Phillies superstar helps Johan Rojas turn struggles into success

From one speedster to another, Trea Turner has taken on a mentor role for the young center fielder.
Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Trea Turner has taken on a mentor role for Johan Rojas
Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Trea Turner has taken on a mentor role for Johan Rojas / Rich Schultz/GettyImages

If there's one Philadelphia Phillies player who knows what it's like to work himself into and out of a slump, it's shortstop Trea Turner.

Now, the All-Star infielder has been helping 23-year-old outfielder Johan Rojas work on his mechanics at the plate.

In 2023, his first year in the big leagues, Rojas was a bright spot in the lineup, putting up a .302/.342/.430 slashline with a .771 OPS, two home runs, 23 RBI and 14 stolen bases in 59 games. By the time the playoffs rolled around, though, the youngster struggled to the tune of a .093/.114/.163 line with only four hits in 45 plate appearances.

During the offseason and spring training, there was talk about whether Rojas would even start the year with the Phillies or if they'd send him to the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs to get more reps and work on his offense.

With not even a full MLB season under his belt, Rojas was always going to need time to settle in. While there were calls for him to be removed from the lineup, it was clear that the outfielder's development hinged on getting consistent reps at the big league level. Now, there are signs that patience has paid off.

Through the first eight games of the season, Rojas was hitting .046/.160/.046 with a .206 OPS, one hit and six strikeouts in 24 plate appearances. From April 8 through April 25, he slashed .348/.388/.435 with an .823 OPS, six stolen bases and five strikeouts in 50 plate appearances. In that stretch, he had four multi-hit games.

He's also chasing less frequently. After chasing 40.4 percent of pitches out of the zone last season, that number is down to 37.4 percent this year, according to Statcast, though there's still improvement to be had in that area.

After Tuesday's game against the Cincinnati Reds, Rojas spoke with the media about his turnaround, as relayed by's Todd Zolecki: "I also want to thank [hitting coach Kevin Long] and Trea Turner, especially, for these adjustments. Trea and I talked about a couple things. I looked better as soon as we talked. I've felt better as well."

Phillies superstar helps Johan Rojas turn struggles into success

Ahead of a game against the Colorado Rockies last week, Turner spoke with the struggling Rojas in the batting cage.

According to Zolecki, they worked on two things: rotating his legs and following through, with Rojas saying: "During the game … it happens in only one motion. But during the cage work, we can think about that, first working on my leg rotation and then following up with the swing."

Early in the year, Rojas was noticeably swinging too hard at pitches, which they also talked about.

"[Turner] also told me to work smoother, not force things," Rojas said. "He told me to like, if you're going at 80 percent and you don't feel like you're doing it the way you want to, take it down a notch and go at 75 percent. I think that's where I'm at right now. I'm working at 75 percent of my capability on that so I can work on the game as well."

To help Rojas absorb the advice — which the outfielder noted hitting coach Kevin Long had already been working with him on — Turner showed the young outfielder videos of other players doing a similar motion, which helped the information sink in more.

After the day in the cage, Turner was asked about the conversation.

Tim Kelly of Phillies Nation relayed Turner's thoughts: "I talked to him in the cage for a while today and we worked on a couple things, and felt like they showed up pretty immediately. ... So he's got a lot of talent, he works hard and he's gonna be big for us."

Expanding on the idea of having these types of conversations with a young player like Rojas, the shortstop added that the conversation overall was positive as he and Rojas continue to learn about and from each other.

And Turner knows a thing or two about struggling in a Phillies uniform.

Trea Turner no stranger to struggling at the plate

The majority of last season, his first with the Phillies, was one of Turner's least productive years. Through the first 107 games, he slashed .235/.290/.368 with 10 home runs, 32 RBI and 115 strikeouts. On Aug. 4, after the fans rallied around him and gave him a standing ovation, he turned it around. From that point on, he slashed .337/.389/.668 with a 1.057 OPS, 16 home runs and 42 RBI in 48 games.

That increased productivity continued throughout the playoffs and into this season. Through 24 games, the 30-year-old is hitting .336/.388/.477 with a .865 OPS, two homers, nine RBI and six stolen bases.

And this wasn't the first time Turner helped Rojas with his mechanics.

In spring training, Long worked with Rojas to improve his approach at the plate, including keeping his head still and leading with his lower half on swings (subscription required), according to Alex Coffey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

At that time, Turner also spoke with the outfielder about utilizing his two-strike swing more often.

"It was more so pointing out to him that sometimes, when you're in the box, you think you're doing something when really, you're not," Turner said, per Coffey. "I think he really likes his two-strike swing, and it looks really good in the cage. So I was trying to get him to realize that he can hit like that before two strikes."

Turner is only three years out from winning the National League batting title, and his nine-plus years in the league means he has a lot of built-up knowledge to impart to the younger members of the ballclub.

Defense has always been a strength for Rojas, who literally attempts to run through the wall to make plays. If he can unlock his offensive game to its full potential, he'll be an All-Star in no time and, as Turner noted, a huge part of this team for years to come. And the more often he puts the ball in play, the more often he can wreak havoc on the basepaths.

Speed? Check. Defense? Check. Offense? Work in progress, but trending in the right direction.