RICHARD RODRIGUEZ, RIGHT HANDED PITCHER
|Born: March 4, 1990
Signed: International Free Agent, 2010 (Astros)
How Acquired: Minor League Free Agent
Country: Dominican Republic
WTM’s PLAYER PROFILE
|Rodriguez signed a little late for a Latin American prospect, at age 20. He moved slowly up through the Astros’ system, moving to relief early on and putting up mostly good numbers, including some high K rates. He took a little time to get adjusted to AAA and didn’t get a callup to the majors until he was 27. He throws a 93-94 mph fastball and a slider. He’s a flyball pitcher and hasn’t had much of a platoon split in AAA. He became a free agent after the 2017 season and the Pirates signed him to a minor league contract with a spring training invite.
Rodriguez started five games in the DSL and pitched well.
Rodriguez was apparently hurt, as he got into just four late-season games.
After one June start in full season ball, the Astros sent Rodriguez to advanced rookie ball, where he pitched better than his ERA suggests.
Rodriguez moved to the bullpen for good. He opened his season in full season ball in mid-May and got hit hard. After 14 games, the Astros moved him down to short season ball and he dominated there.
Rodriguez divided his time among three levels, pitching well at all three, including high A despite the ERA. He had outstanding walk and K rates in high A and AA.
The Astros sent Rodriguez back to AAA and he pitched well, although without the high K rate he’d had at lower levels. In June, Houston sent him to the Orioles for cash. The Orioles sent him initially to AA, where he dominated, but he wasn’t as effective after they moved him up to AAA.
Rodriguez spent the season in AAA and pitched very well without quite dominating.
Rodriguez returned to AAA and continued to pitch well, with a high K rate. He got a September callup, but struggled through five appearances. The Orioles outrighted him in mid-September, which is a little unusual for a September callup with expanded rosters.
Rodriguez turned into a major find for the Pirates. He opened the season with Indianapolis, but with their bullpen melting down, the Pirates called him up on April 13 after just two outings in AAA. He got off to a remarkable start, striking out 21 in his first 11.1 IP. He continued pitching effectively all year, appearing in 63 games, occasionally for more than one inning. He showed a surprising ability to get swings and misses on high fastballs despite not having the usual blistering velocity for a reliever. The missed bats may result from an unusually high spin rate. He remained a flyball pitcher, but didn’t give up many long hits, with opponents slugging just .312 against him. That included a home run every 14 innings. Rodriguez had a significant reverse platoon split, which is interesting because he faced left-handed batters nearly half the time. They had just a .439 OPS against him. Right-handed hitters gave him some trouble, with a .730 OPS. The Pirates used him in a variety of roles, typically anywhere from the sixth to the eighth.
Rodriguez started the season pitching in late-inning relief for the Pirates, but got off to a terrible start. In particular, he had a very difficult time keeping the ball in the park. In his first 19.2 IP, he gave up eight gopher balls. The Pirates sent him to AAA in mid-May, but with their bullpen in a shambles they brought him back up after a week and a half. He pitched better the rest of the way, but still wasn’t up to his 2018 level. Homers remained an issue; on the year he gave up 14, or one every four and a half innings. Left-handed hitters blistered him for an OPS of .907, while he held right-handed hitters to .635. The change seemed to result from his fastball, which according to brooksbaseball.net lost nearly 5% of its movement from 2018. His swinging strike percentage dropped from 13.8% the year before to 10.7%. After slugging just .250 off the pitch in 2018, opponents slugged ..436 against it in 2019.
Rodriguez went into the season as one of the few established relievers in the Pirates’ bullpen. He ended up as the closer, not that the Pirates needed one much, when Keone Kela and Kyle Crick both got hurt. Rodriguez pitched very well, probably better than in 2018. He doubled his use of his curve and it got a lot of swings and misses, resulting in a career high K rate. He gave up three longballs, which was a massive improvement over 2019. He was drastically more effective against left-handed hitters, holding them to a .487 OPS, while limiting right-handed hitters to a .590 OPS.
Rodriguez bounced back very well in 2020. The Pirates aren’t going to spend any money on any of their many needs, least of all on an established closer, so Rodriguez may serve in that role again in 2021. In any event, he’ll be one of their late-inning relievers.
2020: Major league minimum
|Signing Bonus: N/A
MiLB Debut: 2010
MLB Debut: 9/2/2017
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2023
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 9/2/2017
Options Remaining: 3
MLB Service Time: 3.017
|April 20, 2010: Signed as an international free agent by the Houston Astros.
June 25, 2015: Traded by the Houston Astros to the Baltimore Orioles for cash.
September 1, 2017: Contract purchased by the Baltimore Orioles.
September 17, 2017: Designated for assignment and outrighted to AAA by the Baltimore Orioles.
November 6, 2017: Became a free agent.
December 7, 2017: Signed as a minor league free agent by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
April 13, 2018: Called up by the Pittsburgh Pirates.