In my last post, I detailed the evolution of Ryan Pressly, specifically the evolution of his curveball. Now, I’m going to talk about another curveballing reliever on the Twins who blossomed this year: Taylor Rogers.
Rogers separated himself from other Twins prospects with consistently low walk-rates in the minors. In 541 innings in the minors, his walk rate was a mere 2.3 per nine. That being said, his strikeout rate of 7.0 per nine left something to be desired.
Upon being called up to the majors this year, however, Rogers recorded a 9.39 K/9 in 61.1 innings. One reason for this is that 87 of Rogers’s 99 appearances in the minors were starts, and all 57 appearances of his in the majors were of the relief variety. Thus, his velocity improved steadily throughout the year, which is what happens to most starters-turned relievers. Check out the changes in velo for his two most used pitches:
Speaking of his two most used pitches, Rogers threw his curve quite often. According to FanGraphs, Rogers threw the second highest percentage of curves (43.0%) this year amongst pitchers with at least 60 innings, sandwiched between the esteemed curveballs of Lance McCullers (49.5%) and Rich Hill (42.4%). Despite throwing it so often, he still managed to generate a 15.7% swinging strike rate, where 10% is considered good for a curveball. This was backed up by a solid 42.3% O-Swing percentage.
This curve is truly a plus pitch. Hitters managed only a 47 wRC+ against it, with an average exit velo of only 85.2 MPH. It has solid movement: of the 222 pitchers who threw at least 100 curves this season, Rogers’s deuce had the 19th highest spin rate on average. The pitch was also above average in that group in the following categories (according to Brooks, and they had 226 pitchers with at least 100 curves thrown): pop-up rate, whiffs per swing, fouls per swing, horizontal movement, and swing rate. That last category shows that, despite throwing the curve very often and it being swung at very often, Rogers has still managed to maintain excellent results. His curve has the seventh highest swing rate in that group (our friend Ryan Pressly ranks first). Here’s some footage of the bender:
So, the curve is nice, but I’m not sure I see Rogers keeping up the high strikeout rate. The best predictor of future strikeout rate is swinging strike rate, and Rogers didn’t have any pitches that were above average other than his curve. His two and four-seamers generate 2.4% and 1.0% swinging strike rates, respectively. His two-seamer had the seventh lowest swinging strike rate of the 273 pitchers who threw at least 100 sinkers last season. That’s terrible! Overall, his swinging strike rate was only 7.8% this season, and league average is over 10%.
However, he was awesome at getting called strikes–he had the 12th lowest (!) Z-Swing% amongst the 272 pitchers who threw at least 60 innings this year. This is a trait often shared by curveballers. Rich Hill (42.2% curves) ranked sixth there and Aaron Nola (33.8% curves) ranked second. Although this can be sustainable, it’s harder to predict and less impactful than swinging strike rate.
The improving fastball velocity is encouraging, though, and he’ll get a few extra ticks on the pitch as he moves to the bullpen full-time. Along with improvement there, the swinging strike rate should improve as well for the fastballs (they can’t really get much worse!). Pair that with an already plus curveball for the 25-year-old, and the skills should certainly improve next season. However, look for that strikeout rate to come down a bit.
Data from FanGraphs, Brooks Baseball, Baseball Prospectus, and Baseball Savant. Video from mlb.com. Picture from 1500espn.com, AP photo/Tony Gutierrez.
Thanks for reading!