We need to talk about Jason Rogers

When Jason Rogers was coming up through the minor leagues, I barely paid any attention to him. As far as I was concerned, he was a non-prospect. At best, I thought, he was a poor defensive third and first baseman who had occasional pop in his bat.

Because I never really cared about how Rogers was performing down on the farm, I didn’t realize his very solid on-base numbers. That is, until last season when he started with the Double-A squad. 2014 was the first time Rogers piqued my interest. Here’s why:

Year Level OBP wRC+
2014 AA .355 121
2014 AAA .379 142

That’s not too shabby at all. His OBP was great in Double-A and even better when he moved up a level. His performance caused me to dig deep — and by dig deep I mean go to his FanGraphs player page — into his minor league statistics. I was very pleased with what I found, and it made me question why Rogers wasn’t talked about more.

Here are is complete minor league stats, combining every level of every season:

OBP wOBA wRC+
.382 .387 136

It’s fair to say Rogers enjoyed much success throughout his career in the minors. For a player with average power at best (just two seasons with 10+ home runs), those numbers are especially brilliant.

And yet, the Milwaukee Brewers organization never gave him a chance until this season, just after he turned 27. The Brewers employed Aramis Ramirez at third base for the last two and a half years, so it makes sense why Rogers wasn’t needed there. But first base is more of a question mark. In lieu of Rogers, Milwaukee chose to go with old veterans like Yuniesky Betancourt, Lyle Overbay and Mark Reynolds. Rogers saw just 10 plate appearances in 2014, while fellow minor-league first baseman Matt Clark nabbed 31.

For all of Rogers’ career, he’s been the prospect nobody talks about. His performance this year may have changed people’s perceptions of him, though.

In 169 plate appearances, Rogers put up the third-highest wRC+ (121) and wOBA (.354), the second-highest OBP (.367) and sixth-best walk rate (8.9%) among Brewers who hit the century mark at the plate. Surely those numbers are inflated by a .360 batting average on balls in play, but nonetheless, they’re still top-notch for a 27-year-old rookie.

There is some unfortunate news regarding Rogers’ star-like numbers, however. They’re superficial, and he is unlikely to repeat them as a starter or off the bench in 2016.

When Rogers put a ball in play, it was on the ground 54.2% of the time, and for a player with no speed, that’s usually not going to lead to success. Yet somehow, Rogers defied the baseball gods and put up an insane .328 batting average on ground balls. League average was just .236. So yeah, Rogers got more lucky than I did on my high school prom night. This is reason enough alone to believe his performance is not sustainable going forward. Sad, I know.

There’s no doubt Rogers put up an unbelievable season, and it wouldn’t surprise me or probably anyone else to see him make the Brewers’ major-league roster out of spring training. Especially since the team is in the midst of a massive rebuild. There is doubt, however, about the hitter Rogers is. He needs more time and more at-bats for us to get a clearer picture of who he is. But unless he’s the luckiest player since, well, ever, it’s reasonable to think his numbers will decline next year.

 

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