San Diego’s sole return for Melvin Upton Jr. is 19-year old Dominican righty, Hansel Rodriguez. This trade’s roots run back to 2013, when the Blue Jays selected LHP Brian Moran in the 2013 Rule 5 draft and immediately flipped him to the Angels for $240,000 worth of international pool money, which was added to the yet-to-be-spent $127,000 they had remaining from that year’s original pool amount. Early in 2014, Toronto signed Rodriguez for $330,000. Moran is currently pitching in Indy ball.
Rodriguez spent the early portion of 2016 in extended spring training before moving on to Toronto’s Appalachian League affiliate in Bluefield, where he had thrown 32.1 innings over six starts. He allowed 25 hits and 11 walks while striking out 26 hitters during that span, sporting a 3.06 ERA.
The strikeout totals aren’t mind-blowing because Rodriguez’s stuff simply isn’t very good yet. Instead, this is San Diego betting on a body and delivery. Rodriguez has a solid pitcher’s frame at 6-foot-2 and a listed 170 pounds. He’ll likely fill out a bit more — at least enough to counterbalance the increased workload he’ll undertake as his pro career moves forward. He has a loose, quick arm and incorporates his hips into his delivery, though he can fly open a little too hard at times and loose some command. It’s possible we see Rodriguez makes some changes to become more direct to the plate and create better extension, but his arm speed is impressive.
His fastball sits mostly 89-92 mph but has been up to 94 with some movement and bottom to it. He fills the strike zone quite well for a teenager and should have at least average control/command at maturity. The slider is below average right now, with good shape but soft break that even low-level hitters have been able to trace. It has flashed average and projects there. The changeup is behind but, as I’ve said before, quick and athletic arms develop good changeups and that’s exactly what we have here.
This is a back-end-starter profile for me, something in the #4/5 range or a 50 on the scale, though the obviously high risk associated with young arms and Rodriguez’s proximity to the Majors forces his value grade down for now.
Here’s some video from another source of Rodriguez as an amateur: link.
Here’s some video of Rodriguez in 2016: link.
And some more: link
Finally, here’s the number of Zoolander jokes made in this piece: 0.
Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.