Despite having a generally solid 2013 season, Los Angeles Dodgers‘ left-handed pitcher, Paco Rodriguez, could soon find himself on the outside looking in — or rather, riding a bus at AAA instead of a jet at the major league level. Disappointingly for Rodriguez, it’s not entirely his fault, as the Dodgers are simply very deep in pitching talent, this year in particular. In fact, there’s a decent chance that Paul Maholm may even find himself in the bullpen to start the season.
After being drafted originally by the Baltimore Orioles out of high school in 2009, Rodriguez decided to continue his amateur career at the University of Florida, where he would go on to be drafted by the Dodgers in the second round of the 2012 draft. That same year, he made his professional debut for the Dodgers, appearing in eleven games from September onwards. He posted a 1.35 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP across 6.2 innings of work. The success trend continued into 2013, where Rodriguez finished the season with a 2.32 ERA in 76 appearances and an impressive WHIP of 0.902.
Rodriguez struggled mightily to start and end the 2013 campaign. In April, Rodriguez posted a 4.32 ERA in 14 appearances, but would ultimately settle down through the summer months, specifically in July and August, logging 0.00 and 0.79 ERAs, respectively. September and October was a rough time for the 22-year-old, having two dreadful playoff appearances.
So, how could someone that was so successful in the summer months be so horrible late in the season? Well, consider the fact that the 2013 season was his first year of full-time action, appearing in only 33 games between the minors and MLB in 2012. He more than doubled that total in 2013 and his body, specifically his arm, was simply not ready for that. He lost some zip on his fastball and some bite on his off-speed pitches. Pair all of this with an unconventional delivery, where he’s potentially working harder to deliver the ball to the plate compared to a standard delivery, and you can see where some problems may arise.
At any rate, Rodriguez is still a young man, as the 2014 season will be his third year playing professional baseball. The Dodgers own his rights until the 2019 season, so he has time to grow and mature within the Dodgers’ system. Hopefully, with the results and lessons from from last year to cite, the Dodgers will begin the process of conditioning Rodriguez to be able to handle the workload of a typical reliever in Major League Baseball.
Vinny Gala is a writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @VinnyGala.