MILWAUKEE -- Is Jason Rogers the Brewers' 2013 version of 2012's Josh Prince?
Prince was a fringy but versatile prospect who rode a breakthrough performance in last year's Arizona Fall League to a spot on Milwaukee's 40-man roster. Prince was rewarded in 2013 with a brief appearance in the Major Leagues, though he was removed from the roster last month.
Now comes Rogers, who has hit himself into prospect status with back-to-back solid seasons, including a 2013 spent at Double-A Huntsville that earned Rogers the Brewers' Minor League Player of the Year honor and a spot in the prestigious AFL. Like Prince, Rogers is 25. Like Prince, Rogers is improving his versatility by playing multiple positions in the AFL, a project that will continue at the Brewers' complex in the Dominican Republic following Saturday's AFL Championship Game.
Brewers farm director Reid Nichols said the plan called for Rogers, a first baseman by trade who manned left field in the AFL, to play third base every day for two weeks in the Dominican as part of the team's instructional program there. And if one of the Dominican Winter League teams needs a third baseman, the Brewers would try to get Rogers a shot.
Rogers is also hoping for a spot on the Brewers' 40-man roster spot on Wednesday, the deadline for teams to protect eligible players from December's Rule 5 Draft.
"We have a good idea [of who will be added]," general manager Doug Melvin said, without revealing his plans.
Melvin and manager Ron Roenicke have shown a fondness for versatile players, including in the Major Leagues with Corey Hart's move from right field to first base and catcher Jonathan Lucroy's dabbling at first. First base is the team's most uncertain position at the moment, but questions also loom at third, where veteran Aramis Ramirez is entering the final year of his contract. Milwaukee's best third-base prospect, according to MLB.com's list, is Nick Delmonico, a 21-year-old acquired in July from the Orioles for reliever Francisco Rodriguez. Delmonico played in the Class A Advanced Carolina and Florida State Leagues in 2013.
Rogers is in a group of Brewers Minor Leaguers who would be available to the 29 other teams in the Rule 5 Draft if not protected on the roster. Since right-hander (and top Brewers prospect) Jimmy Nelson was already added to the 40-man roster in September, the only lock is first baseman Hunter Morris.
But a number of other Rule 5 Draft-eligible players are under consideration, including a pair of Rogers' Fall League teammates -- right-handers Tyler Cravy and Kevin Shackelford.
Entering Saturday's AFL Championship Game, Cravy, 24, pitched to a 2.76 ERA in 10 fall appearances (all five of the earned runs against him came in one Oct. 31 outing; the other nine were scoreless) after going 4-2 with a 2.04 ERA in 25 games, nine starts, at Class A Advanced Brevard County. Shackelford, also 24, had a 3.09 ERA in 11 AFL appearances after logging a 3.08 ERA and eight saves between Brevard County and Double-A Huntsville. Shackelford was better at the more advanced level, with a 0.92 ERA, six of his saves and a 1.023 WHIP at Huntsville.
Rogers was batting .311 in the AFL through Thursday's regular season finale, with two home runs, eight RBIs and a .432 on-base percentage (10th-best in the prospect-laden league) in 61 at-bats.
The Brewers' best offensive performer has been outfielder Mitch Haniger, who is hitting .280 with four home runs including a pair of grand slams, and a league-best 24 RBIs.
All of the Brewers' prospects have been playing for the Surprise Saguaros, who will face Mesa in Saturday's AFL Championship Game at Scottsdale Stadium.