Los Angeles Dodgers Top 10 Prospects
By Bill Ballew
1. Ricardo Rodriguez, rhp
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 195. Signed: Dominican Republic, 1996. Signed by: Pablo Peguero.
Background: Rodriguez won a total of five games in three years in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League before making his U.S. debut in 2000. It was a smashing success, as he won the pitching triple crown in the Rookie-level Pioneer League. Tested by skipping two levels to the high Class A Florida State League last year, he responded with another strong performance. Rodriguez topped the FSL in strikeouts and ranked among the leaders in wins, ERA and innings. Both the FSL and the Dodgers named him their pitcher of the year, and he was picked for the Futures Game at midseason.
Strengths: Rodriguez has all the ingredients to be a solid No. 2 or 3 starter in the big leagues. He has a good two-seam fastball that registers consistently in the 91-93 mph range and as high as 95. He mixes his heater well with a plus curveball that has a hard break and acts like a slider. He added a changeup during instructional league in 2000 and used it extensively last year. What made Rodriguez most effective last season was that he was willing to throw all three of his pitches at any time in the count. He has a loose arm and above-average command, moves the ball around in the strike zone and is willing to pitch inside. Rodriguez also impresses with his maturity and the way he battles on the mound. He shows the ability to be an innings-eater at higher levels.
Weaknesses: The Dodgers say Rodriguez needs to refine his mechanics. While some observers felt that he dominated the Pioneer League because of his age, he had no problems jumping all the way to high Class A. If he can prove himself again at Double-A Jacksonville this year, that should erase all doubts.
The Future: The Dodgers have shown plenty of patience with Rodriguez and hope hell move more rapidly through Double-A and Triple-A. Hes developing into a complete pitcher, and his competitive streak should continue to take him up the ladder. Los Angeles has milked the international market for plenty of starters through the years, and Rodriguez has put himself next in line. With the rash of injuries striking the Dodgers rotation, he could get his chance at some point in 2003.
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