TEMPE, Ariz. -- As part of MLB Pipeline's visit to all 30 Spring Training facilities, we're sitting down with prospects and getting to know them a little better. At Angels camp, it was Los Angeles' No. 6 prospect, Chris Rodriguez.Rodriguez was a bit of a pop-up Draft prospect at Monsignor Edward
TEMPE, Ariz. -- As part of MLB Pipeline's visit to all 30 Spring Training facilities, we're sitting down with prospects and getting to know them a little better. At Angels camp, it was Los Angeles' No. 6 prospect, Chris Rodriguez.
Rodriguez was a bit of a pop-up Draft prospect at Monsignor Edward Pace High School, a strong program in the Miami area that produced talent like lefty Giovany Gonzalez and outfielder/first baseman Chris Marrero. Rodriguez was a fourth-round pick of the Angels in 2016 and signed for $850,000, well above pick value. He made his debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League in 2016, then moved up to the Pioneer League in '17 before reaching full-season ball for the first time.
MLB Pipeline: You were recently diagnosed with a stress reaction in your back. I'm sure you were looking forward to being somewhere on Opening Day. Is there any frustration over this bump in the road?
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Rodriguez: It's like you said, it's just a bump in the road. It's not a huge deal, it's a stress reaction. The Angels have a great plan for me and I'm just excited to get strong. It's not how you start, it's how you finish. The biggest thing for me is getting out there, staying healthy and doing what I can do.
MLB Pipeline: Is there a timetable for your return, or is it more of a "see how it goes" kind of deal?
Rodriguez: At this point, I don't really know. It's up to [assistant GM] Mike LaCassa and [GM] Billy Eppler. I just do what they tell me to do; I just work and get better.
MLB Pipeline: There could be a blessing in disguise here. They were going to manage your innings this year anyway, so maybe with the delayed start, you can be around for playoff baseball or something like that.
Rodriguez: Exactly. The way I like to look at things is that everything happens for a reason. I just have to keep going and get stronger, trust the plan and trust that they have my back. They're looking out for me, so I have to listen to them.
MLB Pipeline: Eventually you will get back to full-season ball. You got a taste of it last year. What were your takeaways from that experience?
Rodriguez: At the end of the day, it's playing baseball. Guys do get better as you go on, that's for sure. One thing I have to do is trust my stuff, really starting to learn how to pitch and how to perfect my craft. That's the biggest thing I took out of it.
MLB Pipeline: Development is a process, and sometimes results don't match up with your development. I know you're super competitive. Were there times last year when it was tough if the results weren't to your liking?
Rodriguez: There were a lot of ups and downs, but it's a mental game. I know that not every time everyone has a perfect outing. I knew to put a bad outing in the past and just get on the mound the next day. I would try to just worry about the now, not the future or the past.
MLB Pipeline: You mention needing to trust your stuff. What are the things stuff-wise you feel you need to work on as you move up?
Rodriguez: I'd have to say more my command and when to use my pitches. I think my individual pitches are in a good place; I think I have pretty good stuff, but the timing of using them. I have a good coaching staff here teaching me how to sequence my pitches better.
MLB Pipeline: Looking back to your high school days, you grew up in Miami, around a lot of good baseball. How much did that prepare you for the pro game?
Rodriguez: That was huge. Coming from Florida, it's really competitive there. I was lucky enough to have good coaches, too. The baseball program at Pace was really good. We had Division I players on every single team we played against, so we knew what we were getting and we knew we had to compete every time or you'd get hit hard. The biggest thing was to compete, and that's where it all came from for me.
MLB Pipeline: So you were in a baseball hotbed at a good baseball program, but you sort of flew under the radar as a Draft prospect. Were there times that you couldn't understand why teams weren't noticing what you were doing?
Rodriguez: I was a late bloomer. If you ask my coaches in Little League, they never would've expected me to become a pitcher. I studied the game a lot and as I was growing up, as my body was developing, I knew I was going to become a pitcher. I kind of created my own program, stuck to it, worked hard and kept competing.
MLB Pipeline: When the Angels did take you, did that serve as vindication that all that work had paid off?
Rodriguez: It was huge. It was an exciting day, actually, because my family was there. We had an idea I might get drafted, but it wasn't a sure thing. When the Angels took me, I couldn't have been more excited. I've heard how great this organization is. I was super pumped, my family started crying. It was just a big day.
MLB Pipeline: Since you've joined this organization, this farm system has taken a nice step forward. How excited are you to be thought of as part of that group that is turning things around?
Rodriguez: I'm super stoked. We have great guys now. Everybody competes, that's the biggest thing. All of the guys, we're all great friends, but at the same time, we know we have to compete with each other and that brings out the best in us. It's amazing how big of a jump this organization has taken. You see the arms now, you see the hitters developing. It comes from the weight room and it comes from the coaching, it's amazing.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.