Despite being unranked on multiple Yankee top prospect lists, left-handed pitcher Josh Rogers is starting to look like a legitimate prospect. Rogers was named the Florida State League Pitcher of the Week last week and continues to dominate in his second full season in the Yankees farm system. The 22-year-old lefty currently pitches for High-A Tampa, but a call up to Double-A looks almost certain at this point.
After pitching two seasons for the University of Louisville Cardinals, the Yankees selected Rogers with their 11th round pick in the 2015 draft. Initially, there were concerns about his signability. Typically, college sophomores aren’t eligible for the draft, so Rogers, like his then-teammate Kyle Funkhouser, could have very easily gone back to Louisville to improve his draft stock. Thankfully, he didn’t. Rogers signed a well-above slot bonus, earning the slot equivalent of an early fourth-round pick.
There is a lot to like about Rogers. Like Jordan Montgomery, Rogers pitched in big games at a premier collegiate baseball institution, so he’s had experience pitching in front of crowds and against high level competition. Furthermore, Rogers has a prototypical pitcher’s build. He measures at 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds. On the mound, Rogers works from a low-three quarter arm slot. He uses a slider as his primary out pitch and a developing changeup to offset his upper-80’s-low-90’s fastball.
Clearly, Rogers won’t blow many guys away with his fastball, but good movement and strong command still allow him to generate swings-and-misses. The Yankees do have a track record of helping young guys add a few miles per hour to their fastball. It’s probably a little unfair to expect his velocity to spike, but it certainly is not out of the realm of possibility. If young lefty can refine his off-speed pitches, especially his changeup, he could become a viable back-of-the-rotation starter. If not, his repertoire and arm slot make him a good candidate to become a LOOGY pitcher.
To begin the 2016 season, the Yankees assigned Rogers to Charleston, and Rogers quickly impressed. The lefty worked a 1.59 ERA and 25 K in 22 2/3 innings pitched, earning Rogers a call up to Tampa before May 2016. However, Tampa was not initially kind to Rogers. In his first 28 innings with the team, Rogers gave up five home runs and became the not-so-proud owner of a 5.79 ERA, but things changed once May turned to June.
Since June of last year, Rogers has thrown 117 2/3 High-A innings and has been pretty much lights out. He’s struck out 99 batters and minimized mistakes, working 1.45 BB/9 and .15 HR/9 rates. He also had a career-high eight K’s on April 29th this year. Last night was arguably his worst start of the season, and he still went seven innings, surrendering seven hits, three earned runs, one walk, four strikeouts, and one home run. Rogers took a no-decision, but he was able to extend his streak of quality starts to five.
At this point, I’m not entirely sure what else Rogers has to prove at Tampa. He’s dominated the level for over 100 innings. I’m not inclined to believe there is a connection between his lack of promotion and his omission from top prospect lists. The omission likely has more to do with the insane amount of depth of the system right now. The Yankees made a pretty serious commitment to Rogers when they gave him 4th-round money two years ago. There’s no reason to believe they don’t think he’s a legitimate prospect.
The lack of promotion could be that there are just too many quality pitchers currently ahead of Rogers at the moment. The Double-A rotation is currently home to Domingo German, Chance Adams, Justus Sheffield, and Yefry Ramirez, who are all either top prospects, performing well, or on the 40-man roster. Regardless, if Josh Rogers continues to put up impressive numbers, then his Double-A debut will probably come sooner rather than later.