One of the hottest hitters in the first three weeks of the 2023 MLB season has been Athletics outfielder Brent Rooker. It took a while for the the former Mississippi State star to establish himself at the Major League level, but now that he has, Rooker’s worth a grab for those who are in need of an extra outfielder. Here’s a closer look at what’s gone right for Rooker so far, and what warning signs fantasy players need to watch.
A Look at Rooker
Athletics outfielder Brent Rooker was drafted in the first round by the Twins back in the 2017 MLB Draft, after the former SEC sensation hit 23 home runs for Mississippi State earlier that spring. Rooker displayed plus pop both at MSU and in summer ball over his collegiate career, as well as a knack for working counts. Those tools made Rooker quite the intriguing talent, but he didn’t make much of an impact over his first tours in the Majors.
Rooker first saw time in the Majors in 2020, when he received 21 plate appearances for Minnesota in the COVID-shortened 2020 season. The now-28-year-old clubbed nine home runs in his first significant bit of playing time the following season, but only hit .201/.291/.397 over 58 games (213 PA).
The ex-Twin was then sent in April 2022 to San Diego along with Taylor Rogers in the deal that sent Emilio Pagan and Chris Paddack to Minnesota, but Rooker only spent a couple of months in the Padres organization before being dealt to Kansas City. Between San Diego and Kansas City, Rooker saw just 36 plate appearances in the Majors last year.
The 28-year-old found himself in Oakland after the A’s claimed him off waivers this past winter, and Rooker has made the most of his opportunity so far. Rooker beat out Cristian Pache and JJ Bleday in the spring to join the Athletics Opening Day roster, alongside Esteury Ruiz, Conner Capel, and Ramon Laureano. Splitting time between left, right, and DH, Rooker hit .324/.381/.676 with four home runs, five extra base hits, and eleven runs batted in over his first eleven game of 2023.
Unsurprisingly, the power is still very much there for Rooker. Rooker’s exit velocity metrics are quite high, and he does own an above average Chase% rate — all good signs. The high average is a bit of surprise, given how much he has whiffed on pitches in the zone during the early goings. But all in all, it’s been a strong start for Rooker.
2023 Fantasy Outlook
There are some warning signs — namely the 35.4% Whiff% rate that’s well below league average — in Rooker’s numbers, but the 28-year-old does look to be an intriguing target in fantasy leagues. No one should expect the power hitting outfielder to hit .300, but a .250-.260 average might not be out of the question given his bat-to-ball skills and plate discipline. If he can do just that and hit 15-20 home runs, Rooker should be a nice value find on the waiver wire.
Rooker’s power has not been doubted throughout his collegiate and pro career, hence why he’s been given a number of chances at the Major League level. But so far in 2023, he’s made the most of his opportunity. Given his production thus far and a thin A’s team, expect Rooker to get regular playing time moving forward.