The Yankees used their 11th round draft selection in 2015 to select 23-year old southpaw Josh Rogers from Louisville University and signed him to a deal above slot for $485,000.
As a polished college pitcher, the Yankees expected Rogers to move through the system quickly; he was assigned to Staten Island in the New York Penn League shortly after inking his deal with the Yankees. He went 1-0 with a 2.57 ERA with a 10/0 strikeout-to-walk ratio in seven innings of work. His dominance there prompted a promotion to Low-A Charleston where he tossed 6 1/3 innings there to close his campaign.
In his first full-season of pro-ball, Rogers opened the season back with the RiverDogs before earning a promotion to High-A Tampa in May. In four starts for Charleston, the lefty went 2-1 with a 1.59 ERA and held South Atlantic League opposition to a .171 batting average in 22 2/3 innings. Rogers made 20 starts down the stretch for the T-Yanks where he went 10-5 with a 2.53 ERA. In 24 total starts in 2016, Rogers went an impressive 12-6 with a 2.38 ERA with 115 strikeouts and just 22 walks in 136 1/3 innings.
Coming off a 2016 that caught the attention of many in the organization, Rogers began the 2017 season back with Tampa where he went 4-3 with a 2.22 ERA in eight starts before earning a well-deserved promotion to Trenton. The bump up to Double-A marked Rogers first taste of the minor league’s upper levels; typically a telling test for any young starter. In seven starts for the Thunder, Rogers went 4-2 with a 4.62 ERA before undergoing season ending elbow surgery.
“I had a little bone spur on the tip of my elbow,” Rogers told Pinstriped Prospects earlier this offseason. “It had been bothering me for some weeks up there. I feel like it affected me a little bit through the course of those weeks to the point where I just couldn’t do it anymore. I had to say something and get it evaluated and get it fixed. Now I am rehabbing it and hopefully will be back stronger next year.”
Rogers added, “I had been in Tampa for a while, and I felt like I had that league figured out a little bit and how to get those hitters out. The biggest difference that I saw was hitters discipline at the plate. They were able to put the breaking ball in play a lot more, and so I tried to have different approaches with those hitters; working fastballs in and off of the plate and I think locating the fastball is the biggest key in Double-A, for sure.”
Rogers has well-above average control, having walked just 41 batters in 241 1/3 innings of work in the system. He is equipped with a fastball, curveball, change-up arsenal that generates lots of weak contact. His fastball generally sits 88-91 MPH with some mild sink down in the zone. The change-up usually comes in between 83-85 MPH with late life; it is a pitch that he throws with good action and conviction at this point.
“I am not a guy who is going to run it up there at 95-96 like some of those guys are doing now up in the big leagues,” said Rogers earlier this offseason, “But learning to have confidence in it even if it is 89-91 MPH; a good located fastball whether it be down and away, up and in, is the best pitch in baseball. ”
Coming off of surgery to remove a bone spur in his elbow last summer, Rogers is fully healthy and will head into camp looking to pitch his first full-season in the systems upper levels. As he continues to develop his change-up and possibly learn a cutter, Rogers should open the season at Trenton where I believe he will spend a majority of the campaign.