Will the No. 4 prospect in baseball make O's Opening Day roster?

November 25th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Jake Rill's Orioles Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click hereAnd subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Grayson Rodriguez left Harbor Park in Norfolk, Va., on Sept. 26 after delivering one final stellar start (5 IP, 1 ER, 6 K) during Triple-A Norfolk’s last series of the year against Jacksonville. Then, he waited.

Nine games remained on the Orioles’ schedule. Maybe Rodriguez would start one of them and make his MLB debut.

However, the call to the big leagues never came. Rodriguez’s 2022 season was over.

“I was waiting for it; it didn’t come,” Rodriguez said in a recent Zoom call with reporters. “So I mean, obviously from a player’s perspective, it’s pretty disappointing. But all you can do is look forward to the next opportunity.”

That will come in only a few months when Baltimore opens Spring Training in Sarasota, Fla., in mid-February. Rodriguez, the Orioles’ No. 2 prospect and the No. 4 prospect in baseball per MLB Pipeline, will be there as a member of the O’s 40-man roster for the first time. The 23-year-old was Rule 5 eligible this year and was added ahead of the deadline to protect players earlier this month.

Rodriguez will have a legitimate chance to break camp in the Orioles’ rotation. In fact, general manager Mike Elias told MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi at the GM Meetings earlier this month that he believes Rodriguez is “on the inside of the competition” for one of the five starting spots.

If Rodriguez doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, would he view it as a disappointment?

"Me personally, yeah,” Rodriguez said. “It’s full-speed ahead. Obviously, we’re focused on the big leagues.”

It seems Rodriguez could make his first big league start during the opening week of the 2023 season. Should that not happen for whatever reason, it’s essentially a lock that he’ll reach the Majors at some point next year. After all, he likely would have arrived this past season had he not missed three months due to a right lat strain.

Now healthy, Rodriguez stated he feels “100 percent” while going through his offseason training program. He’s trying to get his lat muscle even stronger and is putting in more work in the weight room to “get a good base” for the upcoming year.

Rodriguez has dominated every level of the Minors over his three full professional seasons. In 2019, he posted a 2.68 ERA in 20 starts for Single-A Delmarva. In ‘21, he had a 1.54 ERA in five starts for High-A Aberdeen and a 2.60 ERA in 18 starts for Double-A Bowie. And in ‘22, he recorded a 2.20 ERA in 14 Triple-A starts.

When asked if there’s a particular area of his game he’d like to work on this offseason, Rodriguez couldn’t pinpoint one. Not because he thinks he already has everything mastered, though.

“Everything. I could sit here and list everything,” Rodriguez said. “Obviously, this is a big project that’s nowhere near complete. Maybe we’ll look back at that in the end of my career and see that we were good. But right now, all aspects of the game -- mechanics, pitch movement, speed, velocity, everything. That’s what we’re working on.”

It shouldn’t be much longer before Rodriguez takes his work to big league mounds. For Orioles fans, that’s something to look forward to throughout the offseason.