The Braves concentrated on pitching this year in the amateur draft, and one of their prized picks…
Third Round – 100th overall pick
Bats: L Throws: L
Turns 19 this November
Walsh Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
Chad Rodgers pitched a bit as he was growing up, but it really wasn't until his freshman year that he started to concentrate on pitching. As he continued to fill out more in high school, he threw harder. High school lefties that can throw a bit usually get some attention, especially from the Atlanta Braves.
HIGH SCHOOL CAREER:
What else needs to be said except he was 18-0 in his high school career? No matter where you are, that's impressive. He helped the Warriors win the 2006 Division II State Title and allowed only one run in the state tourney (five appearances). The day before the draft, Rodgers pitched a three-hit shutout and had 15 strikeouts. Rodgers' Warriors were rated the 6th best team in the country by the USA Today. He was named as the Player of the Year in Ohio's Division II by the Cincinnati Post. Rodgers also played a little at first base, but he's a pitcher all the way. He was committed to Kent State, but was signed by Braves' scout Nick Hostetler.
Baseball America rated Rodgers as the 96th best player in the county and the 9th best high school left-handed pitcher.
Braves' Scouting Director Roy Clark:
Chad Rodgers is absolutely our kind of guy. We just saw him yesterday (Monday) in the state championship game. I think there's an article in the Cleveland paper. He's undefeated in his career, 18-0. They just won a state championship, and he stepped it up. You've heard me say many times before, we like to see guys in big games, when the pressure's on. Let's see what they can do. He's pretty good. We're very proud to get him. If there was one guy in the room that they were nervous about, this was it. The ones that had seen him absolutely loved him. They liked him even higher than where we ended up getting him.
Braves' National Crosschecker Kurt Kemp:
He's somebody that we all had a great feeling about him when we saw him last summer. A lot of us saw him and thought he might be the pick to click this spring. He's come out and has not disappointed us. The article I read today said he was 18-0 in his career there at Walsh Jesuit. So for me, for somebody that can go through their high school career and win every time out, have what we feel will be major league stuff down the road, I think that's a positive package. We all had a good feeling about him, and from here forward we think the best is yet to come. He's not necessarily a guy that you go, ‘wow it's all there right now.' He's pretty good right now, but we think the room to grow for him is tremendous.
Braves' Area Scout Nick Hostetler:
The first time I saw him was the fall of last year at Ohio State at The Buckeye State workout. They put together the top 100 players in the state for a workout and showcase. With him being left-handed and having a projectable body it kind of fit what I know as an organization we look for. The velocity wasn't what it became in the spring and what he's throwing now. It was more 86-88 mph. But he showed a feel how to pitch, and he also showed a feel for the curveball and changeup. So I marked him down as a guy I needed to keep an eye on.
I ended up seeing six of his starts this spring. I grew up probably fifteen minutes from where he played high school baseball. I knew what he was going through – being a cold-weather kid, coming right out of the gym, and how long it usually takes those guys. His first outing was just so-so; velocity was down, and he didn't have real good command. But the arm worked, and the body was good. The big thing he did for me from start one to the last game he pitched in the championship is he had a different moxy about him that most high school kids I see. The makeup was good off the field. That wasn't a problem. But it was the between the white lines where he was just a different animal than he was off the field. He's real quiet off the field and didn't talk a whole lot. But when you got him between the lines it was like a switch flipped. It was almost like he pitched angry. He would battle and compete. Someone would get a good swing on him, and his next pitch was going to get them out; from day one that was always there. The stuff continued to get better. The velocity continued to get better. The command got better; it all continued to get better, which kind of got me a little nervous.
What it boiled down to was that there were really only two teams looking at him, the Braves and Twins. A lot of those guys (scouts) saw him, and this is one of those things about having a big area, they see him and they don't feel they need to go back because maybe it's not their organization's philosophy, and they spend their time elsewhere. They kind of write those cold-weather kids off. I kind of feel I have a little bit of an advantage because I know what those kids go through. I know how cold it can be and how long it can take to get adjusted.
The amazing thing about him being 18-0 in his career is Ohio has four divisions. They're in Division II, but their entire schedule is Division I. They play Moeller in Cincinnati and other top teams. So when they get into tournament play, they are at so much of an advantage because they've played these bigger schools. He's pitched his entire high school career against these bigger schools. He never lost.
The big thing with him is he pitches off his fastball. A lot of young kids that have a feel for the breaking ball and changeup rely on that too much. The difference with this kid is he was going to challenge you with the fastball. He pitches mid-thigh to just below the knees. He won't go above that much. He just buries the fastball down in on guys and spots the fastball well. He's a little more advanced than a lot of high school kids because he understands how to pitch. The breaking ball has the spin, has the rotation, has the depth, but it needs a little more velocity to it. Sometimes he gets a little loopy with it, as well as the changeup. He'll throw some good changeups that have a lot of sink, but he slows his arm down a little bit. But the big thing with me that I kind of harped on, and I know Hep Cronin (Braves' National Crosschecker) and I were watching a game and he said, ‘I don't know if he's thrown a pitch belt-high or above.' He just pounds the bottom end of the strike zone. It just made him stick out to us so much. It wasn't even like it was hard for him to do. It was like, ‘I've done this my whole career and I'm going to keep doing it.'
He pitched a game at Jacobs Field and one of our area guys came in and saw him as well. He left there and called up Hep and Roy and said, ‘It was like watching a high school version of Tom Glavine that night.' I can remember growing up an Indians' fan and watching Glavine against them in the World Series and see him throw that ball at their knees. They would have no chance. Not everyone has to throw 95. If you're at 88-91, which is what Chad threw in high school, then he can get guys out because he keeps that ball so low and he spots it where he needs to spot it.
He's six-three, 175. He's real thin, so there's a lot of room for projection. He reminds me and looks a lot like Cliff Lee with Cleveland. His mechanics are similar. He looks like him. He throws like him. There are a lot of similarities there.
I'm not so much worried about his velocity. This is a kid that will probably pitch 88-92 his whole career and sit at 90. The big thing with us is he really needs to work on tightening up the breaking ball and throwing the changeup harder. If you throw that thing to slow the hitters will adjust to that.
The Braves Show's Bill Shanks:
This is one kid I cannot wait to see pitch. Just throw out Glavine comparisons and you've got me hooked. The pitchability with this kid is impressive. To hear about a kid that has the knowledge of pitching low in the strike zone is intriguing. The combination of Rodgers, Evarts, and Locke is somewhat exciting. Nothing like having three more solid lefty prospects in the low minors that can take time to develop. This is why our system continues to be solid year-in and year-out.
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look at the Braves' traditional front office philosophies. He can also be heard on the Braves Radio Network. Email Bill at email@example.com.