Prospect Profile: Rogers Making Great First Impression

Josh Rogers of the Norfolk Tides pitches.

A few days after the Zach Britton deal, I wrote that Cody Carroll would likely be the first of the three players acquired to reach the big leagues – even though Dillon Tate was widely viewed as the better overall prospect. I didn’t mention the third pitcher the Orioles received, 24-year-old Josh Rogers.

Rogers doesn’t have a blazing fastball or wipeout breaking ball like Carroll and Tate, nor is he ranked on the Orioles’ Top 30 Prospects list. Despite this, the left-hander has pitched extremely well in his first three starts in Norfolk following the trade. He’s given up just three earned runs in 20.1 innings as a Tide, good for an ERA of 1.33.

The Yankees selected Rogers out of the University of Louisville in the 11th round of the 2015 draft, paying him a draft bonus well over the recommended slot value. Like Carroll, Rogers underwent Tommy John surgery before ever pitching in a collegiate game. In two years for the Cardinals, he went 11-4 with an ERA of 3.46 and 129 strikeouts in 145.2 innings.

He broke out during his first full professional season in 2016, pitching to a 2.38 ERA in 136.1 innings between the Yankees’ Class-A affiliates in Charleston and Tampa. He followed that campaign up with a 3.24 ERA in 91.2 innings in 2017 before an elbow injury ended his season prematurely. His command is arguably his biggest strength: he walked just 38 hitters in 2016 and 2017 combined over a total of 228 innings.

I had the opportunity to see Rogers’ most recent start in a Tides uniform, which came against his former AAA teammates from the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. Going up against a lineup and coaching staff that undoubtedly know his tendencies well, Rogers nonetheless managed to toss 7.1 scoreless innings, striking out three while yielding four hits in an extremely impressive outing.

One night after six Tides pitchers combined to throw 181 pitches, Rogers needed just 96 pitches to make it into the eighth inning on the mound. He primarily worked in the upper 80’s with his fastball, though the pitch reached as high as 94 on the night. He also mixed in a sharp breaking ball in the low 80’s that he tended to use with two strikes. One trait that stuck out in particular was how he was able to induce soft contact early in the count, helping to keep his pitch count down.

Outlooks on Rogers’ long-term viability as a major league pitcher vary. Though Baseball Prospectus holds a more pessimistic view of his future – writing that “(Rogers) profiles as an upper-level arm who offers emergency utility as an up-and-down starter,” Yankees writer Lou DiPietro of YES Network went so far as to compare his repertoire and profile to CC Sabathia, arguing that his abilities could play well at Yankee Stadium.

Regardless of the projections for Rogers’ future role, one thing is becoming apparent through his first three outings (I know, I know…small sample size): he’s proving that he deserves a major league opportunity sooner rather than later. With one former Yankees prospect already in Baltimore and two more knocking on the door, the O’s have to be pleased with the early returns from the Britton trade.

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