- Full name Rafael Rodriguez
- Born 09/24/1984 in Cotui, Dominican Republic
- Profile Ht.: 6'1" / Wt.: 195 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- School Liceo Fray Ramon Paneone
- Debut 04/15/2009
Organization Prospect Rankings
Rodriguez looked like a $780,000 washout when he went 0-6, 4.16 with a diminished strikeout rate in Double-A in 2007. Because he had dealt with intermittent elbow trouble, he was making the move into a fulltime relief role. He muscled his way back on the prospect map with a huge 2008, when he set up Kevin Jepsen in the Arkansas bullpen, and the Angels added him to the 40-man roster after the season. He dominated Triple-A hitters but got knocked around in his first exposure to major leaguers in 2009. An intelligent pitcher, Rodriguez learned to speak English quickly and at his best features two plus pitches. He challenges batters with a 91-93 mph fastball with sink and above-average lateral movement. His loose, quick arm gives him natural angle to the plate. Rodriguez fares much better against righthanders because his sharp, mid-80s slider with three-quarters tilt is a true out pitch. He'll mix in a changeup that features splitter action, but it's only an occasional weapon to combat lefties. Like most relievers who yo-yo between Triple-A and the big leagues, Rodriguez sometimes struggles to find the strike zone. When he elevates his sinker he gets hit hard. He's 25 and has completed eight pro seasons, but he still has two minor league options remaining. The Angels will evaluate his readiness for a big league job in spring training.
Signed for $780,000 out of the Dominican in 2001, Rodriguez had intermittent elbow problems while he remained a starter. After he stayed healthy but got shelled in Double-A in 2006, the Angels decided to make him a full-time reliever. He spent most of the last two seasons at Arkansas as well, making tremendous strides with his control in 2008. He did a nice job setting up Kevin Jepsen for the Travelers in the first half before taking over as closer once Jepsen advanced to Triple-A. Rodriguez's fastball showed improved velocity (92-95 mph) and sink last season, and he also did a better job of pounding the bottom of the strike zone. His heater might not even be his best pitch, as his slider ranks as the best in the system. He didn't have much luck developing a changeup as a starter and doesn't need it much as a reliever, but he nevertheless made strides with his change last year. Added to the 40-man roster in October, Rodriguez should open the season in Triple-A, where he had limited success in six appearances at the end of 2008.
The Angels signed the live-armed Rodriguez for $780,000 in 2001, when he was just 16. He has battled elbow tenderness since then, and while he remained healthy in 2006, he has been slow to grasp the craft of pitching. He made three stellar starts in high Class A to start his season, then climbed to Double-A and never sustained success. His maximum-effort delivery prevents him from maintaining consistency with his stuff and command. His fastball sits between 90-94 mph with late life. One out of five of his mid-80s sliders will show plus hard, sharp break. He has rudimentary feel for his changeup. Rodriguez often overthrows, misses up in the zone and pitches behind in counts. He's vulnerable against lefthanders, one of several factors that point to a relief role in his future. The Angels would have had to place him on their 40-man roster in order to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, but changes in the new labor agreement gave them an additional year to see how he develops. He could open 2007 in Double-A or move to Triple-A with a successful spring.
Since the Angels signed Rodriguez for $780,000 in 2001, his arm has been both electric and erratic. He has spent much of the last three years in low Class A, in part because a tender elbow ruined his 2004 season. He bounced back to log a career-high 146 innings in 2005, when he pitched well at Cedar Rapids but got shelled in his first taste of high Class A. Rodriguez needs to learn how to pitch because he tries to pile up strikeouts instead of just worrying about getting outs. He toned down his maximum-effort delivery but still struggles to repeat his arm slot, often getting under his breaking ball. But when Rodriguez is going well, he's exciting to watch. His fastball sits between 90-94 mph, and his out pitch is a mid- 80s slider with depth. He doesn't always stay on top of his slider, however. If he can't refine his changeup, he'll likely end up in the bullpen. It's time for Rodriguez to turn a corner in his development, or risk slipping into obscurity. He should head back to high Class A in 2006, though he could pitch at Double-A with a strong spring training.
After signing out of the Dominican for $780,000, Rodriguez has alternately dazzled the Angels with his potential and frustrated them with his inconsistency. He barely made any impression in 2004, making just seven starts while being shut down with a tender arm on two separate occasions. His physical problems resulted from his violent mechanics. He rushes through his delivery and struggles to stay online and balanced. He also tucks his head and bounces out of his motion, causing stress on his arm as well as poor control. If Rodriguez can refine his mechanics, he could harness his power stuff and regain his status as one of the organization's most promising pitching prospects. He has hit 97 mph in the past, though he pitched at 91 and topped out at 94 last year. He also has flashed a hard 87 mph slider with late bite. He doesn't have great feel for his breaking ball, which lapses into a slower slurve at times. Rodriguez made some progress with his changeup but it also remains inconsistent. If he can temper his delivery and realize the futility of trying to strike out each batter, Rodriguez will have a far greater chance of reaching his considerable ceiling. He's headed back to low Class A for the third straight year, but the good news is that he's still just 20.
Rodriguez earned a $780,000 bonus after impressing Angels scouts in a private workout in 2002. He evokes comparisons to Ramon Ortiz and Ervin Santana, though he has been wildly inconsistent and isn't as polished at the same stage. Rodriguez was torched for a 10.17 ERA in five starts last June, then he followed up with a 5-1, 1.86 July. Rodriguez' lightning-quick arm was the first thing that caught scouts' attention. He can dial his fastball up to 97 mph and sits at 90-96. His hard slider has out-pitch potential. Rodriguez has a high-maintenance delivery that instructors have to keep close tabs on. The ball jumps out of his hand, but his command is erratic because he tends to get out of whack with his full-effort mechanics. He shows a feel for a deceptive changeup but needs a more effective weapon against lefties. He has yet to mature physically or emotionally. The Angels believe he'll turn the corner when he masters English. Rodriguez spent his first full season in low Class A at age 18, so he's ahead of schedule. He'll join the high Class A rotation in 2004.
Discovered by Dominican scout Leo Perez, Rodriguez signed for $780,000 after scouting director Donny Rowland and international scouting supervisor Clay Daniel watched him throw during a workout. Rodriguez made his pro debut last summer after pitching in instructional league following the 2001 season. At 17, he was among the youngest players in the minors. Rodriguez has outstanding arm speed and touched 97 mph during his short stay in the Arizona League. His fastball regularly dwells in the 91-95 range, though commanding his heater to both sides of the plate is still an issue. Rodriguez tends to rush his delivery and his mechanics as a whole need some tinkering. His slider can be downright nasty with tight spin and late bite in the zone. He shows a feel for a deceptive changeup by maintaining his fastball arm speed. The Angels don't plan on pushing Rodriguez, who pitched in their Dominican instructional program during the offseason. He has a chance to open 2003 in low Class A, which would be a big jump.
The Disney Corp. has prevented general manager Bill Stoneman from doing some things he'd like to in terms of free agents and trades, but the scouting department has been given carte blanche in the international market. Rodriguez signed for $780,000 as a 16-year-old last summer. He first attracted the Angels when scouting director Donny Rowland and Latin American supervisor Clay Daniel saw him loosening up in the bullpen at a tryout camp in the Dominican Republic in 2000. Rodriguez has a lightning-quick arm action and reached 94-95 mph with his fastball in instructional league. He has the makings of a tight breaking ball and impresses Anaheim with his makeup. Like fellow Dominicans Ramon Ortiz and Johan Santana, he maintains consistent arm speed on his late-fading changeup. Rodriguez will travel the same path Santana did last year, and easily could skyrocket toward the top of this list following the 2002 season.
Minor League Top Prospects
Rodriguez ranked 14th on this list two years ago, then got sidetracked by a tender elbow that restricted him to seven starts in 2004. His violent delivery was the culprit, and when he toned it down this season he stayed healthy and pitched a career-high 146 innings. There are similarities between him and Francisco Rodriguez, who's no relation. They have the same build and comparable stuff, though Rafael pitches with less intensity. His out pitch is his mid-80s slider, which is saying something considering he also has a 90-94 mph fastball. If he can't refine his changeup, he'll also wind up in the bullpen. Rafael tries to challenge hitters with his fastball up in the zone too often, which led to rough outings following his promotion to high Class A.
A number of teenage power pitchers pushed for inclusion on this list. Zumaya and Wilhelmsen cracked the top 10, and Rodriguez wasn't far behind. Teammate Kevin Jepsen might have made it if not for elbow problems, and South Bend's Adriano Rosario might have if he had more than velocity and observers had believed his listed age. Clinton manager Carlos Subero compared Rodriguez to Angels World Series hero Francisco Rodriguez (no relation). Rafael has a quick arm that produces lively 89-95 mph fastballs and 83-89 mph sliders. He has some effort to his delivery and a lot to learn about pitching, such as busting hitters inside.
The Angels had a number of good young arms in Arizona, and the most notable was Rodriguez. Signed in July 2001, he made his pro debut in the United States, which isn't typical for a young Dominican. Neither, however is Rodriguez' fastball. He throws in the low to mid-90s and also uses a slider and changeup. He didn't fare nearly as well after a promotion to the Rookie-level Pioneer League (1-1, 5.96), where he was one of the few 17-year-olds on the mound.
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Slider in the Los Angeles Angels in 2009