Over the past seven seasons, Dodgers shortstops haven’t seen an OPS+ lower than 10 percent above league average, with Corey Seager, Chris Taylor, Manny Machado and Trea Turner combining for three All Star seasons with Los Angeles. That group helped Dodgers shortstops to post an .840 OPS from 2016-2022, best at the position among MLB teams.
That run of powerful middle infielders was thought to have ended after Gavin Lux tore his ACL, ending his 2023 season. That meant Miguel Rojas, a career .672 OPS hitter who has been 15 percent worse than the average hitter in terms of OPS+, would be the regular shortstop.
Rojas dealt with a lingering wrist injury which limited his offensive production, as he posted just six home runs and a .605 OPS in 140 games last season, the lowest OPS he had since his rookie season in 2014. After two successful wrist surgeries during the offseason, Rojas entered the spring feeling healthier he had been in over a year, according to Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times:
“It’s not an excuse, but last year, I was really hurting, my wrist was not 100%,” Rojas said. “You can see the numbers drop, but it was important for me to post every day and be there for the team. But I feel 100% now.”
Rojas has never been any threat within the power department, as it took him over three seasons to hit more than one home run in a season and has a career high of 11 set back in 2018. Now when comparing where Rojas spent the bulk of his career to where he is now, he did have a disadvantage of playing at LoanDepot Park, where the home run rates are noticeably lower than at Dodger Stadium.
When looking at his advanced splits from last season, Rojas ranked within the bottom seventh percentile in terms of average exit velociy according to Baseball Savant, along with being within the bottom third percentile in hard hit rate and barrel rate. It’s easy to look at his career and assume that he will post the same numbers, however this past Spring Training revealed what the 34-year-old has done to improve as an overall hitter.
Along with a repaired wrist, manager Dave Roberts has encouraged his new starting shortstop to become more aggressive at the dish. During spring training, Rojas accumulated a .283 batting average, .831 OPS, and five extra base hits in 51 plate appearances.
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