A Conversation With Baltimore Orioles Prospect Grayson Rodriguez

© Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Grayson Rodriguez continues to ascend. Ranked 30th last year, the 22-year-old right-hander in the Baltimore Orioles organization is No. 3 on our newly-released 2022 Top 100 Prospects list. Moreover, he’s the highest-ranked hurler. Blessed with a lethal arsenal of pitches, Rodriguez possesses, in the opinion of Eric Longenhagen and Kevin Goldstein, “the potential to be a No. 1 starter and Cy Young candidate.”

On the eve of last year’s Top 100 release, we ran an interview with Rodriguez that focused on his changeup/screwball. To augment this year’s ranking, we caught up to the fast-rising righty to discuss the developmental strides he’s made since last season, and to ask him what it feels like to be the top pitching prospect in the game.

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David Laurila: We talked 12 months ago. What’s changed since that time?

Grayson Rodriguez: “I would say the one thing I’m most proud of is that my average velocity has increased. When we last talked, the previous year’s average velo was 95.7 [mph]. This past season, I was able to get it up to 98.5. That [is], up until the last month of the season when it dropped a little bit; in September, it was 96.8. So, getting the average velocity up was big for me. I was working in the strike zone more often with that little extra velo.”

Laurila: How and why did your velocity go up?

Rodriguez: “I like to get after it in the offseason, but I think another big factor is maturity. And I feel like my body still has a lot of growing left to do, too. I’m getting a little bit older and a little bit stronger.”

Laurila: What is your current height and weight?

Rodriguez: “The height is six-five. The weight is 235.”

Laurila: Fine-tuning your mechanics often helps improve velocity. Have you done anything in that regard?

Rodriguez: “Yeah. I have a pitching coach down in Houston — his name is David Evans — and we’ve worked on creating a repeatable delivery, something kind of simple. In high school, I know that I kind of had a few moving parts. We’ve just kind of figured out something very basic that allows me to get into my load and my legs, and is something I can repeat.”

Laurila: Have your fastball metrics improved beyond just velocity? For instance, are you getting more vertical ride?

Rodriguez: “More hop. Yeah. My average spin axis for a four-seam fastball is 12:45. That’s something we really pay a lot of attention to, to induce vertical break. When I throw a bad heater, it’s like 1:15-1:30 — it kind of runs like a two-seam. That’s not what I’m after. I’m all for vertical break.”

Laurila: It’s not as important, but what about the spin rate on your four-seamer?

Rodriguez: “My spin rate is about 2,500 [rpm]. It’s nothing off the chart, but like you said, we’re not worried about spin rate much anymore.”

Laurila: What else is in your repertoire right now?

Rodriguez: “I throw a curveball, a slider, a changeup and a cutter.”

Laurila: The cutter is relatively new, correct?

Rodriguez: “The cutter is something that I started throwing, kind of really, in 2020 during the COVID year. I played with it a little bit in 2019, but not enough to really call it a pitch. But it’s something that’s really helped me later in outings when guys have started to kind of catch up to my fastball. It’s a different fastball pitch to show, to kind of get them off my [four-seam].”

Laurila: Why a cutter in those situations, and not a hard slider?

Rodriguez: “So, my slider is about 85-86 mph, with a little bit of depth and sweep. Obviously, a hard slider is more like a cutter — a lot of horizontal run — but my cutter is a pitch that I can kind of manipulate like I do with my changeup. I can make it break bigger or smaller, depending on what I’m looking for. I can throw it anywhere from 88 mph with bigger break, to 92 mph with less break.”

Laurila: Does the one with the bigger break almost become a slider at times?

Rodriguez: “At some points, if it’s low in the zone and on my glove side, it can tend to be like a slider. But most of the time I like to work up in the zone with my cutter. I like to get in on a left-handed hitter’s hands with it.”

Laurila: What do you consider your best secondary?

Rodriguez: “I would say the changeup is my go-to pitch most often. But in terms of curveball and slider, really, it’s just kind of what we’re seeing in their lineup. It’s dependent on lefties or righties, or whatever they have going against us that day.”

Laurila: We talked almost exclusively about your changeup in last year’s interview. Given how good it is, I was a little surprised to see it ranked below your other pitches in a recent scouting report. Do you agree with that ranking?

Rodriguez: “No. I disagree with it. I can see how people may think that, because I haven’t been throwing it as long, but if I need to get an out in a big situation, the changeup is probably going to be my go-to.”

Laurila: Which of your pitches would you say improved the most last year?

Rodriguez: “I would probably say the curveball. I’ve been working on that down here, in terms of like, spin axis and stuff like that. Also being able to throw it more consistently in the zone for strikes. The slider is a pitch I have a good feel for. The curveball is something that I’ve been working on a lot lately.”

Laurila: Changing direction, what does it feel like to stand on the mound? Not physically, but rather psychologically?

Rodriguez: “I feel like I can control the game. Everything that happens is on me. If I can do my job correctly, I feel that we have a really good chance to win the game. Being on the mound is second nature for me.”

Laurila: You’re widely-considered to be the best pitching prospect in the game. How are you reacting to that?

Rodriguez: “I try not to think about it. It’s just people’s opinions. I’ve kind of grown up over the years on both sides of the rankings and scouting reports. In high school, I was kind of a lesser-viewed prospect, especially before my senior year and even right before the draft. So I’ve kind of seen both sides of it. I know how it feels to be viewed as a top pitching prospect, and I know how it feels not to be. Really, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t have any effect on my work.”





David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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Dingbat Charliemember
4 months ago

Terrific interview. Good luck Grayson!