Our latest Padres minor league prospect to be interviewed in anticipation of this upcoming 2016 season is pitcher Blake Rogers. The right-handed pitcher has had an eventful journey through the professional level thus far.
The one-time catcher in junior college has blossomed recently and seems to be getting better with age and experience. We talked about his journey from All-Conference catcher to relief pitcher in the Padres’ organization.
He pitched last season for the University of Oklahoma. Rogers posted a 7.80 ERA in 2015 for the Sooners in 15 innings. Despite those inflated numbers the Padres selected him with their 37th round selection. The team had faith in him as a pitcher and they were rewarded instantly.
The 21-year-old (22 when the season begins) pitched last season for the Storm in Lake Elsinore. It was unusual for a pitcher to be drafted so low and make it to High-A ball in the same season. He pitched well for the Storm recording a 3.68 ERA in four appearances in 7.1 innings. All three of his earned runs were in his first appearance with his new team. He settled in after that.
In the Arizona Summer League prior to Lake Elsinore, Rogers went 1-1 with a 2.53 ERA in 14 games and 21 innings. He earned six saves and struck out 22 batters while walking six and failing to allow a single home run. Rogers is clearly a late bloomer and just needed an opportunity to succeed. With the Padres’ minor league staff working with him he could enjoy a fast track through the system. He has a great attitude and with a little luck he could be a key part of the Padres bullpen in the next few years. Thank you to Blake for taking time to talk to us and we hope you fans enjoy this small glimpse into who Blake Rogers really is.
In 2013 you were All-Conference at Lyon College as a catcher. How has that helped develop you as a pitcher and what did you enjoy about that aspect of the game?
I really enjoyed being able to manage the game and call pitches. Getting to know each pitchers strengths and weaknesses. It helped me realize what my strengths are. It really helped my pitching career, especially in the last year or so.
Tell us about your time at the University of Oklahoma.
It was kind of a lifelong dream to be an athlete at OU. The group of guys I got to play with the year I was there were great. Just putting on an OU uniform was a big deal for me. I grew up always liking OU.
Were you tempted to return for your senior season at the University of Oklahoma?
Yes I was. I thought it through and I felt like going to the Padres organization was going to be the best fit for my career. It wasn’t easy. It was not an easy decision to make, but I made the right decision for me.
Your first half season in pro ball, were there any players or coaches that impacted you?
The entire staff was interactive and was there to help me as a whole. I did a lot of work with Ben Fritz when I was at the AZL. But everyone was helping me out and I benefited greatly from them.
Did you have any interaction with A.J. Preller and what are your thoughts on him?
Actually when I was in junior college I did a workout with the Texas Rangers at their ballpark. I spoke to him a little bit when he was with the Rangers. I’ve only seen him a couple of times throughout the past year. I haven’t had a chance to get in-depth with him.
You spent some time at Lake Elsinore last season, what was your impression of the league and playing out west?
It hit me in my face when I was doing my warm-ups. I was in a whole different league and that after that first inning (and appearance) I settled in and it felt like I had been doing this my whole life. I felt really comfortable. Having to step up and play at that High-A level in my first season of pro ball was a great experience and will benefit me in my first full season of pro ball.
Are you excited for your first season of pro ball and what kind of goals have you set forth?
Yes I’m very excited. One of the goals first off is to stay healthy because it is a different animal playing the 140 game schedule of a minor leaguer. First off I want to stay healthy and second off I want to be better at the end of the year than I was at the beginning.
You recorded six saves in your first half season in professional ball, is that a role you enjoy?
My sophomore year at junior college they predominantly had me in the rotation. The summer after that I was pretty much closing and setting up in the summer league. I felt like I embraced the pressure of being the closer and getting to finish the game. I pitched late in the game at OU and those were some of my better outings. I went into the AZL and was given the opportunity. I love being able to finish out games.
How would you describe yourself as a pitcher?
I just try to get ground balls. I have a high percentage of grounds balls hit against me. I like getting in on guys and I am able to do it. I don’t want to walk guys. I let them try and beat me with my best pitches.
Any special friendships that you have developed this past year within the Padres organization?
A lot of the AZL pitchers that were new draft guys. Jacob Nix, Elliot Ashbeck, Nathan Foriest, guys like that. Going to and from the field with them was pretty cool. To be able to have guys that you can relate with and still go out and compete with was great. It was a really good group of guys.
Any message for the kids out their with dreams of playing professional baseball?
Probably just find what you really want to do, like your dream. Have a plan and stick with it even if it doesn’t go the way you had it envisioned. You just gotta know what you want and raise your level of work, focus and commitment to that.
Any special message for Padres’ fans?
Stay the course. It might not look good a couple of feet down the road but miles ahead I think it is going to look really great. The talent and staff we have now is excellent. It will pay off in the long run.