Houston signed Rodriguez to a $1.9M bonus out of Cuba, which ranked as one of the largest amateur payouts of the 2017-2018 International Period. He has moved through the system slowly ever since, only making his stateside debut this summer as a 21-year-old in the GCL. The statline hasn’t been pretty—Rodriguez has walked more hitters than he has struck out as a pro—but I came away impressed with the body, projection, and tools across an Instructional League look.
At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, Rodriguez looks the part of a big league pitcher with a large, athletic frame that’s broad across the shoulders and tapered at the hips. He pitches from a slow-paced semi-windup, and while there’s clearly a focus on streamlining his mechanics, the upper and lower halves still don’t sync up very well. Rodriguez finishes his delivery with some effort, a thwack in the upper-half causing recoil after a high three-quarters slot. The fastball worked between 91-to-94 mph with both two-seam and four-seam grips mixed in. He showed high-spin ride up in the zone on the four-seam and consistent armside run when mixing the sinker, commanding spots better to the third base side of the plate. Rodriguez’ 78-to-80 mph curveball is the separator, a pitch with above-average potential given its flashes of tight spin and sharp down action. His high-80s changeup was a crude third pitch, overthrown and acting more like a sinker than a true change-of-pace offering.
Rodriguez is a prospect on the strength of his potential for two above-average pitches in the fastball and curve. He will need to make a ton of strides in the command and pitchability departments to remain in the rotation, though it’s worth noting he’s young enough that he would have been draft eligible as a junior in 2018. Realistically, guys who have big stuff and struggle to find the zone like this wind up in the ‘pen, but I’ll be interested to see if Rodriguez can turn a corner next year—and if he’ll start 2019 with a full-season club after a slow crawl through the lowest rungs of Houston’s system.