Scouting profile: Joely Rodriguez
Recently-traded prospect showed good mound presence, quick arm in Arizona Fall League
The Arizona Fall League offers a tremendous opportunity for scouts to see and evaluate a great number of baseball prospects in an outstanding environment.
During this particular Fall League season, scouts were very impressed with left-handed starting pitcher Joely Rodriguez. At the time, Rodriguez was pitching for the Scottsdale Saguaros as part of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. He showed a very good feel for pitching with a loose, quick arm and very good mound presence.
Rodriguez must have caught the attention of Phillies scouts, as on December 10, he was traded to Philadelphia for left-handed reliever Antonio Bastardo.
Rodriguez is 6-foot-1, 200 pounds. His weight is distributed well. Having recently turned 24, he should experience very little additional growth to his frame.
Rodriguez signed with the Pirates in 2009 as an international free agent from the Dominican Republic. Like many young pitchers, Rodriguez was raw and had command issues early. He began his career pitching for the Pirates Dominican Summer League club. He walked 24 batters in 47 innings, all as a starter.
Following his first season, Rodriquez spent time in both the rotation and the bullpen in the Pirates farm system. He compiled innings and gained experience, but the issues with inconsistency in his command and control remained through three consecutive seasons pitching at Class A Short Season State College. His development was interrupted in 2011 when he dealt with an elbow strain. He pitched only five innings for the year. Then returning healthy to the State College club in 2012, he threw 64 innings, yielding 74 hits and 15 walks. He pitched that season exclusively as a starter.
It was during the 2013 season that Rodriguez began to find his rhythm and confidence. Only 21 at the time, his command and control became less an issue as he threw 72 2/3 innings at Class A West Virginia and 67 1/3 innings at Class A Advanced Bradenton. Showing he was more a pitcher than a thrower, he finished the year with a 9-8 record, a 2.70 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP. All 140 innings were compiled as a starter in 26 games.
From a statistical standpoint, this past season was not as good for Rodriguez. He scuffled a bit at Double-A Altoona, pitching to a 4.84 ERA and 1.44 WHIP in 30 games, 21 of them starts.
Then he went to the Fall League. That's where I was among a number of scouts who were pleasantly surprised by his performance. He started seven games, pitching a total of 22 2/3 innings. He finished with a 3-0 record, a 2.38 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP. I was most impressed with his 22 strikeouts as opposed to only six walks. He was missing bats, getting called strikes, and getting ahead of hitters. In each game I witnessed, Rodriguez was in control. He did not yield a home run. Of the 10 runs he gave up, only six were earned. He was extremely tough against left-handed hitters. I took special note of that ability. If he scuffles as a starter, he could serve well as a specialist out of the bullpen.
Pitching from a relatively low arm angle, Rodriguez uses good mechanics and has the ability to repeat his delivery on a fairly consistent basis. He throws a bit across his body, landing at the first base side of the mound. His fastball is his most effective pitch, generally sitting in the low-90 mph range. He may not have great velocity, but the pitch sinks well and he forces hitters to pound the ball on the ground. His key is movement. Everything he throws moves. He has a slider that hitters seem to chase. The life on the pitch makes it a good companion to his sinking fastball. I didn't see the changeup that much, but it's part of his arsenal. He clearly needs to work on all his pitches, but the third pitch still needs to be developed.