Brendan Rodgers: The Colorado Rockies’ infield defensive wizard

ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 31: Brendan Rodgers #7 of the Colorado Rockies throws to first during the seventh inning against the Atlanta Braves at Truist Park on August 31, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 31: Brendan Rodgers #7 of the Colorado Rockies throws to first during the seventh inning against the Atlanta Braves at Truist Park on August 31, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) /

The news about Colorado Rockies second baseman Brendan Rodgers dropped on Thursday with the rest of the Gold Glove nominations:

Because the Colorado Rockies are, well, the Rockies are generally not a very good baseball team, and because they continued that marginal-baseball trend in 2022, it’s easy to overlook Brendan Rodgers’ stellar defensive season.

That would be a mistake, however, because in 2022, Rodgers was a defensive wizard at second base. Diving stops? Yes, lots. Athletic jumps that would make some basketball players envious? Absolutely. Turning double plays? More than any other second baseman in MLB.

Take this play, for example:

Pretty Impressive.

On Thursday, baseball recognized just how good Brendan Rodgers’ defense was in 2022.

Has Brendan Rodgers of the Colorado Rockies always been this good defensively?

Well, no. Actually, when the Rockies drafted Rodgers in the first round of the 2015 draft, his primary position was shortstop. But because the Rockies already had Trevor Story playing short, they moved Rodgers to second, making him a second baseman with the defensive tools and instincts of a shortstop. (They also felt his speed was a better fit there.)

The transition was not always a smooth one for Rodgers, who has consistently suffered injuries since making his MLB debut in 2019. This year, though, he was healthy and played the entire season, spending 1168.1 innings at second. (That’s almost twice his defensive innings in 2021.)

He got off to a rough defensive start, making four errors during a seven-day stretch in May. However, he developed a daily routine with then-infield coach Stu Cole. Rodgers would train with Cole and a machine that gave him repetitive practice that provided different types of grounders. It worked. In addition to his stellar defensive metrics, he would commit only six more errors during the entire 2022 season,

This daily practice was key.

As Cole told Thomas Harding back in July, “It’s just the consistency of going out there and doing it every day . . . .Great plays are going to be reaction plays. But you have to make routine plays consistently. Once he can get that down, he can end up being one of those elite defenders.”

In 2022, it happened.

How good was Brendan Rodgers at second?

Let’s consider some larger context. In 2019, Rodgers had a DRS of 1; in 2020, it was -1; in 2021, Rodgers had a DRS of -5; and in 2022 — brace yourself — Rodgers earned a DRS of 22. In 2022, only Ke’Bryan Hayes had more DRS than Brendan Rodgers with 24.

Now compare Rodgers to other second basemen by looking at the data on FanGraphs: Andrés Giminéz was second with 15 while Marcus Semien was third with 13. The closest qualified National League second basemen, in terms of DRS, was Jake Cronenworth with 2. Tommy Edman had a DRS of 12 in 614 innings, but he spent more innings at shortstop (622). That’s a terrific number for Edman, but Rodgers’ significantly surpassed it.

Rodgers also leads all second basemen in terms of UZR of 8.0 followed. Cronenworth, by contrast withUZR of 1.1 while Edman’s is 3.2.

Outs Above Average, however, is less impressed by Rodgers’ performance, giving him an OAA of 3 compared to Edman’s 8 and Cronenworth’s 4.

But that’s one of the few categories in which Rodgers does not lead other second basemen.

Rodgers leads in putouts by a second baseman (218), assists as a second baseman (411), and double plays turned as a second baseman (99). In short, the Rockies second baseman had a dominant 2022.

What is Rodgers’ attitude toward his defensive game?

He takes it seriously and is aware of what he brings to second base as a former shortstop.

As Rodgers told Harding, “I take a lot of pride in my first step — I’m always anticipating. . . . I’m playing with my instincts. That’s something that I’ve done my whole life. It’s beat the ball to the spot, think what’s going to happen before it happens and be on time with my feet.”

Rodgers is also eager to be recognized as a complete player. As he told The Denver Gazette:

What comes next?

If there’s any justice in the universe, Brendan Rodgers should win his first Gold Glove on November 1. All that hard work and those skills accrued as a shortstop paid off.

Next. Is Zac Veen Colorado's next Nolan Arenado?. dark

Sorry, Jake Cronenworth and Tommy Edman. The Rockies may have played below .500 baseball, but Brendan Rodgers was 2022’s the best defensive second baseman.