It's no secret the Baltimore Orioles are a team in need of talent. Fans hope catcher Adley Rutschman, the No. 1 overall pick in 2019, will be a franchise player in the future, but pitcher Grayson Rodriguez is proving he could play a large part in helping the organization's ascension as well.
Baltimore selected Rodriguez with the 11th overall pick in 2018 out of Central Heights High School in Nacogdoches, Texas, and he pitched 19 innings in the Gulf Coast League last year. While he found success in his brief time there, he's blowing the competition away this season at Low-A Delmarva.
"[Pitching well] is a big confidence booster. Going into your first full season you don't really know what all to expect. It's a different kind of pro baseball," Rodriguez said on
Glenn Clark Radio
June 28. "Last year I kind of got a little bit of taste of it in the GCL, but it being my first full season [now], I finally get to experience it and it's been great so far."
Rodriguez, 19, is 7-2 with a 2.18 ERA and 0.89 WHIP with 84 strikeouts and 15 walks in 62.0 innings this year, which earned him a trip to the All-Star Futures Game July 7. Almost all these numbers are improvements from last season except for a slight uptick in ERA, though he's now facing better competition.
Rodriguez's pitching has helped lead the Shorebirds to a 57-24 record thus far, which is on pace to be one of the team's best seasons ever.
"Team chemistry is a big thing. It's a big part of every team. It's always important and our team chemistry here has been just phenomenal," Rodriguez said. "It's been fantastic and I think that's really helped us win a lot of games. ... Everybody gets along, nobody dislikes each other."
Lefty John Means and right-hander Andrew Cashner are the only pitchers with a winning record on the big-league team, while Means is currently the only qualified Orioles pitcher with a sub-4.00 ERA. The lack of pitching depth in Baltimore and Triple-A Norfolk means prospects like Rodriguez will have plenty of opportunities to move up and contribute at the highest level if they keep throwing well.
"It is exciting [to have opportunities], but you wish all the guys that are above you well. You still hope they win games," he said. "The future is bright for all the guys down here. Lots of hard workers and really good talents."
Rodriguez attributes a large part of his success to the abundance of resources available to him and his team at the professional level, whether it's technology, analytics or high-level trainers and coaches. He says skipping college made the changes in preparation and improvement more drastic but that he relishes the opportunity to develop.
"Being able to work with the technology we have now and the affiliates, all the analytics that we can see after our games, going to the video room the next day after a start is always a major part of my week," Rodriguez said. "[On film] I look at just the way the ball rotates when I let it go and how it travels across the plate and figuring out a way to maximize the spin to help the break, just trying to figure out the most efficient way to throw a baseball."
With numbers as good as his, it isn't as clear what Rodriguez needs to work on until he faces more adversity against better competition. He is not satisfied, however, as he believes he can always improve and that his command can always be fine-tuned.
While the expectations on Rodriguez might not be as high as they are for Rutschman since he wasn't drafted No. 1, Rodriguez is one of Baltimore's best prospects and had some advice for the catcher he'll hopefully be throwing to for many years to come.
"[I'd tell Rutschman that] sometimes it's good to put the phone down. Get off Twitter or Instagram or whatever it might be and just not worry about what anybody else has to say," Rodriguez said. "There's a lot of haters out there and if you put your blinders on then you don't have to worry about them."
For more from Rodriguez, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Joey Gardner/FotoJoe