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Rogers focused on adding more offense in '20

@beckjason
January 28, 2020

DETROIT -- Jake Rogers could get behind the plate for the Tigers on Opening Day and more than hold his own defensively. That has never been a question with the catching prospect. His offense -- of course -- is another matter. That’s why this offseason has been so important for

DETROIT -- Jake Rogers could get behind the plate for the Tigers on Opening Day and more than hold his own defensively. That has never been a question with the catching prospect.

His offense -- of course -- is another matter. That’s why this offseason has been so important for him.

One of the early tasks for new Tigers hitting coach Joe Vavra has been to work with Rogers on a hitting plan. Vavra and Rogers have been in contact this offseason as Rogers tries to put the pieces together on his swing before he gets heavy into catching duties when Spring Training begins in two weeks.

“It’s good in the offseason to get all that going and really focus on it,” Rogers said last week during the Tigers’ Winter Caravan. “Once Spring Training starts, you’re in the bullpens and doing live [batting practice sessions] and it’s just a little tougher.”

Rogers churned out two hits July 30 in his Major League debut, including an RBI single, then hit a solo homer the next day as part of a three-run performance to help the Tigers to a rubber-game win over the Angels. He hit 11-for-106 with 50 strikeouts the rest of the way, finishing with a .125 batting average.

By season’s end, he was alternating starts with Grayson Greiner, who had returned from the injured list and made a strong parting impression. They’ll both go into Spring Training behind free-agent signing Austin Romine, but Greiner is expected to get the nod as the backup, with Rogers getting regular playing time at Triple-A Toledo to try to polish his game.

Rogers’ offensive potential has been a question since his first season in the organization in 2018. He hit 17 home runs for Double-A Erie that year, but hit just .219 (77-for-352) with 112 strikeouts. His contact and walk rates improved last year in Erie, earning him a promotion to Toledo, but an admittedly rushed decision to promote him again to Detroit exacerbated the issues.

Though Rogers had a small sample size in his two months of big league work, the numbers gave some clues. His 26.8 percent chase rate was actually lower than the Major League average of 28.3, but his 46.6 percent contact rate when chasing pitches was well below average (59.6). He also swung at fewer pitches in the strike zone (59.6 percent, compared to 66.1 percent MLB average) and made less contact while doing so (78.4 percent, compared to 82.9 percent MLB average). Overall, while his swing rate was below average, his whiff rate was well above.

The Tigers have worked for a while to get Rogers on a line-drive approach to pitches. He now has a taste of MLB experience to work with.

“It means a lot to me, and I’m glad they gave me the opportunity,” he said. “Now it’s just [a matter of] working and trying to stay here. That’s the big thing. It’s going to be good.”

As far as Rogers is concerned, it’s a fresh start.

“New season, I’m excited to get it going,” he said. “Last year has come and gone. I’m ready to get a new one going and start up.”

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.