Mel Rojas Jr. was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the third round of the 2010 MLB draft. The son of the former big league closer had a ton of tools, including the ability to play center field, and the potential to hit for some power, but was considered very raw at the time he was selected. He struggled in the lower levels, and didn’t do so well in his initial jump to Double-A. Then, in 2014, he finally put things together in Altoona, hitting for power, seeing an increase in his walks, and finally translating the tools and raw skills to on-field production.
If you think this story sounds very familiar to the story of Keon Broxton, then you would be correct.
Over the weekend, I profiled Broxton in a video feature, noting that everything came together for him in 2014. It’s pretty much exactly the same story as Rojas. In fact, Broxton was also a third round pick, being selected in the 2009 draft. Both players were highly rated prospects in their system in the lower levels, all due to their potential. And neither player showed his potential until 2014 in Altoona. The link above tells what worked for Broxton this year. The video below talks with Rojas and 2014 Altoona hitting coach Ryan Long about what worked in his case.
Earlier this week, I was asked what the difference was between the two players, and how they compare. They both have similar stories, and they both play the same positions, but the comparisons pretty much end there. I will add the disclaimer that I’ve been following Rojas closely since he was drafted, and have seen him several times every year since his debut in 2010. So I have much more experience seeing him than Broxton. But that’s not why we ranked him almost 20 spots higher than Broxton in our top 50 in the 2015 Prospect Guide.
From a statistical standpoint, Rojas has the edge. Even in his down years, he didn’t have horrible strikeout rates, and had decent walk rates. His approach at the plate always looked good, never resulting in a strikeout rate above 22.2%. Meanwhile, Broxton can draw walks, but has never been below 25.4% with his strikeout rate. Defensively, both can play all three outfield positions, although I favor Rojas in center due to his range and arm. The Pirates seem to feel the same way, since they had Rojas getting more time in center when both were with Altoona.
Broxton seems like he has more power potential, due to a tall, projectable frame. He has already produced more power than Rojas has seen. He has also been a more effective base stealer, with Rojas seeing his numbers completely drop off in the upper levels as he has filled out.
There are two different player profiles here. Broxton is more high risk and high reward. He’s got more power potential, but the higher strikeout rate will make it difficult for him to maintain hitting for average in the upper levels, and might lead to more inconsistent performances like we saw in 2014. Meanwhile, Rojas has a lower upside, but seems like a safer bet. If his increased walk rate is for real, then he’s a guy who has a better chance to hit for average, get on base, and play solid defense at all three outfield spots. Add to that his ability to hit for some power, and he looks like a strong fourth outfielder, and potentially a starter on a weaker team. Meanwhile, Broxton looks like he has a small chance at being a starter, which would require a drastic reduction in his strikeouts.
Check out the video below to find out what worked for Rojas in 2014.