Playing professional baseball didn’t cross Alan Roden’s mind during his first two years at Creighton. He redshirted his first season and then played in just three games during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
The Middleton, Wisconsin, native’s goal was to simply develop into a contributing player at Creighton. But after hitting .378 last year, Roden’s professional aspirations changed when he received interest in the 2021 MLB draft. He considered pro ball but returned to Creighton with the desire to play one more season and finish his degree.
The decision to play one more season paid off. This spring, Roden hit .387 to earn the Big East Player of the Year award. Over the last two years, his performance and development have put Roden in consideration to go in the first five rounds of July’s draft.
“If we had talked going into last year, I would have had zero plans on ever being drafted,” Roden said. “That just wasn’t in the picture. I just wanted to contribute a little bit to Creighton and squeeze as much as possible out of my college career.
“Here we are now. It is pretty surreal and exciting. It’s a little scary at the same time because there are some unknowns, which is new for me and my family. We wouldn’t trade it for anything. It has been a really unique experience the last couple of years.”
Roden is a 6-foot, 210-pound left-handed-hitting first baseman/corner outfielder with elite bat-to-ball skills, a strong understanding of the strike zone and an ability to drive the baseball to all parts of the field. He also has quality speed, stealing 28 bases in 29 attempts in the 2021 summer New England Collegiate League.
At the plate, Roden uses an open stance with a crouch and a leg kick as a timing mechanism. He rarely swings out of the strike zone, recording eight strikeouts in 194 at-bats this spring.
Scouts rave about Roden’s contact-orientated approach at the plate. However, Roden didn’t flash a lot of power in his time at Creighton. The lefty hitter posted 13 home runs in the last two years. He hits the ball hard, and scouts believe a tweak to his swing to produce a better launch angle could solve his low home run numbers.
“You can bring a lot of excuses into that with us playing in a big field or the weather,” Roden said. “But that’s not something I am interested in doing. I can trade off some contact for more power and launch angle in my swing. Home runs are king. That is just the reality of the game and analytics. As a player, I need to adjust.”
Defensively, Roden possesses position versatility. In high school, Roden was a catcher his first three years before playing shortstop his senior year. Roden split time at first base and the corner outfield spots the last two years at Creighton.
Roden is a respectable defender at first base and in the outfield. He has the range and arm strength to play the outfield in pro ball.
“I am most comfortable in the outfield,” Roden said. “At this point, it has always been that I will play where ever the team needs me. That is what I will keep doing.”
In his college career, Roden displayed a team-first mindset while developing into a quality hitter in Creighton’s lineup. He batted .383 with 42 doubles, 14 home runs and 94 RBIs in 342 at-bats in three seasons. He also drew 49 walks and struck out 27 times.
Roden is thankful for his experience at Creighton and the coaching staff’s impact on his development into a top draft prospect. As he awaits the draft, which occurs July 17-19, Roden is playing in the Cape Cod League to gain more experience against premium pitchers.
“It is extremely rewarding,” Roden said. “Creighton really molds players if they stick with the process and embrace what is taught there. I am extremely grateful and very proud of the development I have made. I am just looking forward to the future.”
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Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for seven years. He has interviewed 356 of the top draft prospects in that period, including four No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.