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Angels Top 10 Prospects

By Josh Boyd
January 2, 2003

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1. Francisco Rodriguez, rhp

Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 165. Signed: Venezuela, 1998. Signed by: George Lauzerique.

Background: Rodriguez has been a fixture on prospect lists since the Angels signed him for $900,000 in 1998. Yet it wasn’t until instructional league after the 2001 season that the Angels decided he could be their future closer. He showed his overpowering stuff as a starter, but shoulder and elbow problems kept him from surpassing 114 innings. His career took off when he moved to the bullpen in 2002 and his arm proved resilient. His September callup produced 523 dominant innings, and that’s all it took to put him in manager Mike Scioscia’s postseason plans. Rodriguez became the youngest pitcher in 32 years to pitch in the World Series and the youngest ever to pick up a victory. He went 5-1, 1.93 with 28 strikeouts in 19 postseason innings.

Strengths: Despite spending the most of the season in the minors, Rodriguez emerged as Scioscia’s go-to reliever in critical playoff situations. He made veteran hitters look foolish with his electrifying two-pitch arsenal. His lightning-quick arm generates 94-96 mph velocity on his fastball with explosive late life. Rodriguez tightened the hard rotation on his breaking ball and became more consistent locating it. He can throw it for a strike to either side of the plate or bury it in the dirt, and hitters have a difficult time reading the pitch until it’s too late. Scouts are split on whether it’s a slider or curveball. Rodriguez alters his grip and changes the tilt on the pitch, creating a true slider break or a sweepy curveball arc. Righthanders stand little chance when he’s on. Rodriguez made his biggest strides in maturity, mound presence and conditioning.

Weaknesses: Though his across-the-body delivery creates deception and leverage, his mechanics and frame could be considered red flags. Considering Rodriguez’ history of arm problems, the Angels would be wise to preserve his arm. Unflappable and confident on the mound, he still overthrows at times.

The Future: Scouts already compare the Rodriguez-Troy Percival tandem to John Wetteland and an up-and-coming Mariano Rivera. Like Rivera, Rodriguez’ is the heir apparent as closer.

2002 Club (Class)

W

L

ERA

G

GS

CG

SV

IP

H

HR

BB

SO

AVG

Arkansas (AA)

2

3

2.57

27

0

0

6

42

30

1

13

59

.206

Salt Lake (AAA)

3

3

1.96

23

0

0

9

41

32

2

15

61

.204

Anaheim

0

0

0.00

5

0

0

0

6

3

0

2

13

.167

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