June 21, 2024

Following his successful bid for the Phillies’ center field position during spring training, Johan Rojas has encountered difficulties with his batting performance. This is a familiar struggle for the 23-year-old, evident from his lackluster performance in the previous year’s postseason. Across 13 postseason appearances in 2023, Rojas recorded a .093/.114/.163 batting line, failing to hit any home runs or RBI and accumulating 15 strikeouts along with a -10.6% cWPA.

Phillies rookie Johan Rojas, destroyer of defensive metrics, is suddenly  their starting center fielder - The Athletic

Despite offseason efforts working alongside Phillies hitting coach Kevin Long to refine his swing, Rojas hasn’t demonstrated significant improvement at the plate this season, despite dedicating considerable time to batting cage work. Consequently, it seems prudent for the Phillies to send Rojas down to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, providing him with the opportunity to rebuild his confidence and form at bat.

In the current season, Johan Rojas has played eight games, but his batting performance has been subpar, evidenced by his .045/.160/.045 line with no home runs or RBI. He’s managed six strikeouts but did secure a stolen base. However, his offensive metrics are concerning, with a -40 OPS+, a -28 wRC+, and a .122 wOBA.

To put this into perspective, his performance last year was significantly better, boasting a .302/.342/.430 line with two home runs and 23 RBI in 59 games, alongside a 109 OPS+ and a 109 wRC+, along with a .335 wOBA. Despite assertions from Phillies manager Rob Thomson and President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski that Rojas had to earn his spot during spring training, the competition didn’t seem particularly fierce.

It was widely expected that Rojas would secure the center field position, making it challenging for others to contend for the role.

Although Johan Rojas has demonstrated strong defensive skills, his offensive performance falls short of justifying his place on the Phillies’ 26-man roster. On a positive note, in his 64 games in center field throughout his career, Rojas has saved 16 defensive runs, suggesting he holds the potential to become a standout outfielder defensively, possibly earning a Gold Glove in the future. However, for Rojas to secure a regular starting role with the Phillies over the long term, he must show improvement at the plate.

To address his offensive shortcomings, a stint in Triple-A with Lehigh Valley presents an ideal opportunity for Rojas to refine his skills. He was called up directly from Double-A Reading last season due to Cristian Pache’s injury, hence missing out on Triple-A experience.

While his immediate promotion was necessary under the circumstances, now it’s prudent for Rojas to spend some time in Triple-A. In the interim, Whit Merrifield or Pache could join Brandon Marsh and Nick Castellanos in the Phillies outfield.

A period in Triple-A will afford Rojas the chance to adjust to major league pitching, a transition that may have contributed to his struggles given his direct jump from Double-A. By demonstrating improvement in Triple-A, Rojas can better prepare himself for a return to the majors.

Notably, in Double-A last season, he boasted a .306/.361/.484 batting line with nine home runs and 45 RBI across 76 games, showcasing his potential. Additionally, his success with 30 stolen bases underscores an area where he’s shown promise.

One aspect where Johan Rojas could notably enhance his performance is his strikeout rate. In the current MLB season, Rojas has posted a 24.0% strikeout rate, while last season saw him at 25.6%. Comparatively, his highest strikeout rate in the minors was 19.7% during the 2021 season in Class-A. This represents a critical area for improvement.

Additionally, there’s ample room for growth in Rojas’s power output. Thus far, he hasn’t achieved a double-digit home run season at any level within the Phillies organization. Bolstering his power could lead to increased run production, as Rojas has yet to surpass 50 RBI in a single season at any level while with the Phillies.

A stint in the minor leagues could provide Rojas with the opportunity to reset and refine these aspects of his game. This move would benefit both him and the Phillies in the long run. Therefore, it’s advisable for the Phillies to option Rojas sooner rather than later, facilitating his development while strengthening the team’s overall performance.

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