Astros Prospect Brady Rodgers and More Train at Program 15 in Katy
By Eric Huysman
Former MLB Scout Created Program 15, Which Could Help Astros Prospect Rodgers Improve
The Houston Astros prospect Brady Rodgers is near major league ready as he finished last season winning a championship with the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies. However, he felt like he was missing something with his pitching and he wanted to get back to his form. He then reached out to someone in the MLB who first believed in him; this person was Jeremy Booth, who scouted and drafted Rodgers out of high school. Rodgers said, “Jeremy has known me since high school, he drafted me with the Brewers, but I chose to go to college instead. We have stayed in communication over the year, and then he told me about Program 15, and I have been coming for the past month.”
“I felt like I really haven’t been myself the last few years, he knows me the best and has seen me at my best in high school. He told me to come out here and check some things out, and I have been coming ever since. You have a good mixture of players; you have some minor leaguers here and a few major leaguers in Michael Reed and David Rollins. You have a staff here at Program 15 of former major league players who have been there, and they know what it takes.” Before working with Program 15, Rodgers would work with family at a high school baseball field, but now he is getting professional instruction close to home.
Booth on Working with Rodgers
Booth said that he worked with Rodgers on creating a separation between the fastball and his breaking balls because the upper-level hitters will feast on over using the fastball. “This led to an overuse of fastballs in non-fastball counts which get hit at the higher levels. We need to get Brady comfortable using all four pitches with two strikes, instead of having to go back to the fastball each time, that will allow Brady to fill a role with the Astros as a swingman or in the rotation. We have been working to get him ready for camp, and he has done long toss of 340 feet like it’s nothing.”
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“We then improved fastball command and life on both sides of the plate, and changed his position on his execution for his breaking balls, improving both bite and speed. This gives him options in all counts to keep hitters off balance and confidence throughout his start,” says Booth.
Booth tells us of Rodgers bullpen today, which he describes as one of the best he has seen by Rodgers. He doesn’t like to compare player to player because everyone is different, but Rodgers was able to throw 75-80 pitches before spring camp even starts. Booth described Rodgers’ fastball as 92-93 today, and he was able to bury the pitch in the strike zone. His slider was on both sides of the plate inside and outside of the zone. He showed some change of split action with power. He then states that “the Astros are going to be really surprised with who they get this spring.”
Who is Jeremy Booth and Program 15?
Booth played independent baseball for several years before joining the Milwaukee Brewers scouting department in 2010 and then joined the Seattle Mariners as a scout in 2012. While scouting with the Brewers, he was the area scout for Texas and Louisiana, in which he has made several contacts over the years of players who live in the Houston area. When I say Houston area, I am being very broad because Reed travels from Austin to train with Jeremy and the guys at Program 15. Booth is responsible for the signing of Josh Prince and Tyler Jungmann.
Booth had a great experience growing up with a baseball training program called the Program in California and wanted other players to learn some of the lessons he learned as a young player. There was actually a documentary on the Program that included Darryl Strawberry; he was actually the little kid running around shagging fly balls. “We are really focused on getting these guys to know who they are supposed to be and what roles they might have in the big leagues down the road. We teach them to know their bodies and how they could be helpful to their various organizations.
Like the Astros, Booth believes that the most cost-effective way to build a team is through the development of the minor leaguers, something that he hopes they will accomplish with Program 15. Booth focuses on each player’s weaknesses and develops a program centered around what that player needs. With that level of detailed, Program 15 tries to keep it the number of players at a certain level to make sure each player receives equal instruction.
With spring training around the corner, many of the pro baseball players will be heading to Arizona or Florida, so then Program 15 will shift focus to the college athletes. What about high school kids? “We do have something to do with high school kids, it is more like a baseball academy if you will, we don’t work with travel ball teams, but we do work with some teams on the national level. The focus is the same, to get them to play like pros. We have Trent Hubbard, who has 20-years big league experience and Chuck McElroy out here today working with the pitchers.”
Michael Reed (Brewers) on Program 15
“It’s a great opportunity; you have tons of pros who come here to get their work in, about 20-25 guys. There are guys with 20 years MLB experience on the staff; it’s kind of like a mini spring training.” Booth actually had a hand in drafting Reed when he was with the Brewers, so there was already a relationship where Booth knew what Reed needed to work on. Reed got a cup of coffee with the Brewers as a September call-up, so he travels from Austin to work with Program 15 to make sure that he makes the big league roster and stays there.
David Rollins (Mariners) on Program 15
“I like to come here and tear it up in good baseball weather and be around great baseball guys.” Rollins feels bad for the 80-game suspension he received during the 2015 season, so he wanted to work with some people that could help him ‘tear’ it up to make it back to the big leagues. “One guy asked why I come out in a good mood every day, and I say, dude, I get to play baseball for a living. It’s nice to come here and help the 18-year-old kids and learn from the instructors.”
Quentin Davis (Angels) on Program 15
“The guys here help us learn our body and a lot of these guys here are guys I played with growing up, so we have good comradery out here. We are out here working every day, getting our fielders legs ready, part of spring training is staying healthy. One thing that you can’t prepare yourself for is standing up all day in the outfield. We get our weight training in, get out here in a baseball environment, and getting a chance to track balls in the outfield. You have guys who want to see you succeed, and it’s a good overall program.” Davis lives in Pearland, it’s “quite a hike for him,” but it’s worth it by the time he gets to spend on the field.
Dillion Thomas (Rockies) on Program 15
The audio was really bad during his interview, but from what I remember, he came to Program 15 looking to fix how he was attacking pitches, using more of the top hand in his swing. He has some raw power, but needed help becoming a more solid average . Through coming to Program 15 daily, except for Sunday’s, both Booth and Thomas feel like he is understanding the strike zone better and is becoming a more pure hitter. I asked if Thomas had any speed to his game and he replied that he has a little speed. To show the relationship that has been developed between the two, Booth kids around and asks him what speed? Thomas said that he has unexpected sneaky speed.
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Before joining Program 15, Thomas would have to practice at a batting cage one of his friends worked at for free. Many of the players had access to facilities to train on their own, but they preferred working with Booth and Program 15 because they helped motivate them to play like a pro.
This was a good experience for me, because when I was younger, I thought that players would sit around all offseason and play video games. However, through my interviews through Climbing Tal’s Hill and Talking Stros, I have learned that players are constantly trying to improve themselves. The players at Program 15 work 4-5 hours daily to craft their game, is there really an offseason? Thanks for having me out, we will get you onto TalkingStros soon Jeremy, you can follow Program 15 at @Program15BB
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Rodgers is leaving Monday morning to head out a little early to Florida for spring training but wanted to take one more bullpen with Program 15. Last year Rodgers and Mark Appel traveled down to Florida together, taking turns answering questions on Twitter. Unfortunately, he is riding solo this year, so don’t expect the Q & A session this year on the road.