2014 Baseball America Top 100 Prospects: The 25th Edition
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LAKEWOOD, N.J.--Nothing feels better than getting your first career win. Ask Brewers righthander Mark Rogers.
The 2004 first-rounder won his first career game on July 13 after 25 appearances in the minor leagues. Pitching for low Class A West Virginia, he allowed two runs over five innings against Lakewood while striking out six for the victory.
After a rough first half, Rogers has been improving in the South Atlantic League. The hard-throwing 19-year-old recently registered triple digits on the radar gun with his fastball.
Rogers was selected fifth overall in the 2004 draft by the Brewers out of Mount Ararat (Maine) High, signing for a $2.2 million bonus that bought him out of a Miami commitment. He reported to the Rookie-level Arizona League Brewers, where he went 0-3, 4.73 with 35 strikeouts in 27 innings.
This year, Rogers is 1-7, 4.74 pitching in a tandem-starter system, with a 78-44 strikeout-walk ratio in 68 innings. Despite his high ERA, he is holding batters to a .237 average. With a mid-90s fastball and sharp curveball, the talented 6-foot-2, 205-pounder has a high ceiling but will need time to gain consistency with his mechanics and above-average stuff while learning how to use it.
We caught up with Rogers to talk about his first career win, being a three-sport star in high school, how Josh Beckett has made an impact on his style of pitching, as well as his good luck hat.
On his first career minor league win: "I won my first game (laughs)! It’s been a long time coming I’ll tell you. Just getting that monkey off my back is a good feeling, and now I don’t have to worry about that anymore. Sometimes during the day I would be like, 'Oh man, let’s get going. I haven’t had a win yet,' but you can’t really judge everything on wins. It is good to let go of that monkey on my back and have a win, and I’m looking forward to the second one."
On playing baseball, soccer, and hockey in high school: It was kind of tough. I miss hockey and I miss soccer too. I grew up playing all three my whole life. I probably miss hockey more than anything, but I guess baseball shows itself. I went to a showcase the summer before my senior year to get exposure. I got some attention and people started to coming to Maine. That is when I really started to realize what kind of opportunity I had, because before that no one really came up to Maine. You had to leave Maine to be seen, but then people began to come to Maine. That was the first summer I decided not to play hockey. I wanted to try the whole baseball thing and it paid off, so baseball kind of shows itself. But looking back, I really wouldn’t change anything. I enjoyed playing all three sports. If hockey worked out, then it was going to work out, but I was kind of going with the flow and baseball took over.
On what he is working on: Right now I am still working on refining everything. I have been very thankful to have (Power pitching coach) John Curtis here to work with. He has worked with me quite a bit on repeating my mechanics and having the same delivery every time with every pitch. The benefit of that is staying in the strike zone more, being more deceptive on each pitch whether it’s a fastball, curveball, slider or changeup. The hitter can’t tell by where your arm slot is or by the momentum of your delivery, things like that. So, I feel like I have definitely improved on repeating my delivery. The things I’m still working on are getting ahead of the count and my changeup. I mean, I’ve thrown a lot more this year, it is a work in progress, and it’s continuing to get better.
On his pitching style: I always did my own thing as far as mechanically. Growing up, I was always watching Roger Clemens in Boston, New York, and in Toronto because they were always on television. I learned a lot from him of his work ethic and how he has pitched to batters. He has faced the best hitters in the world and is getting them out, so he must be doing something right. Recently I had the chance to watch Josh Beckett when he was in Double-A with the Florida Marlins because he was close to my hometown, about 30 minutes away. He wasn’t there very long, but I got to see him pitch a couple of times. The stuff he had was unbelievable at the Double-A level and made hitters look silly. He is a fastball-curveball guy. I enjoyed watching him pitch. I tried to emulate my own mechanics, not necessarily mechanics, but emulate my pitching style after him.
On his Hurley hat: I haven’t had it very long. I picked it up while we were on our last road trip. Since Ryan Braun has been here, I have worn it a couple of times. He likes to joke around with me about it a little bit. But, I got my first win in it, so I am going to wear it every day until I do bad. A superstitious type of a thing.
• Earlier this season, Paul McAnulty got the call to San Diego straight from Double-A Mobile. He went back to Double-A but has since been promoted to Portland of the Pacific Coast League and has had little trouble. In his first 21 Triple-A at-bats, the 24-year-old first baseman has nine hits, including two home runs.
“He’s a first baseman or left fielder only,” said a scout with an American League club, "and for me, he might be a fringe everyday player, a lot like Matt Stairs—a starter on non-championship teams. But I might be selling him short. He’s a lefthanded bat with pretty good power, and he hangs in against lefthanded hitters. Those guys aren’t easy to find.”
• Rogearvin Bernadina has slowly discovered his stroke for Savannah. The 21-year-old center fielder went 3-for-4 last night with a solo homer that accounted for the only run in the Sand Gnats 1-0 victory against Charleston. Bernadina is hitting .297 in July and has his average up to .250 on the season after seeing it dip to .209 in late June. What might be most impressive about his season is that despite his struggles at the plate, he has continued to stay patient and draw walks. With 56 walks in 303 at-bats he has an OBP of .370 despite his mediocre batting average.
• Tyler Herron has not had an easy go in his first taste of pro ball. The Cardinals' supplemental first-rounder lasted only 2/3 of an inning and allowed six earned runs for Rookie-level Johnson City against Greeneville. The 18-year-old righthander has kept the strikeouts up (23 in 22 innings), but he has surrendered six homers and 10 walks while posting an ERA of 7.66.
• The Giants are still trying to find the right role for hard-throwing righthander Alfredo Simon, who struggled early this season as a starter at Double-A Norwich. Simon moved to the bullpen for a stretch and was excellent in May and June (1.45 ERA, 12 saves) but has struggled in June and was moved back to the rotation. He pitched four shutout innings Tuesday to help hand Casey Janssen his first Double-A loss. Janssen missed a turn after being hit in the leg with a line drive July 16, forcing him to leave his start in the second inning.
• Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis was a doubling fool Tuesday as Triple-A Pawtucket swept a doubleheader from Buffalo by scores of 9-1 and 10-4. In game one, Youkilis was 3-for-5 with three doubles, two runs and an RBI. The trend continued in game two, with a 2-for-5 showing (both doubles) and two RBIs. In 23 games at Pawtucket, Youkilis is batting .341/.458/.588 in 85 at-bats.
• Triple-A continues to provide little challenge to Devil Rays outfielder Delmon Young. The 2003 No. 1 overall pick recorded his fifth consecutive two-hit game on Tuesday in the Bulls 10-1 win against Louisville and is now batting .352/.352/.556 in 54 at-bats for Durham.
• After dominating in his final two starts in the California League, Angels righthander Jered Weaver had some trouble Tuesday in his Double-A debut for Arkansas. The 2004 first-round pick out of Long Beach State allowed seven hits and four runs over four innings in the Travelers' 6-5 win against Springfield, including a first-inning home run off the bat of Aaron Herr.
• After going a disastrous 1-7, 5.98 in 10 games for Double-A Tennessee, Arizona lefthander Matt Chico has come around of late for high Class A Lancaster. Chico fired six shutout innings, allowing two hits and striking out seven Tuesday in the JetHawks' 5-1 win against Inland Empire, and now has a 1.65 ERA in his last five starts, and a 3-2, 3.46 record overall in 11 starts since his demotion.
• Righthander Travis Chick was solid--if a bit erratic--in his debut in the Reds system, allowing one run on four hits and five walks in six innings in Double-A Chattanooga's 5-4 win against Carolina. Chick, who began the season as the No. 4 prospect in the Padres system, was acquired by Cincinnati in the Joe Randa deal. Chick had a disappointing year at Double-A Mobile before the trade, going 2-7, 5.27 with 40 walks in 97 innings. Tuesday's start was the second time in his past three outings he has issued five walks.
• Indians first baseman Stephen Head went absolutely berserk in high Class A Kinston's 25-4 throttling of Frederick. Head, the Indians' second-round pick in June out of Mississippi, blasted his first two Carolina League home runs--including a seventh-inning grand slam--but that is only part of his ridiculous batting line. He finished 6-for-7 with nine RBIs and four runs scored, raising his high A batting average 86 points to .354.
• After allowing at least one run in his first 18 starts, Braves lefthander Jake Stevens has now posted two consecutive scoreless outings. He held Potomac to four hits over five shutout innings in high Class A Myrtle Beach's 11-2 win. Stevens improved to 7-7, 4.00 on the season.
• Former Cardinals top prospect Blake Hawksworth’s return from shoulder surgery has been a slow one so far. The 22-year-old righthander allowed eight runs over 2 1/3 innings Tuesday in short-season New Jersey’s 9-6 loss to Lowell, and is now 0-2, 6.57 in five appearances for the Cardinals.
• Australian lefthander Tim Cox continued his strong start in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, pitching five perfect innings against the Twins in a 5-2 Red Sox win. Cox struck out seven and has 32 strikeouts against just four walks in 25 innings.
• The Yankees used two former position player prospects off the mound Tuesday in the GCL. We’ve told you about Ferdin Tejada, but now the Yanks have moved former Dominican outfielder Anderson Amador to the mound as well. Amador, who got an $800,000 signing bonus in 2003, pitched a scoreless inning, walking one, in his pro debut as a pitcher.
• Angels righthander Bobby Cassevah got his first pro win with three scoreless innings against the Rangers in the Rookie-level Arizona League. Righty Nick Adenhart, like Cassevah recovering from Tommy John surgery, started and struck out four while giving up two runs in 2 1/3 innings.
• Jason Neighborgall didn’t throw strikes consistently at Georgia Tech, and he’s not throwing consistent strikes as a pro yet, either. The hard-throwing righthander walked five and got five outs for Rookie-level Missoula in Tuesday’s loss to Great Falls. He’s walked 12 in four innings as a pro.
• Fans at Mike Lansing Field were treated to a pair of high-profile righthanders in a Pioneer League doubleheader Tuesday. Rockies righty Chaz Roe, a supplemental first-round pick, picked up his first professional victory with six shutout innings in a 2-0 win, striking out five and walking three. Orem righty Stephen Marek, a draft-and-follow who received a signing bonus of $800,000, struck out seven in just 4 2/3 innings but got the loss in the nightcap, also a 2-0 Casper victory. Marek has 14 strikeouts and just two walks in his last 9 2/3 innings.