Searching For Saves: Has The Twins’ Taylor Rogers Emerged As An Elite Closing Option?

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We all know that relievers come and go, and while we may enter the season thinking we have an elite option there’s a chance that he completely loses his role before April is over (just look at Blake Treinen, for example). So as we look at Taylor Rogers and wonder if he has emerged as one of the best relievers in baseball, a lot can change between now and the end of the 2020 season..

Will the Twins import an alternative? Will Rogers simply fall flat and lose his job? Or could he continue to thrive and emerge as one of the best relievers in baseball? First, let’s look at the numbers he posted in ’19:

69.0 IP
2 Wins
30 Saves
2.61 ERA
1.00 WHIP
90 Strikeouts (11.74 K/9)
11 Walks (1.43 BB/9)
50.6% Groundball Rate
.307 BABIP

It’s actually the second consecutive dominant season for Rogers, having posted a 2.63 ERA and 0.95 WHIP over 68.1 innings in ’18. It was the move to the closers role, as well as a step forward in all three skills we look for, that really caught our attention:

  • Strikeouts – 9.88 K/9 to 11.74
  • Control – 2.11 BB/9 to 1.43
  • Groundballs – 44.5% to 50.6%

He shifted from using his curveball to his slider, and how big of a change in usage you think there was depends on the site you use for your data. Regardless it’s clear that he developed into a sinker/slider pitcher, a move that makes sense as his slider represented his best swing and miss pitch (17.96% Whiff%) and is a solid secondary groundball offering (44.44% groundballs per balls in play).

Whether or not he can maintain this type of strikeout rate is questionable, though he was consistent all season long (11.57 K/9 in the first half, 11.97% in the second). Even a step back towards his ’18 mark would be enough, as he’s always shown elite control (2.26 BB/9 over 254.1 career innings) and has the ability to maintain this type of groundball rate.

As we said in the opening relievers come and relievers go, and it’s no guarantee that Rogers is even handed the closers role on Opening Day 2020. Being left-handed could also work to his disadvantage, though having proven he can get right-handed hitters out (.208/.251/.359) goes a long way. For now he has the makeup of a Top 10 option, and assuming he sticks in the role he’ll be highly valued on draft day.

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