In case nobody’s mentioned it to you before, statistics can lie. As useful as raw data can be, streaks in either direction can happen, regardless of the recent past. Looking at a players baseball card stats can be very eye-opening, or add to the “who really knows?” of developing prospects. Buying or selling on Cole Roederer depends as much on the reader’s pre-existing biases, as anything else. Ten years from now, people will be entirely justified in assessing “South Bend as a precursor,” regardless his future success, or lack of it.
Roederer was selected by the Cubs in the Compensation section of the 2018 second round, as a payback for losing Jake Arrieta to free agency. He ended up as the Cubs’ first prep hitter to break camp with the Midwest League affiliate in a really long time. Luis Montanez played with Lansing in 2000 in his draft year, shortly after Corey Patterson did the same in 1999. Since then, to my reading, preps have started their first full season in the equivalent of extended spring training. Even Javier Baez was held back, leading to an early memorable moment.
That Roederer even broke camp with South Bend is an achievement. This may well be pooh-poohed in the future, but his Midwest League placement sent a few researchers into overdrive, seeking precedent. His numbers were a mixed bag in Indiana in 2019. Which is exactly the point. If he’s successful, people will point at the fun numbers. If he doesn’t, the others will be highlighted.
Roederer had both the good and the bad numbers in a league generally considered pitcher-friendly. He hit .224. His OPS was .684. He struck out over 100 times, but drew more than 50 walks. Overriding everything, in general he’s about two years younger than the pitching he faced. Roederer will need to play better than this up the ladder to climb prospect rankings. As he didn’t turn 20 until after the 2019 season was over, the light has plenty of time to shine brighter.
Player development is a tricky beast. Players slump and break slumps. Sometimes, the players are simply exposed. Roederer, who had over 440 plate appearances in 2019, is likely to be in a defensive time-share again next season with Brennen Davis. Both will get their time and at-bats in, but the specific positions will likely be in flux. Both seem capable of right or center field. Roederer is often considered at least slightly better than Davis, defensively.
Roederer hit his first homer in early May. His second and third came in late May and June. He twice hit two homers in a game and wound up with nine overall, most on the team. Often, power is one of the last parts of a player to develop. Roederer had three walks and 18 strikeouts in June, compared to 13 and 23 in August. Baby steps.
Roederer is more than an incidental piece in the Cubs pipeline. Davis gets more play, and deserves it, on fewer 2019 at-bats. What’s quite positive for fans of the Cubs future is that they have two entirely valid outfield options who might well be in the Advanced-A Carolina League their second year out of high school. Again, one would have to run to the statistical backlogs to find a proper comp. Have at it, if you wish.
A pipeline ought to have multiple interesting pitchers and hitters at each level. The Cubs have tended to be a bit batter-shy on the non-meteoric types recently. Hopefully, with Davis, Roederer, Miguel Amaya, and Chase Strumpf incoming, that is changing. I have no idea if Roederer will be a MLB talent. As usual, watch and learn.