Phillies outfielder proves his worth despite struggles at the plate versus the Braves

Johan Rojas' speed provided a spark for the Phillies offense in Sunday's 5-4 victory.

Philadelphia Phillies center fielder Johan Rojas
Philadelphia Phillies center fielder Johan Rojas / Rich Storry/GettyImages

One of the biggest question marks heading into spring training for the Philadelphia Phillies was the position "battle" in center field. Despite some struggles from each of the candidates who were primed to take the position, both Johan Rojas and Cristian Pache made the Opening Day roster.

So far, Rojas has been the club's starting centerfielder in each of the first three games. The Phillies value his defensive skillset and believe he can contribute offensively after making some offseason adjustments. It appears manager Rob Thomson will be sticking with his defensive savant in center field for now.

Despite not having a hit through three games, Rojas used his speed to provide the Phillies with a second chance as they won their first game of the new campaign on Sunday.

Rojas' speed changed the complexion of the game

Down one run in the bottom of the seventh inning, Bryson Stott drew a walk that was followed by a Brandon Marsh strikeout. Rojas came to the plate and hit a ground ball to Atlanta Braves' shortstop Orlando Arcia who began what was ruled on the field an inning-ending double play.

The play at first base was close, and the umpires went to review the play. They determined that Stott was indeed out at second base but overturned the call at first, and the Phillies' speedy outfielder was ruled safe.

The following four Phillies hitters — Kyle Schwarber, Trea Turner, Alec Bohm, and J.T. Realmuto — all singled, allowing the club to score three more runs and take a 5-3 lead. None of it would have been possible without Rojas' hustle. Many of his teammates had high praise for the 23-year-old.

Per Mark Macyk of, Bryce Harper credited Rojas and touted his hustle: “That’s a big moment. It extended the inning; that’s the way you play up here.”

Thomson also spoke highly of his center fielder. Corey Seidman of NBC Sports Philadelphia quoted the Phillies skipper speaking about Rojas and his performance in the club's first series:

"He’s battling. For the most part, he’s giving us good at-bats, and he’s dynamic, he runs the bases," Thomson said. "Just like that play right there, it kept the inning alive just because of his speed. He’s doing fine, for me."

While the base hits have not yet appeared, the Phillies seem happy with Rojas' play to this point.

Can Rojas find his offensive groove?

Eventually, the Phillies will need some offensive production from Rojas, not just on the base paths but also with his bat. He has never been regarded as a top offensive prospect, but his defense makes him valuable to a team with a potent lineup.

Rojas knows what he has to do to become a productive member of the offense. He worked with hitting coach Kevin Long in the offseason and during spring training to become a better hitter.'s Todd Zolecki noted that Long likes what he has seen from his speedy hitting project.

It is important to remember that Rojas does not need to be a .300 hitter to bring value to the lineup. He needs to get on base and have an improved approach so he's not an automatic out. If he can get on base for the top of the lineup, we will continue to see his value.