The Detroit Tigers are known for mega stars like Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and Justin Verlander, but they can’t rely only on players signed through free agency, so young player development is an important component of the organization. One of the prospects from the 2012 MLB draft they are most excited about is Joe Rogers, a polished closer who if things go well could be in the Detroit bullpen within a couple of years.
The left-handed Rogers had a stand-out career for Winter Haven High School in Florida, highlighted by a no-hitter with 20 strikeouts he had in 2009 against Lake Gibson. He was also heavily involved with AAU ball, which helped lead him to his college choice of the University of Central Florida. He improved in each of his three seasons at CFU, leaving as the best closer in school history. In 79 games he posted a 13-5 record, 3.60 ERA, and 30 saves.
Rogers’ steady growth and impressive polish rocketed him up the draft boards this year. The Detroit Tigers loved what they saw from the southpaw and took him in the 5th round of the draft. He was an early sign and was assigned to Connecticut in the short season New York-Penn League. Rogers has the ability and makeup for in-season promotions, so if all goes well, it won’t be surprising to see him in Detroit in the near future. More information about his season statistics is available here.
I recently caught up with Rogers prior to one of his games and chatted with him about baseball and his draft experience. You can also keep up with him via his Twitter account to find out how the rest of his season goes.
Joe Rogers Interview:
How did you first become interested in baseball?: Just like any kid who wanted to start playing- I think I started playing when I was six- I began in t-ball. I’ve been playing for quite a while and it’s one of those things that I just fell in love with. I started when I was six and it just moved up from there. Every year since high school and college I have just been blessed with every year I have been able to continue playing.
Who were your favorite team and player when you were growing up?: My family is all from New York, so I was a Yankees fan. I really respected Derek Jeter and how he went about the game, so I think Derek Jeter would probably be the guy who I looked up to the most, although he’s not a pitcher.
You played with Chet Lemon’s AAU team. Was he involved in the team and did you get much instruction from him?: He was a coach. Actually I got on the team with one of my friends who still plays at UCF in Orlando, who kind of put my name out there for him and Chet let me play with him for a couple of tournaments and it was fun. I had a blast there and that’s how I got introduced to UCF. It was a blessing to go play there and Chet’s an awesome coach, and I know he’s still coaching.
Do you think Chet Lemon’s connection to the Tigers led to them being interested in you and drafting you?: You know, it could have, but I don’t know that. I think anywhere from playing in the high school to college at UCF is probably what had to do with it. Whatever it was it definitely couldn’t have hurt my chances with the Tigers, but I’m sure it did help.
What pitches do you have in your arsenal?: Right now I’m throwing a fastball; both two-seam and four-seam. I have a slurve that is more like a slider/curveball mix. I have a changeup too.
Can you describe what your draft experience was like?: It was funny; we got done playing in the Miami Regional. Back at UCF we played Miami, Stony Brook, and a couple of other teams. We got done with that regional and I was at an all-time low because the season was over, and I got back to Orlando and was on the computer with one of my buddies and I thought I was going to get taken by the Brewers, but the Tigers came and picked me up in the 5th round. It was definitely an awesome experience. I was on the phone with my parents at the time and they were all going nuts. It was very humbling and I’m very glad to be part of the organization.
I feel like I still have a lot of work to do. It’s definitely nice to be a professional baseball player, as of right now, I’ll tell you that, and waking up in the morning and knowing that your one job is to get better at baseball. It’s definitely an awesome feeling.