In his eighth season with the Marlins, Miguel Rojas continued to be an elite fielder. Why did his offensive production plummet so much?
- February 2: announced change from uniform No. 19 to No. 11
- July 9-October 2: played 66 straight games without committing an error
- July 21: injured right wrist while running the bases
- October 5: underwent right wrist surgery
- November 22: announced change back to uniform No. 19
You don’t see many 33-year-old shortstops. Even the most skilled and well-conditioned players are typically supplanted by younger alternatives after making that many trips around the sun.
Not Miguel Rojas. En route to being named a 2022 National League Gold Glove award finalist, he aided the Marlins’ run prevention by converting a wide variety of defensive chances.
His throwing arm is as strong and as accurate as ever:
He showed he’s still got plenty of leaping ability:
He’s smooth with the backhand:
And equally so with the barehand:
He’ll venture deep into the outfield to chase down fly balls, too:
Rojas’ streak of errorless games established a new franchise record for Marlins shortstops, and that’s without encapsulating the sort of plays embedded above.
His SS performance produced 10 outs above average and 15 defensive runs saved. His sporadic appearances at first base, totaling 28 innings, were also positively impactful (2 OAA and 2 DRS). Rojas told Jordan McPherson of the Miami Herald that he considered 2022 to be his “best year so far in terms of defensive production,” and that’s saying something for a player at this advanced stage of his career.
Unfortunately, Rojas’ contributions with the glove were overshadowed by his struggles at the plate. Although he ranked among MLB’s top qualified hitters in contact rate, the quality of that contact was extremely poor. Dating back to 2016, Rojas consistently made year-to-year improvement in hard-hit frequency, according to Statcast. That trend came to a halt in 2022.
Rojas reliably raked against left-handed pitching in 2020 and 2021. However, he uncharacteristically posted slight reverse platoon splits this season. Overall, Rojas went from being a roughly average hitter in 2021 (96 wRC+) to a prototypical, bottom-of-the-order afterthought in 2022 (73 wRC+).
He didn’t make excuses, but Rojas injured his right wrist during the first game after the All-Star break and was unable to punish mistake pitches from that point onward. He was homerless in his last 78 games played, the longest single-season drought of his career. Undergoing surgery when he initially suffered the injury would have allowed him to enjoy a “normal” offseason (the Marlins’ playoff hopes were rapidly fading by that point, anyway). Then again, it’s not as if he was preventing any deserving shortstop alternatives within the organization from getting major league reps.
Rojas continued his side gig with Jomboy Media as a co-host of The Chris Rose Rotation. He appeared on eight episodes this year.
1️⃣9️⃣ is back like it never left pic.twitter.com/vCdp8jsCim— Miguel Rojas (@MRojasOfficial) November 22, 2022
On his most recent Rose Rotation appearance, Rojas said that getting healthy and “slimmer” will be his offseason priorities. Hopefully, his mental health also stands to benefit from being another year removed from the deaths of his grandfather and mother, both of whom he had close relationships with.
A simple reversal in luck would go a long way toward facilitating a rebound in 2023. Rojas’ expected weighted on-base average of .293 was approximately the same as the year before, per Baseball Savant, but instead of overperforming it by 19 points, he underperformed by 25.
Rojas would merit a roster spot on any team thanks to his defensive versatility and contact skills. His $5 million salary for next season is the fourth-highest on the Marlins’ books at the moment, but that’s efficient relative to MLB standards.
The free agent market is still rife with awesome shortstops. We have barely mentioned them on Fish Stripes because all indications are that Marlins leadership is not motivated to spend what would be required to sign a star at that position. They are seemingly content to stick with Rojas as an everyday player entering the final year of his contract.