Even in the minors it was very high, which is concerning since he was an older prospect and offers little on defense. Whatever adjustments he’s made this year, they seem to be working great, his BB% and K% are the best of his career, majors and minors (excluding Rookie ball). Could very well be a late bloomer in the mold of Nelson Cruz.
I love these stories like Rooker.
Hooray for Rooker
The 21st century version of Roy Hobbs
And they’ll just end up trading him to Toronto for junk
Only if he plays 3B.
Sorry, Atlanta is the new destination of choice while ejecting players to encourage corrupt politicians willing to give us free taxpayer money. Toronto was more of a “A’s are still trying” time of the franchise.
You’re right, the incredibly profitable price-gouging fossil fuel companies deserve taxpayer money more. That way it can go into buying back shares, lining the pockets of rich shareholders, and straight out of the country into their offshore tax havens, where it belongs.
He’s been one the few bright spots on an otherwise horrifying season, on and off the field
This guy absolutely mashed in the minors. I always felt like he was an underrated prospect who had real potential to be a solid regular. Maybe he’ll be even more than that.
What’s even crazier is that he only has a .340 BABIP, so it isn’t like he’s just getting lucky or anything.
He’s also increased his walk percentage from a career average of roughly 9% all the way up to 15.5%, and he’s also lowered his strikeout percentage down to 22% when his career average is just a bit below 30%.
What’s a little odd is his hard hit percentage is just about the same as his career average, but he has increase his fly ball percentage by 3, and he’s lowered his ground ball percentage by a little over 4.5 percentage points.
He’s driving the ball more up the middle than he has previously in his career, and he isn’t looking to pull the ball quite nearly as much, which has seemingly helped him as well.
Now, you would expect a hitter to do well when they are ahead in the count, but one thing I noticed that really stood out about Rooker was when he is ahead in the count he is absolutely mashing to the tune of a trippe slash that reads like a video game.. .478/.675/1.087 !!! Just an interesting tidbit I noticed that I figured I’d share…
Either way, it looks like Rooker’s fast start is absolutely legit, and I don’t see anything that would suggest he’s just getting lucky or that would indicate that he’s due for a severe regression anytime soon..
Good for him, it is awesome when everything starts to click for a player!! Hopefully, if he is traded, he can get to be a part of a playoff race somewhere, but I’m sure he’s extremely appreciative of the opportunity the A’s have given him this season…
What a shocker that the biggest cheapskates in the league found a gem while dumpster diving. Glad for Rooker. Love late bloomer stories. But A’s fans deserve so much better from ownership. It’s a tragedy what’s happening
A’s acquiring everyone ever and having some pan out isn’t the “genius” “Moneyball” idiocy the team marketed itself as – its just statistical probability. Nothing matters unless you win a ring, Moneyball is billionaire propaganda to convince fans that winning doesn’t matter, but an owner not paying union-agreed salaries to players who deserve it is actually better than winning, which is a lie and a scam. Get lost all MLB team owners who aren’t doing 100% that they can including hyperspending to win at any cost – get out of this league you scammers. Pay up or move on, but stop scamming the fans. Its 100% the team owner greed that is the biggest problem in MLB, period.
I don’t think the A’s ever marketed themselves as a “genius Moneyball” team. They got ahead of the league 20 years ago, everyone has caught up or surpassed them, and ownership now refuses to spend.
While Moneyball was indeed written by a 3rd party, the team itself certainly used the phrase as an excuse/handicap during the hot stove season for at least 15 years. Really an all-purpose phrase to mean “we arent doing anything but try and make money here, screw MLB, the fans and the game in general. John Fisher hates unions.”
I always liked Rooker as A Twins fan , he deserved more of an extended look. He always seemed destined as a Quad A masher of sorts because he had too much swing and miss to his game , but it was awfully safe to assume he’d have a breakthrough year at some point and it will be interesting to see if this is a career year 1 hitt wonder of sorts.. OR if thus is the springboard season he needed to carve out a nice little 4 to 6 year career.
He’s the Liam Hendriks of hitters it appears
Plus he’s as good a defensive outfielder on the corners that you can get with that type of offensive profile.
A’s seem to work magic with these guys
Law of averages, our hitting is ranked 25th and our pitching is dead list but at least one of the claims will probably work out, right?
Worthless franchise will trade him
Not only will the A’s inevitably trade him, but they’ll inevitably do it 1-2 years too late to really minimize the return
Happy for him. Was a fan of his since his time in the minors with the Twins. Hope he keeps it up.
Nick Allen (at minimum is a bench glove-first guy)
Plus potentially Tyler Soderstrom, Denzel Clarke, Brett Harris, Kevin Smith, Zack Gelof, Darell Hernaiz, Lawrence Butler and Daniel Susac – Oakland has a lot of under 26 yr old long term chips there. Just need to let the pitching develop and this team will be a lot better in quick fashion.
The offense isn’t all that bad. They’re 20th in MLB in OPS—which is not great, but is passable.
But that pitching….. Not sure we’ve ever seen a 7.29 team ERA this far into a season.
Look up Maddux and Glavine’s rookie year stats. Pitchers take time. A’s have some nice arms but are raw at MLB, its natural.
Mason Miller is a keeper/potential frontline guy though!
The A’s will be competitive in a few years when their new, young core of players
starts producing together.
Hopefully, the Owner will finally start spending money and lock up the core of their next contender with team friendly longer term deals.
I have serious reservations about the current A’s Ownership who appear to be a big part of the problem with the A’s competitiveness/attendance/financial viability issues in Oakland and the SF Bay Area.
If current A’s Ownership had “locked up” its young core of players rather than trading it all away
in a “fire sale”, then that A’s team would be gunning for the AL West Division Title right now.
If that A’s team of the past few years was competitive and fighting for an AL West Division crown right now, then the fans would be flocking into that ballpark in Oakland and the revenues would be flowing.
When teams win, the fans show up.
When teams lose, many fans don’t show up.
It is a business. And businesses must put a competitive product
on the field or fans will spend their money elsewhere.
See recent SF Giants attendance that is way down from past years.
Team Owners should be required to “open their books” to the public for analysis
before they are even afforded the option of moving the franchise to another town,. Especially when billionaire Owners are hunting for taxpayer subsidies
to pad their billions in net worth.
Current A’s Ownership has been a COMPLETE FAILURE AND MISMANAGEMENT OF VALUABLE ASSETS OF THE A’S IN THE SF BAY AREA.
An ALTERNATIVE SOLUTION TO A’S SITUATION:
TEAM OWNERS AND MLB COMMISSIONER’S OFFICE SHOULD
REQUIRE THE A’S BE SOLD TO WELL FUNDED LOCAL OWNERSHIP IN SF BAY AREA WHO WILL KEEP THE TEAM IN THE SF BAY AREA.
MLB Commish and the Ownership Committee can block an A’s move out of the SF Bay Area.
“Waiving the Relocation Fee” for the A’s is “stacking the deck”, “rigging the process” and rewarding BAD OWNERSHIP OF THE A’S IN OAKLAND
AND SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED.
Find one of the many billionaire tech business owners and/or a group of very wealthy tech executives in the SF Bay Area who will run, manage, treat the A’s franchise like the local SF Bay Area treasure that it has been for 5 plus decades.
And run the A’s in the public interest while still making a decent profit.
(Google, Facebook, Oracle, Apple etc the list is very long)
You cannot tell me that with all the wealth in Silicon Valley and
the SF Bay Area, that a viable ownership group cannot, organized, put together for the A’s in the SF Bay Area,
a relatively small business asset worth maybe 1-2B?!
(when the Silicon Valley and SF Bay Area companies have
combined valuations in the trillions of dollars!?).
That is not a credible and/or plausible argument.
What does this tell you fantasy participants?
Pay attention to the MLBTR
Hee Hee Hee…..
Way to be Brent!
(We used cheer team mates
with that slogan in Senior League!).
As a late bloomer myself,
I am so happy for you!
What Mark! Wouldn’t Brent be a Super Two after this season?
A Super Two would have had something like 1.170 service time, not 1.059.
You’re correct that Rooker is not super 2 next year, but the service time numbers are wrong.
22% of players with between 2 and 3 years of service time are super 2, so the cutoff is different each year.
A “full season” is 172 days on the roster. For 2022 the cutoff was set at 128 days, but has been as low as 115. Cutoff number for 2023 will be posted after the World Series.
Rule 5 guy Ryan Noda is doing well too.
One good thing with rebuilding ballclubs is that it opens up playing opportunities for players looking to establish themselves as fulltime major league contributors.
Too many players get blocked at AAA by major league stars in front of them
or relegated to part time utility roles when, if given enough playing time
in lower pressure environments, they could establish themselves as productive, starting, above average major league starters.
Hoarding talent by teams with very good to excellent farm systems has delayed/derailed some promising young players’ MLB careers.
Rule 5 Draft was supposed to clear some of those players out for opportunities,
but, some players are still falling through the proverbial cracks.