Orioles pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez has a four-seam fastball, cutter, curveball, a slider and a changeup that looks like a screwball.
Opposing hitters are often confused when it comes to his repertoire.
“The way my changeup moves, it spins about three-o’clock, three-fifteen, and sometimes it looks like a left-handed curveball,” Rodriguez told BaltimoreBaseball.com. “I’ve been able to mess around and make it look like a screwball. But we’re going to stick to changeup to get the sharp action of it dropping off the table.”
Rodriguez, the Orioles’ first-round selection (No. 11 overall) in the 2018 draft, is 2-0 with a 1.47 ERA in four starts this season with Aberdeen, which replaced Frederick as the Orioles’ High-A affiliate.
His velocity is touching in the high 90s and his command has been solid with 31 strikeouts and just four walks.
Although Rodriguez did not have a season in 2020, he worked hard at the Orioles’ alternate training site in Bowie, and he is getting positive results.
Rodriguez entered the season ranked as the No. 2 Orioles prospect, behind catcher Adley Rutschman, according to Baseball America.
“Right now, I am just going to continue to develop my fastball,” Rodriguez said. “We’re getting more command with it. I am actually learning how to pitch with it instead of just throwing it. The velocity has been up significantly. We are going to keep working with that. As far as offspeed pitches go, I am going to continue to develop those. The big difference this year is being able to pitch as opposed to just throw.”
Rodrigez was named the Orioles Jim Palmer Minor League Co-Pitcher of the Year with Mike Baumann in 2019 after finishing the season with Class-A Delmarva, going 10-4 with 2.68 ERA. He also held opponents to a .171 (57-for-333) batting average and struck out 129 batters. The 6-foot-5, 21-year-old right-hander was also named the 2019 South Atlantic League Most Outstanding MLB Prospect.
Rodriguez was hoping to carry that momentum into 2020, but he is making up for lost time.
“It was kind of a big disappointment,” Rodriguez said. “That was a step that was missed and some time was lost. We are doing our best to make it up now. We’re doing our best to get to Baltimore as quickly as we can.”
Rodriguez is a prized prospect, but he is not putting any added expectations on himself. He still has a couple of stops in the Orioles’ minor-league system before he makes his debut at Camden Yards.
“Some guys have some pressure who have been drafted in the first round. For me, the draft was three years ago and that’s in the past,” Rodriguez said. “That’s out of my mind. I don’t ever think about it. Right now, there’s one goal and that’s to make it to the big leagues.
“Ultimately, I can only control what I can do on the field and that’s throw the ball every five days. As long as I am doing that and taking care of business, that will all take care of itself.”
Rodriguez has taken advantage of the Orioles’ commitment to analytics. He uses the data on a daily basis and watches video to gauge his performance. It has helped him develop a plan for attacking hitters.
“Getting ahead in the count and not walking guys,” Rodriguez said. “Attacking guys. Not worrying about trying to hit corners or anything like that. I just go out and dominate hitters. Really, not pitch around anybody, but just to go after them.”
Rodriguez’s simple goal for 2021 is to become a better pitcher than he was two years ago. So far, he has been dominant and expectations are rising for Rodriguez, who turns 22 on November 16th.
“To do better than I did in 2019,” Rodriguez said. “There’s always room for improvement and you can never stop getting better. I just want to go out and dominate hitters, especially learning how to pitch. Not necessarily trying to place the ball in the strike zone but going out and finding out what my strengths are, finding out what my weaknesses are and learning how to make those better.”