This one could shoot up draft boards very quickly by the end of 2019. On paper, Grayson Rodriguez has everything you want from the top pitching prospect in your team’s system. He’s big (6-5, 240), he’s young (19) and he can straight up throw gas. A part of Rodriguez’s appeal is that he sits 94 and can hit 99 when he wants to. What makes him strange is that while he doesn’t have the most fluid or repeatable motion, the delivery is quick. As you can see in the footage below, he looks like he’s using more arm than he should—it reminds me a lot of the late Jose Fernandez, with a minimal leg kick and a compact, 3/4 slot.
Mechanics aside, Rodriguez’s combination of size, age and velocity alone is enough to make a prep pitcher a first-round selection. When you factor in a potential plus slider and borderline plus curveball, you can see why the Orioles are high on him. A “pop-up” kid, Rodriguez was sitting in the low 90s until his senior year when his velocity shot up, as did his draft statue. Taking him 11th overall in the 2018 draft, the Orioles made him the third prep pitcher selected behind Ryan Weathers (San Diego Padres) and Carter Stewart (Atlanta Braves/unsigned). He’s pitching as if he should have been the first high school pitcher off the board:
One of the few first-round pitchers from the ’18 draft debut last year, Rodriguez turned in a solid performance in rookie-A for a pitcher as young as he is. His velocity didn’t dip but he had more difficulty commanding his pitches. His command and improvement on his breaking pitches have taken a step forward in 2019 thus far, with fantastic results.
He’s able to make breaking pitches like this more consistently so far this season, hitting the outside corner with a curveball that gave the batter no chance. I made the connection earlier to Fernandez. While Rodriguez’s stuff is advanced for his age and experience level, it is not on par with Fernandez, who might be the best pitching prospect we’ve seen since 2012. Still, the progress he has made is will get noticed quickly if it continues. Rodriguez has the potential to add more velocity in the next year or so, and could also make his slide piece elite. That combo, along with a good curve and change, means he has No. 1 potential.
Rodriguez is one to watch in the next few months in dynasty drafts. If the Orioles are aggressive with him, he could be in High-A by the all-star break. That kind of promotion would draw a lot of attention, putting him on the same track as 2017 draft standout Mackenzie Gore and 2016 standout Forrest Whitley, which means he’d be at or near the top 50 of many prospect lists following this season. Because of Rodriguez’s delivery question marks, his ceiling isn’t as high as the other two, but still, it’s hard to argue with this kind of a result.
Fair argument made. However, he hasn’t pitched in almost 10 days. So who knows what’s going on. I have a weird feeling at this time of the year… if he isn’t injured, the brass might have been toying with a call to the bigs. So like Fernandez, he may skip AA ball in that scenario. With historically bad pitching, calling in position players to pitch, they might just be doing that. Now, you said he’s pitching like he should have been the first prep player taken. That I do not agree with. He’s pitching like the 2nd prep pitcher that should have been taken behind Ryan Weather, skipping Carter Stewart, he slots right behind who he should be right behind… Ryan Weathers. Weathers has pitched now in 5 games set to make his 6th in a day or so where as Grayson is absent. Ryan has been every bit as good and I like his pedigree more. Not saying I don’t think Grayson will become good, but right now, I think Ryan is better and projects better going forward. In all, the 2018 draft was so loaded with good arms, pre and college, it’s going to be a while to see the true overall impact. But my guess is between the 2016 and 2018 drafts, you will see some of the best pitching prospects come into the majors in a decade. We haven’t even seen Mattew Liberatore, Cole Winn, Ethan Hankins, as we are seeing teams taking a newer approach with pre pitchers by holding them back their 1st year and letting them focus on health and conditioning and growing from kids to adults who play pro ball. But, nice spot on Grayson and great points about his delivery. I will say with that arm action, he really gets up on hitters and that fast ball gets on them even quicker. He really just gets to the plate in a hurry. I love it.
Would you rather have him or Hans Crouse for a dynasty team?