Catching prospect Rogers brings a lot to like

Lesser-touted prospect in Verlander trade has impressed Astros, Tigers alike

February 17th, 2018

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The news came in a hurry for , just as he was wrapping up his season in the Astros' organization. A midnight phone call to say you've been traded will do that.

"There were a lot of emotions going on," he said. "It was very last-minute and when it happened, it was crazy when everything went down."

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Rogers' boss, on the other hand, had been weighing it for a while. Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow knew the team would have to give up good talent to convince the Tigers to trade and pick up part of his salary. Their catcher of the future was part of the price tag.

"He has the ability in my opinion to be a frontline, everyday catcher in the big leagues," Luhnow said of Rogers this week. "And I think that opinion is shared by the Tigers' evaluators. We did not take it lightly, trading our catcher of the future. That was a difficult pill to swallow. But that was what it was going to take to get Justin Verlander, so we had to do it.

"But I can't say enough good things about him. He's not going to be a catch-and-throw guy only; he's going to hit. He receives well, he blocks, he frames. He has a chance to be a very complete catcher."

The Tigers already had some good young catching, with entering his prime seasons as a team leader in Detroit, approaching in Triple-A Toledo and two talented catchers just drafted in June. But if the Verlander trade was going to bring back impactful young talent, Rogers' potential justified being part.

Rogers was the best defensive catcher in his Draft class in 2016 out of Tulane, and the third-round pick who played up to the billing last year, throwing out 46 percent of attempted basestealers. More surprising, he hit .261 with 25 doubles, 18 homers, 70 RBIs and an .817 OPS between A-ball levels.

"He was a very advanced college catcher," Luhnow said. "He came into our system and immediately demonstrated that he was going to be an advanced Minor League catcher. He worked with a lot of our young pitchers."

Now, as the Tigers stockpile pitching at the middle levels of their farm system, they have a catching prospect to parallel them. Rogers enters the season ranked fifth on MLB Pipeline's list of top catching prospects and seventh overall in the Tigers' system. His defense rated best of the bunch.

Before he gets to work with potentially Franklin Perez, Beau Burrows, Kyle Funkhouser and others, Rogers is trying to learn and others in his first Major League camp while learning from McCann, and other veteran catchers along the way.

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"I've met a lot of guys over these past couple days," Rogers said. "Just trying to get to know everybody, know their strengths, know their weaknesses and pick some brains and get after it."

The Tigers have put him to work, using him to catch prospects and veterans alike in early sessions. He has taken on the responsibilities new pitching coach Chris Bosio places on his catchers to work with and help develop pitchers.

"You cannot win without good catchers," Bosio said. "They're the guys that I rely on, probably more than the pitching staff, to help these guys. They're not a catch-net. They're a guide. They're a leader. They're the only player on the field with everybody in front of them."

That's part of what drew Rogers to the position in high school after playing a lot of shortstop and center field as a kid. He had plenty of Major League catchers he could have idolized for the way they hit. He loved watching Yadier and for the way they caught, so he watched and learned.

As he takes in big league camp, he's still watching. The Tigers, meanwhile, are watching him. And so, too, might a few folks with the Astros.

"All the reports that we got from our roving catching instructors and our managers was that he's going to be a team leader in the big leagues," Luhnow said.