LEFT HANDED PITCHER
|Born: January 18, 1979
Signed: International Free Agent, 1999 (Astros)
How Acquired: Trade from Astros (for Robbie Grossman, Colton Cain and Rudy Owens)
Country: Dominican Republic
Agent: Barry Praver
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|Rodriguez was never highly regarded as a prospect, but he was a mainstay in the Astros’ rotation for eight years. He’s not a hard thrower, but has gotten a lot of mileage out of an excellent curve and decent change. His average fastball velocity has hovered around 89 throughout his career. He’s usually missed bats at a good rate, although his K rate had dropped a lot in 2012 prior to the trade. He’s a groundball pitcher, with his GB rate increasing in his last few years. He’s had only a mild platoon split over his career, with an opponents’ OPS of .689 against left-handed batters and .754 against right-handed batters. He’s not going to throw eight innings frequently, but he’s also not the sort of pitcher who gets hammered the second or third time through the lineup. In fact, he tends to get better as the game goes along, with the first inning being his worst inning. He’s generally been difficult to steal against, although that hasn’t been true the last two years with the Astros’ catching situation being a big problem.
The Pirates traded Robbie Grossman, Rudy Owens and Colton Cain to get Rodriguez a week before the 2012 trade deadline. The price was moderately high, but the Pirates didn’t have to give up any of their truly high-ceiling prospects. The Astros will pick up about $2.3M of Rodriguez’ salary in 2012 and $4.5M in 2013. If Rodriguez exercises his player option for 2014, the Astros will pick up $5.5M.
Rodriguez started a dozen games in a good US debut, although it came at the relatively late age of 22. He had strong BB and K numbers and allowed only 54 hits.
In full season ball, Rodriguez wasn’t as dominant, but still had good BB and K rates.
Rodriguez missed a few starts but had another good season in high A. His K rate did drop a lot, though. Possibly due to his size and the late start, Rodriguez did not make Baseball America’s list of the Astros’ top thirty prospects. In fact, he never made one of BA’s Astro lists.
In AA, Rodriguez got hit a lot harder, including some mild gopher ball problems (he allowed 15). His K rate increased to roughly his 2002 level.
The Astros called Rodriguez up in late May and he spent most of the year in their rotation. Considering that he’d pitched very little above AA, he did well. He had some trouble with HRs, allowing a little more than one every seven innings.
Rodriguez spent most of the year in Houston and pitched a little worse than in 2005.
Rodriguez spent the year in Houston and made significant progress, especially with his BB and K rates. His ERA was close to the NL average.
Rodriguez had his first really strong season in the majors.
Rodriguez had his best season, including a career-low WHIP.
Rodriguez had another good season.
Rodriguez declined very slightly in 2011. One issue was a career-high 25 HRs.
At the time of the trade, Rodriguez was getting results similar to his better Houston seasons, with some differences. He was allowing more hits and his K rate dropped significantly, but he made up for some of it with a career-low walk rate and a lower than normal HR rate. He’d pitched very well in April and May, but had struggled off and on in June and July. After the trade he struggled a little initially, posting a 5.47 ERA in his first four starts with the Pirates. After that, his ERA was 2.68. He even managed to win his last four decisions, which wasn’t easy with the Pirates in the throes of a near-complete collapse. Rodriguez continued pretty much as he’d be going in Houston. He wasn’t giving up more hits, but his K rate remained at much lower levels than previous seasons. He hasn’t lost velocity, but just the same he generated swings and misses at a much lower rate in 2012 than in previous seasons. He got into the 7th inning four times in his twelve Pirate starts. He also, however, reached 100 pitches in the 6th inning four times, and neither the Pirates nor the Astros let him go beyond 107 pitches, so there’s obviously a concern about his stamina. He didn’t walk many on the year, but he did sometimes get into a lot of deep counts.
Rodriguez continued pitching well through the first two months, even getting his strikeout rate up a little. His percentage of swinging strikes, which had dropped sharply in 2012, dropped again, but his fastball continued to average 89. In his first start in June, though, he left after four batters with elbow soreness. The medical tests didn’t show a need for surgery, but he kept getting soreness during his rehab attempts. He finally made one rehab outing in AAA near the end of the minor league season in hopes of joining the Pirates in September, but the soreness came back. The diagnosis was arthritis and the Pirates decided to shut Rodriguez down with the idea of off-season rest helping get him ready for 2014.
Rodriguez had a $13M option for 2014, which, as expected, he exercised after the season ended. Fortunately for the Pirates, the Astros are on the hook for $5.5M of that money. Rodriguez had no problems with his elbow during spring training, so he was set to open the season in the team’s rotation.
UPDATE: Rodriguez struggled early in 2014, then went on the disabled list with a knee injury. When he returned, he struggled through a brief rehab and got knocked out in the second inning of his second start back in the majors. Throughout the early season, his fastball velocity was down and he had severe problems with gopher balls. The Pirates designated him for assignment in late May.
2014: $13,000,000 (Player Option exercised)
|Signing Bonus: N/A
MiLB Debut: 2001
MLB Debut: 5/23/2005
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2013 (if player option declined, otherwise 2014)
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 11/21/04
Options Remaining: 0
MLB Service Time: 8.105
|January 12, 1999: Signed as an international free agent with the Houston Astros.
November 21, 2004: Contract purchased by the Houston Astros.
July 24, 2012: Traded by the Houston Astros with cash to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Robbie Grossman, Rudy Owens and Colton Cain.
May 22, 2014: Designated for assignment by the Pittsburgh Pirates.