Under-the-radar Phillies outfielder quietly helping carry the team’s hot streak

Johan Rojas is breaking out of his slump and contributing at the plate during the Phillies' recent surge.
Philadelphia Phillies center fielder Johan Rojas
Philadelphia Phillies center fielder Johan Rojas / Jeff Dean/GettyImages

Philadelphia is a hub for underdogs and it looks like we have another one to root for. Phillies' center fielder Johan Rojas is breaking out after being heavily scrutinized coming into this year for his lack of offensive production.

The Philadelphia Phillies have a very young, speedy, athletic outfielder with a strong arm in their arsenal. Having a center fielder with those qualities is important, but the Phillies have struggled with how important it is when that player is not contributing offensively.

This is Rojas' second season in MLB. He debuted last July and dazzled in the outfield immediately, making an insanely impressive double play against the Padres. Rojas took advantage of the opportunity and proved he has what it takes to be a major league outfielder. The question mark was his hitting, especially after his abysmal postseason performance.

Heading into spring training, Rojas knew he had to prove himself at the plate. He put in work over the offseason, improving his hitting and strength. So much so that manager Rob Thomson had to comment on how much stronger Rojas looked.

Fans were optimistic after seeing a newly jacked Johan Rojas, but despite clear hard work, Rojas still struggled with the bat in spring training. He made it very difficult for the organization to complete the Opening Day roster, as Christian Pache was healthy and could have easily made the starting lineup over Rojas.

There was much debate regarding Rojas' position. A lot of fans wanted him sent down to Triple-A, but people close to the organization supported Rojas for his fielding, including legend Larry Bowa. Bowa made a strong case for Rojas, believing that his defensive skills were enough to keep him in center field and that the rest of the Phillies lineup should be able to make up for his lack of contribution.

Ultimately, the organization believed in Rojas and allowed him to improve in the big leagues this year. It was a shaky decision at first. He only had one hit in his first 25 plate appearances, and fans were screaming for him to be sent down. However, Rojas' determination and work ethic proved fruitful, as the last three weeks have been very productive for him offensively. 

Under-the-radar Phillies outfielder quietly helping carry the team’s hot streak

Rojas' .241 batting average is better than Bryce Harper, Bryson Stott, Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos. He's sneaking his way up the stat charts with 20 hits on the season, 13 in his last 11 games, four extra-base hits, 10 runs scored and seven stolen bases.

Since April 16, Rojas is hitting .302 with an .827 OPS and hit his first home run on Tuesday against the Angels in a clutch moment in the top of the ninth inning to put the Phillies on top and win the game.

To make the night even more special for Rojas, his parents were in attendance for the very first time in his career. They traveled from the Dominican Republic to witness their son play in the major leagues, and it did not disappoint.

Rojas credits Trea Turner for part of his recent breakout.

As Rojas was still slumping earlier this season, a story came out that Trea Turner took the time to work with him in the batting cages before a game against the Rockies. Since then, it has been night and day for Rojas, and he has given Turner a lot of credit for helping him turn things around.

The Phillies have been hot, going 7-3 on the recent road trip. Rojas was locked in, helping the team win with multiple big catches in center field, hits, runs, and stolen bases. Considering he's one of the fastest players on the team, if he can continue getting on base, he will make good things happen.

It's exciting to see this young man living up to his potential after all the critiques and hurdles he has faced. He stayed calm and focused even when things weren't going well, and it's starting to pay off. Rojas is making it easy for the organization to support their decision to give him an Opening Day roster spot. With his hard work, he'll keep improving in center field and at the plate, proving to the city of Philadelphia that he can contribute offensively just as much as defensively.