Tournaments : : Story
Saturday, October 05, 2013

Getting better all the time

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

FORT MYERS, Fla. – As a member of a roster filled with some of the most elite talent in the national class of 2015, standout shortstop prospect Brendan Rodgers chose only to express the most basic of his expectations as he came into his next best thing.

“I’m just basically looking forward to getting better; I want to show off my talent and the things I’ve been working real hard for,” Rodgers said Saturday afternoon. “I want to represent the (Orlando) Scorpions (well) by showing everyone that we’re trying to be the best team we can be.”

Rodgers, the most highly ranked (No. 10) class of 2015 national prospect – No. 1 in the state of Florida – playing at this weekend’s PG WWBA Florida Qualifier, doesn’t cut corners and won’t mince words. The powerhouse Orlando Scorpions ’15 Prime on which Rodgers occupies a coveted roster spot was a little short-handed on Saturday, but that was no big-whoop in the Prime’s minds.

At last count, the Scorps ’15 Prime had at least 13 NCAA Division I commits on their roster (although not everyone’s here). Rodgers said he’s been playing with this same group of talented 2015 Scorpions since the summer of 2012 – he played in a handful of tournament s with Tom Gordon’s Florida Flash in 2010 and ’11 – and has known most of these guys his whole life.

“We’re full of a bunch of athletes,” Rodgers said from the former Boston Red Sox Player Development 5-Plex. “Everyone on this team is capable of being a D-I athlete and I’m close with all of them. Most of them are already committed and I see them maybe even getting drafted. They’re all great players and I love playing with them.”

Rodgers is right. And five of those talented 2015s – including Rodgers, catcher/outfielder Jackson Lueck and right-handers Cole Sands, Logan Crouse and Alex Carpenter – have committed to Florida State.

“That’s really where I wanted to be,” Rodgers said of his decision to attend FSU. “It was the perfect fit for me – the school, the coaches were perfect. I love Tallahassee and it’s just so nice up there. I’m going to a few (football) games soon and I know those will be fun.”

The righties Sands, Carpenter and Crouse are ranked Nos. 34, 100 and 103, respectively; Lueck is ranked No. 233. There are also three Central Florida recruits on the roster, along with top-notch guys that have committed to Ole Miss, Florida Atlantic, Miami and Wake Forest. The only hiccup here is that several of those players aren’t here, most notably Sands.

“Not everyone’s here this weekend but going into next weekend when all of our arms are here this can be a pretty special group,” Scorpions owner and head coach Matt Gerber said Saturday. “But our 2014s are pretty special, too, so we’ll see if these guys can live up to that. They’ve got some pretty big shoes to fill.”

The Orlando Scorpions ’15 Prime is the organization’s top underclass team and the players will be right back here next weekend for the PG WWBA Underclass World Championship. This is basically the same team that won the 16u Perfect Game World Series here in Fort Myers the first week of August.

“We were originally scheduled to play somewhere else this weekend, and then I saw the teams that were going to be down here and I just thought it would be better for us to come here and face some better competition to get ready for next weekend,” Gerber said. “This is kind of a tune-up for next weekend for this group, and our other team that’s here, the 2013 (Scorpions) ’15 Purple.”

The top Scorpions teams play almost every weekend during the fall and so Gerber and his staff are well-versed on the art of taking care of their precious arms. He’ll carry enough pitching depth where he needs to throw guys no more than three innings at a time and no one will be over-worked. He called it maintaining the “status quo.”

A big part of that status quo depends on Rodgers. He is a 6-foot, 180-pound junior at Lake Mary High School from Longwood, Fla., who has been ranked in the class of 2015’s top-10 since he came upon the scene as an eighth-grader in 2010.

The PG WWBA Florida Qualifier is his 17th PG event and that number will grow to 19 after scheduled appearances at next weekend’s PG WWBA Underclass World Championship playing with the Scorpions ’15 Prime and Oct. 24-28 at the PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., playing with the Orlando Scorpions/Met Scout Team.

“I’m very excited to represent the Mets Scout Team and represent the Scorpions,” Rodgers said of a return trip to Jupiter.

Rodgers attended the Perfect Game Junior National Showcase in Minneapolis this summer where he earned a top 10.0 grade and a PG scout noted that he is a “top prospect that keeps getting better.” He was named to all-tournament teams after playing up at both the 17u PG BCS Finals and PG WWBA 17u National Championship.

“Brendan is probably the most talented player that we’ve had at this stage of development since I’ve been doing this,” Gerber said. “He can play a premium position at shortstop at stay there, he hits for power, he’s got a plus arm – he’s pretty special.”

Rodgers has noticed a significant rise in his batting average and said he’s felt much more comfortable at the plate since his freshman year in high school.

“He’s become more of a disciple of the game,” Gerber said. “He’s always had the tools and he’s always been the best player, but he’s grown up in his approach to the game and as a leader. He understands that guys look up to him, and the way that he plays the game other guys are going to follow him. He’s done a really good job of playing the game hard all the time.”

The Orlando Scorpions ’15 Prime opened play at the PG WWBA Florida Qualifier with a disheartening 1-1 tie with the Jacksonville Warriors Saturday afternoon but rebounded with a 5-3 win over the Fastball Baseball Club later in the day. The Scorps have two more pool-play games scheduled Sunday and will probably have to win both to advance to the first round of the playoffs late Sunday afternoon.

Gerber will look to Rodgers to contribute the intangibles the team needs to win. Everything else is already in place.

“With guys that are talented – obviously we been blessed to have a lot of guys that have talent – and we try to help them with some of the smaller things,” Gerber said. “He doesn’t need us to tell him how to hold the bat or how to swing it, but there are things off the field and on the field that he needs to learn. I think that’s what our organization does a good job with – preparing him for college or if he’s lucky enough to play pro ball and be successful right off the bat.”

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