'On a mission': Rogers named NL ROY finalist

November 9th, 2021

When Spring Training began 10 months ago, members of the Marlins’ organization kept saying to watch out for one player in particular: .

That came as a surprise to some considering the seven-start stretch in 2020 to open Rogers' big league career. Though he posted a 6.11 ERA and a 1.61 WHIP, he showed flashes of his potential with a 12.5 K/9 rate and a mid-90s fastball. Rogers lived up to the hype, earning a spot in the Opening Day rotation after a strong Grapefruit League showing.

But he walked four batters in a three-run first inning during his season debut against the Cardinals, causing the southpaw to doubt his ability. With his parents in the stands for the first time, he wondered whether he was cut out for The Show.

"Head down, I'm like, 'Here we go again,'" Rogers recalled during the final weekend of the season. "I'm like, 'Man, I'm not pitching well, I can do better.' Just struggling. And then I got sat down on the bench and [manager Don Mattingly] came up to me and he's like, 'Hey, it's only going to get better from here. You've got to go out there and compete. We're going to win this game. It's a marathon, it's not a sprint.' He had the confidence in myself, and made me have the confidence in me to go out and get the job done."

Rogers wasted no time turning things around, outdueling two-time National League Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom in his next outing. By season's end, Rogers paced NL rookies in ERA (2.64), innings (133), strikeouts (157), WHIP (1.15) and batting average against (.218) in 25 starts.

On Monday night, Rogers was rewarded for his efforts by being named a finalist for the NL Rookie of the Year Award, as voted on by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Cardinals outfielder Dylan Carlson and Reds second baseman Jonathan India also are up for the honor.

The winner will be announced exclusively on MLB Network on Nov. 15 at 6 p.m. ET.

"The conversations that we had over the winter, there was something in the back of my mind that said, 'This guy's on a mission,'" pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. said earlier in the year. "He really has a grasp and an understanding of what he needs to do to get to that next level and get over the hump."

Rogers, who turns 24 on Saturday, looks to become the fifth ROY winner in franchise history, joining left-hander Dontrelle Willis (2003), shortstop Hanley Ramirez ('06), outfielder Chris Coghlan ('09) and the late José Fernández ('13). He already has been named to MLB Pipeline's All-Rookie First Team.

A stellar April and May led to NL Rookie of the Month honors, made Rogers the early frontrunner and earned him a spot in the All-Star Game. Unfortunately, family health matters kept him away from the mound for just more than a month. In his first three starts back, Rogers posted a 4.97 ERA (12 2/3 IP, 12 K). In his final two starts, he looked more like himself with a 1.74 ERA (10 1/3 IP, 16 K).

"That's good to see the consistency starting to come back," Mattingly said following Rogers' last outing. "You can tell he's kind of starting to get back into the groove. Obviously the year is coming to an end, but you're starting to see the guy that we saw in the first half, where he's able to use his fastball, his changeup's there, slider when he needs it."

Since the mound was lowered in 1969, only six rookie pitchers have matched Rogers’ season-total wins (seven) and strikeouts, while recording as low an ERA. Five of them have gone on to win the NL ROY Award: Fernández (2013), Hideo Nomo ('95), Dwight Gooden (‘84), Fernando Valenzuela (‘81) and Jon Matlack (‘72).

"Just a great year," Rogers said. "Looking back on 2020, I had a high ERA, confidence was a little low, kind of curious if I can even compete at this level. Coming into this year, I learned a lot, first full season in the big leagues. And having the success that I've had is just thanks to Mel, my pitching coaches, the trainers, strength staff and my team overall. They really got me through this process, and I'm really thankful for them. I learned a lot, and I'm ready to take this into the offseason and build onto next year."