Ex-Pittsburgh Pirates Farmhand Shining in the KBO
After struggling during his professional career in the states, a former 3rd round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates is having a great season in the KBO
In the 3rd round of the 2010 MLB Draft the Pittsburgh Pirates selected outfielder Mel Rojas Jr. Drafted out of Wabash Valley College, the Indianapolis native quickly signed with the Pirates and was playing professional baseball with the short-season State College Spikes before the end of that summer.
Rojas Jr. would play his first full professional season in 2011, spending the entire season with the Low-A West Virginia Power. Despite struggling to the tune of a .246/.312/.335 slash line and a wRC+ of 79, he was promoted to High-A Bradenton for 2012.
With the Marauders, Rojas Jr.’s struggles would continue. He slashed just .245/.303/.354 to go wit ha wRC+ of 86. Again, Rojas Jr. saw a promotion the following season as he was promoted to Double-A Altoona. With the Curve, he would put together a pair of strong seasons. He posted a 103 wRC+ in 2013 and a 133 wRC+ in 2014.
53 games into his 2014 campaign, Rojas Jr. was promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis. Playing for his hometown team, he slashed .277/.363/.405 to go with a 115 wRC+. At this point, he appeared to be entering the 2015 season on the doorstep of the MLB level. Unfortunately, that is not how things would work out.
Rojas Jr. struggled so mightily at Triple-A in 2015 that he was eventually sent back to Double-A. This was a real blow as he appeared to have turned the corner as a hitter the previous two seasons.
After starting the 2016 season with Triple-A Indianapolis, Rojas Jr.’s Pittsburgh Pirates career would end. This end came on May 9, 2016, when he was traded to the Atlanta Braves for cash considerations. Upon arriving in Atlanta’s system, Rojas Jr. was assigned to the Double-A level. He never would reach the MLB level during his career.
Rojas Jr. is now in his third season playing in the KBO. Thus far, season three has been the best one yet for the ex-Pittsburgh Pirates farmhand.
After starting the 2017 season at the Triple-A level with the Braves, Rojas Jr. signed with the KT Wiz of the KBO on June 12, 2017. In his KBO debut, Rojas Jr. quickly made an impact batting for a .301/.351/.560 slash line, to go with a 125 wRC+ and 18 home runs in 83 games.
Still with the KT Wiz, Rojas Jr. hit for a .305/.388/.590 slash line with a 139 wRC+, 11.0% walk rate, and 43 home runs in 2018. Then in 2019, he slashed .322/.381/.530 with a 148 wRC+, 8.5% walk rate, and he smacked 24 home runs.
Through his first 24 games (108 plate appearances) of 2020, Rojas Jr. is continuing his upward trajectory. As of Tuesday afternoon, he owned a .408/.454/.714 slash line and a 198 wRC+. He has already hit 8 home runs, which is the second most in the league, and his isolated power is a new career best .306.
Rojas Jr. has gone from minor league farmhand to KBO slugging star.
While his professional career in the states did not work out for him, Rojas Jr. appears to have found a good home in the KBO. Hopefully, he will continue to find success in South Korea and continue to blossom into one of the best players in the league.