He began spring training as an invitee to major league camp. After pitching well for Single-A Frederick, he was promoted to Double-A Bowie. He pitched in the Carolina League against the California League in the All-Star Game and also in the Futures Game in New York. Now he is completing his year by adding a few innings in the Arizona Fall League, while also recently picking up some nice recognition from a national publication as well.
Baseball America ranked Rodriguez as the No. 8 prospect in the Carolina League and rated him No. 9 in the Eastern League. Not bad for a kid that won’t turn 21 until April 7.
“This has been my best year of my four in professional baseball,” Rodriguez told me late this season before a game at Bowie. “Went to the Futures Game and the Carolina League All-Star game. I’ve worked hard and this is what can happen when you work hard.”
Here is what the Baseball America scouting report projects for Rodriguez and his future:
“Rodriguez can become inconsistent with his arm slot and sometimes leaves his heater up in the zone. Those are just minor dings, however, and scouts project him as a mid-rotation starter at least, if not a No. 2 starter as he makes improvements.”
Rodriguez has come a long way from the talented young kid that former Orioles pitcher and current scout Calvin Maduro signed in January 2010.
“He and Jesus Alfaro saw me at a Venezuelan academy at a tryout,” Rodriguez said. “There were a lot of scouts behind home plate. They talked to me and wanted to sign me for the Orioles.”
Coming off a 2012 season where he pitched at Single-A Delmarva, going 5-7 with a 3.70 ERA over 22 starts, it was quite impressive for the then 19-year-old Rodriguez to get a spring training invite and rub elbows with major leaguers.
“Everybody helped me (at spring training). The pitchers, pitching coaches, everybody,” Rodriguez said. “Big league guys talked to me every day and talked to me about working hard and they said I had a chance to make the big leagues.”
Among those he spent the most time with in Sarasota were Miguel Gonzalez, Pedro Strop, Luis Ayala and coach Bill Castro.
In 14 starts for Frederick, he went 6-4 with a 2.85 ERA. When he pitched to an ERA of 1.78 over a six-start stretch for the Keys, he was promoted to Bowie, where he went 4-3 with a 4.22 ERA over 11 starts.
But it was his last four Bowie starts where Rodriguez pitched probably his best ball of the year, going 3-0 with a 0.36 ERA for the Baysox. Over 25 innings, he gave up just 16 hits and one run with three walks to 26 strikeouts. He pitched a combined 14 shutout innings over his last two starts.
Rodriguez said all his pitches made some progress during the 2013 season and I asked him to rank his pitches.
“My slider last year, the ball would go everywhere, but now I can throw my slider inside and outside,” Rodriguez said. “My changeup I’ve been able to keep down and been able to command my fastball better. It’s been way better this year.
“My best pitch is my fastball. Second is slider, third changeup and fourth two-seam fastball.”
He said he touched 95 mph at times this season but that his fastball mostly sat between 90-94 mph.
Rodriguez pitched well on a national stage when he entered the Futures Games in the sixth inning at Citi Field in July. He quickly retired three Team USA prospects on just eight pitches with one strikeout.
“That was so fun,” Rodriguez said. “I had never played in a big league stadium. It was amazing.”
So was most of his 2013 season, one that has seen this young O’s pitcher with his career on the upswing as the year comes to a close.