It has always been our goal here at Pitcher List to provide the readers of our site with the best fantasy baseball content possible. In line with that goal, we’re expanding the scope of content available here greatly this season, including a large amount of material for those interested in dynasty formats. Part of that expansion includes the new series Between the Crosshairs, a dynasty manager’s scouting companion.
The goal of this series is to get you better acquainted with minor leaguers who profile as being relevant in 30-team dynasty formats. You may already be pretty familiar with some of the guys we highlight — others may be lesser known talents. Either way, all of our evaluations will be based on in-person views of players by Pitcher List staff. And, of course, there will be GIFs.
We’re very excited about this new venture and hope you enjoy it as much as we do. So with that, here’s the first of (hopefully) many reports to come: RHP Elvin Rodriguez, a starting pitcher in the Detroit Tigers organization.
Unlike that of most hurlers at his level, the fastball isn’t the anchor of Rodriguez’s pitch mix. It’s a nice little pitch that sits in the 89-91 mph range with a bit of life and it works best when he keeps it on the edges of the zone. It has a bit of late movement — not the venomous biting motion a lot of guys show — but it does drop at the last second. It’s not an average-level pitch yet, but it’s also not inhibitive of his development into a back-end starter. He just needs to use it well. There’s also some projection left in the pitch thanks to Rodriguez’s reedy frame. If he adds a few pounds of muscle, that could translate into a bit more zip on the offering, which would improve its effectiveness dramatically. The above-average grade here is more of a bet on his projectability than anything, to be honest. His command of the offering is what correlates most directly to his day-to-day success. Refining his ability to command it every time will be what gets him to the majors.
The most consistent of his arsenal, Rodriguez’s curve is also the best of his three offerings. It doesn’t have plus potential and it isn’t a big, bad strikeout pitch, but it’s a solid addition to his arsenal. When he’s commanding it, hitters can’t seem to get comfortable swings on the pitch. He has feel for it and is able to use it effectively in both hitters’ and pitchers’ counts. When Rodriguez attacks hitters with his curve early in the count, it’s usually more of an effort to drop in a strike for a quick advantage. Later in the count, it’s most effective low in the zone and gets ground-ball outs. Unshockingly, the command of this offering is what impacts its value most. When he misses his spots with any of his pitches, they get hammered. Most of the development left on the curve will come from consistently getting quality pitch shape and hitting his spots.
For his third pitch, Rodriguez sports a changeup with decent potential. He uses it to keep hitters off his fastball, cashing in on its fading motion to drop strikes at the bottom of the zone. Maintaining arm speed is no problem for the thin righty. His change looks like a fastball out of the hand, fooling hitters and jamming them up. The pitch isn’t anything special, but then again, none of Rodriguez’s skills stand out as being quite as valuable as their sum. The offering gives him another way to keep hitters from making too much hard contact. With improved command, he could probably get more whiffs on the pitch by dancing around the bottom of the zone, but the “if it ain’t broke” logic applies here to some extent.
Control and Command
This is where things get a bit dicey. Most evaluators foresee above-average command for the lanky hurler, but I don’t see the building blocks for anything much more than average. Just how impactful his delivery is on this particular attribute is debatable, but I see it as a wash, more or less. Rodriguez is generally around the strike zone, but his precision ebbs and flows. That results in pretty obvious good and bad nights. On the good nights, he looks like a slam-dunk fourth starter. On the bad ones, he looks like organizational fodder. Between his lack of a power fastball or plus secondary and this asterisk regarding his command, there’s very little upside to moving him to the bullpen. He’s pretty much a starter-or-bust player and he’ll walk a tightrope to that projection in large part thanks to his command.
Although it is a bit unsightly, there’s nothing blatantly wrong with Rodriguez’s delivery. His releases from the windup and from the stretch are pretty similar and switching between the two doesn’t present an issue. It’s a pretty simple, repeatable delivery without too many moving parts. The recoil on display in the GIF above is more pronounced in bullpens than live action, so that is a non-issue. That goes in the plus column: It’ll make it easier for him to develop playable command. Unfortunately, there is also a bit of a head whack, which does translate onto the field — a potential impairment to that development. Big picture, though, Rodriguez’s delivery will play and doesn’t pose a huge injury risk.
All told, Rodriguez has a chance at having 3 above-average pitches with average command and that’s a viable #4/#5 MLB starter even if it’s not the highest upside profile. In deep dynasty leagues, I believe that he’s worth an add. Since he’s not highly ranked yet by prospect resources like MLB.com’s Prospect Watch or Fangraphs, there’s an opportunity here to get in on the ground floor before he earns more attention.
Photo and GIFs by Jay Markle (@jaymarkle_byb on Twitter)