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Can Trevor Rogers be the first long-term, dominant lefty for the Marlins since Dontrelle Willis?

The 23-year-old left-hander is thriving in the early stages of the 2021 season.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Miami Marlins Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a while since the Marlins have had a dominant, steady left-handed starter in the rotation. Caleb Smith had impressive flashes in 2019, and before him, there were high hopes for Adam Conley and Scott Olsen (among others), but the last southpaw who starred for the Fish was Dontrelle Willis. D-Train was a fan favorite for five seasons (2003-2007), peaking as the runner-up for the 2005 NL Cy Young award.

Now, it’s time for lefty Trevor Rogers to step up. Through four starts in his second MLB season, the 23-year-old has shined bright and looked like a potential future ace.

After losing his first outing of the season (vs. Cardinals), the left-handed hurler has two wins across 18 innings of 10-hit, two-run ball with six walks and 25 strikeouts (1.00 ERA). Opponents are hitting for a .164 batting average (.512 OPS) off him during that span.

Rogers deserves all the credit of the world. He was drafted as recently as 2017 —selected in the first round and 13th overall— and made his MLB debut last year without having much experience in the minors.

Although he started 40 MiLB games, he played most of that time between Class A and Class A Advanced, logging only five games of Double-A experience. Last year, right when the Marlins didn’t want Rogers to waste a complete season, they rushed him a bit to the Majors and he started seven times with mixed results.

But this time he put things together and began the season in fashion, making an early but strong case to the National League Rookie of the Year award.

There’s more than one reason to believe Rogers can maintain this success for the long run and reach the same tier that Willis once did. Let’s dive right into what’s been working for him in the first weeks of the campaign.

He only has three pitches in his repertoire —four-seamer, slider, changeup—, but he’s playing with them as they were toys and locating them with pure class. It seems that Rogers is going to the mound with an established plan: he’s attacking righties with his changeup and four-seamer while dominating lefties with a fastball-slider combination. Lethal!

And I know everyone can have those three offerings. The thing is Rogers’ are plus pitches that still have some upside. For example, his fastball averaged 93.6 MPH last year, but now sits at 94.9 MPH and he’s throwing it even more (61.9%). Rogers likes to surprise opponents with that pitch with two strikes, as he throws his heater 64.7% of times in that scenario (49.2% last year). 74.1 percent of his strikeouts have come thanks to his fastball.

Then there’s his marvelous changeup, which is already among the league’s best. Despite Rogers is using it only 18.5% of the time, he’s putting everyone out of the way with it. So far, 18 at-bats have finished with that delivery. The results? Two hits, five punchouts, 82.5 MPH average exit velocity, and a 35.7 whiff%.

The following is a beautiful video to see what Trevor can do with his changeup. Just don’t laugh at the Orioles.

Rogers’ changeup has the seventh-lowest batting average against (minimum 15 PA) in the Majors (.111), the ninth-lowest slugging percentage (.167), and the third-lowest wOBA (.119).

Rogers is a strikeout machine. So far in his career, he’s struck out 32.3 percent of the total batters he’s faced. After posting a 30.0 K% last year, the lefty increased that number to 35.6% (MLB average is 21.9%). And taking into account he’s allowing only 4.9 hits per nine, Rogers is on his way to becoming a monster.

While the youngster still has things to address—for example, his high walk levels—he’s a hard worker and hasn’t stopped improving. Although this is still a small sample size, he’s reduced his HR/9 from 1.6 to 0.4 this year.

There are several reasons to be excited about Trevor Rogers. Not only is he leading rookies, but he’s quickly becoming one of the finest young pitchers in the Marlins organization. He still has a long way to go in 2021, but his early success this year evokes memories of the Marlins’ legend called Dontrelle Willis.