When it comes to evaluating a player’s value to an organization, on field production has always been the measuring stick. However, leadership and loyalty can turn an athlete into a franchise cornerstone. In those regards, Miguel Rojas is the Marlins’ Mike Trout.
On Tuesday night, the Miami Marlins were finally back home after quite a debilitating three city nine game road trip. Miami went 1-8, and fell to 25-34, seven and a half games back for the NL East division lead. The skid coincided with one of the latest bites from the injury bug that has been hampering the Marlins all season, this time to El Capitain himself. On May 27th, the same night the Marlins were to fly to Boston to start the aforementioned trip, Rojas dislocated his left index finger while sliding back to first base. He left the game immediately and was placed on the 10-day IL postgame. He remained in Miami during the Marlins’ road trip. According to Rojas, being away from the team as it struggled through adversity was a tough pill to swallow.
“I really wish I could’ve been there with them grinding every day, going to the ballpark, going through these tough moments,” Rojas told Bally Sports during Wednesday’s game. “If you want to be a leader and you want to be a guy that supports your teammates, you want to be there in those moments, too. I don’t want to just he here when the good things happen.”
While watching the Marlins on TV during the road trip, Rojas pinpointed some weaknesses within the offense, holes that he believes can be filled by the team as a whole being able to produce runs by more simplistic means.
“That’s what I’m seeing: lack of ways to win games without an extra base or a homer,” Rojas said. “We need to have multiple ways to win games. We need to move the runners. We need to be a team that is able to put some hits together. We need to be a team that’s not striking out way too much.”
“The Marlins’ organization needs to get better at playing the little game and don’t forget about playing the game the right way: to win,” Rojas continued. “If a situation is there, if you need to move a guy over, you need to do the job regardless. If you hit a homer great, but that’s your job, moving the guy over and continuing to make the line move.”
With Rojas back with the team, around the cage pregame, on the bench during the game and in the clubhouse postgame, the Marlins manufactured runs much more frequently. They took two of three from the Colorado Rockies and the the first two of a three game series against the division rival Atlanta Braves. After only scoring 24 runs in their previous eight games, Miami scored that same amount in their next four contests and 28 in their last five. The Miggy factor helped the Marlins to back-to-back series for just the third time this season.
During Wednesday night’s game Rojas was asked to help in a coaching role from the Marlins’ bench. Obviously, Rojas accepted and he looked every bit the part.
“Our regular first base coach Keith Johnson is out due to personal things so Trey (Hillman) our third base coach is helping the outfielders with some things,” Rojas said during the Bally Sports broadcast. “He asked me to help the infielders today with positioning and all that stuff. I’m trying to help the guys as long as I can do it.”
Rojas has remained with a chart and marker in his hands even after Johnson’s return on Saturday.
“Miggy is always good for us just from the standpoint of taking to guys and encouraging with energy and talking the game,” Don Mattingly said Wednesday. “[He’s] very very positive during the course of the game.”
Although Rojas was not with his big league teammates for a little over a week, he was still busy making an impact on the Marlins’ organization. This past weekend, Rojas spent time with the Jupiter Hammerheads, catching up with and counseling some of the top prospects in the system.
“I want to be able to see what’s coming next and help these guys, trying to be there and present for [them] if I can,” Rojas said. “That way they can see that someone is there and someone cares about what they’re doing.”
Rojas, who spent eight years in the minors before getting his first big league call, knows the aesthetics of a long minor league season and hopes his presence helped to break up the monotony of it and encouraged Marlins’ prospects, many of whom are playing their first full season, to keep grinding.
“It’s really hard when you play a long season in the minor leagues; when you just have coaches around and the people that you see often, it kind of gets really boring and sometimes it’s really hard to find the motivation,” Rojas said. “When those guys see something like that from a player that is at the biggest level, I think it gives them that extra motivation to work harder.”
During his visit, Rojas got to catch up with Victor Mesa Jr. whom he tutored during the offseason and whom he refers to as his little brother.
“I really care about him. I think he’s a kid who is going to need the guidance and the help so hopefully I can provide some
Mesa Jr. is not the only Marlins’ prospect currently playing with the Hammerheads whom Rojas sees big league potential in. Along with Mesa Jr. and Nasim Nunez, Rojas also pinpointed right hander Edward Cabrera, the Marlins’ third-ranked prospect who is currently rehabbing in Jupiter.
“I wanted to see how his arm feels,” Rojas said. “I’m really excited about that kid. I think he’s going to be huge for us. His future is really bright.”
Even when he is not on the field, Rojas is providing insurmountable wealth to the Marlins organization and staying involved wherever and whenever possible. As desirable as a .300+ batting average, a 1.000+ OPS and a 160 wRC+ are in a Major League Baseball player, so to are the leadership qualities and steadfast dedication to not just a team but an entire franchise exhibited by the seven-year Venezuelan veteran.
Recently, the 32-year-old was asked about his contract situation which has him signed through this season before the Marlins must decide on a team option in 2022. Rojas gave the most Miguel Rojas answer, that befitting of a man fully committed to the Miami Marlins organization long term.
“I want to be part of this organization for the rest of my career,” Rojas said. “That’s my mentality: I want to be here. I’m not thinking about coming back to the field because of my option. I want to be part of this for a long time.”
Inasmuch as Miggy wants to stay in Miami, the Marlins should want to keep him in Miami.