Sunday, November 4, 2012

Who is Esmil "Ted" Rogers?

Today, word came down that the Blue Jays have sent newly acquired infielder Mike Aviles and Brazilian utility man Yan Gomes to Cleveland for (what else) a Dominican born,2 7 year old relief pitcher - Esmil Rogers.

Photo: Jack Dempsey/AP Photo

Rogers was originally signed by the Colorado Rockies as an infielder in 2003 and began his pro career in the Dominican Summer League in 2003.  He played three seasons in the DSL without much success with the bat.  In 2006, the Rockies converted him into a pitcher and put up some pretty awful numbers in the Advanced-Rookie Pioneer League.  He spent the next two seasons as a starter in the minors and fared much better.  In the South Atlantic (Low A) League, he made 18 starts in 2007 and posted very respectable numbers, including a 3.75 ERA, a 1.42 WHIP, and struck out 90 in 117.2 innings.  In 2008, Rogers was promoted to Modesto in the California league (Advanced A) where he built on the successes of the previous season.  He made 25 starts, amassing 143.2 innings, lowering his WHIP to 1.33, and striking out 116 batters.  In 2009, he split the season between Tulsa of the Texas League (AA) and Colorado Springs of the Pacific Coast League (AAA), and despite some ugly numbers in AAA, he made his major league debut starting the game on September 12, 2009 with 4 innings of 2 run ball. 

In 2010, Rogers split time between the Rockies and their AAA affiliate putting up numbers that may very well be altitude-inflated, and 2011 was more of the same, despite a stint on the disabled list for a lat muscle strain.  Rogers has only really found success at the major league level while pitching in Cleveland for the last half of 2012.  He posted far better numbers in his 53 innings in Cleveland than he ever did in Colorado. 

Rogers tends to keep the ball on the ground (a good thing for a pitcher in Colorado) and in 2012, his first full year as a reliever, was able to strike batters out at a rate of more than 1 per inning and 24% of all batters he faced.  In Colorado, walks had always been a problem for Rogers but he seemed to figure that issue out in Cleveland.  Whether that's an aberration or a permanent fix is unknown at this point, however, from a couple of the appearances that I watched (from September of this year), Rogers' control isn't pinpoint, and he will probably need to be more precise pitching in the AL East.  Interestingly, in 2012, right-handed batters hit better off of him (.817 OPS) than lefties (.676 OPS).

I watched a couple of Rogers's appearances (courtesy of my apparently still valid subscription to and noted that Rogers is a hard throwing righty (averaging over 95) whose velocity seems to come very easily.  His delivery is quite the opposite of a "drop and drive"er like Casey Janssen.  He stands up tall, pitches without much of a wind up and seems to fall off towards first base a little bit (much like Kyle Drabek does when he's struggling) as he follows through.  I noticed a fastball that hit 96 without much apparent effort, a curveball in the low-mid-80s, and a slider in the high-80s.  I couldn't really tell how much movement his fastball had on it.  I noticed that Rogers was most effective when he kept the ball down (like every pitcher), particularly with his slider.  There were a couple of times that he left it up and hitters were all over it.  I liked what I saw out his curveball -- it had quite a sharp break to it and it looked like there wasn't really any difference in his release point or delivery when he threw it.  If he's coming out of the pen full time, there's no reason that his good heat and good curveball shouldn't suffice on their own. 

Daniel George at Jays Journal commented that he thinks that Rogers could take Carlos Villanueva's role as a long-man and spot starter should he sign elsewhere.  Rogers has started 22 games in the majors although the numbers aren't promising (caveat: all the starts were in Colorado). 

From what I saw and what the Cleveland numbers say, Rogers could be a very useful pitcher in the 2012 Toronto bullpen.  Or he could be part of another trade.  It's still early in the off-season.

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