Shockey: Stop overreacting about Johan Rojas

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Johan Rojas graphic. - Multimedia Editor / Drew Peltzman

The Phillies appear to finally be turning their slow start to the season around.

After dropping their first two series of the season to the Atlanta Braves and Cincinnati Reds, the team finally pulled out a series victory on the road against the Washington Nationals this past weekend.

Despite the positives, the beginning of this season has also drawn attention to center fielder Johan Rojas’ susceptibility to being overpowered at the plate. 

Rojas is slashing .154/.192/.434 to start the season with just four hits in 26 at-bats.

He made a statement during his major league debut last season, making a jaw-dropping catch while colliding with the wall versus the San Diego Padres before turning a double-play by throwing the runner out at first. He also got off to a hot start at the plate, slashing .302/.342/.430 in 59 regular season games and 149 plate appearances.

But when it came time for the 2023 postseason, Rojas came back down to reality as he had just four hits in 43 at-bats on top of 15 strikeouts.

While viral photos of Rojas putting in work during the offseason in the batting cage, and notably on arm days, offered a glimmer of hope, his Spring Training numbers this year weren’t much better. He left Clearwater slashing just .170/.214/.264.

When the Phillies are swinging the bat as well as their lineup can, they are one of the most dominant offenses in baseball.

Six players had 20+ home runs during the 2023 regular season, including Kyle Schwarber (47), Nick Castellanos (29), Trea Turner (26), Bryce Harper (21), J.T. Realmuto (20) and Alec Bohm (20). Even players with fewer homers batted well at the plate, with Brandon Marsh and Bryson Stott hitting .277 and .280 respectively. 

With as many prominent voices that the Phillies have at the plate, it can be easy to brush aside Rojas’ struggles since he’s backed up by much better and experienced hitters. 

While he bats last in the lineup, if and when Rojas finds himself in a position to keep the Phillies season alive, he has to have the ability to do so. As of right now, Rojas has shown he is unable to be that clutch hitter. 

There’s no doubt that Rojas is a gifted defender and is a key asset for the Phillies, but he’s young and he’s still learning. At 23 years old, Rojas has plenty of time to grow his game and get more comfortable at the plate. And after the first game of the St. Louis Cardinals series saw him going 3-for-4 with an RBI, he very well finally may be starting to wake up.

However, if Rojas continues to put up a poor batting average, I suspect he will be designated to Triple-A Lehigh Valley sometime at the end of this month or at the beginning of May.

As for what the outfield should look like if Rojas is removed from the lineup, that’s an issue the Phillies organization finds to be an inconclusive picture. With no true replacement at center field, keeping Rojas is the Phillies’ best option.

But, there’s no real reason to worry, Rojas has plenty of time to gain more confidence at the plate. It’s better for him to be rusty now and improve than for him to be performing poorly in the future when the games carry more weight. After all, the postseason isn’t happening anytime soon.

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