The fastest man in minor league baseball isn’t slowing down this winter.
Wes Rogers, the Colorado Rockies prospect who swiped 70 bags with the Lancaster JetHawks this summer — quite literally running away with pro ball’s stolen base title in the process — still has his foot on the gas in the offseason. He’s re-dedicated himself to the workout regimen that led to his surge in Lancaster while throwing in a few wrinkles to prepare for a likely assignment to Double-A Hartford next spring. A former fourth round (2014) pick of the Rockies and one of the best athletes in the organization, Rogers will turn 24 during spring training and now faces a high-profile season ahead after his bounce-back year in 2017.
“I’ve actually ramped up my workouts a little bit compared to last winter,” the South Carolina native told Baseball Census by phone this week. “I try to make my workouts a little more challenging every offseason. Last year I made all those adjustments with weightlifting, and incorporated some different movements to confuse my muscles a little bit. Now I’m putting a lot into speed work, and keeping my focus on core work the same.”
Always fleet-footed from the beginning of his career, improved weightlifting workouts proved key over the last year for Wes Rogers. The outfielder enjoyed a breakout summer in Lancaster in 2017 after being asked to repeat the level when a 2016 campaign with then-Rockies affiliate Modesto didn’t go quite as planned. But in 123 games with the JetHawks, Rogers slashed .319/.377/.488/.865, cut down his strikeouts, and improved in every offensive category from the year before in Modesto. All that hard work landed him on mid-season and post-season All-Star teams in the California League, and garnered the speedy outfielder quite a bit of attention in the run-up to the Rule 5 Draft after the Colorado Rockies left him off their 40-man roster last month.
And no, Lancaster’s notorious launching pad of a home ballpark didn’t have as much to do with Rogers’ offensive surge as you’d think. In fact, the outfielder—now an expert on The Hangar after two years in the Cal League—had a few thoughts on that.
“Now that I’ve really played a lot in the ballpark, and watched other people play there, I’ve got to say that unless you’re a power hitter, I don’t think it has that big an effect on your numbers,” Rogers said. “Look at me specifically, or [Rockies infield prospect] Garrett Hampson. We’re speed guys, and because we’re speed guys, we’re not trying to lift the ball. How can you discredit our stats there when we’re not trying to lift the ball into that wind, you know? If I hit a low line drive that I stretch into a double, was that because of my speed, or the wind?”
“Yeah, I’m sure I got a few lucky hits that got high up into the wind or carried into a gap or whatever, but that’s just baseball,” Rogers continued. “You play a full year and you’ll get lucky hits just like you hit line drives that get caught no matter where you play. That’s just part of the game. But a lot of what I did this year, I really don’t think it was affected by the wind that much.”
The Colorado Rockies must be hoping as much is true when Wes Rogers reaches Hartford, for the outfielder could quickly become an interesting part of the future with a good summer in the notoriously pitcher-friendly Eastern League. Eye-popping stolen base numbers and the ability to run down everything in center field immediately make him a good fit for the vast expanses at Coors Field, which Rogers admitted has crossed his mind after doing the same thing at The Hangar this summer. Beyond that, any sustained offensive production is icing on the cake for a guy who profiles well as a defense-first platoon option for the Rockies in another year or two.
“I’m really not trying to look too far ahead,” Rogers was still quick to note even after discussing Coors Field. “My agent does a great job handling the business stuff, and I’m blessed to be with a group there that takes care of me. I’m around a great group of teammates in the clubhouse. And with the Rockies, guys like [farm director] Zach Wilson and [player development manager] Chris Forbes, those guys make great decisions that are in the best interest of this club. All of that allows me to just focus on being the best ball player I can be. Hopefully I’ll keep getting bigger and stronger, and I’ll keep playing baseball and having fun with my friends. That’s all I can do.”
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