Left-hander John Rooney made his third appearance of the 2018 season on Monday night, the first in the Class A Midwest League.
Rooney was a bit surprisingly selected by the Dodgers in the third round of the 2018 First-Year Player Draft.
The 6’5”/235-pound native of Melrose, New York attended Hoosie Valley High School in Schaghticoke where he posted a 35-0 win-loss record. That is not a typo.
Following graduation he headed off to Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. His first two seasons with the Pride were rather pedestrian. However, in his junior year he definitely caught the attention of the college baseball nation. He went 8-2 with a 1.23 ERA along 108 strikeouts in 95 innings over 13 starts in 2018. He threw three complete games and two solo shutouts, while holding opposing batters to a .166 average. His ERA topped the Division I Colonial Athletic Association and ranked second in the nation.
His 2018 college season was rewarded by a Second Team All-America selection by Baseball America and a Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Third Team All-America selection as well as being named the CAA Pitcher of the Year. Additionally, he was named a semifinalist for the Baseball Golden Spikes Award. which is presented annually to the top amateur baseball player in the country. California Golden Bears junior Andrew Vaughn was named the 2018 Golden Spikes Award winner on June 28.
As mentioned John Rooney might have been a bit of a surprise as a third round selection but not to those around him, including himself. The big left-hander was simply following a dream.
“You dream your whole life to play for a big-league organization and to get that chance to play the game you love on the professional level,” he said. “I’m that guy from a small upstate area that Hofstra believed could compete in Division I. And having the opportunity to learn from a great pitching coach for the last three years really helped me develop into a prospect.”
His coach at Hofstra spoke to Rooney’s character.
“I am very excited for John and his family,” said Hofstra Coach John Russo. “John is a special player and an outstanding person. He is extremely coachable, improved every year at Hofstra and is ready to show what he can do at the next level. I look forward to following his progress with the Dodgers.”
Billy Gasparino, the Director of Amateur Scouting was unusually succinct in his assessment of Rooney.
He said he liked Rooney’s “pitchability and deception, with the stuff to go with it.”
Scouting reports go into a bit more detail than Billy Gasparino.
Axcess Baseball Scouting Report:
He has an extremely smooth and repeatable delivery, reminiscent of former Major Leaguer Jeff Francis. He begins his windup with his hands held high covering his face. He takes a big step back as he enters his delivery. He lands slightly closed which makes him deathly on left-handed hitters and forces righties to get on top of the plate to neutralize his natural tail. Additionally, he has a very long arm circle similar to Madison Bumgarner. This adds even more deception, hitters would much rather prefer a traditional look from the pitcher.
Rooney’s fastball can reach 93 mph and he also throws an above-average slider that comes across in the low to mid-80s. He does well throwing both pitches for strikes and shows at least average control.
It’s hard to argue with Rooney’s results as a junior, so if a team believes in his ability to find an average third pitch he could go off the board higher than his ranking suggests.
The 6-foot-5 left-hander has really come into his own as Hofstra’s Friday night starter this spring, using a three-pitch mix to carve up opponents in the Colonial Athletic Association. He’ll throw his fastball in the 87-93 mph range, using his size well to create good downhill plane. His slider flashes plus with good bite, a pitch that has improved over time, even from his stint in the Cape Cod League last summer until now. He’ll effectively mix in an average changeup with some fade as well, and he’s thrown all three pitches for strikes.
Rooney made his professional debut with the Arizona League Dodgers on June 21st pitching two scoreless innings on one base hit and one hit batter. He struck out four and picked off both runners allowed at gain first base.
He pitched three scoreless innings in his second AZL appearance allowing one hit and walking one batter. As Yogi would say, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”, as Rooney again picked off both runners he had allowed to get to base. He struck out three.
On Monday evening John Rooney took the mound for the Loons against the Lake County Captains on a three inning or 50-pitch count. The three innings came first with only 35 pitches thrown, 20 of them strikes. During his three innings of work he induced five ground balls, walked one hitter, gave up a single and struck out none, yet he faced the minimum of nine Captains. Both Lake County hitters to reach base were promptly picked off first base.
Perhaps his opponents haven’t read his college resume in which it is noted that he picked off 17 base runners in his junior year at Hofstra.
During the game Loons play-by-play announcer indicated that Rooney, even though he is 6’5’’ tall, has good sink on his pitches and he pounds the lower part of the strike zone.
The Loons on the evening were once again locked in a pitcher’s battle going to the eighth inning with a scoreless tie and breaking up the no-hitter with a Drew Avans single in the seventh inning. To that point Captains starter Jean Meija had struck out 10 Loons.
In the eighth inning the Loons broke the tie on a Deacon Liput sacrifice fly with the bases loaded. They tacked on two more runs in the ninth inning on a Romer Cuadrado double.
On the mound left-handers Bryan Warzek and right-hander Sven Schueller followed Rooney allowing no runs. Warzek struck out six of the 10 hitters he faced. Twenty-five year old left-hander Darien Nunez pitched the final two innings wiggling out of a jam in the ninth with the aid of a runner being hit by a batted ball. Schueller was credited with the 3-0 win.
To recap, to date in his professional career John Rooney has allowed six runners to reach first base. He has picked off all six.
Photo Credit: Hofstra Athletics