The last time the Tigers had a third-round pick from Tulane on its roster, it was 2005. A middle infielder by the name of Tony Giarratano debuted in the big leagues at age 22 for the Tigers. A lifetime .301 hitter in the minor leagues, Giarratano appeared in only 15 games for the Tigers and hit only .143. He was never heard from again.
The Tigers have bigger plans for another third-rounder out of Tulane named Jake Rogers. Rogers was one of the key pieces acquired in the Justin Verlander deal with the Astros in 2017. He came to the Tigers with a reputation as a defense-first catcher, but has displayed good power potential over the past two seasons in the minor leagues.
In addition, a hot start to 2019 has Rogers on the cusp of a big league call-up. Rogers was promoted to Triple-A Toledo this week after hitting .302 with 21 RBI’s in just 27 games at Erie. His OBP of .429 is also a career high.
Those that know Rogers know that he posses a personality that exudes confidence. He also possess unquestioned defensive ability. Very good pitch framing skills and a strong throwing arm are at the core of his abilities behind the plate. Rogers threw out an Erie record 50 base stealers last year and his lifetime percentage in the minor leagues in an eye-opening 49%.
The Tigers have not had game-changing skill behind the plate since Hall of Famer Pudge Rodriguez called Detroit home. Rogers’ defense in ready for the big leagues. Getting his bat to catch up is key.
After a rather uninspiring season at Erie last season offensively (.219/.305/.412), the Canyon, TX native rebounded this season to spark the call-up. With the Tigers moving on from James McCann this year, Grayson Greiner has assumed lead lead catching duties, but he has not provided much offense with his .200 average. The job appears to be there for the taking if Rogers can continue his upward arc at Toledo.
The Tigers are hoping he can. They need to see the Verlander trade bear fruit soon. Verlander was 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA in five starts for the Astros after the trade in 2017, and eventually put them over the hump in the post season as well.
The two other key components of the deal, RHP Franklin Perez and outfielder Daz Cameron have stalled a bit for the time being. Perez was considered the jewel of the trade, but had caused some frustration within the organization because he can’t stay healthy. He is still only 21 years old, so there is plenty of time. Cameron remains a sure bet to get to the big leagues at some point, but is currently hitting in the low .200’s at Toledo.
This was a trade that was consummated to fuel the Tigers rebirth. Hitting on two or more of the prospects received in return is a must to view the deal as a success.
Catching remains a premium position in the major leagues. The Tigers hope that Rogers’ uptick in offense this season is a sign that he is headed to Comerica Park sooner, rather than later.