Mel Rojas Jr.
- Bats Both, Throws Right
- Height 6' 2", Weight 225 lb.
Outfielder Mel Rojas Jr. comes from a prestigious baseball family and has won a KBO MVP and been on the Dominican national team. He is the son of Mel Rojas, the nephew of Francisco Rojas and his father is a cousin of the Alou clan - Matty Alou, Felipe Alou, Jesus Alou, Moises Alou, Luis Rojas, Jose Alou and Felipe Alou Jr.
Rojas stole 60 bases in 62 tries as a college freshman in 2010, leading all junior college players in swipes. Combined with his size (and related power potential), he easily became the highest pick in the history of Wabash Valley Community College. The Pittsburgh Pirates took him in the third round of the 2010 amateur draft, the 84th overall selection. He was the only position player they took in the first ten rounds.
Assigned to the State College Spikes, Rojas was at .250/.364/.310 after 26 games, with five steals in eight tries. He faded badly after that solid start, ending the year with a batting line of .207/.309/.250 in 34 games. In 2011, he moved up to the West Virginia Power of the South Atlantic League. In 131 games, he hit .246/.312/.335, with 66 runs scored and 46 RBI. He stole 23 bases but was caught 14 times while manning center field for the team. In 2012, he played for the Bradenton Marauders of the Florida State League, hitting .245 in 130 games. he did hit 12 triples and was successful in 16 of 24 stolen bases attempts.
After three middling seasons, Rojas took a step forward in 2013 while playing in AA with the Altoona Curve of the Eastern League. His .274 average in 120 games was easily the highest of his professional career and he scored 57 runs and drove in 51. He hit 28 doubles and 9 triples, starting to show some decent power while splitting his time between center and left field. In 2014, he made it to AAA after starting the year back at Altoona. He hit a solid .303/.379/.476 in 53 games in the Eastern League to earn the promotion to the Indianapolis Indians at the end of May. He continued to be a productive hitter in AAA, with a .277 average in 77 games, to end up with a combined line of .288/.370/.423, with 19 doubles, 10 homers (his first season in double figures), 61 runs and 66 RBIs. However, he was down to 11 stolen bases in 18 attempts, his speed diminishing as he put on some muscle. He started the 2015 season back at Indianapolis. He wound up splitting the season between the Indians (.263/.303/.301 in 52 G) and Curve (.257/.341/.374 in 66 G). That winter, he batted .236/.326/.439 for the Tigres del Licey.
Rojas started 2016 with Indianapolis but started poorly (4 for 26, 2B, 3B, 2 BB). Despairing of hope, Pittsburgh sent him to the Atlanta Braves for cash. He split the rest of the summer between the Mississippi Braves (.244/.293/.358 in 35 G) and Gwinnett Braves (.270/.349/.491 in 64 G). He hit .270/.289/.412 that winter for Licey; his four triples tied Johan Camargo for the Dominican League lead. He was 3 for 15 with a walk and a run for the Tigers in the 2017 Caribbean Series.
Mel then made the Dominican team for the 2017 World Baseball Classic, a surprising inclusion as the team's other outfielders were two-time AL home run king Jose Bautista, 4-time All-Star Nelson Cruz, reigning NL steal leader and Gold Glove winner Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco (who had hit over 20 homers the prior season). Interestingly, like Marte and Polanco, he had come up from the Pirate system.
He hit .259/.318/.406 in 54 games for Gwinnett in 2017 then moved to the Korea Baseball Organization's kt Wiz. He showed more power than he ever had before - .301/.351/.560, 18 HR, 27 2B in 83 G. Despite joining the team partway into the season, he led them in dingers. He hit .305/.388/.590 with 30 doubles, 43 homers, 114 runs, 114 RBI and 71 walks in the 2018 KBO. He tied Byung-ho Park and Jamie Romak for 2nd in the league in dingers (one behind Jae-hwan Kim), tied Hae-min Park for 2nd in runs (4 behind Jun-woo Jeon), was 2nd with 333 total bases (13 behind Kim), placed 7th in RBI (between Dong-min Han and Byung-ho Park), tied for 10th in steals (18), tied Roger Bernadina for the most times caught stealing (13), was second in walks (one shy of Romak), was 8th in slugging (between Jeon and Hyun-soo Kim) and was 10th in OPS.
In 2019, his batting line was .322/.381/.530 with 30 doubles, 24 home runs and 104 RBI. He made the leaderboards for average (7th, between Jong-wook Ko and Kun-woo Park), doubles (tied Jeon for 9th), home runs (5th), total bases (276, tied José Miguel Fernandez for 2nd), RBI (tied Ha-seong Kim for 2nd, 9 behind Jerry Sands), slugging (4th, between Sands and Jeong Choi) and OPS (tied Baek-ho Kang and Darin Ruf for 5th). He won his first KBO Gold Glove as one of the league's top three overall outfielders, joining Sands and Jung-hoo Lee.
The 30-year-old had a huge year in 2020 (.349/.417/.680, 116 R, 39 2B, 47 HR, 135 RBI, 65 BB). He was 3rd in average (behind Hyung-woo Choi and Ah-seop Son), led in runs (one ahead of Sung-bum Na), was second with 192 hits (7 behind Fernandez), was 6th in doubles, led in home runs (9 ahead of Roberto Ramos), led in total bases (374, 61 ahead of Na), led in RBI (11 ahead of Eui-ji Yang), was 3rd in OBP (behind Seok-min Park and Hyung-woo Choi), led in slugging (.077 ahead of Yang) and led in OPS (74 ahead of Hyung-woo Choi). He repeated as a Gold Glove winner, joining Jung-hoo Lee and Hyun-soo Kim in the outfield. He won the KBO MVP, the first player born in Latin America to win that honor. He easily won, with 653 vote points out of 896, Yang finishing second.
He then signed with Japan's Hanshin Tigers.