A’s Claim Brent Rooker Off Waivers From Royals

The Athletics announced Thursday that they’ve claimed outfielder/first baseman Brent Rooker off waivers from the Royals. Kansas City designated Rooker for assignment earlier in the week.

Rooker, 28, was the No. 35 overall draft pick by the division-rival Twins back in 2017. The hope was that the former Mississippi State slugger could be a quick-the-Majors source of pop for the Twins, and that proved to be partially true. Rooker mashed his way through the minor leagues, reaching Triple-A by the 2019 season and hitting .281/.398/.535 through 274 plate appearances there. Minnesota gave him a brief big league look during the shortened 2020 season, and Rooker responded with a 6-for-19 showing, including a homer and a pair of doubles.

Unfortunately, that brief production didn’t carry over into a larger sample in 2021. Rooker remained productive in Triple-A (.245/.367/.564, 20 homers in 62 games) but managed only a .201/.291/.397 slash with an ugly 32.9% strikeout rate in 213 plate appearances at the MLB level in 2021. The Twins sent Rooker to San Diego alongside Taylor Rogers in the trade that brought Chris Paddack and Emilio Pagan to Minnesota, and Rooker again thrived in Triple-A while struggling in limited MLB action.

Overall, Rooker is a .200/.289/.379 hitter in 270 Major League plate appearances but a .274/.387/.590 hitter in 906 Triple-A plate appearances. While he’s seen time both in left field and at first base in his career, however, scouting reports at the time of the draft called it a stretch for him to ever be a full-time outfielder, and that’s just how things have played out so far. In just 386 2/3 innings in the outfield corners, Rooker has posted -11 Defensive Runs Saved, -7 Outs Above Average and a -4.8 Ultimate Zone Rating. Ultimately, if he’s to solidify himself in the big leagues, his bat will need to carry the day, and he’ll likely need to move to either first base or designated hitter.

Rooker has one minor league option year remaining, so the A’s will be able to shuttle him between Oakland and Triple-A Las Vegas in 2022 — assuming he lasts the whole offseason on the 40-man roster. Oakland is as good a landing spot as Rooker could have hoped for, given that the rebuilding A’s only have two set outfielders in the out-of-options Cristian Pache and Ramon Laureano — the latter of whom could be traded. Lefty-swinging Seth Brown will rotate between the outfield corners, first base and DH, but there’s clearly playing time available for Rooker if he can hit his way into a roster spot next spring.

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