Yesterday, Rockies fifth starter, Esmil Rogers, pitched a gem against the Pittsburgh Pirates, going 7.1 innings while allowing only four hits, striking out seven and walking only one with an 11/6 GB/FB ratio. Granted, it was the Pirates, but their offense is improved from a year ago.
What was more impressive was the stuff Rogers took to the mound. Along with a mid-90's sinking fastball (94.4 MPH on average), he mixed in a slider, change and curve, getting swings and misses on every pitch but the changeup.
While Rogers was never an elite prospect and his numbers from last season leave much to be desired, there were some signs that point to him as a potential sleeper for the rest of 2011.
Mostly used out of the pen in 2010 (72 IP, 8 GS), Rogers posted a 6.13 ERA, but a very good 3.44 FIP. The disparity between the two stats derives mostly from an incredibly high .385 BABIP despite 8.25 K/9 and a league average walk rate. Rogers also only allowed five home runs in those 72 innings. Another number that led to his inflated ERA was an extremely low 56 percent strand rate, which was far from the major league average of 72.2 percent.
Along with the good strikeout numbers, Rogers showed the ability to keep the ball on the ground, inducing a ground ball rate of 52.2 percent.
While Rogers looks the part, he'll have to continue to learn to locate his pitches better to find prolonged success.
A converted infielder, Rogers has always had a plus arm, but his pitches have always needed refinement, the changeup in particular. The change may still not be a plus pitch, which could get him into trouble down the road. Location wise, Rogers seems to still be working on finding the right touch. This is what led to a 21 percent line drive rate against last season and is another aspect of his game that could hurt him this season.
If your team is looking to add a starter with some upside, take a look at Rogers. He has the fastball, curve and slider combo to rack up some above average strikeout numbers and he has a track record of keeping the ball on the ground and in the yard.