Yes, Dereck Rodriguez been decent and could get significantly better. Pick him up in all formats because if you don’t, someone else soon will.
I had my doubts when I heard the 26-year-old-righty got promoted to the big leagues. The main reason his promotion got any press was that he’s Ivan Rodriguez’s son. In all fairness, no one was on him. I couldn’t find a specific prospect report on him.
The Twins drafted the high school outfielder in the 2011 draft’s sixth round. In 2014, he decided to pitch fulltime which might explain the lack of prospect reports. I was able to find a couple articles when he made the transition from hitter to pitcher which provide some insight.
From The Hardball Times
“He has the pitches and the mix and the command potential to be a starting pitcher,” said Radcliff. “That’s the exciting part of where we are. You never know how it’ll go as he moves up the ladder. It’s hard to get a 40-man roster spot. But he already has a lot of the traits.”
“We knew he didn’t have a lot of pitching experience,” said Radcliff. “He was basically a closer on his high school team, and he pitched some in summer ball. But we also knew he had had arm strength and the chance to have several good pitches. He had a decent frame and good arm action.”
And from MLB.com.
Rodriguez has a fastball that hovers in the 90-93-mph range. He has only been on the mound for a few years, so his secondary pitches are understandably a work in progress.
With nothing else to go off, owners are stuck scouting his stats:
Two main stats which stick out to me. The first item is the above average walk rate over the past two seasons. While his strikeouts aren’t elite, he limits damage with the walks. The second item is the near 40% overall GB%. It’s not at the elite ends of the groundball spectrum.
The next factor to consider is his individual pitch results.
The first item I checked was his fastball velocity compared to MLB.com’s 90-93 mph mention. He now throws two fastballs with one averaging 93 mph and the other averages 92 mph. If assuming he averaged 91.5 mph when he started pitching, his velocity may be up a tick or two.
Besides his fastballs, he throws three other pitches (slider, curve, and change) and here are all the results:
First the good news, he throws three above-average pitches, including his four-seam fastball and it’s insane 14% SwStr%. The 14% is over twice the average rate for the fastball.
His other two usable pitches, change and curve, have a swinging-strike rate over 10%. Also while it’s been a limited number of batted balls this season, all three pitches groundball rate is at the extremes (< 30% GB% or >55% GB%) to generate weak fieldable contact.
His other two pitches, which he’s thrown 31% of the time, are dog poop. The sinker is not generating groundballs and acts like a batting practice pitch with the .506 wOBA. And he’s throwing it more.
In his first relief appearance, he never threw the sinker. In the last two games, he’s thrown the sinker more than his four-seamer. It would be interesting to see his results if he drops this pitch.
Additionally, his slider/cutter only gets a 3.5% SwStr%. This value is below average for any pitch, especially since it’s supposed to be a swing-and-miss pitch.
For an idea on how each pitch moves, here’s a video of each one.
That’s it for his pitches, three good, two bad.
As for his projections, they run the gambit with ZIPS putting his ERA at 5.71 with The BAT next at 4.72 and Steamer at 4.37. Steamer heavily weights his year-to-date stats so it likes what it has seen from Rodriguez more than the other two.
One item the projections worry about is his home run rate. In the minors, it hovered near or over 1.0 HR/9. The reason is his high flyball four-seamer and changeup. While these pitches do give up a decent number of flyballs, most of those batted balls are easy outs. In his last four minor league stops, he’s posted a sub-.300 BABIP and an ERA lower than his FIP.
As for an overall fantasy value, he’s a pitcher with three above-average pitches and at least average command. These are the traits owners desire in a pitcher and only few pitchers possess these traits. And even fewer prospects. The elephant in the room is when will he use just the three and especially move away from the sinker. There is no way to know for sure his overall stats if the new mix brings down the results on his good pitches.
Re-draft owners need to buy but possibly bench him depending on their league depth. His ownership rate dropped 1% to 18% at FanTrax because he had a decent two-start week. He’s not getting a ton of love with his 3.82 ERA and even higher projections. Also remember, he had no prospect status.
Pitchers can emerge from nowhere and be productive. With Derek Rodriguez’s background as an outfielder, he could be such a pitcher. The pieces are there for a top-40 starter and right now he should be owned in all formats while still cheap. Now, he may not limit is faults and make the leap forward this season forcing redraft owners to move on. Buy now and evaluate his next few starts for a potential ace.
Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.