I really did mean it when I said I intended this to be a regular Tuesday feature, but I’ve been in the process of moving for the past couple of weeks and it just hasn’t been in the cards. Now that I’m more or less settled in the palatial new Chateau M, though, I’ll try to get back on track.
This week, two outfielders from the 2022 draft are passing their first pro tests, and a ‘21 draftee who stumbled out of the gate seems to be figuring it out.
Dylan Rock, RHB OF, AA New Hampshire
The 2022 8th round draft pick made my pref list on the off-season top 40 on the strength of an impressive season as a graduate transfer to Texas A&M, where he hit .318/.468/.641. A large part of the reason Rock fell to the 8th round in spite of putting up numbers in the SEC that eclipsed some first round picks is that he was nearly 24 on draft day. That raised questions about whether he was just taking advantage of younger and less experienced competition and how much room there was for him to continue to develop.
The Jays decided to answer those questions, jumping Rock directly to AA to start his first full pro season. He got off to a slow start, slashing .257/.289/.343 from his debut through May 5th. In the two weeks since, however, he’s caught fire, posting a .324/.390/.676 line with three home runs and four doubles in 41 PA. He is striking out a bit (27% on the season) and doesn’t walk a ton (6%), with a swinging strike rate (11.8%) that’s worse than average but not disastrous for a slugger.
There are refinements that need to be made, then, and as a primary left fielder he’ll have to keep hitting to survive as a prospect. That the organization threw him right into the deep end suggests they think he might do that, and so far he’s swimming.
Alan Roden, LHB OF, A+ Vancouver
In the summer of 2021, playing for Upper Valley of the New England Collegiate League, Roden struck out 17 times and walked 15 in 165 PA. It’s the only time in his amateur or professional career he’s struck out more than he’s walked in a season of more than five plate appearances.
Assigned to the Canadians this spring after being drafted in the third round last summer, Roden has pretty much been his usual self, slashing .287/.408/.407 and striking out just 11.5% of the time in his 130 PA so far. His 6.1% swinging strike rate so far is in the top 10 among 218 hitters with at least 100 PA in a High A league this season. There’s still not a lot of power here, with Roden having left the yard just once this season, but he has added 5 of his 10 doubles in the past two weeks, suggesting he’s starting to make some solid contact at least.
As Matt noted in his write-up when we ranked Roden #32 on the Top 40 this winter, OBP-oriented, low power college outfielders have sometimes panned out in the past. Brett Gardner didn’t hit a single home run in his first full minor league season and hit only one in his second. Unlike Gardner, though, Roden doesn’t offer much defensive value either, putting an enormous amount of weight on his hit tool and plate discipline. So far the returns are about as good as they could be in that department. It’s also possible that the team will be able to help him unlock a little more power with a swing change, as they successfully did a couple of years ago with a similar player in Spencer Horwitz.
Chad Dallas, RHP, AA New Hampshire
Dallas was just promoted to the Fisher Cats last week and he made quite an entrance, striking out 9 Rumble Ponies (I don’t know either, it’s the Mets) over 7.0 shutout innings while allowing just two hits and two walks. That last number is the key, as Dallas has a history of command issues and walked 51 in just 88 innings in his pro debut last season.
This season, the story has improved significantly. He had a meltdown start on April 19th, walking 6 against only 5 strikeouts, but in his other five appearances this season he hasn’t walked more than 3 or failed to strike out at least 6. His 11.1% season walk rate is still high, but it’s better, and in the context of a 36.5% strikeout rate it’s totally acceptable. He’s also allowed just one home run so far, after struggling with the long ball both last season and at Tennessee. That might be a small sample blip, but he’s generating more infield flies this year, suggesting he’s giving up a little bit less solid contact.
On the top 40 this past winter, Dallas dropped from 13th to 32nd, due to command concerns and questions about his pitches apart from his deadly slider. We don’t have StatCast data for Vancouver or New Hampshire, so I can’t dig into his stuff to see whether there’s been a substantial change. The results so far speak for themselves, though.