Jose Rojas had one of the best offensive seasons in Salt Lake Bees history, his production so effusive he led the Pacific Coast League in RBIs. But the Angels will not call up the multiposition infielder, who is not on the 40-man roster, from triple A during the final month of the season, manager Brad Ausmus said Tuesday.
Rojas, a 26-year-old from Anaheim, has always been a fringe prospect. Although he has been in the organization three years, Baseball America didn’t consider him among the Angels’ top 30 minor leaguers until after he hit .304 in double A and reached triple A in 2018.
However, Rojas has had a tremendous season. He batted .293 with a .938 on-base-plus-slugging percentage and a franchise-record 107 RBIs in 126 games. He was second in the PCL with 39 doubles and was one of 15 players to hit 30 or more home runs. Such performances typically warrant promotions when rosters expand to 40 men in September.
Jose Rojas had one of the best offensive seasons in our franchise history.— Salt Lake Bees (@SaltLakeBees) September 3, 2019
1st in RBI (107)
1st in XBH (77)
1st in Total Bases (297)
2nd in 2B (39)
3rd in Runs (101)
5th in Hits (151)
Not bad from the Anaheim native pic.twitter.com/qzIbLfzfyW
“He kind of came out of nowhere,” Ausmus acknowledged.
The introduction of the MLB baseball at the triple-A level has made it hard for teams to evaluate their players in the high-altitude league this year. Home run rates escalated so precipitously — there were 5,749 home runs hit in triple A this year and only 3,652 last year — that differentiating raw talent from fortune is tricky.
“Power numbers were off the charts,” Ausmus said. “I’ve said it many times, for pitchers you can only judge strikeouts and walks because they’re getting hit so hard it’s unfair. Hitter is a little more difficult.
“The hitting coaches are evaluating the players less on statistics and more on what they’re seeing. But it’s tough to not get influenced by someone hitting 30 homers because you just go back to your frame of reference — 30 homers is a lot in triple A. Or it used to be.”
Had the Angels opted to clear a 40-man roster spot to add Rojas, it might have been difficult finding him enough playing time. They already have eight infielders on the active roster, and Tommy La Stella is expected to return from his leg injury in the next week.
“Given all the considerations that go into adding someone to the roster, such as current roster construction, expected playing time and usage, and overall flexibility of the Major League roster, we opted to not add any additional players to the 40 man roster at this time,” general manager Billy Eppler said when reached by text message.
Rojas was selected out of Vanguard University in the 36th round of the 2016 draft. He will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft this winter, so the Angels must decide by November whether to add him to the 40-man roster or leave him exposed to another organization.
If the Angels decide on the latter, Rojas’ high strikeout rate might deter other teams from taking a chance. He struck out 131 times and drew 58 walks in 578 plate appearances.