Angels See Huge Upside In Chris Rodriguez
Two seasons lost to a lower back injury may have stunted Chris Rodriguez’s growth and development, but not his potential.
The Angels remain high on the 21-year-old righthander because of his vast repertoire and his competitive nature. But Rodriguez needs to put together a full healthy season in 2020 to get his career back on track.
"I’m very confident that we finally found the right procedure to keep him healthy,” said Matt Wise, the former minor league pitching coordinator and current big league bullpen coach. "If that’s true, he’d be very likely to fulfill his potential. The stuff is so exciting to watch. And he competes.”
The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Rodriguez was a fourth-round pick out of Miami's Monsignor Pace High in 2016 who signed for a well over-slot $850,000. Now entering his fifth pro season, he has totaled just nine innings over the past two seasons.
Rodriguez sat out the entire 2018 season because of a stress reaction in his lower back. Last April he was shut down after three dominant starts at high Class A Inland Empire and later had season-ending surgery to repair a stress fracture in his back.
Rodriguez has been rehabilitating for several months, and strength and conditioning will clearly be a focus this spring, but he is expected to report to camp with no limitations.
The Angels will monitor Rodriguez’s workload and will likely limit his innings, but if he can stay healthy, the Angels believe he can blossom into a front-of-the-rotation starter.
Rodriguez throws a four-seam fastball that averages 94 mph and has touched 97 and a two-seam fastball with heavy sink and late life.
His two best secondary pitches are a nasty slider that averages 89 mph and has touched 93 and a changeup that averages 87 with screwball-like fading action. His big overhand curveball averages 83 mph, but he uses it sparingly.
Rodriguez will likely open 2020 back in the California League but should reach Double-A in the second half.
"The competitor, the brain, the makeup, the stuff is all really exciting,” Wise said. "He has a good feel for four pitches. He’s one of those guys you really look forward to watching pitch.”