Rockies' Rogers turning heads with his legs

Outfield prospect led professional baseball with 70 steals in '17

Wes Rogers was a 2017 California League midseason and postseason All-Star. (K. Ross Way/Lancaster JetHawks)

By Michael Leboff / | January 10, 2018 10:00 AM

In the Statcast era, it seems like just about everything can be measured or quantified. Launch angles, route efficiency and exit velocity are part of baseball nomenclature now, with more data sure to follow.

But one facet that's still hard to quantify is what speed does to the dynamic of a game. Sure, a player's ability to go from first to third on a single can be calculated, but what about when a speedster, like Colorado Rockies prospect and Minor League stolen base king Wes Rogers, is on first base. The pitcher undoubtedly is mindful of the havoc Rogers can wreak on the basepaths, and that could lead to a mistake to the hitter.

In that situation, Rogers' speed and athleticism had a positive impact on his team -- one that can't really be measured. 

"Speed can impact the game in so many different ways," he said. "Whether it's how they pitch to the person before you because the other team doesn't want to have a base open in front of you or because pitchers need to attack you with strikes more often or just by running down a ball in the gap, speed changes the whole dynamic of a game."

When someone like Rogers through a system, there's always the temptation to simply label him a speed guy and move on. But the rest of the 23-year-old's game seems to be catching up to his legs. Last year, the 2014 fourth-round pick set career highs in nearly every offensive category and finished with an .865 OPS in 123 games with Class A Advanced Lancaster. 

"I got a little bit pickier this year," he said. "Young hitters get so caught up in trying to make something happen when you're at the plate, but you're really just up there waiting for the pitcher to give you something and taking what he gives you. You can't do more than what he gives you. You look at baseball a different way as you get older, and that's helped."

An even deeper dive reveals more encouraging numbers. Rogers finished second in the California League with a .380 wOBA (weighted on-base average) and 132 wRC+ (weighted runs created). Advanced statistics and underlying metrics can be a polarizing topic among players, but Rogers has no issue with using those numbers as part of a bigger picture. 

"I definitely noticed that stuff and was peeking at it, but it's one of those things where your performance will speak for itself," the South Carolina native said. "Baseball players take pride in the value you hold as a player amongst their peers. Like when a pitcher comes up to you and says, 'Dang, I was glad I had you out there to catch that fly ball.' Or when someone says, 'I'm glad you were on base for me there.' That's the type of stuff that if you continually hear at every level, it means you're going to feel like you can compete in the big leagues, and that's the ultimate goal."

Video: Wes Rogers hits his second triple of the game

It's taken a few years in the Minors for people to start noticing Rogers, but that's not something that bothered him. When he was growing up, he was on the small side and took pride in doing the little things to help his teams. He stuck around long enough until he hit a growth spurt. 

"I was a little weaker than everyone else and I was little flat guy who had to steal his bases and play good defense to stick around. But then I hit my growth spurt and hit the weights a little harder and caught up," Rogers said. 

At that point, he decided to focus solely on baseball.

"For every young kid, baseball can be a little bit slow until you get up to a high enough level that you can enjoy the game," he said. "I was definitely a soccer, basketball player and a track runner that played baseball when I was younger. I was a stubborn young kid, thinking I could be great at all these sports, but baseball was always my passion and I just put my head to that."

Even after making baseball his focus, the Spartanburg Methodist College product believes he wouldn't be the player he's become if he hadn't played those other sports. 

"In my opinion, playing more sports doesn't limit you as an athlete," he said. "It all ties in together. You can get the fluid movement from basketball and the coordination from soccer; you use that stuff and it helps you grow as a baseball player."

Even though Rogers came into the 2017 season with 111 career stolen bases, it wasn't really until last summer that he really started to turn heads. 

"Once I got a couple of stolen bases and drew some attention to myself, I had to be a silent assassin," he said. "You're not trying to keep shuffling your feet and moving around, because then you'll have the pitcher throwing over and calling for a pitchout. I just try to get my lead and my jump to help put yourself into scoring position for the guy behind you. The goal is to always help the guy behind you."

As quiet as he may try to be, it's hard for a pitcher to ignore the league leader in steals when he's inching off first base. So getting an appropriate lead is something of a tightrope act for Rogers. 

"The thing people often overlook about stealing bases is that no matter how good the catcher is, you're stealing off the pitcher," he said. "I don't bank on beating the catchers because they all have good arms, so I try to do my damage against the pitcher."

Offseason MiLB include

And when there's a southpaw on the mound, things get more complicated. 

"You have to get a feel for left-handers. Different pitchers have specific tendencies, but lefties are generally weird people," he chortled. 

Whatever Rogers' strategy on the basepaths is, he's hitting all the right notes. Last season, he stole 70 bases in 82 tries, giving him an 86 percent success rate (181 of 212) in his four-year Minor League career. Leading all of pro ball was something he wanted to achieve in 2017, although Rogers actually fell short of his personal goal.

"Leading the league in steals is always something I set my sights on, but my goal was actually 100 stolen bases at the beginning of the season. Didn't quite get there, but we'll see what happens next year," he added. "I'm working hard and getting stronger over the offseason."

So does he think he can get there this year? 

"I've told myself I'm supposed to get stronger and faster, so I set the goal at 110 this year," Rogers said.

Michael Leboff is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

View More