With the Red Sox far out of playoff contention last season as the trade deadline approached, they shipped Andrew Miller, who was set to become a free agent, to their division rivals, the Baltimore Orioles, for left-handed pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez. In order for the Red Sox to deal Miller to the Orioles, they would only accept Rodriguez in any deal and on Thursday we got a glimpse of why the Red Sox were so adamant in getting him. Making his Major League debut, Rodriguez went 7.2 scoreless innings, allowing just 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out 7 Rangers batters.
Rodriguez spent all of 2014 in AA where he had a 4.05 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 8.10 K/9, and 2.77 BB/9 in 120 IP. Those weren’t the greatest of numbers, but for a 21-year old at AA, he surely held his own. But what’s not seen in those numbers is how he began to really thrive once he did get traded over to the Red Sox organization, as he had a 0.96 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 9.40 K/9 and 1.93 BB/9 after the trade.
Before being called up for this start on Thursday, Rodriguez had been pitching at AAA where he had a 2.98 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 48.1 IP while displaying that same nice blend of strikeout potential (8.19 K/9) and excellent control (1.30 BB/9) that he had at AA for the Red Sox last year.
A lot of the pitching prospects that get hyped up seem to be high strikeout guys who have battled control issues such as Taijuan Walker, Archie Bradley, and Carlos Rodon, and the problem with those types of pitching prospects is that they do not usually have immediate success in the Majors. Sure they will have an occasional dazzling game, but overall they just often have a mixed bag of results. But then you get someone who comes along like Noah Syndergaard who never has dealt with control issues who can come along and be successful on a much more consistent basis right away in the Majors.
Rodriguez would seem to be more in the vein of Syndergaard than those other young arms thanks to his great control, and he could have a shot at some early success as a Major Leaguer. He’s not as strikeout dominant as Syndergaard, but there is a lot to like about him. Watching his start on Thursday, he was very efficient with his pitch count, throwing a lot of strikes and working in and right around the zone, and he seemed especially tough on the Rangers left-handed bats. He’s still a very young pitcher though, so he’s most likely going to run into some struggles, but out of rookie pitchers I do value the type of control that he can bring.
But what remains to be seen is whether or not he sticks in the Red Sox rotation. His start on Thursday was supposed to be nothing more than a spot start, but the Red Sox have dealt with some big time issues on the pitching front. There’s not really one of their starting pitchers who has had a good season, but the name that comes to mind when talking about Rodriguez potentially replacing someone is Joe Kelly. If the Red Sox are serious about contending this year, then they have to give some long thought to putting Rodriguez in the rotation for good.
For fantasy purposes, Rodriguez would have immediate value if he is inserted into the rotation for a longer look and I definitely would recommend him as someone to pick up.
Let’s check out the rest of Thursday’s action.
Mike Wright – 5 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 2 K with the W. After two scoreless starts to begin his Major League career, Wright for the Orioles got touched up a little bit on Thursday but still came away with the victory. Long term I don’t believe Wright will be a very valuable fantasy asset this year, especially given that a spot in the rotation is not guaranteed to him as he is just filling in for the injured Bud Norris. In the Minors at both AA and AAA, it took him a season to get adjusted to the level before he went from around a 6.50 K/9 pitcher to over an 8.50 K/9 pitcher. So maybe that’s what happens to him as a Major League pitcher as well. He’s got pretty decent control but I wouldn’t expect the strikeouts to be there this year. He is now 2-0 with a 1.40 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, and 12 K/3 BB in 19.1 IP.
Adam Eaton – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R. Eaton has been having a very slow year but he now has more HR (2) than he had all of last season! Eaton is only hitting .238 on the year due to the fact that he has hit as many infield fly balls (7) as he has in the last two seasons combined. He also is not accumulating infield hits like he did last season. It’s been a pretty disappointing year for the White Sox leadoff man, and it must be… Eaton him alive. Yeah, I said it.
Adam LaRoche – 1 for 3, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB. LaRoche is another White Sox player that has been off to a slow start, but he got on the board with a HR on Thursday as well and is now bating .241 with 5 HR and 20 RBI. Last year, LaRoche posted an 18.4% strikeout rate, which was a big improvement over his career rate of over 22.0%. He hasn’t been able to maintain those strides this year with a 28.0% strikeout rate, which would be a career worst.
Mookie Betts – 3 for 5, 1 RBI. With a 3 hit day on Thursday, Betts finally has his AVG at .250 for the first time since the 2nd game of the season. I expect his AVG to keep going up and up because his strikeout rate is really good at 11.8%. His low BABIP of .261 is a product of a 44.2% fly ball rate, a rate that is not characteristic of him and not conducive to a guy with his type of speed. Betts is too good of a hitter to not make the adjustments and get his AVG up to at least .280.
Hanley Ramirez – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB. Hanley had gone 85 AB (and all of May) without a HR before he went deep on Thursday. It’s been a tough go for Hanley ever since he hurt his shoulder, but he has been hitting a lot of balls sharply as of late but right at fielders. He should begin to see a vast improvement on his .244 BABIP. He’s now hitting .257 with 11 HR, 24 RBI, 25 R, and 1 SB which is still excellent production out of a fantasy shortstop.
Blake Swihart – 2 for 4, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 K. It was pretty much expected that Swihart would struggle with the bat upon being called up from AAA earlier this year, because even though he was a top prospect, he only did log 145 plate appearances at the AAA level. However, with hits in his last 6 games, he might be becoming more comfortable as a Major League hitter. Nevertheless, he’s not one to consider for one catcher leagues.
Nick Martinez – 7 IP, 9 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K with the L. With his teammate Colby Lewis getting bombed the previous day, I was expecting Martinez to suffer the same fate and finally come back down to earth, but he kept the streak going and has not allowed more than 3 earned runs in all 10 of his starts this season. That surely isn’t something that I thought would be possible. He’s now 4-1 with a 2.03 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and 35 K/19 BB in 62 IP. His strikeout rate of 5.08 K/9 is nothing to write home about and will be one of his downfalls in the end.
Starling Marte – 1 for 3, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB. So that was Marte’s 10th HR of the season and his HR/fly ball rate is now an absurd 38.5% while his fly ball rate is very low at 20.6%. Two things will happen. One, Marte will not continue hitting home runs on fly balls at such an absurdly high rate. Two, his fly ball rate will slowly begin to rise. So pretty much, I would say he’s good for another 10 HR this season, which would put him at 20 HR. I know that I said earlier in the season that I don’t think he would reach 20 HR, well at this point it looks inevitable but let’s just say that I would not be surprised if he didn’t given the expected rapid decline of his HR/fly ball rate.
Jung-Ho Kang – 1 for 5, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R, 3 K. Kang muscled up on this one to launch it into the upper deck in left field. I said that he would begin to start taking over at SS for the Pirates a couple weeks ago, and that is exactly what he is doing. He’s now batting .308 with 3 HR, 17 RBI, 11, R, and 3 SB in 34 games as his game is translating over well to MLB. With SS and 3B eligibility, he is a fine fantasy player and is looking like he could end up being quite the signing for the Pirates. He probably shouldn’t be left on the waiver wire in fantasy leagues.
Gregory Polanco – 2 for 5, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R. Polanco had fallen out of favor with manager Clint Hurdle, so he’s been hitting in the bottom half of the order as of late. But with his hitting skills and speed, he should be able to work his way back up the order at some point and Thursday’s performance was a nice showing as he belted his 2nd HR of the year.
A.J. Burnett – 5.2 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 6 K with the W. It was Burnett’s first “poor” performance of the season, but he did deserve better as there were some defensive miscues that aren’t going to show up in the stat sheet. He will keep regressing, but he’s also looking fine to be a pretty solid option.
Justin Upton – 2 for 3, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 SB, 1 BB. With a SB on Thursday, Upton became this season’s first member of the 10 HR/10 SB club. Pretty impressive for a guy that only stole 8 bases in each of the last two seasons.
Ian Kennedy – 3.2 IP, 7 H, 7 ER, 2 BB, 5 K with the L. Petco Park just hates him this year. No longer a pitcher’s park for whatever reason and Kennedy is finding it out the hard way as he served up 3 more bombs and now has allowed 9 HR in just 21.1 IP at home this season. For comparison, Kennedy allowed 10 HR in just over 100 IP at Petco Park last year.
Chris Iannetta – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 R. Iannetta led the charge for the Angels on Thursday with a grand salami. Unfortunately, he is batting just .178 and has really not been fantasy relevant ever since he left Colorado.
C.J. Wilson – 6 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 5 BB, 7 K with the W. Ah yes, I knew Wilson’s low walk rate that he had up to this point had to have been phony. He entered the day with a walk rate of 2.44 BB/9, but that shot up to 2.91 BB/9 after he had trouble finding the plate on Thursday. Expect that number to keep going up. Even though Wilson is a better than average looking man, he’s nothing but an average fantasy pitcher.
Billy Burns – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R. Wow, Burns already has 2 HR now! That’s twice as many HR that I was expecting out of him. Burns is going to continue to benefit from Coco Crisp being hurt, and really Burns should probably stay in the starting lineup for the A’s even when/if Crisp comes back from the DL.
Brian McCann – 3 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 K. That’s 3 straight games with a HR for McCann. I said he would get to 20 HR like he always does, but it would come with a .230 AVG.
Corey Kluber – 7 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 13 K with the W. Kluber is now on an incredible 4 start run where he has compiled 50 K/2 BB in 32 IP and he now leads the Majors in strikeouts. So good!
James Paxton – 4.2 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K with the L. Paxton ran into some trouble and then left the game with a finger discomfort injury. Paxton had been on a nice 5 start streak where he lowered his ERA nearly 3.50 runs. He’s a good talent, but I wasn’t going to touch him this year because I didn’t like his control issues. He’s now 3-3 with a 3.70 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 45 K/22 BB in 58.1 IP.
Brandon Belt – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R. Belt has really been a victim of his home stadium AT&T Park throughout his career. He entered Thursday’s play with 35 HR on the road in his career, but only 15 HR at home. The dimensions of that park are just really weird with that super deep right center field wall. So it was very nice to see him homer at home for the first time this season.
Chris Heston – 7.1 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K with the W. So you know that thing I just said about AT&T Park hurting Belt’s numbers as a hitter? Well, conversely, that park is going to help pitchers and that’s what its doing for Heston. Heston now has a 2.16 ERA and 1.20 WHIP and has only allowed 1 HR at home. On the road, he has a 5.79 ERA and 1.36 WHIP and has allowed 5 HR. So Heston confused me earlier this year, as I didn’t know what the heck to think of him, but now I think I have him pegged right as a home start pitcher only.
Shelby Miller – 7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K with the L. The 1 K is unattractive, but I’ll give him a pass on this one as he faced the Giants who are the hardest team in the NL (besides his own team’s offense) to strikeout. I’ve been saying that the improvements that Miller has made are for real due to his new pitches, but the ERA and WHIP numbers that are the result of his improvements are not for real. He won’t completely implode but the regression monster will be paying him a visit soon.