Lancaster, California —— Wes Rogers looks like a completely different player this year.
Always a speedy, supremely athletic outfielder, the Colorado Rockies prospect has added some pop to his game compared to his first run in the California League last summer, when he hit just .255/.339/.359/.699 over 125 games (487 at-bats) with the Modesto Nuts. Now finding himself with the Rockies’ new affiliate here, the Lancaster JetHawks, the former fourth round (2014) pick is starting to come into his own with a better handle on the bat and a renewed ability to do damage with tools other than speed.
Sure, you can attribute some of Rogers’ .314/.372/.485/.858 stat line through 81 games this summer to the supremely beneficial offensive conditions in Lancaster. But that doesn’t tell the entire story, for Rogers looks bigger, stronger, and even more athletic with a significantly improved ability to hit line drives compared to the outfielder I watched roam in Modesto a year ago.
“It’s just more at-bats, and more baseball, man,” Rogers told Baseball Census about his strong summer, downplaying the sweeping changes. “The more you play, the more you understand how to move your body, how to use your swing, and how to be a smarter, more efficient baseball player.”
“But I focused on a different style of workouts this offseason, too,” he conceded when pushed about looking stronger this year. Listed at 6’3” and 180 lbs., Wes Rogers will likely forever be a long, lanky guy—he’s just slightly less lanky now.
“I did more CrossFit-type stuff [this offseason], focusing on the longevity of the muscle as opposed to bulking up,” Rogers continued. “That bulking stuff kind of goes away as soon as the season starts when you go through spring training. I feel a lot better. I feel stronger, and I’ve been able to get after it.”
That’s done wonders in a variety of ways for the outfielder. For one, new workouts haven’t diminished Rogers’ speed one bit, as he’s already swiped 48 bases in 2017, nearly double the second-best total in the Cal League—25 stolen bases by teammate Garrett Hampson.
His flashy footwork has dazzled in the outfield, too, where Rogers has been tasked with patrolling The Hangar’s vast expanses in left and center field, undoubtedly proving him able to cover enough ground should he reach Coors Field one day soon.
But beyond that, a stronger frame has given Rogers the ability to do more at the plate without pressing for it, and he’s able to cover the plate better and hit the ball to all fields more consistently than the player who sometimes struggled through long offensive stretches a year ago.
“My approach has become better pitch to pitch,” he acknowledged. “I’m staying in my hit zone better, and I’m better focusing pitch to pitch, waiting to hit that fastball. I’m not letting the umpire dictate my at-bat as much, I don’t care about what the pitcher is doing, and I have superior plate coverage now. I feel like I can hit everything.”
“And I know it’s working when I’m able to hit home runs or hit for power when I’m not trying to do it,” he continued. “It doesn’t take a big, muscly effort. It just kind of comes out in your swing.”
Again, without question, there’s a bit of a Lancaster component to the fact that Wes Rogers has seen his slugging percentage jump 130 points compared to a year ago hitting in a pitcher’s park. But it’s not so much that the Colorado Rockies prospect is hitting high, cheap fly balls and letting them carry over the fence; rather, he’s doing a better job finding the barrel and hitting line drives that he can then leg into easy doubles thanks to his plus speed.
Now 23 years old and firmly having proven his 80-plus games here are a world away from the player who struggled last summer, Wes Rogers may not be long for the Cal League, either. He’s not too worried about that, though.
“For me personally, it’s not even a race to get to Double-A,” Rogers said. “You get there when you get there, and they’ll bring you up when you’re ready, but you’re not rushing to get to Double-A, or even the big leagues. You’ll get there when you get there, and when you’re prepared to get there. You just take it day by day, and perfect your craft, and do as well as you can at it.”
To that end, perhaps the Colorado Rockies will soon make that call, for Wes Rogers has perfected his craft about as well as can be expected in the Cal League right now.
What a difference a year makes.