Jake Rogers and Mike Ford: Deep League Wire

I love this time of the baseball season, as seemingly every day, another hitter is given an opportunity for full-time at-bats. It makes life in mono leagues more interesting as the free agent pool is typically so sadly thin that any injection of new talent is quite welcome. This week we have two new regulars to discuss.

Jake Rogers | C Det | CBS 7% Owned

The Tigers rolled with Grayson Greiner early on, but he stunk and then got hurt. So now it’s Rogers’ turn, the team’s 12th best prospect heading into the season. There’s some good news and some goodish bad news here.

The good news is Rogers’ prospect blurb began thusly:

A polished receiver and cat-like ball-blocker with a laser arm, Rogers was one of this century’s best defensive amateur backstops while at Tulane.

A catcher isn’t going to catch much, let alone make the Majors at all, if he’s brutal defensively, unless he’s elite with the bat. So Rogers’ strong defensive chops means that the Tigers will likely stick with him through offensive slumps and give him a much longer leash.

The goodish bad news is the next part of the blurb describing his offense:

A pairing of patience and pull power probably provides Rogers with a shot to approach the low offensive bar at the catcher position.

I bolded the most important part of the sentence. “Shot to approach the low offensive bar” is the most backhanded complement I have read in a while! So essentially, he’s weak offensively, but catchers are typically weak offensively, so he might have a chance to perform at the same level of weakness as the rest. That’s not what you want to read about a guy you’re thinking of picking up in your fantasy league.

But this was before the season, of course, and youngsters often improve rapidly each year in the minors. While I wouldn’t call Rogers’ improvement rapid, he certainly did improve. His ISO jumped back to well over .200 and he posted higher HR/FB rates at each level, a mark that has risen each minor league stint since his time at High-A in 2017. He has also been an extreme fly ball hitter, which is terrible for his BABIP, but great for his home run potential. He has struck out a lot, but they haven’t come with alarming SwStk% marks, so it might be more about being too passive than a penchant for swinging and missing.

To be clear, there’s little chance he contributes a positive batting average. However, there’s definite power here, and he should remain the starter the rest of the season. If you’re in an OBP league, his value gets a major boost given a history of solid walk rates.

Mike Ford | 1B NYY | 1% Owned

It’s an absolute testament to the Yankees that with all their injuries, they still rank third in baseball and the AL in wOBA. Yet another injury has forced the team to recall Ford and he figures to get regular playing time, at least until Edwin Encarnacion returns from what’s going to be a multi-week absence.

Ford isn’t much of a prospect, and he’s old at 26. But those late bloomers who breakout in the high minors often surprise when finally given an opportunity in the Majors. He has always shown excellent plate discipline in the minors, nearly always walking at clips well into double digits, while only striking out at a mid-teen rate. In fact, he’s walked nearly as much as he has struck out during his minor league career.

As a first baseman, though, plate discipline is great, but he also needs to display some power. That must have been why he’s first getting a shot now, right? Kind of, yes. Ford has generally posted low-to-mid teen HR/FB rates and an ISO just below .200. That’s perfectly acceptable in the Majors, but ain’t good enough to get a call-up by the Yankees.

So rather than continue as a lifelong minor leaguer, Ford decided it was time to take his offense to a new level (yes, he made that decision, because I said so). His Triple-A HR/FB rate doubled from 2018, while his ISO shot up to .300. All this while maintaining fantastic plate discipline, en route to a .417 wOBA. Now THAT will get you a call-up!

With all the injuries to the Yankees offense, Ford gets his shot to prove he’s worthy of remaining a big-leaguer, and better yet, a starter. He should already be a nice value in OBP leagues, and if he could prove his power surge at Triple-A is at least mostly for real, he’s going to earn some mixed league value.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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