Welcome to the 4th installment of the “What to expect in 2012” series. We’ve previously covered Trevor May, Jon Pettibone and Sebastian Valle. Today we’ll cover one of the more controversial prospects in the system, RHP Julio Rodriguez. J-Rod was an under the radar 8th round selection in 2008 out of Puerto Rico and since signing, he’s posted big strikeout numbers, low ERAs, and very divergent scouting reports. Some reports had his velocity in the 90-93 range, average for a RHP. Other reports had him at 86-89, far below average for a RHP. I wrote this about J-Rod way back in 2008 after he was drafted:
He’s got a great pitcher’s frame, and his motion has lots of arms and knees, which could probably create some deception. His fastball has decent life, and the Phillies are probably banking on him adding velo as he fills out his frame. The only thing I really noticed, from the side, is that it seems that he hangs over the rubber for a split second, which might be holding back some of his velocity.
he’s obviously a project, I’d bet he repeats the GCL next year unless he just lights up the world in Instructs and looks awesome in the spring. If he fills out his frame and adds 2-3 mph on his fastball and can tighten his curveball, we might have something. The Phillies seem to do a decent job with projectable RHP (Myers and Madson come to mind), so we’ll see what happens here. Its going to be a slow road for Rodriguez, but assuming he’s healthy next year, he should be a fun one to monitor over the summer.
He did repeat the GCL in 2009 and performed well, and he’s moved somewhat slowly, reaching A+ in his 4th pro season (3rd full season) He hasn’t added a ton of velocity, but again, that depends on the report you read. But the results speak for themselves…take a look:
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As I’ve said in every top 30 write-up since he was drafted, he’s going to have to prove himself at every level. The jump from A+ to AA is massive, especially in the Phillies system for pitchers, as they go from a pitcher friendly league to a hitter friendly league and a very hitter friendly home park. His GB% plummeted to just 30% in 2011, and that will cause problems next year if it persists. The most impressive stat for Rodriguez has been his opponent’s BA. In 2011 it was .184, and that follows sub .200 numbers in both 2010 and 2009. Hitters are definitely not seeing the ball out of his hand, and it leads to a lot of weak contact. What is the secret? Is it the long arms and legs? Can he continue to repeat it? 2012 is going to be a huge year for J-Rod, in whatever role the Phillies use him. What are your expectations?
I was thinking about the next player to write up, and Valle seemed like a great case. Always young for each league he’s played in, Valle had his best season in 2011 and performed very well in the pitcher friendly Florida State League, posting a line of .284/.312/.394, and that line may have been higher if he hadn’t worn down a bit in the hot summer sun over the last 6 weeks or so. Early in his career, Valle was considered an offensive first prospect whose future behind the dish was a bit uncertain. Over the last 2 seasons however, his athleticism and instincts have helped him improve tremendously defensively, and he now looks like no worse than an average defensive catcher with significant upside. He has a strong arm, and though he is still adding polish to his defensive game, all the tools are there. The question now is what is his offensive upside? Here is his career ledger
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32-33% caught stealing is solid enough, he cut down on his errors significantly, and the last piece is refining his ability to block pitches in the dirt. Offensively, his walk rate tanked and his K rate went up a tad, which means part of his batting average was definitely BABIP induced luck. Its important to remember the threshold for catchers in baseball. The average three slash line for all major league catchers in 2011 in the major leagues was .245/.313/.389. That’s putrid, obviously, and you only have to scan major league rosters to find guys who, if they played another position, would have been out of baseball years ago because they can’t hit their way out of a wet paper bag. Valle could struggle in AA, especially against quality offspeed stuff. The Phillies are probably anticipating this, and are fine with this, as long as he plays solid defense, which is going to be a requirement for him making it to the big leagues and contributing.
So, what do you expect from Valle in 2012 at Reading?
In part 1 of this series, we took a look at what to expect from Trevor May in 2012, and today we’ll move on to RHP Jon Pettibone. Pettibone has been a bit of an enigma since signing in 2008. He was not highly touted by scouts entering the draft and the report indicated he may be better off honing his game in college and then re-entering the draft. After a 1 inning stint in 2008, he pitched just 35 innings in 2009 before logging a full season in both 2010 and 2011, moving one level at a time. His raw numbers have improved across the board, especially in 2011, and his K rate increase is the most notable, though its still below average. More importantly, the scouting reports on Pettibone have greatly improved. His fastball is now consistently 90-94, up from the 88-92 range where he was when drafted. Not only has the velocity improved, his command to both sides of the plate with the pitch has also improved, and his command in general is possibly the best of any Phillies starting pitching prospect. His secondary pitches are still developing, but both his changeup and breaking ball made strides in 2011. His career work to date (click to enlarge)
Like Trevor May, he will move to Reading in 2012. As we’ve documented a number of times, the jump from A+ to AA is a big one, especially in the Phillies system where you go from a pitcher friendly league in the FSL to the more offensive neutral Eastern League, but Reading’s home park plays as a decisive hitter’s environment, making the adjustments all the more crucial. So, what do you expect from Pettibone in 2012, and how have your expectations and impressions of him changed in the last 12 months?
Since things are a bit slow, I figured we would try something new. Every few days, I’m going to start a new post in what will be a series looking at a bunch of our key prospects heading in to 2012, and what we think, both individually and as a group, the players will do. We’ll discuss where they are likely to start the season, things they need to work on, and what expectations are for each guy in the new season. Keep these posts on point, and if you want to ramble on about something random, use the most recent open discussion post.
That said, we’ll start with RHP Trevor May. Through prospect graduations and trades, and also his strong bouneback season, May is now the Phillies top prospect heading in to 2012. A lot is expected of him, and the jump to AA will be a big test. When he moved up to Clearwater the first time, he struggled mightily and needed a tune-up back at Lakewood. The move to AA from A+ is maybe the sharpest in the minors (you could argue short season to Low A) in terms of the quality of competition, and the learning curve can be steep. Hitters are more experienced and disciplined, pitchers have better command, and it helps to separate the men from the boys. May’s career grid looks like this (click to enlarge)
It won’t come as a surprise to you, but I think the biggest key for May in 2012 is fastball command. He can get away with mistakes against inexperienced A ball hitters, especially up in the zone, but more disciplined hitters in AA will lay off that pitch up and out of the zone. If May pounds the bottom half of the zone with his fastball and can set up his curve, he’ll be fine. If he doesn’t throw strikes, the results could be ugly. 2012 is a big year for him. He made stride with his command in 2011, and he needs to build on it in 2012.
Whats your take? How do you think he will fare in Reading?