The 2015 season was a bit of a rollercoaster for the 4th-rounder Rhoades – he handled the Midwest League with relative ease, whiffing 78 through 87 innings and posting a 1.08 WHIP, but gave up a significant amount of hard contact and struggled with the HR ball upon his promotion to the Cal League (14 HRs and 65 hits through 50.2 IP) despite a well-above-average ground ball rate (1.68) and more than a K per inning (57 Ks in 50.2 IP). Thus far in 2016, Rhoades’ struggles to adjust to Cal League hitters has continued. His failure to replicate the success he enjoyed in the Midwest League is fueled by the fact that he is walking 3.5 batters per nine IP, and giving up hits at a 9.2-per-9 clip. The hits are down from 11.2 per nine IP in 2015, but that is still a lot of baserunners to be consistently working around, and to make matters worse his K rate has declined by almost 50% (10.1 Ks/9 in 2015 to 5.6 Ks/9 this year). While I did not see him last season, word is that his fastball velocity is down a fair bit, which would mean that his margin for error in the zone is drying up, and speaks to the reason why there has been such a precipitous fall in his strikeout numbers.
After seeing Rhoades throw earlier this week, the stuff and pitchability he showed does not line up with how bad things have been going for him. He has a compact arm action and has the makings of two fringe-average to average secondary pitches. The slider is small with tight rotation and he will get some 3/4’s bite, but it shows inconsistent break, and will have it back up on him too often. Through 8.2 IP he showed a handful of average sliders that generated some chase, but struggled to repeat that on a consistent basis.
The changeup is probably his best pitch, getting some dive/bottom with a more consistent ability to replicate the good action. He has some confidence with it, as he doubled up on a couple occasions and isn’t scared to use it vs. RHH. So considering those two aspects, that even with the velo decline of the fastball, he should be able to avoid the barrel more often than he has of late. However, he tends to miss up and out over the plate with the fastball, where even above-average velo tends to get squared up. Not being able to work ahead with any kind of consistency is a big blow to the usability of his secondaries because he lacks the good feel with those pitches to use them in fastball counts on a regular basis.
He showed some poise and did an OK job of adjusting this time out after giving up back-to-back home runs to lead off the game – he still gave up 11 hits through 8 ⅔, but was consistently in the zone and tried to mix in more offspeed earlier in the count to try and get guys off the fastball. Ultimately, it sounds like his stuff has regressed a little bit from 2015 and that, coupled with the poor command, is causing him to find a lot of barrels. This time out he managed to find a decent amount of soft contact which led to some quick innings, but he is not locating enough to make that a sustainable model for success. So overall, while I think Rhoades is better than what he has shown so far in 2016, the lack of command of a below-average fastball and inconsistencies in his secondary stuff is making it hard for him to compete, and those factors will keep him from advancing until he adjusts.