You’ll Get Your Chance, Rook!

Journeyman Brent Rooker provides a bright spot for the Athletics.

It’s no secret — the Athletics and their dedicated fanbase are in for a long and painful ride this season, especially after the most recent news of their split with Oakland and eventual move to Las Vegas. At the time of writing this, the Athletics are sitting in last place as expected, with a paltry 3-16 record. Fortunately for fans and fantasy owners, there is a clear example of a fun, standout performer for everyone to get behind this season, and from a place they didn’t expect.

Brent Rooker has provided an eye-popping display to kick off his time in Oakland. As many teams do each season, the Athletics had a handful of hopeful names to get behind. An intriguing one-year deal with Japanese right-hander Shintaro Fujinami and recent call-up Mason Miller added new names to the rotation. But other than top prospect Esteury Ruiz, no one, in particular, stood out in the batter’s box until Rooker’s explosive start to April. This season is primed for Rooker to have an under-the-radar performance for a team desperate to find a power-hitting spark in the lineup.

The April Breakout

After limited opportunities in the big leagues, Rooker has found consistent at-bats in the middle of the order. Signing a one-year deal in Oakland, Rooker has joined the likes of fellow journeyman Joey Meneses as players taking advantage of opportunities later in their development cycle. The results so far are astonishing, even for a small sample size.

Rooker put on his hard hat last week and went to work. In a stretch of four games, he tore the cover off the ball and drove it to all parts of the field. The most recent display of power was shown to the opposite field:

That was one of his four home runs over a stretch of four games. The consistent exit velocity so far has landed him near the top of the class and continues to be his defining attribute. As noted below, in a three-game stretch in Baltimore he raked with six swings with an exit velocity of over 100 mph:

Talk about punishing a pitch over the plate. Rooker caps off the streak with a 3-run home to center:

Sitting in the middle of Rooker’s prime at age 28, the stats are showing the potential for a devastating right-handed bat by the 6′ 4″ 225lbs outfielder. The statcast view is bright with red and lands him in rare air with many of MLB’s finest. During the fantasy week of April 10th through April 16th, Rooker led MLB with 8.8 Runs Created which was +1.5 over the next best, which certainly raises some eyebrows.

There’s always something fascinating about the unknown, and Rooker has put himself in an early position to take the fantasy baseball world by storm. Rooker has been successful across the board, sitting at 4th in Brls/PA %. Although, it’s best to keep our expectations in a reasonable place. After all, Rooker has bounced around, and this recent consistency was unexpected based on his previous performance. The potential has always been there, and other than being prone to striking out, everything to gain is within reach.

Collegiate Career and Path to the Present

Rooker was a highly regarded prospect during his time at Mississippi State University. In his 2016 season, he led the Bulldogs with a .578 SLG% and was drafted by the Twins in the 38th round, but didn’t sign. Rooker returned to MSU in 2017 and raised his stock dramatically. Named the Collegiate Player of the Year and SEC Player of the Year, Rooker upped his SLG% to a whopping .810 in nearly 250 at-bats, hitting .387 with 23 home runs. The magical season led to a first-round pick by the Twins and put him on a path to the majors.

In 2018 Rooker played a full AA season with the Chattanooga Lookouts and continued to show the power ceiling with 22 home runs in 130 games. By the 2019 season, Rooker was in his age 24 season in AAA Rochester. In about half the games, Rooker raised his OPS by 135 points. Unfortunately, in what became a detriment to many players, especially minor leaguers, the 2020 shortened season provided few opportunities as his path to MLB was right in front of him. In a shortened September call-up stint, Rooker played in only 7 games for the Twins. Surely, this was just a minor speed bump in the way of his ascent to an everyday roster position.

This is when Rooker’s journey had some struggles, as his next two years would be a tale of two stories. Rooker began the year in AAA St. Paul and continued to prove his extraordinary power upside. In 62 games Rooker smashed 20 home runs. While the batting average began to drop (down about 35 points from his last sufficient sample size in Rochester), there was still much to be excited about as the Twins had become synonymous with power, and many other players already leaned into the three true outcomes. Unfortunately, once Rooker was called up to the Twins, most of his production fell off, other than running into a batch of home runs. Across the board – total bases, average, and OPS, all dropped and led to his eventual April 2022 trade to the Padres.

The 2022 campaign proved similar. Solid minor league performance in AAA El Paso, then was traded to the Royals where Rooker hit well for AAA Omaha. In the 81 combined games, Rooker hit 28 home runs. It’s bizarre how drastic the contrast was between the two levels, and while he isn’t an outlier in this regard, MLB pitching completely outmatched his power swing. In 16 MLB games between both the Padres and Royals, Rooker hit no home runs and went 4/32 at the plate.

Minor League data provided by Baseball Reference.

Ascending on the Athletics

Talk about a road well traveled. Rooker had been through a wildly successful college and minor league career but struggled to stick on a major league roster. On November 17th, 2022, the Athletics claimed him off the outright waivers after being DFA’d by the Royals:

After fighting to earn his spot on the roster through spring, Brent Rooker has everything to prove. While the underlying Whiff% issue remains, Rooker’s ability to barrel mistakes is unique to start the season. The baseball journeyman is a special story, immortalized and romanticized in movies, and revered for perseverance through the grind. Rooker is someone with all the potential but hasn’t found the proper circumstances to prove his place amongst the world’s finest. Now is the time, and with a long summer ahead for the Athletics he has every opportunity to be the must-watch at-bat. Even if it may only be for one last season at the Coliseum.

Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire
Adapted by Kurt Wasemiller (@KUWasemiller on Twitter / @kurt_player02 on Instagram)

Andrew Abramo

Andrew Abramo is a Staff Writer at Pitcher List. He's a lifelong baseball and sports fan, as well as a PC and Nintendo Switch gamer, cat dad, and proud husband.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Account / Login