Photo by Tony Capobianco

From first round high school draft pick to loser of an entire year of development right in to lights out rookie hurler for a major league club, having only spent 26 innings above the single A level. Despite all disruptions, Trevor Rogers is here and he is living up to his potential.

Last Wednesday afternoon at loanDepot park, Rogers cruised through a career high seven innings on just four hits, one walk and eight strikeouts. Since a rough first inning of the regular season which both he and Don Mattingly attributed to nerves, Rogers has allowed just eight baserunners while striking out 30 over 21 innings. His overall 22 IP, 4 ER, 31 K start to 2021 has him in some pretty special company. Only 46 other major league players have matched those numbers in their first four outings of a season. Some of their names: Nolan Ryan, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Randy Johnson and Tom Seaver. His stat line so far this season was only outdone by the likes of Jacob deGrom, Joe Musgrove, Tyler Glasnow and the man who he will oppose today, Corbin Burnes.

While Rogers was affective in the COVID stricken 2020 campaign, he was far from the guy we have seen so far this season. Don Mattingly attributes Rogers’ stark maturation to his ability to go to school, taking every ounce he could out of his seven starts last season.

“He really learned his lessons and went to work and made some big strides,” Mattingly said after Rogers’ last start. “He has been very mature about the way he goes about it. This guy’s stuff is really good.”

Mattingly also stated that every player that makes it as a major leaguer has a moment when they realize they belong. He believes Rogers is there.

We have stated before the quick maturation of Rogers’ changeup from a blueprint pitch in 2019 to a usable pitch in 2020. In 2021, the Rogers changeup is a downright weapon and he is beginning to utilize it more often. This is how the changeup was working like this his last time out:

Looking at that, it’s easy to see why Rogers threw the changeup 29% of the time in this start. Previously, he never went to it in more than 20% of a start. Last season, he only threw the pitch 9% of the time.

The fact that Trevor now has two plus-plus secondary weapons with which he can give hitters two completely different looks on top of his 95-97 mph fastball and the fact that he’s starting to mix them more interchangeably has elevated his floor and made a 2-3 starter ceiling very reachable. We may even be looking at ace potential here. It is surprising that many major sources still underrate Rogers. For example, he never ranked inside Pipeline’s top 100 prospects and The Athletic still ranks his stuff below league average. However, if he continues to get whiffs at a rate which currently places him third in baseball (bested by only deGrom and Lance Lynn) and in the 95th percentile in all of MLB per Statcast, those sources will be forced to recognize him as a strong Rookie of the Year candidate and a potential Cy Young candidate. The question is is this level of production sustainable?

Coming up through high school and through the minors, Rogers was always heralded for his advanced command tool. Today, that tool sits at 60 grade status and he is utilizing it on all three of his pitches. The big addition for him comes in his confidence to also deliberately throw pitches out of the zone and garner weak and sometimes foolish looking swings there. As Mattingly stated, Trevor is pitching with swagger, knowing he can play and succeed against the best hitters in the world. Of course, like any young pitcher, there will be some bumps in the road but all things considered, I believe Rogers is every bit the guy we have seen during this run.

Jose Devers Makes MLB Debut

On Thursday, the Marlins placed third baseman Brian Anderson on the 10-day IL with a left oblique strain. While he had been striking the ball on a pretty consistent basis, Anderson had been snakebitten at the plate, proven by a very hard luck .227 BABIP. Now, Anderson, at an important point in his contract with just two years of club control left, finds himself out of action. Oblique strains are tricky: some heal in a few days, some take a few months. Hope is that Anderson will be eligible to return when he is initially eligible early next month.

After he was held out of the lineup on the last game of the home stand which gave the Marlins a hint that he may need to miss time, Anderson’s roster spot became available the next day. This left the team with a few probable options.

First, the team could have realistically and retroactively placed Jorge Guzman, who suffered a setback in his rehab last week, on the 60-day IL to free up a 40-man roster spot and used that spot to get either Joe Dunand or Eddy Alvarez to the big leagues. They did not. This is good news for Guzman health wise, despite his recent setback.

Secondly, if the team was going to call up someone already on the 40-man, there was one glaring and obvious option: Isan Diaz. Isan was not a member of the taxi squad to San Francisco and remains at the ATS.

Instead, the Marlins made the move to activate 21-year-old Jose Devers, making him the third youngest active player in MLB. The younger cousin of Red Sox standout Rafael, Baby Devers has shown tons of promise in his MiLB career and during two spring training campaigns including this year when he bulked up a bit. Devers said that was his main focus over the offseason. He hung around Marlins camp all spring, showed improved physicality on top of his already plus hit and run tools. The career middle infielder even showed he’s capable of playing third base. However, Devers highest level of production in MiLB (not counting 11 games in the Arizona Fall League) has been A+ and, due to injury in 2019, he has been limited to 35 games there. It is worth noting that he was leading the Florida State League in batting when he went down 33 games into that injury plagued season in Jupiter two years ago.

So why the move to Devers instead of Isan Diaz? According to Don Mattingly, the club misjudged the severity of the injury to Anderson.

“We didn’t have Isan on the taxi and we wanted him to keep playing,” Mattingly said. “Andy we thought was the possibiltiy of being out a day, maybe two and obviously it was more than that. And then we are on the road. The timing of that kind of got us in a bind.”

Mattingly also would not commit to Diaz being a member of the taxi squad if and when he is sent back down.

“If he’s on the trip, he takes BP but he doesn’t play in games,” Mattingly said of the taxi squad, describing it as made up of ’emergency guys’. “You try to balance that taxi with these guys keep playing. If there is a serious injury, you want a guy that’s ready to go that’s been getting at bats.”

So where does this leave Isan within the organization’s plans? While it is tough to gauge at this point, one thing we know is that the Marlins organization has continuously preached something since the installment of Derek Jeter and Bruce Sherman as owners: versatility. Per the words of Kim Ng last month, we know that Isan has been getting time at third base to further his usage and make it easier for him to get into games, especially with what the Marlins have coming soon middle infield wise and with what is already here. When the minor league season starts and when Miami needs a roster spot, we would expect Isan to go down to continue to work on his swing without pressure while continuing to get part time reps at third.

For now, Isan Diaz is here and per Mattingly, his at bats have looked better and more relaxed.

Progress.

Minor League Rosters Announced

After breaking minor league camp on Friday, the Marlins today announced Opening Day rosters for each of their four minor league affiliates.

What do Daniel De Vivo and I think about these rosters? What are the top stories to watch at each affiliate? We will discuss in an all new episode of Swimming Upstream on Monday morning. Available wherever you get your podcasts.