Jake Rogers was arguably the best defensive catcher in the 2016 Draft before he was taken by the Astros. Scouts have said his production at the plate, much from his raw power, is only a bonus.
He provided quite the bonus for Double-A Erie on Tuesday night.
Video: Jake Rogers takes Hartford deep three separate times
The Tigers' No. 5 prospect registered his first career three-homer game, driving in four runs and powering the SeaWolves to a 12-0 rout of Hartford at Dunkin' Donuts Park. It was his second multi-homer contest and first since going yard twice on May 24, 2017 for Class A Advanced Buies Creek.
It was the first three-homer game by a member of the SeaWolves since Gabriel Quintana knocked three out on May 22, 2017 in a 14-13 loss to Harrisburg.
With Rogers starring at the plate and behind it, Erie came out on the right side of history this time around.
In the second inning, the Tulane product followed Danny Woodrow's RBI triple by sending the next pitch from left-hander Jack Wynkoop over the left-center field wall and completely out of the park for a 4-0 lead. He came up again before the seven-run innning ended and flied to right.
On Sunday, Rogers went yard on his final at-bat against Reading, his first homer since May 25. As a hitter looking for a spark, that made a difference heading into Tuesday.
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"I'm working every day with our hitting coaches to try and see the ball well and put a good swing on it," he said. "I've been seeing it well the last couple days and weeks. Hopefully, more stuff like that will start."
In the fifth, Rogers again pounced on Wynkoop's first pitch and knocked it over the fence in left-center. After drawing a walk in the seventh, he came up with an 11-0 lead in the ninth and worked the count full before connecting off right-hander Matt Pierpont.
2018 Minor League milestones
With the SeaWolves in complete control, Rogers said he focused on his approach. Batting .169 with three homers through his first 42 games, he said he tried not to think about a third long ball. But it wasn't easy.
"It's obviously in the back of my head, but I tried to stick to the same plan, just looking for something I can hit hard," he said. "I found a cutter in the zone and I happened to hit it out.
"I'm working a lot on approach stuff right now, trying to put the best swing I possibly can on every pitch and in every time at the plate. I've been working hard with my coaches trying to get the kinks worked out and I think I'm getting closer and closer. Stuff is starting to show."
As is tradition, Rogers' teammates did their best to give him the silent treatment when he returned to the dugout after completing the hat trick. But for someone who's battled through rough patches and is starting to find his way, it was tough to keep up for long.
"It didn't work out well," he said. "They were pretty excited, especially for it to have been me. I've got some great teammates picking me up like that."
Rogers also has played a major role in the SeaWolves' recent stingy stretch. Erie pitchers have thrown 20 consecutive scoreless innings, including Sunday's 6-0 win over Reading in which Spencer Turnbull threw his first complete-game shutout. Rogers was behind the plate in both contests. Kyle Funkhouser (2-3) earned the win in this one, limiting the Yard Goats to three hits while striking out seven over six innings.
Rogers said he felt like the seven-run second was key for both the offense and defense, allowing his teammates to swing freely and Funkhouser to exhale, knowing the success the team's bullpen has had recently.
"With Funkhouser pitching like he did tonight, I know he was feeling good, and any runs helped him out. A big inning like that helped him work his stuff," Rogers said. "It was a big momentum push. Those guys all had a great day at the plate and the mound as well. The push from both is big."
Dominic Ficociello knocked a two-run homer in the second and Jake Robson hit a two-run shot in the fifth for Erie.