Who is he?
Cole Roederer was drafted by the Cubs in the supplemental 2nd round of the 2018 draft out of Hart High School in California and signed for $1.2M. He is a 21-year-old, left-handed hitting outfielder listed at 6-0 and 175 pounds, although recent pictures have shown that he seems to have put on some muscle over the offseason. Roederer has just one full season of professional baseball under his belt, playing in Low-A South Bend during the 2019 campaign.
The California Kid has been linked to Brennen Davis throughout his short career thanks to the fact that they were drafted 15 picks apart and share so many qualities. Roederer will move through the system a little slower than Davis, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that he is one of the top hitting prospects in the Cubs system.
What do the numbers look like?
This section is supposed to be a place for the numbers to just stand as-is, while the rest of this snapshot serves as the context to everything else about the player. But I feel like it is necessary to throw in some caveats to Cole’s numbers from 2019. Overall, he put up a slash line of .224/.319/.365/.684 while striking out 25% of the time and walking 11.6%. He knocked out 9 homers while stealing 16 bags in 108 games.
Not real pretty, huh? Keep in mind that this 19-year-old kid had never played baseball in the Midwest prior to that year, let alone in the freezing April weather. There is a human side that often gets thrown out the window when we talk about professional athletes and a long, grueling season as your first extended period of time away from family is something that can be incredibly difficult. And it showed at times.
With all that being said, there was plenty to like in the numbers for Roederer in South Bend. His 15.4% walk rate in the last two months of the year is incredibly impressive. In addition, his strikeout rate dropped each of the last three months of the season. Add in the fact that he was technically an above average hitter on the year (101 wRC+) along with his impressive physical abilities, and I think you have to like what you got all-in-all from the centerfielder.
What makes him good?
Roederer has four tools that are flirting with being considered above average but just aren’t quite there yet. The power is probably the most flashy, due to the fact that he has the most beautiful swing in the system. There are times when the ball just explodes off of his bat to the pull-side. His hit tool lags behind a bit, but his improved approach at the plate as the 2019 season progressed proved that he will display advanced on-base skills.
The speed is good enough to steal at least dozen bases and man centerfield, and his defense is absolutely good enough to stick in center and be a really high-quality glove out there. Roederer is just a kid that is “baseball cool” no matter what he is doing on the field.
What needs some work?
Although the pull-side power is impressive, he hasn’t displayed the ability to do it to all fields. Because that pop to right field is so present, Roederer tends to get pull-happy and it drastically impacts his hit tool, causing some weak ground balls on pitches he is caught out in front of. Think Jason Heyward in that regard.
While I maintain that the speed is good enough for centerfield, it is important to note that Cole put on some significant muscle over the course of 2020. I will have to see how that affects his mobility moving forward. However, the need for said muscle was apparent during a 2019 campaign where the kid from Southern California got his first taste of the grueling 140 game schedule in the Midwest.
When could we see him in Chicago?
I would not be surprised to see the Cubs take it slow with Roederer. Another go-round in South Bend, this time at High-A, is expected this year and I wouldn’t rule out a one level per season approach. You can start looking out for Roederer in Chicago lineups come late 2023 with a role – whether that is as a fourth outfielder, centerfielder, or leftfielder – carved out in the spring and summer of 2024.