Jake Rogers Unlearns What He Had Learned
Jake Rogers is still the Tigers’ catcher of the future.
But in 2019, he will likely start where he finished in 2018: at Double-A Erie.
"Depending on how spring training goes, we’ll make a decision there,” general manager Al Avila said at the Winter Meetings. "But I would say we’re kind of leaning towards (Erie), just for his own good.”
Rogers’ defense is as big league ready as it comes. The 23-year-old ranked as the best defensive catcher in the Eastern League in 2018, but the Tigers want him to find a more consistent hitting stroke.
"Realistically, things get tougher as (players) move up,” vice president of player personnel Dave Littlefield said. "We’d like to see him improve upon the offense for at least some part of the year."
Rogers came to Detroit at the tail end of the 2017 season as part of the return for the Tigers trading Justin Verlander to the Astros. He had worked on improving his launch angle in the Houston system, but he struggled out of the gate in 2018
He hit .219/.305/.412 with 112 strikeouts in 99 games at Erie. He hit 17 home runs, but the Tigers are trying to even out an all-or-nothing approach.
"He needs to make some adjustments in his swing and he’s aware of it. No doubt he’s going to do it,” Littlefield said. "Everybody progresses at different times, and the feedback was early on that he wasn’t having much success. He made some adjustments and the last couple months in Erie, did a nice job.”
Rogers hit .259/.343/.538 in his final 60 games, and the Tigers are hoping his adjustment—flattening his swing plane—carries over to next season.
Rogers struggled in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .167 while playing sparingly.
Behind the plate, Rogers led EL catchers in all major defensive categories, throwing out 56 percent of basestealers and showing exceptional catch-and-throw skills. For his career, he has thrown out 51 percent of basestealers.
With experience, Rogers will continue improving at game-calling, and while it wouldn’t be a shock to see him advance to Triple-A Toledo in 2019, he will remain at Erie to start, working on his hitting.
"Certainly, we have high hopes for him,” Littlefield said.
Top MLB Prospects Hot Sheet (5/6/19)
Ranking the 20 hottest MLB prospects from the past week, headlined by righthander Casey Mize and third baseman Austin Riley.
— Righthanded reliever Bryan Garcia, who had Tommy John surgery last winter, is scheduled to return to throwing bullpens in spring training and could return to game action in May.
— The Tigers promoted manager Mike Rabelo to Erie. Rabelo has managed in the lower levels of the system since 2014. Detroit also promoted Brayan Pena to short-season Connecticut after he managed in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2018.