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2017 Marlins Season Review: Miguel Rojas

Rojas saw more game action than ever before and really found his groove at the end of the year.

MIAMI, FL - APRIL 14:  Miguel Rojas #19 of the Miami Marlins is congratulated by teammates after he scored on a fifth inning single by Dee Gordon #9 against the New York Mets at Marlins Park on April 14, 2017 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Skipper/Getty Images) Photo by Joe Skipper/Getty Images

Do you remember how the Miami Marlins acquired Miguel Rojas? I honestly had to look it up.

Rojas was the least significant piece of the seven-player trade that brought Dee Gordon and Dan Haren to the Fish three years ago. He projected as an end-of-the-roster utility man, considering the lack of tools and minor league production.

And for the most part, that’s how the club used him in 2015-2016. Rojas batted .262/.306/.342 with a 75 wRC+ across 371 total plate appearances. He offered next to nothing in the power (2 HR) and baserunning (2 SB) departments, but showed impressive versatility by spending at least 100 innings at each of the infield positions.

This past season, the injury bug took a bite out of his teammates and never let go. Steady third baseman Martin Prado was betrayed by his body during the World Baseball Classic and hobbled to only 37 regular-season appearances. Adeiny Hechavarria landed on the disabled list two separate times, playing just 20 games before a midseason trade to Tampa Bay. Hech’s departure cleared the path for JT Riddle, but even he couldn’t take advantage—the rookie shortstop required season-ending surgery on a torn labrum with two months of competition remaining.

By necessity, Rojas moved into an expanded role (after a broken thumb led to his own 62-game absence). His production was mostly unremarkable until September. Then, with the baseball world fixated on Giancarlo Stanton’s dominance from the No. 2 spot of the lineup, the eighth-place hitter caught fire:

Heading toward arbitration eligibility for the first time, the 28-year-old made a convincing closing argument that the Marlins should retain him (and offer a pay raise). Aided by a career-best .324 batting average on balls in play, he provided legitimate offensive value.

Miguel Rojas, MLB Stats

2017 90 306 1 26 2 .290 .361 .375 .736 96 1.4
Career 358 839 4 66 4 .256 .314 .330 .644 75 2.6
Source: FanGraphs

During a season of struggles for his future Hall of Fame teammate, Rojas channeled his inner Ichiro Suzuki. He showed no interest in taking big swings, instead prioritizing contact. His 10.5 strikeout rate ranked second best on the Marlins, trailing only Tomas Telis.

In 2016, opposing pitchers found success against Rojas on pitches up in the strike zone. Look at the dramatic adjustment he made!

Rojas zone chart, 2016
Source: Baseball Savant
Rojas zone chart, 2017
Source: Baseball Savant

Regardless of how much he impacts the game, Rojas will always have a significant role on the team. It’s not officially a big Marlins win until he emerges from the clubhouse with a monkey mask and some shaving cream.

We finish this review with a flashback to his post-game hijinks from the 2017 campaign:

J.T. Realmuto, Apr. 14
Mike Aviles, Aug. 16
Giancarlo Stanton, Aug. 27
Edinson Volquez, Jun. 3
Marcell Ozuna, Aug. 1