Detroit Tigers Top 20 Prospects: No. 14 Jake Rogers
Welcome to the first-ever installment of the Motor City Bengals Top 20 Detroit Tigers prospects. The MCB staff has compiled our prospect lists and we will be releasing our consensus rankings, along with a breakdown of each player, in a series of articles in the coming days. Today, we look at #14 on our list, Jake Rogers.
Once viewed as the catcher of the future in the organization, Rogers had a disappointing MLB debut in 2019. His 2020 season was arguably more troubling, as he was left at the alternate training site in Toledo while catchers Grayson Greiner and Eric Haase hit .132 with 3 home runs and a 35% strikeout rate in Detroit. Rogers spent some of the off-season tweaking his swing with famed hitting instructor Doug Latta, but with the recent Wilson Ramos signing, he’ll once again be competing for backup duty in 2021.
Jake Rogers Background
The Houston Astros drafted Jake Rogers in the 3rd round of the 2016 draft out of Tulane University. Rogers was the epitome of a glove-first catcher during his first two seasons with the Green Wave, batting just .215 with zero home runs, but gunning down 54% of potential base stealers. His offensive game first showed signs of life in the 2015 Cape Cod League, when he .274 with three home runs with wood bats, and he followed that up by hitting .261 with seven homers as a junior for Tulane, while still nabbing 63% of the runners who tried to steal against him.
That was enough for Houston to draft him, and Rogers’s profile largely stayed the same in his first taste of pro ball in 2016. He hit .233 with three home runs in 46 A-ball games, but he threw out 13 runners and added another 7 pickoffs. It was the 2017 season when Rogers had his big breakout, hitting .261 with 18 home runs between Low-A and High-A. That’s when the Astros sent him to the Tigers in the Justin Verlander trade.
Jake Rogers headed to Double-A Erie for the 2018 season, and he continued to shine on defense while flashing his newfound pop. He hit just .219 with 17 home runs, but he posted a 10% walk rate, and got better as the season wore on, with a .783 OPS over the season’s final 37 games. Rogers had a rough go in the 2018 Arizona Fall League, batting with no homers in 13 games, and he began his 2019 season back in Erie.
But he quickly hit his way to Triple-A, and after a few months in Toledo he was called up to the Big Leagues. He hit a home run in his 5th major league at-bat, but the rest of his time with the Tigers was a struggle, as he batted just .125 with a 40% strikeout rate and a surprising number of defensive miscues over 35 games.
Jake Rogers Strengths
For all the discussion of Rogers’ bat and offensive performance, he still shows signs of being a potentially elite defensive catcher. He stands out most for his arm:
From a pure velocity standpoint, Jake Rogers actually has a below-average arm for a catcher. But he makes up for it with a tremendously quick exchange and terrific accuracy. His 1.93 average pop time — the time between the ball hitting his glove and the ball hitting the glove of the defender at second base — was the 4th best in the majors in 2019. And as you can see in the highlight package above, he absolutely delights in picking off runners anywhere on the bags.
Rogers calls a good game behind the dish, and he’s a solid athlete who shows the requisite agility to handle big-league pitching. He flashes above-average raw power to the pull field, and has the eye and patience to post above-average walk rates. He’s even a decent runner for a catcher. He won’t be out there stealing bases, but he’s not a classic base clogger either.
Jake Rogers Weaknesses
Jake Rogers has never really hit enough, and it’s a serious question if he ever will. His bat speed is just average, and his big leg kick, steep swing path, and pull-heavy approach lead to lots of swings-and-misses and lazy pop ups. Those issues have always been present, though.
Perhaps more concerning were his defensive lapses in 2019. Long lauded for his agility and soft hands, Rogers nevertheless struggled with both his framing and receiving in his MLB debut. The framing can perhaps be chalked up to small sample sizes, but his receiving has been something of an issue for him for a few years. He committed 9 passed balls in just 302 innings for the Tigers, and he also hit double digits in 2016 and 2018.
Our Take on Jake
We think the Tigers were genuinely shocked, and legitimately worried, by how poorly Rogers performed on both sides of the ball in 2019. Him not getting a chance to play for Detroit at all in 2020, and the signing of Wilson Ramos for 2021, suggest the organization has soured on his potential.
We aren’t quite ready to give up on Jake Rogers, though. We still think he has a strong chance to be at least a quality backup catcher at the big-league level, and if he can just manage to hit about .220 he can possibly even start one day. But Rogers turns 26 in April, and he’s running out of chances to prove us right. He’ll be coming off prospect lists in 2022, one way or the other.