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Brayan Rocchio’s strong debut is hopefully a sign of things to come

The Guardians’ top position player prospect is back on the team — for the moment

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Cleveland Guardians v Chicago White Sox Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

For the second time this season, the Cleveland Guardians last night called up one of their top prospects, shortstop Brayan Rocchio.

I first want to start by expressing my deepest sympathies to José Ramírez and his family after his grandmother’s passing. Ramírez’s time on the bereavement list is, unfortunately, the reason for Rocchio’s call-up for this series in Chicago. Any Guardians fan who has heard Ramírez talk will remember how important his grandmother and mother have been in his life, so we know this loss must be devastating for our beloved third baseman.

So, Brayan Rocchio is here to help pick up a teammate in a difficult time, which is an important part of being a member of any team. He had previously made a brief stop in Cleveland as an extra for Wednesday, April 19’s afternoon game against the Tigers but didn’t see any playing time. Last night, he got his first taste of big-league action.

Rocchio is a generally high-regarded prospect, ranked third in the Guardians’ system and 54th in baseball by FanGraphs. MLB Pipleline ranks him sixth on the team and 63rd in baseball, Kiley McDaniel for ESPN ranked him as the fourth best Cleveland prospect and 64th in all of MLB, and Keith Law of the Athletic had him first in the Guardians’ system and 22nd in all of baseball. In Covering the Corner’s most recent round of Cleveland prospect ranking votes, Rocchio finished fifth.

As the prospect evaluator to rank Rocchio highest, Law lauded his ability to hit the ball hard with a “direct, compact swing” noting that he could stand to work on lifting the ball more and taking more walks. Law concludes: “I still see All-star upside here, a shortstop who saves a few runs a year with his glove and adds a ton more with a .280-.300 average, adequate walk rates and 15-20 homers a year.”

Rocchio has a 126 wRC+ so far in Columbus this year with a 12.8/9.1 K/BB% and .149 ISO. Notably, after a bit of a slow start to the year, over his past 15 games he’s put up a 136 wRC+. with a .219 ISO. He has put up mostly even splits as a switch-hitter, overall, with some variance within years, logging OPS splits of .979/.674 against RHP/LHP in 2023, .803/.746 in 2022, and 1.043//735 in 2021. He is also solidly in the top half of hitters in the International League of Triple-A with an 11% swinging strike rate, even while being young for the level at only 22 years of age.

For his minor-league career, Rocchio has stolen 81 bases in 405 games and been caught 40 times, which isn’t a great success rate of 67%, but he is 10 for 10 in 2022, so perhaps he is perfecting the art. His speed received only a 45 FV rating from FanGraphs, so he uses his baserunning acumen to account for lacking game-breaking speed.

In about 800 innings over the past two years, Rocchio has made 22 errors, leading to some questions regarding his potential as an option at shortstop, though it’s hard to draw too many firm conclusions about errors in the minor leagues even more so than in the majors. His reputation as a defensive player had been stellar as he began his time as a pro before these past two years, and he seems to have the chops to be at least a solid second-base option if Cleveland wants him on the roster long-term and wants to move Andrés Giménez to shortstop.

I enjoy seeing Rocchio get the barrel to the ball because he is capable of some extremely impressive home runs, like this one from May 5.

Oftentimes, however, he is the connoisseur of the double:

He is capable of some impressive defensive plays, despite the error count, as seen in this leaping grab as posted by the always-excellent Justin Lada:

Rocchio made a name for himself by keeping himself in great position to continue his development as a player while stuck in Venezuela during COVID and shows his hard-working attitude in maintaining a positive presence on Twitter.

I had a little fun last time Rocchio was called up playing on his nickname — the Professor, as he is known for his studious approach to the game — and making a hype video for him that included a lot of his most impressive home runs:

Entering the game Tuesday night when Josh Naylor exited with tightness in his leg, Rocchio managed his first hit off of a squibbler in front of the mound and ended up on second after an error, and played third base after entering the game.

Although it was a depressing game overall, it never gets old seeing young players realize their dreams, and Rocchio’s reaction after the game is well worth the watch in the interview he gave Bally Sports:

I really enjoy watching Rocchio play and it’s hard not to be reminded of Francisco Lindor when you watch his tight swing, especially from the left side of the plate. I don’t think he’ll ever be anywhere close to Lindor in the field, but I do think there is real potential for 20 or more homers from him as well as solid defense from a middle-infield position. In a bountiful array of middle-infielders in Cleveland’s system, I wouldn’t be surprised if Rocchio is the cream of the crop.

Anecdotally, I once requested to interview Rocchio following a Ducks game and he declined after he had struck out four times. Completely understandable, of course, but it showed me that he is an incredibly competitive person who expects a lot out of himself in every game.

I also want to briefly shout out Covering the Corner user DelGua who has consistently ranked Rocchio as the best prospect in the system since ... well, before 2020, for sure. Here’s hoping we get to see the Professor get some more time on the field with the Guardians in the future for better reasons.