In my time covering baseball and playing the sport (a long time ago), I have seen how important it is to have a leader on your team—somebody who puts the team on their shoulders, somebody people turn to when looking for answers, somebody that is always expected to do things well and cheer you up. Ideally, this person can also be a role model, and make an impact on and off the field.
There are millions of ballplayers, but very few check each of those boxes. Believe me. Not so long ago, the Marlins had Martín Prado. The Red Sox had Jason Varitek and David Ortiz. The Yankees had Derek Jeter. And the list isn’t much larger than this.
Now, the Marlins have Miguel Rojas. He gives Miami everything it could ask for. Rojas learned directly from Prado during their years as teammates. He continues to carry those intangibles with him while steadily improving between the lines.
The similarities in their Marlins career stats—from 2015-2019 for Prado, from 2015-present for Rojas—is incredible:
Especially in 2020, Rojas established himself as the true leader of this Marlins team. While he was healthy, he was one of the best hitters in Miami: .304/.392/.496, 10 doubles, 4 home runs, and 20 runs batted in across only 40 games.
Rojas has a genuine commitment to the Marlins organization that runs much deeper than the terms of his contract.
“The bond that we’re creating is special,” Rojas said according to the Miami Herald. “We’re getting guys involved, even from the minor leagues with the big league club guys. I think it’s really important not just for us as we get ready for next year but for all the kids who didn’t play in 2020 to have the opportunity to have the complex open.”
What I also like about Rojas is that he doesn’t hide his expectations about his teammates and the front office, beginning with GM Kim Ng. “You have to be ready to win, because that’s what we’re planning to do here” was his first message to his new boss. They spoke through the phone about the teams’ current situation and plans to keep improving after last season’s success.
He’s challenging everybody to embrace their roles and get better at them.
“Being able to get to the playoffs, that got me motivated,” Rojas continued. “I sent a message to the guys and said: ‘If everybody individually gets a little better this offseason, this team is going to be better in 2021.’”
The 31-year-old shortstop could become a free agent after next season if the Marlins don’t exercise his $5.5M team option for 2022. Top prospects like Jazz Chisholm and José Devers will be competing for playing time at his main position. However, I hope Rojas stays in Miami for a long, long time, that he co-exists and mentors the team’s promising wave of young talent, and sees them reach the highest level.