Prospect: Chris Rodriguez
Position(s): Right Handed Pitcher
Level: Class A Burlington
Age: Entering Age 19 season in 2018.
Height: 6’2” – Weight: 185 lbs
*20-80 scale. 20 is not existent, Major League average is 50. Good Major League is 60. Great Major League is 70. The best I’ve ever seen is 80. These aren’t given very often.
Floor: A premier reliever that throws in the upper 90’s with good command.
Ceiling: An ace starting pitcher in the major leagues.
Likely Outcome: Mid-rotation starting pitcher in the major leagues.
Summary: Drafting players is frequently a guessing game. Because of advances in scouting and metrics, it has become an educated guessing game, but it’s still a guess nonetheless. A team drafts a kid with the idea that if they invest money and time training the kid, he could play for the major league team and make them better, or be traded for a major leaguer that makes them better.
Chris Rodriguez is simply one of those players where the Angels were in the right place at the right time.
If we go back in time just a little bit, Chris Rodriguez was seen as a kid that would be drafted but not near the front of the draft. He was a skinny yet athletic kid that threw in the high 80’s/low 90’s. Pretty good, but the draft is full of those. Major league teams have a lot of kids to watch, so when a team sees a kid like that, they’ll generally scribble his name to memory and send him to the national cross-checker.
The Angels weren’t the only team to see Chris pitch. Just about every team watched him pitch. The Angels scouts just happened to stay around the longest. As teams had already formulated their draft plans, the Angels regional scouts were still keeping tabs on Chris, and as his senior year went on, Rodriguez’s fastball jumped from 90 mph to around 92/93 mph. That’s pretty significant growth. He started showing a promising change up too. The Angels were intrigued.
So when they selected Rodriguez in the 4th round, it didn’t make waves. Scouts generally believed he’d last a bit later in the draft than that, and 4th round was a small reach but nothing to cause too much attention. But in post draft workouts, Rodriguez started reaching back and firing 94/95 on the radar gun, and that will get people’s attention.
Enter 2018, and Rodriguez short season throwing 96/97 and averaging 95/96. That slide row his that was though could be a decent pitch someday began to take shape and tighten and the change up has become a workable option. And so now the Angels have an 18 year old throwing in the mid-90’s without too much strain and a couple of nice off-speed pitches. Not bad for a 4th round pick.
While Chris’ arsenal is impressive, he doesn’t come without some warnings. First, his delivery is high energy. It can even be described as violent. There’s a leg kick, fast, intense motion and even a small hitch where he separates his hand from the glove, like a reliever would. That’s fine became that’s what it takes to throw the ball that hard for most people. So the risk of injury is always there. Next, Chris can put the ball where he wants, but in his performance last year, he generally kept the ball up and over the plate. So despite throwing an outstanding heater, he was hittable. Of course these are all things that can be worked on.
If Rodriguez isn’t done maturing, and at the same time refines how he goes about getting hitters out, he could be an ace someday that throws in the upper 90’s. If he’s physically set, but continues to refine, Rodriguez could be a solid mid-rotation starter. If Chris is maxed out and can’t make the adjustments, he could move to relief and be a very dynamic weapon there too.
What to expect: Chris go his first taste of full season ball a full year year faster than anticipated, which is great to see because it shows his growth and the Angels willingness to appropriately place him. I expect Rodriguez will spend the entire season at Class A Burlington, even if he outgrows it. He’s been on an innings limit for the past couple seasons and the Angels have been careful to protect his arm and not overuse him. But at age 19, Rodriguez appears ready to go 120 innings next year. There’s a small chance he could move up to Inland Empire, and Chris could certainly merit this promotion, but it would seem to be more aggressive in nature than what we are used to seeing from the Angels. I’ll specifically be looking for Rodriguez to make some of the very same adjustments Garrett Richards made once he entered full season ball, which is keeping the ball down, trusting his stuff but not also falling in love with just one pitch.
Estimated Time of Arrival: 2021, Chris’ age 22 season.
Grade as a prospect: B
Grades Explained: Grade A player is a future superstar. Grade B player is a future regular. Grade C is a fringe major leaguer.