November 10, 2014 at 7:30 AM
All entries in this year's Top 40 Season in Review series can be found here.
#5: Eduardo Rodriguez, SP
2014 Teams: Bowie Baysox (BAL - AA), Portland Sea Dogs, Pawtucket Red Sox (playoffs only)
Final Stats: 120 IP, 6-8, 3.60 ERA, 120 H, 54 R/48 ER, 37 BB, 108 K, 1.30 WHIP
Season in Review: The 21-year-old southpaw, who entered 2014 as the third-ranked prospect in the Orioles organization according to Baseball America, began the season as the opening day starter for Double-A Bowie. Having held his own during his first taste of the level in 2013, posting a 4.22 ERA with a 1.29 WHIP and striking out 59 hitters in 59 2/3 innings, Rodriguez struggled in his second go-round in the Eastern League. After allowing 12 earned runs in his first three starts, he suffered a knee sprain while weightlifting between starts, forcing a trip to the disabled list that lasted just over one month. He returned on May 22, only to continue to lack consistency on the mound. While he spun a few gems among his five quality starts over his 11 remaining appearances for Bowie, only two came in consecutive appearances. In other starts, he issued too many walks and failed to pitch deep into games.
At the trade deadline, Rodriguez was sent to the Red Sox in exchange for Andrew Miller. Assigned to Double-A Portland, everything immediately clicked into place for Rodriguez. He struck out 39 batters in 37 1/3 innings over six appearances. He failed to work at least six innings only once, and never yielded more than one run in any start. His final line with the team included a 3-1 record, 0.96 ERA, .222 batting average against, and 39/8 (4.88) K/BB ratio. Rodriguez credited much of his newfound success to Sea Dogs pitching coach Bob Kipper, who recommended increased usage of the pitcher’s changeup and slider, helping Rodriguez realize the pitches' potential as true swing-and-miss offerings.
When the playoffs arrived, Rodriguez capped his fantastic 2014 encore without missing a beat. He made one start for first-place Portland in the Eastern League playoffs, pitching 6 2/3 innings and allowing two earned runs with two walks and six strikeouts in a 6-3 victory over Binghamton. A week later, Rodriguez made his Triple-A debut with the Pawtucket Red Sox in the Governor’s Cup championship series against the Durham Bulls, going seven innings and once again allowing just two runs with two walks and six strikeouts. - Matt Picard
Scouting Report and 2015 Outlook: As an Orioles prospect, Rodriguez's smooth delivery and mix of a fastball, slider and changeup that he used in all counts made him a sure-fire starter from a young age. His fastball sat 91-93 mph, and he located to either side of the plate, though he tended to work away from left-handers. His slider, which sat 81-84 MPH, had better shape at the lower velocities in the spectrum, but could be located for strikes or buried late in the count. His changeup also projected as an average pitch. But even as a 20-year-old in Double-A, Rodriguez showed he had more. After a big, run-scoring hit, he would dial his fastball up to 94 or 95 mph to shut opponents down the rest of the inning, leaving me always thinking he had an extra gear. It appears his trade to Boston helped him find that gear more consistently. Reports had him sitting in the mid-90s and hitting 97 mph with Portland and Pawtucket, adding power to what was already a developed arsenal. Rodriguez, who will turn 22 around opening day, should get his first full taste of Triple-A and could enter into the equation in Boston by the end of the season. - Jon Meoli
Additional editorial support provided by Jonathan Singer.
Photo Credit: Kelly O'Connor