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The Fourth Musketeer

All for one, and one for all.

Josh Rojas competes with emotional focus.
Josh Rojas competes with emotional focus.
Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images

Musketeers are cool! Four musketeers will swashbuckle into the Diamondbacks’ future. Their skill and competitive spirit make them fearsome batters. Reminiscent of the musketeers, their principled quest has much analytic intrigue and derring do battles with the Dodgers and the Giants.

Three of the musketeers are 27 year old - the Diamondbacks acquired them via trade with other teams. One musketeer is 25 years old - he was drafted by the Diamondbacks.

Most musketeers can play multiple positions if needed. In last week’s games, two musketeers played right field, two musketeers played center field, and two musketeers played catcher.

After the All-Star break, all of them were above my All-Star demarcation line of .339 for wOBA. In addition, two of them were above my All-Star demarcation line of .038 for homers per PA.

That’s enough clues. You likely have guessed the names of the musketeers. The following table shows their wOBA and homers per PA.

2021 season. Games through 27 August. Data from Baseball Savant.

Let’s look closer at one of the musketeers, Josh Rojas.

How did fans see Josh Rojas over the last few years?

“The Astros have had success finding diamonds in the rough late in the draft and the 2017 draft looks to be no different with the selection of Josh Rojas.” — Jimmy Price, May 2018

“Rojas is just an average defensive player but can play every position on the field. He is a contact hitter who is very hard to strikeout. He projects as a very versatile utilityman.” — Jared Cantatore, August 2019

“While Rojas has a lot of potential and is very talented, in his 2019 debut he did not necessarily “wow” anyone that I am aware of.” — edbigghead, November 2019

Still only 26 years old but going on 2 subpar years after tearing up the minors, we’re starting to get a clearer picture of what type of player Josh is. He’s a utility man with excellent versatility. The bat is still a large question mark,…. If the bat starts to turn around, I’m talking about just hitting at a league average level here, he should see himself starting 120 games in a year and providing excellent value across the field. Unfortunately for him, we just haven’t seen that. — Steven Burt, December 2020

At age 27, Rojas took a step forward - his on base percentage soared well above average. In games through 28 August, his .355 OBP ranked 21st among qualified batters in the NL. He edged out Paul Goldschmidt at 22nd and Charlie Blackmon at 23rd per Baseball Reference. If he continues his recent hot hitting, he could end the season on that OBP leaderboard. Let’s look at Josh Rojas’ On Base Percent (OBP).

  • .312 in 2019
  • .257 in 2020
  • .337 in 2021 before All Star break
  • .423 in 2021 after All Star Break, games though 27 August

His excellent fielding versatility makes him a must-have utility player. This season he played second base, shortstop, left field, and right field.

What were three things Josh Rojas did to succeed?

Discussing his many strengths (both physical and mental) and the developmental hurdles needed to reach and succeed in the Majors would require a longer article - certainly longer than most fans would care to read. Instead, let’s look at three very basic things that contributed to his success.

He focused on the Majors from the start. Attributes, even the littlest things were compared to the big leaguers, even at low A minors. “That’s what I did every day for two and a half years, constantly comparing what I can do to how major leaguers do it. …adjustments they teach are based on how it will play in the big leagues.” — Josh Rojas

He stayed strong during down time and the off season. He stayed mobile & flexible. He stayed strong with focus on his legs, core, and shoulders. Staying at the top of your game is something you do every day, even the off season.

He learned skills from many players. He learned how to play the outfield from Steven Souza Jr. and Dave McKay. He liked how Tony Womack made a lot of contact and ran the bases hard. He tried to play the same way as Javier Baez. Baseball Reference showed me Baez won a silver slugger and a gold glove, not to mention the NLCS MVP. With that approach, Josh Rojas developed into a multi-faceted player.

“I don’t directly try to model myself as any one player, but I do have some favorite players that do some things I like. If I had to choose one though I’d say Javy Baez. The reason I say this is because he plays hard and his baseball IQ is very high, especially on the bases. I love the way he plays and I try to play the same way.” — Josh Rojas May 2018

What were three attitudes that contributed to his success?

Positive thinking. He loved being an Astro. He was surprised when he was traded to the Diamondbacks. His surprise morphed into positive thinking when he said things like, “This ____ is good for me because ____.” In this case, he saw a chance to play in the Majors, which he had not yet done with the Astros. So far, he has played 170 games in the Majors!

He kept the strength of his swing.

“I think the biggest difference from Hawaii to Quads was that I really learned the strengths of my swing and I also started to learn about pitch selection for really the first time. I had always just been a free swinger.” — Josh Rojas May 2018

What is remarkable is that he accepted that about himself and nevertheless developed a reputation for excellent plate discipline and gathering more than his share of walks. A clue to that conundrum was after he was promoted to the Majors he said, “The biggest thing is... don’t do something different or question things, just make adjustments.”

He focused on winning the battles with what he’s got.

“So that’s kind of my way of leaving behind what happened in the cage, or what did not feel right. You’ve got to compete with what you’ve got. You now have to focus on what pitches you may be getting, what location he might be trying to attack.” — Josh Rojas 2019

When he says, “I’m a competitor,” it’s likely that he focuses on how to succeed with the pitch he’s about to get. During the game he forgets about what he needs to adjust. It’s likely he forgets about statistics, too.

What position should he play in 2022?

“Second base is his most natural position, though he does well on the corner outfield slots and has more than enough arm to man RF.” — James Attwood

Perhaps his natural position is not where he should play because the Diamondbacks have an All-Star second baseman, Ketel Marte.

Let’s look at his defensive skills in four positions played in 2021 (through 27 August). His average skill level was based on equal weighted Statcast (Baseball Savant) runs prevented, The Fielding Bible Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), and FanGraph’s Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR).

  • shortstop: negative 4.3 runs in 198 innings played.
  • second base: negative 0.3 runs in 303 innings played.
  • left field: negative 0.3 runs in 84.2 innings played.
  • right field: positive 0.3 runs in 236 innings played.

Surprisingly, his best defense was in right field. Actually, it’s not too surprising because in 2019 he played great defense in left field (1.7 runs) and right field (1.1 runs).

One possible approach would be to start Rojas in right field against right handed starters (his OBP is .391 against right handed starters vs .261 against left handed starters) and take advantage of his positional versatility to play him in other positions as needed. That feels like the spirit of, “All for one, and one for all!”