Mark Rogers and Managing the Burn | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

We'd like to go to the Playoffs, that would be cool.

Mark Rogers, the Brewers’ 2004 first round draft pick, recently made his way to Venezuela. If things go as planned, Rogers will pitch in his Venezuelan Winter League debut for the Bravos de Margarita this week. After spending six years in the Brewers’ minor league system, Rogers was left off the Brewers’ 40-man roster, which makes him a minor league free agent. His trip to Venezuela is the first step to prove to the Brewers, or any other team watching, that his arm is still viable on the major league level.

Mark Rogers’ 2013 season could only be classified as disappointing. Following the trade of Zack Greinke, Rogers slid into his spot in the Brewers’ 2012 starting rotation. Rogers went 3-1 with 41 Ks over 39 IP and a 3.92 ERA / 3.81 FIP / 3.69 xFIP / (+)0.6 fWAR. The numbers were strong enough to consider him a serious candidate for the Brewers’ 2013 starting rotation. Then came spring training.

A noticeable drop in fastball velocity during spring training tainted Rogers’ 2013 campaign from the beginning. He started the season on the 15-day DL with “right shoulder instability”. After leaving a May rehab appearance with “tingling” in his right arm, Rogers was shut down and eventually transferred to the 60-day DL. He managed to throw only 22 2/3 innings this year. None came above the Double-A level.

Last week, Tom Haudricourt listed all 16 of the Brewers’ minor league players that qualified for free agency this off-season. These players are now eligible to re-sign with the Brewers or try their luck with another organization. Mark Rogers simply garnered the majority of the focus because of his selection in the first round, fifth overall pick, of the 2004 draft. A cursory look at the players drafted after Rogers might have Brewers fans hitting their heads against the wall –

Overall Pick Player Team
7 Homer Bailey Reds
12 Jered Weaver Angels
14 Billy Butler Royals
15 Stephen Drew Diamondbacks
22 Glen Perkins Twins
23 Phil Hughes Yankees
31 J.P. Howell Royals
38 Gio Gonzalez White Sox
40 Huston Street Athletics

Of course, there’s no “sure thing” when it comes to any amateur draft. Look no further than the tragic story surrounding the #1 overall pick in 2004 — Matt Bush, who’s currently serving time in a Florida prison. The San Diego Padres could have never predicted the type of trouble that Bush would face when they drafted him. Leaving a young pitcher by the name of Justin Verlander on the board for the Tigers to snag with the second overall pick.

Recently, fellow DoUer Nicholas Zettel did a fantastic examination of whether Mark Rogers deserves the “bust” tag. In his article, Zettel shows that the WAR Rogers’ accumulated in his limited big league time lands him in the middle of 2004’s first round draft class. Many of that year’s first round picks have gone on to have a strong career (Verlander, Weaver) while many others (like Matt Bush) never even made it to the show. Mark Rogers may not be the player Brewers fans hoped for but his career path is more typical of first round picks than one would expect.

This got me thinking about the all the hopes, dreams, and endless expectations that collide to create a narrative around each first round pick. That player instantly becomes the future face of a franchise and anything less than on-field excellence considered a let down. But teams aren’t built on first round picks alone. For instance, the Brewers currently only have two first rounders (Ryan Braun & Rickie Weeks) on their 40-man roster. Though Rogers selection in the first round of 2004 may not have worked out the way either party wanted, many might have forgotten that the Brewers did pretty well with their second round pick that year – Yovani Gallardo.

Of course, unless he is an extreme outlier, like Albert Pujols being taken in the 13th round of the 1999 draft by the Cardinals, no one really knows or cares about when a player’s name was called on draft day. Most fans and GMs simply care about how that player performs on the field. To shake some of the cobwebs out of my own head, I looked at the Brewers’ current 40-man roster and dug up where, and by whom, each player was drafted. Here’s a quick reminder –

Player Year Round Overall Pick Team
Rickie Weeks 2003 1 2 Brewers
Ryan Braun 2005 1 5 Brewers
Tom Gorzelanny 2003 2 45 Pirates
Yovani Gallardo 2004 2 46 Brewers
Jeff Bianchi 2005 2 50 Royals
Jimmy Nelson 2010 2 64 Brewers
Logan Schafer 2008 3 94 Brewers
Tyler Thornburg 2010 3 96 Brewers
Jonathan Lucroy 2007 3 101 Brewers
Caleb Gindl 2007 5 161 Brewers
Marco Estrada 2005 6 174 Nationals
Hiram Burgos 2009 6 196 Brewers
Khris Davis 2009 7 226 Brewers
Michael Olmsted 2007 9 303 Mets
Rob Wooten 2008 13 398 Brewers
Sean Halton 2009 13 406 Brewers
Donovan Hand 2007 14 431 Brewers
Scooter Gennett 2009 16 496 Brewers
Johnny Hellweg 2008 16 499 Angels
Burke Badenhop 2005 19 570 Tigers
Mike Fiers 2009 22 676 Brewers
Jim Henderson 2003 26 777 Expos
Martin Maldonado 2004 27 803 Angels
Kyle Lohse 1996 29 862 Cubs
Brandon Kintzler 2004 40 1182 Padres

In addition, it turns out ten were never drafted at all. The Brewers got Norichika Aoki from the Yakult Swallows. The nine remaining Brewers were international players signed as “amateur free agents”.

Player Team
Alfredo Figaro Dodgers
Aramis Ramirez Pittsburgh Pirates
Ariel Pena Angels
Carlos Gomez Mets
Elian Herrera Dodgers
Jean Segura Angels
Jose De La Torre Brewers
Juan Francisco Reds
Wily Peralta Brewers

I doubt many people would look at the current Brewers roster and know that Kyle Lohse is the second latest drafted player on the team. Whether a first round pick, like Rogers, or 29th round pick, like Lohse, every player has defied the odds to end up at the major league level. It’s just that being drafted in the first round brands a player for the rest of his career. Sometimes the label is a sign of pedigree. Other times missed potential. While major league success may be sweeter as a first round pick, if it doesn’t work out, the burn must feel even worse.

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