HARTFORD, Conn. -- New level. Same Grayson Rodriguez.
The Orioles’ No. 2 prospect struck out eight and allowed one earned run on four hits and two walks over five innings Wednesday in his Double-A Bowie debut as the Baysox defeated Hartford, 2-1, at Dunkin’ Donuts Park.
Rodriguez mostly sat at 97-99 mph with his fastball and also hit 100 mph six times in the season-high 71-pitch outing while working in a steady diet of sliders, curveballs and changeups. He threw 47 of those pitches for strikes and got swings and misses on 17 occasions. That worked out to a 23.9 percent swing-and-miss rate, just above the Minor League-best 23.3 percent rate he owned at the start of the night.
The 6-foot-5 right-hander’s lone run allowed came in the first frame when Yard Goats second baseman Coco Montes drove an RBI double to the left-center gap, scoring Elehuris Montero from first. Rodriguez’s control was on point for much of the outing with his two free passes each coming in the fifth inning before he ended the start by freezing Montero with an 86 mph slider that just nicked the bottom of the zone.
The Orioles promoted their 2018 first-round pick to Double-A after a dominant opening month at High-A Aberdeen. The 21-year-old posted a 1.54 ERA and 0.69 WHIP with 40 strikeouts and only five walks in five starts (23 1/3 innings) during his time at High-A East, where he led qualifiers in WHIP and ranked second in strikeouts.
MLB Pipeline ranks Rodriguez as the No. 21 overall prospect in baseball, thanks to the complete four-pitch mix that was on display Wednesday. His upper-90s velocity gives him a plus fastball, and he leaned on his plus slider quite a bit Wednesday as well. The 65-grade changeup gives him a third promising pitch, while the curveball is considered an average offering but can give hitters yet another option to consider.
Rodriguez brings that whole toolset to a Bowie ballclub that is already one of the most talented rosters in the Minor Leagues. No. 2 overall prospect Adley Rutschman and No. 56 DL Hall give the Baysox three total Top 100 talents, while the presences of Mike Baumann and Terrin Vavra mean five of the Orioles’ Top 10 prospects are on the same Double-A roster.
Bowie improved to 19-5 with Wednesday’s win, giving it the best record in all of Double-A.