Friday, February 6, 2009

The Derek Rodriguez Saga

The who-what saga?

A lot of you may not know the name Derek Rodriguez, yet, but you soon will.

Derek Rodriguez was selected by the Rays from the White Sox with the 19th pick of the 2008 Rule 5 Draft this past winter. What does that mean for you as a Rays' fan, and who exactly is, one Derek Rodriguez?

Well, if you have these questions, then you have come to the right place.

Derek Rodriguez was drafted in the 14th round of the 2005 amateur draft by the Chicago White Sox. He came into the minors as a starting pitcher, but the White Sox transitioned him into a reliever last season. The scouting report on Rodriguez is that he can throw from 3 different arm angles - a short-armed overhand, a three-quarter slot, and side-armed; he tops out at 93 MPH on the radar gun. He throws some variations of a slider and can even backdoor it on the left-handed batters.

But okay, so that is his scouting report, but what can he do on the field? Well, allow me to give you a brief statistical overview on his minor league career:

At the age of 23, in 2006 playing at the single A level, Rodriguez started all 27 games he appeared in, pitching 158 innings, where he gave up 164 hits while walking 48. He stuck out 122 batters that year with a WHIP of 1.34 and an ERA of 4.67. I could not find stats on his win-loss record for the year.

At the age of 24, also at the single A level in 2007, Rodriguez started 28 games, pitching 161 innings, where he gave up 164 hits while walking 55. He struck out 124 batters with a WHIP of 1.36 and a 3.69 ERA. He went 14-5 that season.

In 2008, at the age of 25, Rodriguez split his time between AA and AAA ball. This was the first time in his career that he was used as a reliever where he appeared in 49 games (1 start). He pitched 79.1 innings, giving up 54 hits while walking 33. He struck out 88 batters with a WHIP of 1.13 and an ERA of 3.29. He finished with a record of 5-2 with one save.

So, now that we have been properly introduced to the newest toy on the Rays' pen, what exactly does this mean? Will he make the club? Should he even be on the club?

Rule 5 Draft rules state that, if a player is not on a clubs' 40-man roster, he is eligible for the draft. Which means, Rodriguez was not placed on the White Sox 40-man roster. What this means for the Rays, is by drafting Rodriguez, not only do they have to invest $50,000 for his rights, but they also are saying that, essentially, in good-faith, they are going to have Rodriguez on their 25-man roster all season long - or risk losing the talent back to the White Sox for a return of $25,000 of that $50,000 investment.

Obviously, there is a risk and a potential reward here.

First, Rodriguez has not pitched a single pitch at the major league level. Secondly, obviously, there is the potential to lose $25,000 on the deal. Thirdly, someone else on the Rays, if Rodriguez were to make the team and remain on the roster, would be out of the big leagues.

Of course, the payoffs are as such - Rodriguez's numbers have been solid, and his scouting report says he induces numerous ground balls - so Rodriguez may be a good fit for the Rays pen a la Chad Bradford. Can you imagine, having two sidearm pitchers coming out of the pen that induce ground balls? That would definitely give some more stability at that position in middle relief innings. But also, yes, if Rodriguez does, in fact, work out for the Rays and remain on the 25-man roster for the season, then not only has the $50,000 investment paid off, but it seemingly has paid off well - since Rodriguez would have to prove his worth to remain on the 25-man roster for the full year - if he's that good, then he is welcome any day of the week on the Rays.

A potential $25,000 loss for the upside of this kid was definitely worth the risk, and I think Andrew Friedman knew what he was doing when he went and made this Rule 5 Draft decision.

8 days until pitchers and cathcers report, and I, for one, will be keeping my eye on Derek Rodriguez' progression. If he can hold down the fort, he has a good chance of being a major league baseball player - more importantly, he has a chance to give something substantial to the Rays organization. I wish him luck, and hope this is one deal that pays huge dividends for the Tampa Bay Rays.

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