Grayson Rodriguez Continues To Shine In First Full Season

Image credit: Grayson Rodriguez (Photo by Tony Farlow)

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Grayson Rodriguez shot up last spring to become the 11th overall pick in the 2018 draft.

Now in his first full season of pro ball, the big righthander’s trend line continues to point up.

Rodriguez touched 95 mph and pitched five strong innings to lead low Class A Delmarva (Orioles) to a 3-2 win over Greensboro (Pirates) in the first game of a doubleheader Wednesday.

The 19-year-old Texan didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning and took a shutout into the fifth. He finished with three hits and two runs allowed, one walk and six strikeouts to pick up his fifth win in six starts.

“It was a good day,” Rodriguez said. “I was able to locate stuff without really trying, so from the start I kind of knew the fastball would be good today.”

Rodriguez, the No. 89 prospect on BA’s Top 100 Prospects list, has been the ace of a Delmarva team off to a scorching 28-8 start. He is 5-0, 1.45 with 47 strikeouts and nine walks in 31 innings this season. Opponents are batting .165 against him, and he’s allowed two earned runs or less in every start.

It’s the type of performance the Orioles hoped for when they picked Rodriguez in the first round out of Nacogdoches, Texas last year and gave him a $4.3 million signing bonus to forgo a commitment to Texas A&M.

“Today was just the same we’ve seen from him all year,” Delmarva manager Kyle Moore said. “His fastball plays really up, and he gets a lot of swings and misses off it. And his command of his secondary stuff was good again, which is what really allows that fastball to look a lot harder than it is. Those are good developmental pieces for him right there.”

Rodriguez came out sitting 90-94 mph and struck out a pair in the first inning. He kicked up his velocity to 92-95 mph in the second inning and retired 10 of the next 11 batters.

He painted both corners, pitched downhill and got swings and misses with his fastball in all parts of the zone. He also repeatedly jammed righthanded batters with his fastball for weak contact, including breaking Michael Gretler’s bat at the handle to end the second inning.

The only hits Rodriguez allowed were an infield single and bloop single off the end of the bat until he tired at the end of the fifth. Rodriguez’s velocity dropped to 88-92 mph in his final inning, and he surrendered a two-run homer to Brett Kinneman on an 83 mph changeup he left up over the plate.

“Kind of ran out of gas there toward the end,” Rodriguez said. “Left the changeup over the plate and he hit it out. Tip my hat to him. He capitalized on my mistake. But just being able to spot up the fastball, being able to go outside, inside and up high with it, that felt good today.”

Rodriguez maintained a fastball-heavy approach throughout the game. His low-80s changeup was his primary secondary against Greensboro’s lefty-heavy lineup, and he also flashed a 78-82 mph slider with late snap and a 71-72 mph curveball that floated in above the zone.

The fact Rodriguez threw more changeups than breaking balls represented a point of emphasis in his development. The 6-foot-5 righthander rarely used a changeup in high school and spent most of last offseason working on the pitch.

One scout in attendance graded Rodriguez’s changeup as a potentially average pitch, an impressive assessment considering he’s only just started to get comfortable throwing it.

“Growing up I never threw a changeup, never had to” Rodriguez said. “I got to pro ball and figured out a changeup could be my best friend. This offseason that was the main thing I focused on. Just being able to locate it, what counts to throw it in and how to come out and execute it. So far that’s worked for me.”

Even so, Rodriguez didn’t really need his secondaries much. He drove his fastball downhill to both sides of the plate from his first inning on, and that was all he needed to pick up the win.

“He’s super impressive,” Moore said. “I tell other guys if he had went to college (at Texas A&M) he would have been the best pitcher in the SEC. It’s just not normal for a 19-year-old to have feel like that.”

Robbie Thorburn led the game off with a home run for Delmarva, and Doran Turchin added a two-run single in the fifth that proved decisive.

Greensboro picked up a 4-1 win in the second game of the doubleheader.

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