TDG Roundtable: To Trevor Rogers, Or Not To Trevor Rogers
The Roundtable is back! This week, Phil, Chris, Bob, Ben, and Jordan discuss the ups and downs of rostering Trevor Rogers and how they’re handling in dynasty leagues.
As always, thanks for reading.
What to do with Trevor J’Daniel Rogers? He was our 62nd overall dynasty player going into the season, and a top 100 pick in re-draft leagues, and after a promising 2021, everyone had stardust in their eyes when drafting him. He was a first-round pick, has baseball in his bloodlines (cousin of former Giant Cody Ross, who himself was a rare throw left/bat right, like Rickey Henderson and yours truly), but has stunk this season. Take his most recent game, on June 20th, against the Mets; he struck out seven, but allowed four runs, two walks, and five hits. That was only the second game, this season, that he struck out more than four.
Rogers is the victim of his own success in 2021, in this writer’s opinion. Never pitching at Triple-A, only pitching 26 innings at Double-A; he walks too many guys and doesn’t strike out enough to make up for it. I was not in on him going into the season at that draft price, and am way out now. But if you have him, put him on your trade block to see if someone still buys the hype. I would be looking for a first-round pick, or a top 50-100 prospect and I bet someone in your league still believes enough to cough up that much.
If you find yourself wondering what to do with Trevor Rogers, remember two things: TINSTAPP and that development isn’t linear. While those phrases are often thrown about, the TINSTAPP concept is mostly used in an injury-focused context. It also needs to apply to the roller coaster life of a pitching development. Trevor Rogers is a prime example after his utterly dominant start last year sprung him up dynasty lists. His performance crashed after some personal issues caused him to miss a month plus during July and August. The speed bump seemed short lived as he wrapped up 2021 with a 24.6% K-BB% and xwOBA of .264 in September, even better than some of his first half numbers.
During the off-season, many rankings either ignored Rogers’s rough summer months (like mine) or didn’t seem to factor them in. While his status has diminished as 2022 has progressed, I’m holding strong and there’s only one dynasty scenario I’m selling Trevor Rogers right now: If I’m competing for a championship and I don’t have bench flexibility. There’s nothing absurdly wrong with his advanced statistical profile (granted, except for minimal success). His spin rates and velo have maintained year over year so grip and injury don’t appear to be culprits. Everything I see points to a 24-year-old still learning how to be an elite starting pitcher. Just like last year, the switch can flip and he can return to his dominant ways. Hold Trevor Rogers wherever a 2022 dynasty baseball championship isn’t on the line.
Put on your detective cap, this week the TDG Roundtable digs through the data to try and figure out what the —- to do with Trevor Rogers. On the surface, we see a struggling pitcher who is having an awful season following his breakout 2021 campaign. His 5.83 ERA is doubled compared to last year, with support from the predictive and adjusted measures as well. He is striking out 2.5 fewer batters per nine innings and walking 1.5 more batters per nine innings. Differences this significant do not happen without a reason, so come along as we attempt to figure out the enigma of Trevor Rogers.
One of the first areas that jumped out to me is the large increase in batting average against this year. Opposing batters are hitting .273 in 2022 compared to .214 last season. A quick check of his BABIP shows no major change from last year so unfortunately he is not simply getting (very) unlucky. The hard-hit percentages and exit velocity numbers are pretty consistent this year compared to last, as well as the batted ball distributions (GB%/LD%/FB%). But despite this, there is a noticeable increase in Barrel% from 5.0% to 8.1% this year. So, it seems batters have been able to square up Roger’s pitches better this year. This might just be our first clue!
Rogers has been attacking batters with the same three-pitch mix so far in 2022, with a similar percent usage. Another quick check shows no major velocity drops on any of his pitches, but their pitch values are down across the board with significant drops on both his fastball and changeup. He is getting fewer “put-aways” with those two pitches specifically, which is likely what is driving down his overall strikeout percentage. With minimal changes to the make-up of his pitches, but significantly different results, the next likely culprit to investigate is location.
Here is where I really think we start to see something meaningful. Batter’s seem to be swinging differently against Rogers this year. Batters are swinging at fewer pitches outside of the zone, only by about two percent, but the contact they are making on those swings has increased by over 15 percent! This has resulted in his overall contact rate going up by over five percent, and when you give up more contact you are bound to give up more hits, and inevitably more, runs. Roger’s Statcast page offers a nice visualization with fringe plots showing location by pitch type from year to year. In 2021 you can see that each pitch type was located in tight groupings in different quadrants of the zone, but in 2022 the groupings are much less sharply defined and there appear to be a lot more pitches out of the zone. I think this sudden and apparent loss of control and command has led to a steep increase in Rogers’s walks and hits allowed.
So this was a long way of explaining why it’s so hard to figure out what the —- to do with Trevor Rogers. A lot of his underlying numbers are still solid, but I think this is an example where it just simply doesn’t matter due to poor location in and out of the zone. If the control and command improve I think he can return to a form much closer to 2021. If you find a disgruntled manager willing to send him to your squad for cheap, I say go for it. I always say baseball is a game of adjustments, and with it only being Roger’s sophomore season, hopefully, he can course correct and get back on the right path. I’m not quite out…yet.
I was not feeling great about Trevor Rogers a couple months ago. Most analysts were writing off his early-season struggles as no big deal, but I saw a lot of troubling statistical signs, and wanted to get value for him before it was too late. So at the end of April, I swapped him for a slumping Trevor Story in a dynasty league.
Obviously that worked out well, but you’re not getting Story for Rogers at this point. Try to trade him for another Trevor now and you’d be lucky to land Larnach. Perhaps that was an exaggeration for the sake of excessive alliteration, but Rogers’ value has definitely dipped.
If I still had him now, I’d probably hold on. It’s not because I see an immediate return to form. There’s nothing that promising in the numbers, as he’s failed to make it out of the fourth inning due to excessive walks in two of his last four starts.
But pitchers, especially young ones, are unpredictable. I’ve learned the hard way that you can’t trust them even when they look great and you shouldn’t write them off too soon when they struggle.
It’s definitely too soon to write off Rogers. He was legitimately one of the best pitchers in baseball in the first half of 2021. His 25.1% whiff rate on his fastball is very good, and even though his changeup and slider haven’t been as good as last year, they’re still potential out pitches. He’s only 24, his velocity hasn’t dropped, and the Marlins have a good track record with young arms.
I don’t know if Rogers will be great again next week, next year, or never. But as his value goes down, my interest in finding out goes up.
Trevor Rogers has struggled mightily this year and it is hard to see any reasons for optimism when looking at his 2022 performances alone. Whether by ERA, K% minus BB%, xFIP, or SIERA, he has been downright bad. However, it has only been 58 innings, and he was excellent in a much larger sample in 2021. The fundamentals underlying his stuff–velocity and spin rates–do not look significantly different from last year, aside from a small decrease in velocity and spin on his slider. His pitch mix also looks quite similar. FanGraphs Depth Charts projection still has him as a backend top 60 projected pitcher the rest of the season (according to their auction calculator using default settings), with a 3.88 ERA and a 9.11 K/9. I see no reason to dispute the Depth Charts projection, which basically has him regressing toward career norms (his career ERA, xFIP, and SIERA are all in the 3.80 to 4.00 range). He’s a good buy-low candidate, although he was ranked so highly in the offseason, often considered a top 100 dynasty asset, that many may still have too high an asking price on him–you should still be careful not to overpay.