Taylor Rogers wasn’t part of the original AL All-Star roster, but Yusei Kikuchi was placed on the inactive list due to COVID protocols and now Rogers gets to live out what must feel like a dream. He attended Rockies games growing up and now he has a chance to pitch on the Coors Field mound for the first time in his professional career. Rogers was already in Denver, so it took him just under 90 minutes to get from his Denver home to last night’s Home Run Derby.
Minnesota has won back-to-back AL Central titles and during that stretch, Rogers has been one of baseball’s best relievers. Since the start of 2018, he ranks fifth among relievers in FanGraph’s WAR. This puts him behind names like Josh Hader, Liam Hendriks, Edwin Diaz, and Ryan Pressly. His value to the Twins goes much deeper than WAR.
According to Win Probability Added, Rogers has been the AL’s best relief pitcher since 2018. While some clubs might relegate Rogers to a traditional closer role, Minnesota has used him in a variety of late-inning situations that come with some of the highest leverage. In fact, there have been multiple stretches where he has felt like the only reliable option out of the Twins’ bullpen.
Rogers and his quiet demeanor don’t necessarily fit the prototypical personality of a late-inning reliever, but he is a team leader on and off the field. After Kyle Gibson left following the 2019 season, Rogers took over as Minnesota’s player representative to the MLB Players Association. His first year in the role saw him having to represent the team through a pandemic, which couldn’t have been an easy task.
Besides his off-field responsibilities in 2020, Rogers saw his performance suffer for the first time during the pandemic shortened season. He posted his highest career ERA, WHIP and H/9, but he did all of this in only 20 innings pitched. The peripheral numbers pointed to him being unlucky as he had a 2.84 FIP and he was getting BABIP’ed to death (.400 BABIP). He has bounced back nicely in 2021 and being selected to his first All-Star Game is just part of the reward.
His Statcast numbers are also some of baseball’s best. His chase rate ranks in the 100th percentile and he ranks in the 90th percentile or higher in xwOBA, xERA, K%, and BB%. There are few relievers that can match one of those statistical areas let alone be ranked that highly in five different Statcast categories.
Minnesota has been lucky to have quite the run of All-Star relievers over parts of the last two decades. Joe Nathan was selected to four All-Star teams with the Twins after being traded from the Giants. Glen Perkins made three All-Star appearances from 2013-2015 as he got to close out the 2014 All-Star Game in front of the Target Field crowd. Now Rogers, a Colorado native, has the opportunity to make his own memories at Coors Field.
Congratulations to Taylor Rogers!