Minor League Monday: Cole Roederer Cubs prospect profile
The Cubs drafted Cole Roederer 77th overall in the 2018 First-Year Player Draft out of William S. Hart High School in Santa Clarita, Calif.
In his senior season, he posted a 1.439 OPS with a .901 slugging percentage in a small sample of games due to a right shoulder injury. Despite the limited playing time, teams coveted his versatility in the outfield, projecting the 6-foot left-hander to stick long term in center field. This shot Roederer up into the Top 100 despite his college commitment to Pac-12 stalwart UCLA. He signed for an over-slot price and debuted in full-season ball with the Class-A South Bend Cubs to open the 2019 season.
Roederer performed well in 2018 with the Cubs rookie level Arizona club, but he only mustered a .224 average over 108 games in the pitcher-friendly Midwest League a year later. His ability to maintain a solid on-base percentage (.319) allowed him to salvage a productive season in 2019 with a wRC+ just barely batter than average (101). He also stole 16 bases with an average success rate and drove in 60 runs, Top 10 in the Midwest League last season.
Roederer’s aggregate stats from 2019 don’t paint the full picture of his performance. Despite his slow start, he finished the season strong. In his last 15 games, he slashed .259/.355/.389, a notable jump in production from his season average. His ability to hold his strikeout rate and get on base continued into the South Bend Cubs playoff run. Roederer reached base at a .429 clip in seven games, manning center field for the entire postseason.
Roederer’s ability to play center field at an average to above average skill level makes his overall value much higher despite offensive statistics that don’t stand up against players like Brennen Davis and Christopher Morel. If he eventually fills out more into his frame and slows down beyond his above-average speed, there’s a chance he moves to left field due to his slightly below average arm.
In that case, a full-time role at the major league level would be more difficult to expect due to his struggles against left-handed Class-A pitching. But his promise is much more appealing for scouts and the Cubs organization to dream on.
The 20-year-old California native has good pitch recognition from right-handed arms for his age. This makes the upside of his profile in the modern day of baseball greater than the fear of any skill set deterioration. The median on-base percentage for center fielders with at least 300 plate appearances last season was only .318, about 10 points lower than the median for all outfielders in 2019. If Roederer can simply maintain his offensive output through his development with some added power, his profile in center field would become something around average or better. In a way, this would be similar to the performance of Albert Almora Jr. before Cubs nation got to see whether the fruits of his offseason swing change helped his on-base skills this spring.
The expectation for Roederer was to start the 2020 season with the High-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans, where he’d have a chance to roam center field in another pitcher-friendly league. The prospect arm of Fangraphs expects Roederer to debut during the 2022 season. At that time, the Cubs will still have Jason Heyward, Albert Almora Jr. and Ian Happ under contract.
With most prospects who have yet to take swings at or above the Double-A level, there’s no need to rush development. Roederer will look to improve in 2021 and firmly re-establish himself as a top-five prospect in the Cubs system.