For Philadelphia Phillies star rookie Johan Rojas, it has certainly been quite the debut so far for the 23-year-old. He has certainly impressed from the defensive sides of things, but his offensive output has been a welcoming surprise as well.
Apparently, his successful approach at the plate didn’t just come overnight, as Rojas had spent numerous hours working with his coaches on making adjustments to his swing that has led to his early success in the majors to date, as revealed in a recent interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Earlier this year in Spring Training, Rojas was among the first round of cuts following just two weeks of games. For someone who was supposedly a star in the making and currently ranked fifth in the Phillies’ Top MLB Prospects list, it was definitely unexpected as everyone, including Rojas himself, probably thought he deserved a longer leash.
However, the Phillies believed it would be invaluable for one of their top outfielder prospects to put in some work with their minor league hitting coaches that could end up paying dividends in the long run. After all, they already know they have elite level defence in Rojas, but what he needed to work on was producing an effective swing that can flourish at the major league level.
Rojas recalled how he went through a few meetings with minor league hitting coach Tyler Henson and the director of hitting development Luke Murton to undergo the transformation of his swing.
"I remember we talked with my bat, how it’s going to the point of contact. They showed me video of me before. My bat was fast, but just the angle was different. It’s more even and down [through the hitting zone]. It’s truer for putting the ball from gap-to-gap and getting it more in the air."
Together, they pointed out that the barrel of his bat lagged behind at it entered the hitting zone, leading to more ground balls than line drives.
"We talked about some bat-path stuff and how we could make him a little more efficient and give him basically a shorter route to the ball,” Murton said. “Johan definitely took to it very quickly. He worked very hard. At the end of the day, he deserves all the credit. We gave him a little bit of information, and he took it and ran with it and he’s done great with it."
In doing so, Rojas showed obvious signs of improvement in his hitting, as for the 2023 season with the Phillies Double-A affiliate Reading Fightin Phils, he posted a strong .306 batting average, along with an .845 OPS, 56 runs scored, 20 doubles, five triples, nine home runs, 45 RBI and 30 stolen bases. This was a drastic improvement when compared to his previous professional baseball seasons in which his batting average never reached above .265.
After being called up by the Phillies following the All-Star break, he has taken on the job and is running away with it since then as Rojas has evolved into a key contributor for the ballclub. In 25 games, Rojas has hit .290 with a .744 OPS, with nine runs scored, five doubles, one home run, 13 RBI and five stolen bases, with the end product of his adjustments looking like this.
Obviously at still such a young age, there’s still a learning curve for Rojas to go through as his ground ball rate is still close to 49%, but with the production that he has been providing the Phillies, they definitely believe he will be able to hit more line drives as he matures more at the plate. In due time, we shall see if Rojas can put it all together in his road to stardom down the road, but for now, we definitely like what we have seen so far for sure.