Cole Roederer – Picture by Micah Manuel
When Cole Roederer returned in May after missing just about a year of baseball due to Tommy John surgery, he was put on a rehab assignment with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. In four games, Cole hit .467 and looked to be reborn as a hitter playing in new environs. He quickly went to South Bend where he spent the rest of the month and looked a little out of place. I remarked on a NSB Roundtable that it had to be depressing to be in South Bend for the third straight season and that Cole was more than likely ready to move to Double-A.
When he got the promotion to Tennessee at the end of May, I was a little surprised. But I was also happy for him in that he was finally getting out of Indiana. For the month of June, Cole did not play every day as he was still coming back from a major injury. But when he did, he was very successful at the plate. Before tonight’s game, his slash line is .319/.421/.383/.804 with 11 RBI in just 14 games. That dog will hunt.
What is he doing to help himself at the plate?
Cole has always had a great eye at the plate. It’s just been a matter of being able to use the whole field. In 2019, teams shifted on him the second game of the season. He’s not getting that anymore. If teams shift within limits, I’ve seen him lay down some bunts to get on base the past month. In other words, he’s making them play him straight up.
Looking at FanGraphs, he’s using more of the other two fields this year than ever before. He’s not selling out to pull the ball or to hit for power, he’s just being a good hitter. This year, just 43% of balls he puts in play are pulled with center getting 27% and the opposite field gets hit to 29.7% of the time. In 2019, those numbers went 52, 22, 25. So, that’s a huge change.
In addition, his K rate is down, his walk rate is up, and he’s doing it all while playing in two-thirds of the games.
What Have the Cubs Done?
Getting him out of South Bend had to be just a huge relief for him. It’s not that the city causes consternation, but it’s almost a form of torture to put him back there. You can see in how he carries himself in that he is much more confident in Tennessee and the thought of having to prove himself in South Bend again was not conducive to his development.
Second, they’re actually giving him time off instead of grinding him down to the nub like 2019. Most of that planned scheduling is due to the fact that he’s coming off a major injury.. Second, I think it takes the pressure off of him to produce every day that he can mentally relax and get through a day. In 2019, he lost a lot of weight in his first full season in the minors at South Bend. I would guess it was somewhere between 15 and 20 pounds. He looks fully healthy now and, combined with his injury, playing 4 to 5 games a week is just fine for him and his stat line.
I also like the fact that he doesn’t have to be in centerfield every day. He can play some left and he can DH, if need be, but he has not yet. In total, he’s playing about half the time in left and half in center.
For the most part, it’s been a pretty quiet resurgence. June was his best month ever in full season baseball and it’s not even close. To do it at Double-A will hopefully give him some confidence going forward and he will get a larger portion of playing time as he fully recovers.
The fact that he’s doing well just warms my heart as it had to be tough on him to watch all the guys he came up with and won a championship with move on to AA and AAA over the past year. Now he’s playing with some of them and the goal is to play with the rest of them like Brennen Davis and Levi Jordan in Iowa at some point this year. Whether that’ll happen or not, that’s really going to be out of Cole’s hands. But if he produces like he did in June and adds a little pop, he might force the issue. That would be pretty cool to see him go from Myrtle Beach to South Bend to Tennessee to Iowa in the span of a single season.
You never know, it could happen.