The Situation: The Red Sox are bringing Rodriguez to the big leagues for a spot start as they stretch to a six-man starting rotation for this upcoming turn. All indications are the Red Sox will send Rodriguez back to Triple-A Pawtucket after the game, despite the inconsistencies and struggles of the current starting five.
Background: Signed in 2009 by the Orioles, Rodriguez worked his way through the O’s system with a strong pace, jumping from the Dominican Summer League, through the Gulf Coast League, and finishing with one start in the New York-Penn League during his first two seasons. After spending the entire 2012 season with Low-A Delmarva, Rodriguez skipped through High-A and Double-A in 2013 and returned to Double-A for the 2014 season. As the trade deadline approached that year, Rodriguez was flipped to the Red Sox as part of the Andrew Miller trade, and he dominated in six starts after the swap. He has continued to pitch well in his first eight starts at Triple-A this season and positioned himself as the next arm the Red Sox can turn to if one of their starters falters and they need help down the stretch.
Scouting Report: Having had the good fortune of seeing Rodriguez in each of the last three seasons, including before and after the trade to Boston in 2014, I have seen the growth in Rodriguez’s game and feel confident projecting his big league role.
Having boosted his fastball from a consistent low-90s heater that he worked low in the zone to a dominating pitch that can reach 96-97 mph at times, Rodriguez has boosted his stock from that of a back-end starter to something with a little more potential. He typically works his fastball, a pitch with excellent leverage to the plate, in the 93-94 mph range and he will add and subtract as necessary to keep hitters off balance. The development of Rodriguez’s ability to move the ball around the strike zone—and command it out of the zone when he wants to—has augmented the velocity bump and made his fastball an excellent offering.
At present, Rodriguez’s changeup is his go-to secondary weapon. He maintains good arm speed and the pitch comes out of the same hole, giving him natural deception in addition to the movement he generates. Much like his fastball, Rodriguez moves his changeup to both sides of the plate and keeps it low in the zone consistently.
To round out his arsenal, Rodriguez mixes in a below-average slider that lacks overall consistency. He will flash a tight, biting slider with downward movement, and then, at other times, the pitch lacks spin, becoming slurvy, identifiable, and very hittable. There is some hope that Rodriguez could find enough consistency for his slider to at least play as a third average pitch. With that type of progress, Rodriguez will easily be able to turn over big league lineups and fulfill his potential as a solid number three.
The one significant area where Rodriguez needs to continue his development is his work from the stretch. Rodriguez loses his mechanical consistency and as a result his velocity fluctuates and his command wavers with runners on base. Such a flaw can be overcome and most scouts don’t consider it enough to prevent him from approaching his ceiling in the rotation.
Immediate Big-League Future: This is a one-start trial for Rodriguez and he will quickly head back to Triple-A to continue marinating until the Red Sox decide that one of their current starters isn’t up to the task. Rodriguez has the ability to lead the Red Sox to a win in his big league debut, and when he ultimately returns to the Major Leagues later this year, he should be a competitive starter with a mid-rotation ceiling. –Mark Anderson
Fantasy Impact: In the last installment of The Call-Up, Bret Sayre wrote about Wilmer Difo and how his promotion was probably the most surprising of the year to date. The opposite is true here with Rodriguez, who is a good pitching prospect in an organization badly in need of starting pitching help.
Rodriguez has been flat-out dominant since joining the Red Sox organization and has moved up many prospect lists as a result, but let’s not confuse Rodriguez’s ascension with what his ultimate role projects to be. A recent scouting report from Al Skorupa labels E-Rod as a future No. 3 starter. BP’s own Red Sox top-10 list from before the season cites his future as a No. 3/4 starter. While you can find sources who are a bit higher on him, it’s safest to assume a mid-rotation arm is what we’re dealing with here … and remember that’s projection, not exactly how Rodriguez profiles right now.
The AL East may stink this year, but what we have is a good-not-elite pitching prospect who’s poised to see some time in a hitter-friendly ballpark in the American League and who will pitch in front of an average to below average team. Despite all the helium associated with Rodriguez’s name right now, that’s not a recipe for success in shallow redraft leagues.
In AL-only leagues, he’s a more interesting proposition, and the southpaw is worthy of a $10-13 bid. Rodriguez does have the ability to miss bats, should be decent in terms of WHIP and playing time isn’t as much of an issue as you might think. The company line right now may be that Rodriguez is going back down after Thursday, but if he gets fewer than, say, 10-12 starts in the majors this year it’d be something of a surprise. Justin Masterson should be done as a starter, Joe Kelly might not be far behind him and Steven Wright lacks any semblance of upside. Add in that Henry Owens is struggling, and it’s really a contest between Rodriguez and Brian Johnson for MLB starts in the second half of the season. That’s a contest Rodriguez should win, and you can feel free to spend a few dollars of FAAB on him if you’re league rosters more than 350 players (think 14-team leagues and deeper). –Ben Carsley
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