Mariners’ Josh Rojas has elite ‘instincts,’ Gold Glove case at 3B

Jun 18, 2024, 3:02 PM

Seattle Mariners 3B Josh Rojas...

Josh Rojas of the Seattle Mariners fields a ball during a 2024 game. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The first-place Seattle Mariners are coming off a massive, three-game series sweep of the Texas Rangers, and Josh Rojas’ fingerprints were all over the final two games of the AL West statement that went down at T-Mobile Park.

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Rojas reached base four times, slugged a solo home run and added a two critical insurances runs with a single in Saturday’s 7-5 victory. Then, in Sunday’s 5-0 win, he forced Texas starter Dane Dunning to throw 14 pitches in his first at-bat, checked in with a double in the fifth inning and later came around from second to score on a wild pitch.

At this point, those sort of contributions are far from a surprise to his manager.

“Rojas’ instincts – I’ve talked about it since day one, really since we acquired him – it just stands out, whether it’s in the batter’s box, defensively, certainly great baserunning,” Scott Servais said over the weekend. “… He’s looking how to do anything he can to beat the opponent, and it pays off.”

Rojas’ big offensive moments were a welcomed sign over the weekend. Seattle’s third baseman has cooled off considerably at the plate following a torrid opening month, but there’s one way he’s been providing his team with immense value all along.

“I think he’s one of the best defensive third baseman in the league,” Servais said. “… We’ve been spoiled here with outstanding defensive play at third base, but Josh is right up there with the (Kyle) Seagers and what we saw from Geno (Eugenio Suárez) for a couple of years here. He has been fantastic.”

Nobody better

Servais’ feeling about his scrappy infielder is warranted. According to Statcast data, Rojas is making a strong case to be the AL’s Gold Glove winner at the hot corner. His six outs above average and five runs prevented rank first and are both two above the nearest defender. His plus-5% success rate is also No. 1.

“I wouldn’t say that I feel way better than I have ever before, because there’s times where I felt good and just not make plays,” Rojas said, “but yeah, I guess if the numbers say it’s been one of the better ones, I’ll take it.”

Rojas’ defensive excellence extends beyond just his time at third base. He’s also posted two outs above average with a plus-7% success rate in just 33 attempts at second base, and his overall nine outs above average is tied for fourth among all defenders. The next-closest Mariner is Julio Rodríguez’s four.

After appearing just once at third base following his trade to Seattle last season, Rojas has taken over as the Mariners’ starting third baseman against right-handed starters. However, playing all over the field is something he’s used to. He logged time at second base, third base, shortstop, left field and right field while spending parts of five seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Despite settling into a more set role at third base this season, Rojas said he still views himself as a utility infielder, and it’s something he takes pride in.

“I like to still consider myself a guy that can play anywhere on the diamond,” Rojas said. “My position this year so far has been third base. There’s times where I show up and my position is second base, could be left field, could be right field. So I still consider myself a utility guy. I always want to be a utility guy. I want the manager to be able to feel like he can use me anywhere on defense, but yeah, right now I’m the third baseman, and I feel pretty good over there.”

Instincts in action

As Servais said, instincts are constantly the first thing he brings up when talking about Rojas. The heady play when he scored from second on a wild pitch was an example of those instincts, and so was Rojas’ home run off Texas reliever Jonathan Hernández on Saturday.

Rojas clubbed a sinker into the seats in right-center field for his fourth home run and first since April 28. As he explained after the game, it was an adjustment and knowledge of what he’s capable of that proved to be the difference.

“I actually went up there (and) I wanted to sit on a slider, and then after he threw the first one, it didn’t look like a pitch I could hit even if I sat on it,” Rojas explained. “So I just switched, and I was like, ‘If he throws me heater close, I’m going to try to be on it.’”

More on the Seattle Mariners

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Mariners’ Josh Rojas has elite ‘instincts,’ Gold Glove case at 3B