LEFT HANDED PITCHER
|Born: January 18, 1979
Signed: International Free Agent, 1999 (Astros)
How Acquired: Trade from Astros (for Robbie Grossman, Colton Cain and Rudy Owens)
Country: Dominican Republic
Agent: Barry Praver
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|Rodriguez was never highly regarded as a prospect, but he was a mainstay in the Astros’ rotation for eight years. He’s not a hard thrower, but has gotten a lot of mileage out of an excellent curve and decent change. His average fastball velocity has hovered around 89 throughout his career. He’s usually missed bats at a good rate, although his K rate had dropped a lot in 2012 prior to the trade. He’s a groundball pitcher, with his GB rate increasing in his last few years. He’s had only a mild platoon split over his career, with an opponents’ OPS of .689 against left-handed batters and .754 against right-handed batters. He’s not going to throw eight innings frequently, but he’s also not the sort of pitcher who gets hammered the second or third time through the lineup. In fact, he tends to get better as the game goes along, with the first inning being his worst inning. He’s generally been difficult to steal against, although that hasn’t been true the last two years with the Astros’ catching situation being a big problem.
The Pirates traded Robbie Grossman, Rudy Owens and Colton Cain to get Rodriguez a week before the 2012 trade deadline. The price was moderately high, but the Pirates didn’t have to give up any of their truly high-ceiling prospects. The Astros will pick up about $2.3M of Rodriguez’ salary in 2012 and $4.5M in 2013. If Rodriguez exercises his player option for 2014, the Astros will pick up $5.5M.
Rodriguez started a dozen games in a good US debut, although it came at the relatively late age of 22. He had strong BB and K numbers and allowed only 54 hits.
In full season ball, Rodriguez wasn’t as dominant, but still had good BB and K rates.
Rodriguez missed a few starts but had another good season in high A. His K rate did drop a lot, though. Possibly due to his size and the late start, Rodriguez did not make Baseball America’s list of the Astros’ top thirty prospects. In fact, he never made one of BA’s Astro lists.
In AA, Rodriguez got hit a lot harder, including some mild gopher ball problems (he allowed 15). His K rate increased to roughly his 2002 level.
The Astros called Rodriguez up in late May and he spent most of the year in their rotation. Considering that he’d pitched very little above AA, he did well. He had some trouble with HRs, allowing a little more than one every seven innings.
Rodriguez spent most of the year in Houston and pitched a little worse than in 2005.
Rodriguez spent the year in Houston and made significant progress, especially with his BB and K rates. His ERA was close to the NL average.
Rodriguez had his first really strong season in the majors.
Rodriguez had his best season, including a career-low WHIP.
Rodriguez had another good season.
Rodriguez declined very slightly in 2011. One issue was a career-high 25 HRs.
At the time of the trade, Rodriguez was getting results similar to his better Houston seasons, with some differences. He was allowing more hits and his K rate dropped significantly, but he made up for some of it with a career-low walk rate and a lower than normal HR rate. He’d pitched very well in April and May, but had struggled off and on in June and July. After the trade he struggled a little initially, posting a 5.47 ERA in his first four starts with the Pirates. After that, his ERA was 2.68. He even managed to win his last four decisions, which wasn’t easy with the Pirates in the throes of a near-complete collapse. Rodriguez continued pretty much as he’d be going in Houston. He wasn’t giving up more hits, but his K rate remained at much lower levels than previous seasons. He hasn’t lost velocity, but just the same he generated swings and misses at a much lower rate in 2012 than in previous seasons. He got into the 7th inning four times in his twelve Pirate starts. He also, however, reached 100 pitches in the 6th inning four times, and neither the Pirates nor the Astros let him go beyond 107 pitches, so there’s obviously a concern about his stamina. He didn’t walk many on the year, but he did sometimes get into a lot of deep counts.
Rodriguez is under contract to the Pirates for 2013 and is expected to go into the season as their #2 starter, behind A.J. Burnett. The big concern with Rodriguez has to be the sudden drop in his K rate. His percentage of swinging strikes has gone as follows since his career high in 2009:
2009 — 9.2%
On the plus side, PNC is a good park for left-handed groundball pitchers and Rodriguez has pitched well there, albeit against typically terrible lineups. Another plus is that Rodriguez threw over 200 innings in 2012 and pitched some of his best baseball at the end of the year. His original contract gave the Astros an option for 2014, but it became a player option due to the trade. It seems likely that he’ll ultimately exercise the option, because at age 35 he’ll probably have trouble finding a better offer. Given his age and the fact that he’s not an overpowering pitcher, Rodriguez presents considerable risk.
2014: $13,000,000 (Player Option)
|Signing Bonus: N/A
MiLB Debut: 2001
MLB Debut: 5/23/2005
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2013 (if player option declined, otherwise 2014)
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 11/21/04
Options Remaining: 0
MLB Service Time: 7.105
|1999: Signed as an international free agent with the Houston Astros.
November 21, 2004: Contract purchased by the Houston Astros.
July 24, 2012: Traded by the Houston Astros with cash to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Robbie Grossman, Rudy Owens and Colton Cain.