Bakersfield, Calif. -- The California League is a home run hitter's paradise, or so they say. Then again, if that's really the case, somebody forgot to tell Modesto Nuts outfielder Wes Rogers. The Colorado Rockies' farmhand—the club's fourth selection in 2014—is making the rounds in his first few weeks of High-A, and despite the reputation that precedes the circuit, don't expect the speedy outfielder to change his game.
That means eschewing attempts at raw power to set the table at the top of the Nuts' order. That means rangy outfield defense in center, tasked with covering a massive area at John Thurman Field. That means more speed on the base paths for the 22-year-old, who has already swiped 73 bags in his first 123 professional games. And that means more media attention as he finds new ways to score runs.
"I’m just trying to set the table and make the job easier for my teammates," Rogers tells me during the Nuts' recent road series in Bakersfield against the Seattle Mariners' High-A affiliate, downplaying his integral role thus far in the club's offense. "We’ve got some big hitters behind me, so I’ve just got to play my speed game and hope it works out for us."
That speed game has worked surprisingly well in Rogers' young career; the right-handed outfielder has thus far hit for average and gotten on base (with a career .296/.382/.419 slash line), and since being drafted out of junior college he's moved up a level per year to this point. Despite his youth, though, Rogers isn't approaching the game—or this particular season—in an immature way; he's already wise enough to understand what works for him and what does not.
"This kind of place is unique, but I just can't pay attention to the field," Rogers says when I ask him if Bakersfield's 354-foot fence is tempting to try for a cheap home run. "It doesn’t matter what field you’re playing at, you just kind of lock in to the baseball and get your best swing off. It doesn’t even matter about your approach as much, it’s just about being ready to hit."
And hit, he has. Two triples are included on the video of Rogers (above), filmed to show several of the outfielder's at-bats as well as multiple batting practice rounds throughout the Nuts' three-game series at Bakersfield's Sam Lynn Ballpark earlier this week.
That he wears the number 24 isn't the only reason you might think of Dexter Fowler when you see him, either; Rogers is athletic with some pop, long-legged and incredibly loose at the plate, and his bat speed and aggression in a table-setter role have thus far served him very well. Far better, in fact, than a more traditional leadoff approach centered on patience.
"That’s our philosophy, making sure you are in a position so you have the option to swing or not swing at every single pitch," Rogers says of his aggressiveness, seeming to understand that more often as he continues to climb the minor league ladder, he may only get one good pitch to hit in an at-bat.
"You have to always be ready to get your 'A' swing off, and hope it works out," he adds. "The more times you get your 'A' swing off, the more chances you have to get hits."
If you haven't assumed it by now, Rogers has been getting off quite a few 'A' swings this summer. Across his first seven games through Friday night's wild extra-inning affair in Modesto, he's a healthy 14-for-32 (.438), with seven runs, six stolen bases, and seven walks already to his name. To say he's stepped up his game against better competition is, then, an understatement in the early going.
"It really just started with my offseason," Rogers says of his hot start. "If you take the offseason serious, do your workouts, and you come in here, everybody gets better. You’re getting better with the competition."
"Baseball is always gonna be baseball," he adds, unable to wipe the smile off his face from the very beginning of our interview. "I’m just out here trying to have a great time."
So far, like everything else in the young season, that seems to be suiting Wes Rogers just fine.
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Below, you'll find more Wes Rogers video, taken three weeks ago at the Rockies' spring training facility in Scottsdale, Arizona. Please click here and subscribe to the Purple Row YouTube channel for many more prospect videos, too.