O's top pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez in The Show? 'That's within reach'

March 11th, 2022

Grayson Rodriguez isn’t leaving much up for dispute. His end goal this year, should the 2022 season go as he hopes, is to turn dream into reality. He wants to make the Majors.

“Absolutely,” the 22-year-old right-hander said. “It's something that's within reach.”

Lofty? Not really, considering his pedigree as the O’s No. 2-ranked prospect and the top pitching prospect in baseball, per MLB Pipeline, with a debut ETA of 2022. But the slow-play the Orioles employed last year, with Rodriguez only once pitching more than five innings in 23 starts across High-A Aberdeen and Double-A Bowie, would suggest at least some similar err of caution in restarting Rodriguez to open the year.

So he realizes his exact pitching location is not in his control, and he’s taking it in stride.

“Ultimately, it’s not my decision, it's up to the organization,” Rodriguez said. “But for me, I'm going to put my head down, wherever I go, where I report, and just go out and make a start every fifth or sixth day and get my work in.”

That exact report location could be telling for Rodriguez’s outlook this season. He climbed from Aberdeen to Bowie after just five starts, and his résumé at both -- a 2.36 ERA with 161 strikeouts against just 27 walks with a fastball that flashed triple digits -- may beg for an advancement to Triple-A Norfolk. But the O’s could be poised to start him at Bowie once again to reacclimate himself to competition and allow him to work deeper into games before any more jumps.

The O’s have been able to afford patience with Rodriguez, their first-round selection in the 2019 MLB Draft out of the Texas high school ranks. He was only 19 years old when he joined the organization, which also resembled the last Draft of the organization prior to the arrival of executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias.

The next several weeks of Rodriguez’s training regimen in Sarasota, Fla., where he'll soon be joined by Major Leaguers with the lockout in the rear-view mirror, will also be telling. He was part of the crop of prospects to arrive early for Minor League camp, with intrasquad sessions and scrimmages against local opposing organizations in the near future. There, he’ll be able to fortify the changes and tinkering he experimented with over the offseason.

But where to tweak, exactly, after a year of so much success?

“There's a lot to look at,” Rodriguez said. “Really, we don't focus on numbers. Last year was a pretty good year for me … but just kind of really fine-tuning all my mechanics, pitches, pitch type, stuff like that. Whether it be Trackman [radar technology]-oriented stuff, or delivery -- coming out and trying to repeat the same delivery -- being consistent with that and just growing mentally along the way.”

The time will soon be there for Rodriguez to show what he can provide in 2022, in a to-be-determined format and schedule. The chance for Camden Yards remains a driving force, as it has long been in his meteoric rise up the prospect ranks.

In any event, no matter how it plays out, Rodriguez has a pretty good source of trust in his corner.

“The stuff, first, is elite. And then from a mental standpoint, he's one of those guys that just continues to work on his craft,” said top prospect Adley Rutschman, with whom Rodriguez has in the past and could one day reunite as a tantalizing battery. “He gets better every day and comes to the field. You see the work ethic and then you see the stuff, and when you combine the two it’s just a really great player and also a great person.”