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Evaluating DSL Prospects: LHP Carlos A. Rodriguez

Evaluating DSL Prospects: LHP Carlos A. Rodriguez

One player I've been getting a lot of questions and comments about of late is Carlos A. Rodriguez.  He is a LHP out of Venezuela who had great success as a 17 year old in his debut season in the DSL.

Rodriguez went 5-3 with a 2.01 ERA, had a strikeout rate of 9.2/9 IP and solid walk rate of 2.5.  He allowed just 52 hits in 71.2 IP and had a 1.00 WHIP overall.

Those numbers are insane for a 17 year old. So the question then is this:

Is Carlos A. Rodriguez a top prospect?

The honest answer is...

No.  It's early.  Way too early to give him that kind of status.

That's not to say he isn't a prospect worth monitoring, but let's take a look at this with some perspective.  Rodriguez put those numbers up in the DSL, which is the lowest level of competition in a typical MLB organization.  As you move down the levels, statistics become less and less significant. In fact, Theo Epstein himself has said statistical analysis doesn't become 50% of the equation until about the AA level.  I have heard similar ratios from others in the industry -- and I'm not talking about old school guys here, I'm talking about some pretty progressive baseball minds.  The importance of stats as compared to scouting info dwindles as you move down the ladder.  By the time you get to the DSL, there really shouldn't be a whole lot of emphasis put on those numbers.

There are too many variables to consider at this stage for Rodriguez.  You cannot take the numbers at face value.  At this level, you have to ask yourself why he is putting up those great numbers.  Is it because he has good velocity and is overmatching hitters?  Is it because he has uncanny command for his age?  Does he have a wicked breaking pitch that younger players can't help but chase?  Does he have an advanced feel for pitching that is beyond his level of competition?

Much of the time, this information is hard to come by, which is why you won't see me rank DSL prospects unless they are high profile signings who immediately perform at a high level, much as Jeimer Candelario did 2 seasons ago.  This isn't because of any hype factor.  This is because there is simply more information available on those players.

Other than his raw numbers, we do know this about Rodriguez from his stat sheet: He is about 5'11" and 180 lbs.  This does not doom him, but it is less than ideal size, even for a LHP.  He's young, so there is the possibility of physical projection, but that is somewhat speculative. Luckily we have some help from BA's Ben Badler, the best source of international baseball information in the media today. Badler writes some great stuff on the Cubs most recent international prospects class. In that piece, he mentions that Rodriguez has a "strong frame".  That description, coupled with the fact that he is already carries a solid 180 lbs. on a 5'11" frame, indicates to me that there isn't a lot of room to fill out.  Again, if true, it's not the end of the world, but it implies less projectability overall.  Rodriguez has done very well, but there's a good chance he isn't going to get a whole lot bigger and start throwing significantly harder, even though he's just 17.  In short, he seems quite physically mature for  his age.

But he's not just physically mature...

Thanks to Badler, we have even more information on Rodriguez.  He also offers some scouting info on the Cubs young LHP.  Here's a breakdown:

  • He has an advanced feel for pitching despite his young age.
  • Scouts praise his competitiveness and ability to hit both sides of the plate with his fastball.
  • He throws in the high 80s.
  • He has a good change-up for his age.
  • He has a curveball that he can throw for strikes.
  • Does not have a clean delivery, though it hasn't affected his command.

In summary, we are talking about a kid who has an idea how to pitch, can hit his spots, and already throws 3 solid pitches.  At the DSL level, those advanced skills will go a long, long way.  You can keep very young hitters off balance routinely with those abilities.  His numbers in the DSL are evidence of that.

The question then becomes, will this assortment of skills continue to play at the higher levels as hitters become more experienced?  Again, the only honest answer is that it's too early to know.  We know hitters will get better, so Rodriguez will have to get better as well.  At some point soon, hitters are going to catch up to him in terms of maturity -- both physically and in their approach.

That will be when Rodriguez gets his toughest test.  If he's still putting up some insane numbers as he moves up the ladder, that's when things will really start to get interesting.

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  • Speaking of international signings, I see that the Rays exceeded their intl. budget and are going to pay for it. E.g., they can't sign anyone for more than 250K among other penalties.
    Interesting because I had never seen this happen. Makes it more competitive now to have a definite signing budget and tough penalties for exceeding it.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    It sure does make it interesting. The new CBA really hurts the Rays though, even before the penalty. They made their living off of spending big on the draft and international markets because it's so much cheaper than spending on the FA market.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Yes, I do love how this new CBA has hammered the Rays. I'm really glad we've stopped them, as they represent all that is wrong with baseball today.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Haha! Yes, their ability to use limited resources efficiently is the source of pure evil :)

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I wonder if it might be worth it, though, to spend over the cap and pay the penalty for a year. Rays obviously thought so. Especially if your club is good, and you don't figure to get a huge $ pool anyway. Why not spend over in that case?

    For the Cubs, of course, we'll get a big pool this year because we were bad.....so it goes

  • Read the BA article by Ben. Even if only few of the international
    prospects make it it's still a great source for talent.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    It's absolutely a great source for talent. I just prefer to wait on most before ranking them highly.

  • John, do you plan on writing about Daury Torrez? Just wondering cause I don't know anything about his scouting report but I followed his performance the whole year and the guy seems to have very good command and it seems like he gets a lot of groundballs, so I was wondering if you had some insight about him.

  • In reply to Caps:

    I don't plan on writing too much about DSL prospects, Caps. Rodriguez has come up a lot lately so I started digging and asking around. Frankly, the vibe I got on him was pretty lukewarm. For me, though, this piece was almost as much about why I do not write a lot about DSL prospects as it was about Rodriguez himself.

    If I do another DSL piece, it might be one big piece on a lot of prospects -- but there's that caveat that good info is hard to come by. As mentioned, I'm hesitant to write a lot about DSL guys unless I have a good picture of the player, and that means the kind of strong scouting info that's so necessary at the lowest levels.

    I have to confess I don't know a whole lot about Torrez. Another guy who put up outstanding numbers in the DSL. He'll be 20 so the hope is that he gets to Boise this year and I'll get to see him pitch. One advantage he has over Rodriguez is that his size (6'3", 175 lbs.) hints at some physical projection down the road, so if he's not throwing hard now, that could change soon as he matures.

    Torrez is a guy I'll certainly follow in the recaps and if he gets to Boise, I'll write my firsthand impressions on him.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Got it, I totally agree, stats mean very little in the DSL, but when they put stats like Daury Torrez did, it catches your attention, so I'm looking forward to see what he's all about once he gets to Boise.

  • In reply to Caps:

    It does. I think it makes those guys worth watching/following.

  • John, thank you for this very informative article. This is the kind of stuff we as Cub fans cannot get anyplace else. I always found it puzzling when a player in the minors had good or even great stats, but they weren't considered a prospect, or the opposite, mediocre stats, but considered a good prospect. As I got older, I began to understand why that was the case and your articles help to explain even more.

  • In reply to cubman:

    Thanks cubman appreciate that. That very subject was the underlying theme behind the article. The Rodriguez evaluation was part of it, but it was also meant as an illustration of sorts.

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    So if stats aren't that significant in the lower levels, why do they mostly promote only when players are raking in A ball?

    How many times have we read since Baez got his ST invite that he struggled in high A ball hitting only .188? If that statement is true this stat wouldn't have been printed over and over.

    It's seems to me that they are less significant (when he's struggling) for top prospects but a high measuring stick for the not top prospects.

  • In reply to Zachary Myers:

    To answer your question, statistics at the lowest levels aren't significant when projecting a prospect's long term value. That doesn't mean they don't play a significant role in evaluating a player's season and whether they are ready to move to the next level. In the Rodriguez example, we can certainly say he's ready for the next level, whether that be AZ or Boise -- but those numbers don't significantly impact his overall evaluation as a prospect.

    That changes as you move up and there is more stability in regard to statistical analysis. Once you get to AA, those stats begin to tell us a big part (about 50% as mentioned in the article) about how a player may project long term.

  • That "advanced feel for pitching" compliment is truly the kiss of death for DSL prospects. Because to a certain extent, you can teach a kid how to keep opposing hitters off balance. You can't do much to teach him to throw 10 mph harder, and you certainly can't teach him to get bigger.

  • In reply to Taft:

    That's true. Though I want to emphasize that the part on physical projection is somewhat speculative because everyone grows up differently. We can't rule out that he'll add velo, it's still possible. But the hard truth is that if Rodriguez does not end up throwing harder, it means he is going to improve in other areas such as approach, location and breaking stuff. That in turn may tag him with that "finesse" pitcher label and he'll be perceived to have a lower ceiling.

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    John, there was another pitcher in the DSL who put up amazing numbers. His name is Daury Torres. Any information on him? Thanks.

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    In reply to Mike Ogulnick:

    Actually, his last name is spelled Torrez. He was 6-3 with a 1.21 era in 13 starts. He gave up 57 hits in 74.2 innings and had a whip of 0.82.

  • In reply to Mike Ogulnick:

    I don't right now. And actually if you check my response to "Caps" you'll get my full answer (for now). He asked the same question!

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Sorry about that, John. Not sure how I missed that. Keep up the great work.

  • I just ordered mlb.tv premium and milb.tv so I can watch the future of the Cubs some. Thanks to The Cubs Den for my new found interest in the Cubs minor leagues, prospects, and better understanding of the game itself.

  • In reply to mcneilscot:

    Thanks Scot. It's kind of cool to actually see these guys play when you know who they all are. Normally there's quite a few games from Iowa, Tennessee, and Boise. Kane County will be on whenever they visit the Wisconsin Rattlers. No Daytona, though, which is a bummer because Baez and maybe Soler will be there.

  • I think people get too hung up on height. (That should be called Volstad's Law.) Not saying there isn't a correlation between height and how hard someone throws, but there are lots of ways to be a great major league pitcher. You look at the top 5 NL Cy Young award winners last year they're 6'2" 215lb(Dickey), 6'3" 220lb (Kershaw), but then 6' 200lb (Gonzalez), 5'10" 215lb (Cueto), and 5'11" 205lb (Kimbrel). When Theo talks about stats not being 50% till AA, I think and hope that at the lower levels most of the other >50% is comprised of "how" they got their results like you talk about and height and other physical characteristics play a much smaller part.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    We can name players from Jose Altuve to Randy Johnson and everyone in between, but it doesn't change the fact that certain players have more of an ideal physical build for baseball. Baseball has a strong mental component, which is why I like it so much. Sometimes David beats Goliath, and it probably happens in baseball more than in most sports. But it's still a physical game where strength, athleticism, speed, and yes...size matters. You can't ignore that the physical aspect is a factor in the probability player's success. If you're going to ignore size and mostly bet on all the 5'11, 180 lbs pitchers because they win your heart, you're going to lose in the end.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    If you're ignoring size, you wouldn't be mostly betting on all the 5'11" pitchers. Unless they're the ones who are performing best contextual to the league they're in and qualitatively in regards to how they're attaining it. Has nothing to do with winning your heart. Not sure that can be said for all the scouts enamored with tall pitchers despite evidence to the contrary.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    If you were to ignore physical attributes and just look at low level statistics, you're limiting the scope of your evaluation. It's that simple. It matters.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    It would be the same as looking at HS stats to decide who you are going to draft. Its not a good way to evaluate talent.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    Totally different topic. We're talking about evaluating players in the system who we apparently have info on. Even cameras in every ballpark and all that jazz. In that case, and in the lower levels, I hope our FO relies some on stats, some on "how" they got those stats, and not nearly as much on how tall they are and what they project to be, especially when deciding who to promote.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    I doubt that anyone has ever been promoted "just because he is tall"

  • In reply to KGallo:

    Exactly. You need to get as much information on the player as possible and statistics are a smaller part of that equation the further you go back.

    We know that undersized guys make it too, but for purposes of evaluating your organization size, athleticism, etc. all play a role in a player's chances for success. You're not going to value a 5'10, 180 lbs. DSL pitcher with so-so stuff and great numbers over a 6'3", 215 lbs AA guy with front line stuff who might be struggling a bit. If you're a GM and you do value the DSL guy more, then you'll be the most popular GM in baseball. Every other GM will be calling you. They'll be the ones asking for that AA guy.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    This is a straw man argument. Never my point that low level stats should be the only gauge. My point was knowing they SHOULDN'T, I hope more weight is given to the qualitative analysis you explain rather than physical characteristics, which I see as much less of an indicator of future success than you do.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    You wouldn't just be looking at low level statistics, you'd be doing the qualitative analysis you explain in the article. *Why* is he putting up these numbers? Not saying the physical characteristics don't come into consideration, just saying they should have a seat much further down the table from the other two.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    OK, fair enough. I do agree that stuff, command, etc. do take precedence and size takes a back seat to that -- which is why someone like Arodys Vizcaino is so much more highly regarded than Barrett Loux, for example. And I think the further a pitcher moves along and continues to get people out, the less you worry about physical characteristics.

    The overall trend, though, is that a bigger pitcher (average MLB pitcher is between 6'2 and 6'3) is more likely to make the majors. And scouts, GMs, etc. prefer to play the odds. Usually it pays off, but every once in a whiile, like when Greg Maddux slips to the 2nd round because of his size, they get burned. But overall, everything else being equal, they're usually going to go with the greater odds.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    Big reason most folks make a big deal about height is leverage, particulary in right-handers for some reason. One thing not talked about much is how much height affects command and control. Takes a bit longer to get those moving parts working together, which might explain why a Randy Johnson took several years to realize his potential. It might also explain why 6'5" or taller pitchers seem to have a large number of arm problems, particulary those who throw a lot of breaking balls(think Kerry Wood, Prior and Adam Wainwright here).

  • Statistically, Torrez had 50 K's and only four walks in around 65 innings. But he gave up five home runs, which was far too many for a DSL pitcher. That suggests (but only suggests) that he's got good stuff, but leaves too many pitches in the middle of the strike zone. If he learns to locate his pitches better, we may have a prospect.

  • In reply to cubsin:

    I agree to a point. I think it's more accurate to say it suggests good stuff (or other tools/skills) relative to his level of play, which is the lowest rung in the Cubs organization. The same is true of Rodriguez. That still doesn't tell us much, if anything, about how either projects long term, which is really what we are talking about when we evaluate prospects.

    Torrez's height to weight ratio suggest there is room to put on some weight, so without seeing either that's a plus for me because whatever he has now in terms of stuff could get better as he fills out and gains strength. But still so much I need to see....arm action, delivery, etc. before I can make a serious evaluation.

  • Just so everyone know more and more players are starting to pop up on the radar for the draft. There are 2 pitchers that stock just went way up over the weekend from Texas Thaddius Lowry and from Cali Carlos Salazar. There seems to be a few late bloomers.

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    In reply to KGallo:

    Really appreciate these things from you. Thanks much.

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    Thanx Kevin, we'll have to see how they do the rest of the year...

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    Salazar is the real deal. Lowry is a very interesting player that I believe is the real thing. Both throw in the middle 90s.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    Thanks KG! Are they both RHP?

  • In reply to Good Captain:

    Yes both are RHP.

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    Buster Olney tweets the Cubs are still in on Michael Bourn.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    Rosenthal wrote about it too today. Just can't snuff those rumors. Michael Bourn is the rumor version of Michael Meyers.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Where is Don Zimmer/aka Donald Pleasance when you need him? :)

  • In reply to Just Win:

    Haha! He just came. Indians just signed Bourn for 4 years/$48M

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Thank u tribe.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    No second or third round picks. They went from rebuild to contend in a hurry.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    They were considering a full-blown rebuild early in the offseason -- even trading guys like Cabrera, Masterson, Santana. Looks like a complete 180 right now.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Don't know John. I do know they wouldn't include Cabrera in the deal with the DBacks where they got Bauer.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Don't forget a vesting option that tacks another year on the deal so basically 5/60. So glad we stood clear of this. Indians won't be happy with this deal when all is said and done but hey they're supposedly "going for it" so it's a risk you take.

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    In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    It actually wasn't a terrible use of the new CBA. Dump Choo for Bauer, and then use the pick protection to get a right fielder and a center fielder. But, and this is where I question the move, they're front loading a team that really wasn't all that good to begin. Perhaps the bet is with TV deals like the Dodgers are getting, they better win now because there is no tomorrow.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Agreed, Mike. They definitely took advantage of the CBA in a way that benefited them. The thing is they used that extra leverage and money on long term deals for 2 players past their prime and probably weren't worth the money they got even if they were. This will come back to bite them eventually. 9yrs 120mil combined for Micheal Bourn and Nick Swisher? Bad investment.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    He should reach those 550 PAs. They're all in now.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Indians just got new TV deal, ala the Dodgers and Angels in recent years. So they spend there newfound wealth.

  • Hey John a favor , if you could list your top 10 draft prospects that include Correa, Almora , Fried , Zimmer ,Gausman , Int signings like Fujikawa and the upcoming Draft . I would appreciate it . Lets just say I am in in big money fantasy dynasty league with minor league draft and have the 6 and 10th 1st round picks . I just want another head smarter than me and You know prospects

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