It’s impossible to mistake Tyler Rogers for anyone else on the mound. It’s not his physical presence, though not many pitchers stand at a lanky 6’5”. It’s the fact that, as you might be able to tell from the picture up above, he’s a submariner.
Rogers didn’t spend his whole life throwing from such a low arm angle, but he also wasn’t always as successful as he is today. In contrast to his twin brother Taylor, drafted out of high school by the Orioles (he didn’t sign) and then out of the University of Kentucky by the Twins, Tyler didn’t have much of a pedigree in high school. It wasn’t until his freshman year at Garden City Community College in Garden City, Kansas that things started to click.
“I was struggling a little bit with my pitching. Just something my coach came to me with. I just started messing around with it. It felt pretty natural at first, so I struck with it and it’s evolved into something so much more than I thought it would,” Rogers said. From Garden City, he got a scholarship to Austin Peay State University, where he tied the NCAA single season save record and was named the Ohio Valley Conference Pitcher of the Year in 2013, and the Giants took him in the 10th round of the 2013 draft.
Rogers was instantly successful that year with the AZL Giants and the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, and he had a similarly great 2014 in Augusta and San Jose. It wasn’t until his midseason promotion to Richmond in 2015 that he really had some struggles, going from a career 1.72 ERA as a San Jose Giant to 5.91 with the Flying Squirrels. But like successful pitchers have to do, he took those struggles as a learning opportunity.
“Biggest thing is, it’s more about getting outs in the zone as you move up. When I got to AA, that was a big change, having to get outs in the zone.” Those adjustments paid off, helping him to a 0.77 ERA in 35 AA innings the next year, which earned him a promotion to Sacramento, where he struggled again in his first half season. What was the takeaway from that? “Then what I figured out here, you gotta definitely throw all your pitches in the zone, not just one. The biggest thing is just consistency.”
And for the last year and a half, Rogers has been extremely consistent. After that half season in Sacramento, when his ERA was 6.10, he’s rebounded to be the team’s most consistent reliever. In 2017, his ERA dropped to 2.37, and this year it’s at 2.00.
Those numbers got Rogers selected as the River Cats representative at the 2017 AAA All-Star Game, which he was pretty excited about. “It was my first ever All-Star Game, so I was pretty fired up,” he said. “I wasn’t even on the ballot, so I wasn’t even expecting much and they told me I made it. It was really cool to be able to go do something like that.” When he got on the mound, though, he was able to treat it like any other game, and like most games he pitches in, he threw a scoreless inning, striking out current Phillies catcher Jorge Alfaro in the process.
Most submariners in the majors — guys like Darren O’Day or Steve Cishek — don’t really go that low. It’s not that the label’s wrong per se, but they’re more like scuba divers, barely breaking the waves. Rogers, on the other hand, is more from the Chad Bradford school, getting so low that he’s almost scraping the ocean floor. “I don’t know how I got down there to be honest with you,” he said. “It just happened. I just saw a picture one day and I’m like, ‘I throw that low? Wow.’”
Do you want to see that delivery in action? I can help you with that:
When Rogers is going right, he’s not going to be getting tons of strikeouts, but he’ll get hitters to put the ball on the ground. And for the last couple years, he’s even managed to avoid the pitfall that strikes so many submariners: platoon splits. Most submarine-style righties have trouble with left-handed hitters, but in each of the last couple years, Rogers has done a great job on lefties, limiting them this year to a .593 OPS. He insists he’s not doing anything special against them. “[There’s] nothing I do differently, no. I feel comfortable pitching to both lefties and righties.”
It can be easy to overlook Rogers. His teammate Ray Black can hit triple digits on the radar gun, while Rogers’s fastball sits in the mid- to low-80s. And you could see if a guy with an unusual delivery had one good year in a longer minor league career, that you might look at those results with skepticism. And Rogers understands why there might be that skepticism. But at the same time, “I think judging over what I’ve done the last six years, I think it’s trustable now.”