- Full name Bruce Rondón
- Born 12/09/1990 in Valencia, Venezuela
- Profile Ht.: 6'3" / Wt.: 275 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- Debut 04/25/2013
Organization Prospect Rankings
The Tigers have a stacked lineup, a rotation filled with frontline starters and won the American League Central four straight years. Yet the bullpen continues to be an annual source of frustration for the team. Rondon was expected to help solve the Tigers' relief woes in 2014, but instead he missed the entire season after having Tommy John surgery in March. With 30 major league relief appearances and 29 innings, Rondon barely meets our threshold to still qualify as a prospect. When healthy, he showed the stuff to pitch high-leverage innings. He has a monster frame to match his fastball, which sits at 97-100 mph and touched as high as 103. Beyond the topof- the-scale velocity, his fastball also had good life, running in on righties to help him blow it by hitters and get grounders at an above-average clip. Rondon throws his hard slider up in the high 80s and it can be an average pitch, but it's not consistent yet. He improved his changeup in 2013, but it's not a pitch he throws much. He got away with below-average command prior to his surgery because his fastball was so tough for hitters to square up. The Tigers expect Rondon to be ready for spring training after his rehab process, though it remains to be seen whether he will still have the high-octane stuff he once possessed. If he does, he should be pitching late in games for the Tigers with a chance to be a closer eventually. Did not play
Had Rondon made one more relief appearance in Detroit, he would no longer be eligible for this prospect list. He would have easily surpassed that cutoff had he been more effective early in the 2013 season. After a sluggish spring training, Rondon opened at Triple-A Erie, got to Detroit in late April but scuffled in three appearances before getting sent back down. He returned for good in late June, pitching just once after Sept. 2 with what the club termed a tender elbow. Rondon is a jumbo-sized reliever with one of the game's best fastballs. He pushes 300 pounds on the scale and 103 mph off the mound. Rondon's fastball sits at 97-100 mph and bores in on the hands of righthanders, making him proficient at getting swinging strikes and groundouts. His high-80s slider was at its best late in the season but still gets slurvy and inconsistent on him. He made strides with his changeup and started using it more frequently when his slider wasn't working, but it's also inconsistent. His fastball gives him more margin for error with his below-average command, which he's steadily improved the last two seasons. Tigers officials believe Rondon may have put too much pressure on himself to win the closer job in 2013, but with the signing of Joe Nathan to a two-year deal he should be able to settle in as a set-up man in 2014, with the potential to close at some point in the future.
Rondon's prospect status has risen nearly as fast as his weight. The organization's 2012 minor league pitcher of the year after finishing third in the minors with 29 saves, he weighed 190 pounds when he signed out of Venezuela in 2007 (where he initially tried out for teams as a catcher) but now tips the scales at nearly 300. Rondon hit 102 mph with his first pitch at the Futures Game in July, touched 103 during the season and normally works at 97-100 mph. Along with its top-of-the-charts velocity, his fastball has boring action and breaks its fair share of bats. Rondon worked in spring training to get more comfortable with his slider grip. He has tightened and improved his slider, but it still gets slurvy at times. His slider shows signs of becoming an average offering, as does his high-80s changeup with late sink. He made significant strides with his control and command in 2012, but both still have a long way to go and likely will always be an issue because of his lack of athleticism. He's fearless on the mound and will get a chance to close in Detroit in 2013.
Rondon initially tried out for teams as a catcher in Venezuela before his trainer moved him to the mound. He threw in the high 80s when the Tigers signed him in 2007, but his fastball has soared as he has gained nearly 100 pounds since signing. There are few hitters more uncomfortable to face than Rondon, both because of his electric fastball and his lack of any clue where it's going. His fastball regularly clocks in the mid-90s, ranging from 95-101 mph. It's overpowering not just for its velocity, but also its boring, heavy life. He also throws a slurvy 81-86 mph slider with occasional hard bite. It's effective against lower-level hitters but will need to get shorter and quicker to work against better competition. Rondon struck out 34 percent of the batters he faced in 2011, but he also issued 34 walks, hit five batters and threw 11 wild pitches in 40 innings. He has a max-effort delivery, gets amped up and overthrows, which causes him to lose his release point and his control. Repeating his delivery is difficult because of his lack of athleticism and his weight, which ballooned close to 300 pounds before he shed some excess baggage. Rondon always will be heavy because of his frame, but he'll need to keep his weight in check to reduce his risk of injury. He doesn't need pinpoint command to be successful, but he does need to find the plate in order to realize his potential as a late-inning reliever. He'll advance to high Class A this year.
In 2010, his first full season in the United States, Rondon led the Gulf Coast League in saves (15) and opponent average by a reliever (.133). He wasn't comfortable with the over-the-top arm slot he opened the year with, so the Tigers dropped him down to angle slightly below three-quarters at midseason, and he really took off. Rondon sits at 92-94 mph with his heavy, sinking fastball and dials it up as high as 98. He also throws a slider in the mid-80s that shows flashes of being a plus pitch, but it's inconsistent and flattens out when he gets under it from his new arm slot. Despite thighs the size of tree trunks, Rondon doesn't really utilize his lower half in his delivery. Perhaps because of his new arm slot, some inconsistencies in his mechanics or just his youth, Rondon can struggle with his command. He'll need to improve the location of his pitches and the reliability of his slider, but he has the weapons to help the big league bullpen in a few years. He finished 2010 in high Class A and could return there this season.
Minor League Top Prospects
Rondon carries 80 pounds more than his listed weight of 190, but his fastball is just as large as his dimensions. No one in the minors throws harder than Rondon, routinely hits 100 mph and touches 103. At the Futures Game, Rondon didn't throw a pitch under 100 mph. Making life even tougher for hitters, Rondon's fastball has late life. He also throws a mid-80s slider and destroys righthanders, who hit .104 with no extra-base hits in 106 at-bats against him in the minors this year. He also throws a changeup that flashes some late sink. Though Rondon's control has improved, he's still prone to stretches of wildness. He'll have to keep his walks and his weight in check in order to get to close games in the big leagues, but he has a chance to be an elite reliever.
He's a bad-bodied reliever who doesn't always have a dependable second pitch, yet Rondon's explosive fastball caught the attention of EL managers and scouts, who foresee a future as a big league closer. His first pitch at this year's Futures Game clocked in at 102 mph, and he threw three consecutive fastballs at 101 later in the outing. Rondon's fastball usually ranges from 94-100 mph--he comes down from the higher registers only when he must throw a strike--and bores in on the hands of righthanders, breaking plenty of bats. In 52 appearances from high Class A to Triple-A this season, he allowed righties to hit just 11-for-106 (.104) with eight walks and no extra-base hits. Lefthanders fared much better (.263/.410/.400), reinforcing the need for Rondon to improve the qualify of his secondary stuff. He throws a mid-80s slider that tops out near 89 mph and features hard biting action when he finishes it. Some scouts favor his high-80s changeup as a future out pitch because it has late sink when executed properly.
After making three GCL starts in 2009, Rondon showed more electric stuff out of the bullpen this summer. He led the league in saves (15) and was the toughest reliever to hit (.133). Rondon regularly reaches the mid-90s with his fastball and rarely dips below 92-93 mph. He also flashes a plus slider in the mid-80s, though he doesn't always stay on top of it from his low arm angle, which leads to it flattening out at times. He's still needs to sharpen his command, though that didn't prevent him from faring well in a four-game cameo in high Class A.
Top 100 Rankings
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Fastball in the Detroit Tigers in 2014
- Rated Best Slider in the Detroit Tigers in 2013
- Rated Best Fastball in the Detroit Tigers in 2013
- Rated Best Reliever in the Florida State League in 2012
- Rated Best Reliever in the Eastern League in 2012
- Rated Best Fastball in the Detroit Tigers in 2012
Background: Rondon's prospect status has risen nearly as fast as his weight. The organization's 2012 minor league pitcher of the year after finishing third in the minors with 29 saves, he weighed 190 pounds when he signed out of Venezuela in 2007 (where he initially tried out for teams as a catcher) but now tips the scales at nearly 300. Scouting Report: Rondon hit 102 mph with his first pitch at the Futures Game in July, touched 103 during the season and normally works at 97-100 mph. Along with its top-of-the-charts velocity, his fastball has boring action and breaks its fair share of bats. Rondon worked in spring training to find a more comfortable with his slider grip. He has tightened and improved his slider, but it still gets slurvy at times. His slider shows signs of becoming an average offering, as does his high-80s changeup with late sink. He made significant strides with his control and command in 2012, but both still have a way to go and likely will always be an issue because of his lack of athleticism. The Future: Rondon can make a case for having the best fastball in the minor leagues. He's fearless on the mound and profiles as a future closer. He'll likely open 2013 at Triple-A Toledo.