Selective aggression paying off for Hawks’ cleanup hitter

Jacob Rogers’ recent run of RBIs has put him in the Northwest League lead.

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comJuly 28, 2013 

  • HAWKS DROP A.M. TILT

    Janluis Castro lined a two-run RBI single with two outs in the top of the ninth inning to score the go-ahead runs for the Spokane Indians in a 3-1 win over the Boise Hawks.

    Playing a rare 10 a.m. game, Boise (23-20) left six runners on base, scoring its lone run in the sixth inning on a Jacob Rogers sacrifice fly. Danny Lockhart was 3-for-4 for the Hawks in the loss.

— As the cleanup hitter, Jacob Rogers wanted to be the one bringing his friends home, but early on, they were stranded more often than not.

Then July came.

Rogers, who had five RBIs in 17 June games, has driven in 24 runs in 25 games this month, and he took over the Northwest League lead when he scored Danny Lockhart on a sacrifice fly for the Boise Hawks’ only run in a 3-1 loss to the Spokane Indians on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

“Early on, I wasn’t very good at it, swinging at bad pitches, chasing stuff,” said Rogers, who will start in the NWL All-Star Game on Aug. 6. “I was either striking out or walking. I’ve always tried to have a good knowledge of the strike zone, so when it’s there, I’ve got to be selectively aggressive.”

Though he admits he took some swings he shouldn’t have, the 6-foot-5, 195-pound first baseman has not been a feast-or-famine hitter.

Rogers, a .286 hitter, has walked a team-high 25 times, tied for second in the league after Saturday’s game. But he’s also tied for the team lead and second in the NWL with five home runs.

“He was almost too selective, and being in the middle of the order, you might only get one pitch to hit, and it might be the first,” Hawks manager Gary Van Tol said.

No Hawk has been on the field more this season than Rogers, the team’s everyday first baseman. Van Tol points to the Florida native’s work ethic as a reason why he can be routinely called upon to contribute.

That work ethic may also stem from a drive to show his worth from the very start of his pro career.

Rogers was taken in the 40th round of the 2012 MLB Draft out of Division II Mount Olive (N.C.) College, the 1,214th player selected.

“Early on, I think it pushed me, gave me a bit of a chip on my shoulder, but once you’re at this level, it doesn’t really matter — if you work hard and perform, you’ll get some good opportunities,” Rogers said.

There’s no doubt the Cubs had their eye on Rogers, but certainly were willing to wait — they took him in the 44th round in 2010, and again took a late flier last year.

“For us to get him in the 40th round, that’s a steal,” Van Tol said. “He’s a real professional — that’s carried onto the field, where he keeps getting better. He’s got power, and he’s saved us a few times with his glove, too.”

Even with the Hawks’ recent addition of No. 2 overall draft pick Kris Bryant, Rogers will stay in the cleanup role he’s held, and grown into, this season.

“He’s been hitting third, so right in front of me, and they’re pitching to him similarly,” Rogers said of Bryant. “So, I think that’s good for me, because I get a good idea of what’s coming, and when Kris really gets going, hopefully I’ll have a lot of chances to drive him in.”

Dave Southorn: 377-6420, Twitter: @IDS_Southorn

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