As tough as the Brewers have been to to watch lately (hooray for waiting until the series finale to score), this September has sure had its fair share of “overcoming the odds” stories. The latest came out over the weekend, when Ken Macha announced that former first round pick Mark Rogers will be making his first major league start against the Florida Marlins.
While they don’t compare in terms of stuff, perhaps Rogers can follow the route Chris Narveson took to a full-time gig in the starting rotation.
Like Rogers, Narveson was once a top pitching prospect who had his career derailed with injuries. He got a chance to start last September and pitched very well, allowing him to compete for a rotation spot this spring. While that competition ultimately proved to be a sham when Jeff Suppan was named the winner, Narveson stepped in when the Suppan experience went awry and hasn’t looked back.
While Rogers has always had major league stuff, injuries were a problem, and for awhile it seemed like he’d never pitch again. Taking him fifth overall in what turned out to be a relatively disappointing draft, the Brewers passed on the likes of Jered Weaver, Billy Butler, Stephen Drew, and Phil Hughes when they took him. Of course, many of those guys dropped due to signability concerns, so it probably isn’t fair the criticize the Brewers for passing on them, even if things would look a lot better with Weaver or Hughes in the rotation.
Still, first round picks are largely judged on whether or not the player makes the major leagues. Had Rogers not been able to work his way back, it would have been viewed as a wasted pick, and especially disappointing considering the lack of homegrown pitching in Milwaukee.
While the durability questions still remain (I’m not convinced he still has a future as a starter), I do think he can make the transition to the bullpen and be a borderline dominant reliever, much like Zach Braddock.
Of course, I hope Rogers proves me wrong. Between him, Jeremy Jeffress, and some of the other pitching prospects in the minors, the Brewers have a whole lot of guys who can throw hard, but not many that project to be full-time starters. It’d be nice if one or two of them manage to stick in the rotation, and Rogers can take a step towards competing for a rotation spot next spring with a strong start.
All indications are that this start is a one-off thing, but if he can give the team five strong innings, he may be in the rotation discussion next spring.