Minnesota Twins Player Preview: Can Brent Rooker step up in 2022?
With the lockout dragging on, the Minnesota Twins season seems further away then it should feel in mid-February. Despite this, Rob Manfred says games won’t be delayed, and despite his penchant for not being 100% truthful with fans, we’re still going to believe that regular season baseball will arrive as close to the original Opening Day as possible.
With that belief, we look ahead to a Minnesota Twins season that is just one big question mark that the lockout has prevented the front office from answering. While the team has several pieces in place, there’s a variety of players who enter 2022 with a lot to prove if they want to be a big piece of the team going forward.
To get ready for the season, we’re going to take a look at those players and what may be in store for their 2022 seasons. We start the series off with outfielder and former Twins top prospect, Brent Rooker.
Can Brent Rooker step up for the Minnesota Twins in 2022?
Let’s start at the beginning: the Twins drafted Brent Rooker with the 35th pick of the first round in 2017 after a truly impressive career at Mississippi State. Rooker had defensive questions coming out of the draft, but his massive offensive potential made it easy to look past it. His monster power and ability to get on base translated to the minors too.
Rooker’s .263/.359/.516 slash line and 74 homers in the minors has major leaguer written all over it and when he was promoted to the majors in 2020, he played well in his first seven games, slashing .316/.381/.579. His defense wasn’t great, but with those numbers, it was going to be okay.
A fractured forearm put a quick end to the season, but the Twins entered 2021 with Rooker looking like a key contributor for a squad positioned to contend for a division title and maybe even more. As we know, that didn’t happen.
Hampered by lingering injuries, Rooker slashed just .201/.291/.397 and played his usual poor defense. The Twins didn’t know where to put him, and because he wasn’t playing well, they sent him back down in April to the minors to hone his skills.
He returned in late July, and while he was better, he still wasn’t all that impressive outside of his consistent power (19 of his 38 hits went for extra bases). This sends him into 2022 at a very pivotal point.
Rooker is now 27. He reached the majors at 25, and has played just 65 career big league games, so we’re not at all suggesting that his career is over if he has another tough year. Former St. Paul Saints first baseman Kevin Millar put together a twelve year MLB career that started at age 27, so there’s nothing that says he can’t still have a successful MLB career. But it is a key season for him.
Rooker’s power isn’t going anywhere, and his defense probably isn’t going to suddenly get way better. but there’s reasonable optimism that Rooker can still be a good big league hitter, especially if you look deeper at his stats.
Per Baseball Savant, Rooker’s exit velocity and launch angle improved in 2021 and expected batting average (xBA), expected weighted on-base average (xWOBA), and expected slugging percentage (xSLG) all were at least 40 points higher than his actual numbers. That’s a clear cut sign that he was extremely unlucky.
A fully healthy season with better pitching matchups will help him too, and with Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, and Max Kepler all options as corner outfielders, he could seriously benefit from facing primarily lefties (while Kepler faces righties) as a platoon guy.
Bottom line, Rooker may have had a rough 2021 season, but so did most of the 2021 Minnesota Twins. Here’s to hoping Rooker is able to step up and be a key contributor for the big league club in 2022 and beyond.