PHILADELPHIA – With last season’s disappointing ending in the NLCS, it was time to take a closer look at how to reconstruct the roster and prepare for the following campaign. Dave Dombrowski’s latest comments provide a glimpse of hope that Johan Rojas will most likely be the starting center fielder for opening day.
Back To The Drawing Board
Dombrowski’s remark came during his latest appearance on 94 WIP when the question of who the starter in center field would be to kick off the 2024 season.
“Likely yes. Definitively no. So I think the answer would be yes … I’ve talked to our hitting people at length about his progress over the winter time — he’s worked extremely hard, he’s made adjustments that he needs to make,” he said.
There’s nothing set in stone about this move but it does show a change in tone after his previous statements about Rojas starting the year in the minor leagues. Since his call-up to MLB, the 23-year-old has proven to be a major improvement in Philly’s defensive capabilities. His defensive bWAR of 1.7 with 15 defensive runs saved ranked among the top outfielders in the league last season.
This move also caused known outfield liability, Kyle Schwarber, to be moved to DH with Brandon Marsh taking over left field and Rojas gaining the nod in center. His speed on the bath paths was another viable skill in his repertoire as he ranked 4th on the team in stolen bags with 14. The only players ranked higher were J.T. Realmuto, Trea Turner, and Bryson Stott.
Although his speed and glove are the focal points of his play, Rojas’s plate approach lacked especially in the postseason. His final slash line of .093/.114/.163, four hits, and 15 strikeouts in that period further emphasize the work he had to put in during the winter to be ready for Spring Training. It was surprising to witness since he put up a .302/.342/.430 slash line with 45 hits, two homers, and 23 RBIs in the regular season.
Rojas is Looking Ahead To April
Executing a well-balanced playing style in the regular season is always a big part of your career but if you’re not bringing that same talent to the postseason then you’re as good as gone. With Philly being one of the top candidates to win the World Series, they have no time to waste on poor performers. Fortunately, Rojas has had time to practice plate discipline and pitch recognition for his future appearances in 2024.
All signs are pointing to a positive outcome for this young ballplayer and that’s encouraging to see with Spring Training on deck. Philly also desperately needs his glove in the outfield so if he can remain consistent throughout the year then he’ll become a key cog in their postseason run.
Photo Credit: (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)