Mel Rojas Jr started last night’s game on the bench, so he probably didn’t expect to collect three hits and drive in five runs, but that’s just what he did. Rojas has played well since joining Indianapolis, keeping up the fine season he started in Altoona. He has a .307/.385/.444 slash line in 84 games this year, with slightly higher numbers in AAA. This looks like it’s the breakout season most people have been waiting for with Rojas since he was taken in the 3rd round of the 2010 draft.
The other day, we featured a couple videos from Cole Tucker you can see here. Today we have an interesting video courtesy of the GCL Pirates fan page. This is Tucker hitting a ground ball to shortstop, so we get to see him going down the line full speed to leg out an infield hit. Including Friday’s game, which started at 10am, Tucker has reached base at least twice in all nine games he has played.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.
What does Rojas’ upside appear to be at this point? He is having a fine season. Does he have enough upside that he could be a decent trade piece?
Last year a scout told me that he thought Rojas would eventually be a 4th outfielder and he may be exceeding that expectation now. He just turned 24 in late-May, so the age is fine for AAA. Rojas has a lot going for him besides age. He’s a switch-hitter that can play all three outfield positions. He has decent speed, plus good size, which is why most people projected him to him for more power, so it’s still possible we could see that from him now that he is making more consistent contact. His .444 slugging % this season is the highest of his career. I say low estimate now is 4th outfielder, high estimate is serviceable starter, nothing special though, not All-Star upside because he doesn’t do anything great.
I wouldn’t mind hanging on to Rojas and plugging him in as the 4th OF next season behind our Big 3. Guy who can adequately play all three OF spots, has speed, and could be serviceable as a starter in the case of an injury, not to mention he’s a switch hitter. He could become that 4th OF that we hope Snider or Tabata would become.
Would hope they give him a shot at the 4th OF job in spring training – and would be nice to see if he could play 1st base efficiently – maybe fall league or winter ball – would increase his value – and might open a roster spot if he could serve as backup first baseman
Rojas will likely play Winter ball, he played in two different leagues this off-season, moving from the Dominican league to the Puerto Rico Winter League after his team was eliminated in the DWL. First base is highly unlikely from someone that can play all three OF positions well. Josh Bell playing there this off-season in the AFL seems much more likely
John: With Billy McKinney already gone in the Samardzjia trade, and Covelli nearing 35, can it be too long before Billy Beane comes calling? I hate to see him leave the Pirate Org, but like Josh Harrison, I think players need to go where they have an opportunity to start. Chicago will be dangerous in a few years with an infield of Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Starlin Castro, and Anthony Rizzo, and Billy McKinney in CF. They traded a now pitcher for a pitcher and 2 key position players for the 2 or 3 years from now plan, and Kris Bryant ate up AA and is now feasting on AAA pitching. Nice trade on their part.
Cubs also have Baez. I think the A’s would want someone with better plate patience than Rojas, but maybe he fits their plans. They could have Tabata for a bag of peanuts
Got to see and talk to both Tucker and Austin Meadows this past Tuesday. What good kids. Tucker was getting ready to play while Meadows was sitting out but both took the time to talk and seemed extremely excited that someone recognized them. Enjoyable experience!