I'll admit to not knowing much about Eduardo Rodriguez prior to his 2012 campaign. After all, he wasn't a huge money guy, signing out of Venezuela for $175,000 - which was still one of the bigger international signings by Baltimore under then architect Andy MacPhail. Standing 6'2 and 200 lbs, Rodriguez wasn't a flamethrower when he signed out of Venezuela but more of a pitchability lefty. He's evolved into something quite different over the last few years though, turning into a groundball generating machine who can pitch in the low 90s.
Rodriguez appeared stateside for the first time in 2011, and reach full season ball as a 19 year old in 2012. While pitching in Lo-A Delmarva, Rodriguez more than doubles his previous season innings total, throwing 107 innings with a 3.70 ERA and 73 strikeouts against 30 walks. The strikeout rate might not blow you away, but the stuff was quite impressive, as evidenced by his 2.16 GB/FB ratio. 2013 has been more of the same, except better (that makes sense, right?). Rodriguez has upped his K/9 from 6.14 in 2012 to 8 in 2013, while holding his BB/9 steady at 2.5. He's also increased his GB/FB from a solid 2.16 to a stellar 3.14 in 36 innings. One of the key's to his breakout 2012 was his ability to limit damage via the home run, as he maintained a HR/9 of .34 over the course of his 107 innings. That trend has continued on in 2013, as he's allowed only two home runs in 36 innings, good for a .50 HR/9. Rodriguez's ERA sits at 4.00 right now, but that's not cause for concern, as his peripherals have been great and the scouting reports remain solid.
Speaking of which, just how does Rodriguez burn so many worms? Well, it starts with a two-seam fastball that shows a lot of tailing action and sits in the 90-94 MPH range. As a southpaw, the pitch moves in on left-handed batters and away from righties. Rodriguez's arm works very well, and he's able to repeat his delivery which has enabled him to control the strike zone. The fastball has it's inconsistencies but will sit plus for the most part. His secondaries lag behind, though both his slider and change have flashed plus and show the makings of above-average pitches. The change works well off the fastball as he doesn't give it away with significantly different arm speed. He's shown the ability to throw his slider for strikes, and he can get swings and misses with it, though he needs to be able to rely on it more than he does right now. Rodriguez hasn't lost the feel for pitching he had before his velocity and stuff ticked up, which makes him a very intriguing guy to follow, but he also has a lot to work on. First and foremost will be the ability to hold his newfound velocity deeper into games, though as he's only 20 years old, this isn't a massive concern at the moment.
Rodriguez isn't exactly a flashy prospect, as he didn't sign for seven figures on the latin market and he hasn't put up eye popping numbers just quite yet. But he's done enough to crack some top 100 lists, and he's shown impressive growth thus far in his career, lending hope to those of us who think that growth can continue. Rodriguez isn't a guy to be looking at in 10 and 12 team leagues, but for those in AL Only or 16-team leagues and deeper, he's worth monitoring, if not picking up depending on what it costs you. By this time next year, he could be the Orioles top pitching prospect (silent prayer for Bundy's health) and a firm fixture on top 100 lists.