I hadn’t seen Joely Rodriguez or Stetson Allie since they each left Spring Training for West Virginia at the start of the 2013 season. It’s hard to get a complete feel for guys in Spring Training. You can tell who looks good, and who might be struggling, but so much can change during the season. For example, Allie wasn’t crushing everything during Spring Training, then all of a sudden he enters the season, taps into that raw power and launches 17 homers. In the case with Rodriguez, I’ve seen him a lot in the past in the New York-Penn League where he’s struggled with his command in the 91-94 MPH range. I heard he was doing better in that area this year after some work in West Virginia.
Thanks to the recent promotions from West Virginia, I got to see both guys tonight as they made their debuts for the Marauders in a double-header. Joely Rodriguez started game one, so I’ll begin with him.
I first saw Rodriguez come out of the bullpen as an 18-year-old in the New York Penn League at the end of the 2010 season. The left-hander was hitting 94 MPH and showing a lot of life with his fastball, while also throwing a nice slider and changeup. An 18-year-old left-hander who can hit 94 MPH and has a ton of movement with good off-speed stuff meant Rodriguez immediately became a sleeper to watch. Unfortunately he missed the following year with an elbow injury, and spent most of last year working in the upper 80s with his fastball while trying to learn to command his pitches.
The problem with Rodriguez working in the upper 80s is that all of his pitches cut. He’s got a sharp slider in the mid-80s, a late breaking changeup in the low-to-mid 80s, and when you add in an upper 80s fastball with movement, you just get three pitches that look like a fastball at various speeds in the mid-to-upper 80s.
Tonight I saw Rodriguez sitting 92-93 MPH with his fastball. He struggled with his command in the third inning, but the damage was limited to that frame. He was commanding the fastball and showing a lot of movement on the pitch, which were both good signs. Rodriguez actually throws two fastballs. He throws a two-seamer that is usually in the 91-94 MPH range, and a sinker that is in the 89-91 range. They both generate ground balls, and tonight he had a 7:3 GO/AO ratio. There weren’t a lot of hard hit balls, and out of the five hits allowed, four were on ground balls that found their way through the infield (one of those was actually a hard bunt single).
It looks like Rodriguez has added more of a turn to his delivery, similar to what Jeff Locke did last year in order to improve the command of his pitches. That could be the reason he’s improved his command while throwing in the 91-94 MPH range this year. Rodriguez is one of the best lefty prospects in the system. He’s only 21 and can throw as hard as 94 with a two-seamer, gets a lot of ground balls, and throws an above average slider and an average to above average change. The lack of command has been the biggest issue in the past, and if he has fixed that, he could end up a number three or four starter in the majors.
I don’t like reviewing hitters after one or two games, just because you’re literally talking about six at-bats. In Allie’s case, I don’t expect him to make the jump to a new level and dominate from day one, nor would I expect that from any prospect. So I’ll just provide some observations:
**He struck out four times in six at-bats tonight. One of those came against David Price, which is understandable.
**As far as the plate patience, it did look good at times. In his 2nd at-bat in game two he worked the count, and laid off a few close pitches. He was late on a high fastball, but worked to a full count and pulled fastball between third and short, out of reach of the diving third baseman.
**Allie also crushed a double in game one, which came on a mistake pitch. The air was thick tonight, and it might have gone for a homer in an environment that wasn’t so humid (game one was interrupted by an almost two hour downpour an inning or two after Allie’s double).
One thing I noticed tonight in Allie’s stance is his load. He crouches low and has a high leg kick. It may just be that I don’t remember correctly from last year, although this video I took in Spring Training didn’t have such an extreme leg kick (Allie starting at the 48 second mark).
That’s something I’ll have to look into this weekend. Due to the long rain delay, the double header, and tomorrow morning’s 10 AM GCL game, I didn’t have time to go down to the clubhouse after the game.
In the past I remember him being more vertical with his stance, taking a smaller slide step, and finishing his swing standing up straight. It seems like this new load, if it is new, would allow him to tap into his power more, while also allowing him some extra time to judge a pitch. The ball explodes off his bat, and John Dreker and Tom Bragg have both reported that he’s got amazing power. That’s not new, since he’s always had the raw power. The fact that the power has translated over to the games so quickly is the surprising thing.